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Chop and Swing

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Pa would chop the wood and swing. Chop and swing. Every time it cracked. Splinters flew everywhere. I watched and watched. Pa had a lot of wood to chop. He was sweaty and tired. So Big George took over while Pa had lunch. Big George took the axe and swung just like Pa while I watched from inside the house. Momma was setting up for lunch and I could smell the cornbread. Chop and swing. He did it just like Pa but stronger. George was a big ole black man with the biggest muscles I had ever seen. And as his arms of steel chopped and swung he sung one of those southern songs. You know the ones about the rivers and God. I hummed along with him and decided to watch from outside. I took some lemonade from Momma.

He swung and splinters flew out too, just like Pa. He glanced at me when I walked out but then kept on a swinging away at the soon to be firewood. He sung with his big ole black voice. George was a former slave but when it was time for him to go his own ways after we had lost the war he didn’t want to leave. He loved us so much. He was the only slave was ever actually happy in the county. Now to think about probably in the whole state. And boy, did he enjoy some of the lemonade I gave him.

He thanked me and he finished up the wood. He chopped for about another forty-five minutes and sung songs. I knew some of them so I sang along with those. Big George was practically a brother to me. He was my best friend. He taught me to sing and I loved it. I was hungry in the middle of about the fifth song, the last one too. And right as Momma rang the supper bell Big George chopped the last piece of wood. It was as if was in unison. Perfect harmony as some call it.

We sat and prayed around the amazing meal Momma had cooked. Crackling bread, fried dill pickles, corn on the cob, and steak. Real steak too. From our cattle I mean. Pa slaughtered and cooked it just last week. It was getting old so he killed it. It didn’t make us sad one bit. Pa kills one about every month or so, so we can eat and not starve.

Big George gobbled up the food so fast I never knew what he had taken. Actually I did, I always sit next to him. As I said he’s like my brother. The cornbread was good, it was all good. It’s good every day. Momma was the best cook in Alabama. Next to my Maw Maw of course. But, we’re still related to her so she doesn’t cook. Pa had already cleaned up after sweating so much. George still had sweat on his forehead. But he had been working out there for about two hours while Pa had been in for two hours. But Pa still worked just as hard. George just worked twice as fast.

“’d you get the wood done?” Pa asked George.

“Sur’ did, sir.” He replied.

“Wow son, that was fas’.”

“I work hard.”

“Yes you do, boy.”

“Do you like the lemonade?” I interrupted Pa and asked George.

“Of cours’.” He replied “I always love yawl’s lemonade.”

“I know. I just helped make it.”

“Well, you did a great job.”

He got up and went to clean the dishes. Momma and Pa went to go do something, I can’t remember what. I helped George with the cleaning and then we picked cotton. We sang during that too. Picking cotton was family time. We all did it and had no choice. We sang hymns and picked off the bowls. At the end of the day we would have ten sacks worth of cotton. We were wealthy. Pa slaughtered a pig for some bacon and George and I walked up on into town to get some ice. It was a three-mile walk. But we sure did lug that thing like two men. He had the strength of four dozen oxen and I had the strength of a small horse. For a child that is a lot. We hauled the ice and stored it for water use and other things. By the time we rounded up the chicken eggs and set the fireplace right it was dark and I was tired.

I lit the candle for my head and still had the ringing of that axe hitting the wood. Chop and swing. Chop and swing. George came in after Momma and Pa said good night to me and told me the story of Mary Magdalene. I don’t know where he got these stories from the Bible from. He finished the story.

“Goodnight, my little chickadee.”

“Goodnight Big George.” Chop and swing…chop and swing…chop and swing.





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