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The have-nots of the past

 Boys of poor farm families who grew up in Alabama during the Great Depression and post-World War II era had a hard time feeling content when they saw the luxuries enjoyed by children of small, well-to-do families.

My siblings and I wanted a horse to pet and ride, a bicycle to pedal and a BB gun to shoot.

We never had a horse; we had mules instead. A horse was not suited to fieldwork, but our two mules were trained to do just that, and they needed rest when they weren’t working. 

A bicycle was at the top of our Christmas wish list time and again, but it never materialized. 

Our dream came true when I was 15 and a younger brother was 13. We earned enough money picking cotton to purchase a bicycle out of the Sears & Roebuck catalog. 

A younger brother became the owner of a Red Ryder BB gun at age 12. Unfortunately, we got into trouble with it when a pellet struck the eye and killed one of our white leghorn laying hens.

Three of our male first cousins were the only children in their families and were recipients of expensive gifts at young ages. One of them received a Shetland pony at age 8 from a well-to-do aunt who lived in Florida. 

My family was living on his family’ s farm and making a crop at the time. My siblings and me were thrilled at the prospect of getting to ride the pony; however, we were told there was a risk of getting hurt, and we were not allowed to ride it during the year we lived on the farm.

One of the other cousins was given a new bike at age 7. Our families lived 60 miles apart and were seldom together. 

The third cousin lived in Dallas but spent time with us during summers. He brought a fancy BB gun and occasionally would allow me and my siblings to fire it at a stationary target. 

Otherwise, any damage we could do to moving targets was limited to our slingshots.

One of our biggest disappointments as youngsters, however, was being denied the company of a Billy goat and the opportunity to build and operate a goat wagon. That dream was quashed when two goats climbed into the bed of a wagon and ate a new pair of leather wagon lines.