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I ate the electrician’s lunch

We lived in a five-room frame renter’s house when I was 4 years old. It stood on rock pillars and had no underpinning. Dogs, cats, chickens and certain wild varmints roamed underneath at their will. My brothers and me also used it as a hiding place anytime we saw the health department nurse coming to give us our vaccinations.  

My family was its tenant, working 40 acres of land in return for one-third of all the cotton and one-fourth of all the corn we could harvest from it.

Our house left much to be desired when it comes to comparing it with today’s climate-controlled homes. The house had no electricity; we used kerosene lamps and lanterns for lighting. There was no such thing as central heating and air conditioning; we used a wood-burning stove and fireplace for cooking and heating. We did not have running water in our house; we walked 50 yards downhill to a spring with empty buckets, filled them with freestone water and returned uphill with a heavy load. We likewise carried water by hand to keep 300 laying hens hydrated.

Indoor toilets were also considered a luxury in farmhouses during my early childhood. Most families relied on one or more outdoor privies. They were usually located quite a distance from the house on the bank of a drainage ditch. The waste was accessible to both domestic and wild animals, and what they left behind was washed away during the next rainstorm.

I recall my parents lighting kerosene lamps when darkness arrived and blowing out their wicks at bedtime.

The arrival of electricity was a big change.

Power poles and transmission lines began appearing alongside the dirt road where we lived in 1939.  We could hardly wait until an electrician showed up to install electric wiring and fixtures at our house.

I watched intently as the electrician began unloading tools and supplies from his pickup truck and as he looked around for a safe place to put his lunch sack. He chose to place it in the forks of a big oak tree in our front yard.

As he began his work inside, I was instructed to go outside and play. After a while, my curiosity got the best of me, and I climbed into the forks of that oak tree and opened the electrician’s lunch.  I found a baked apple and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich inside. I was hungry. They looked good, and I ate them.

The electrician left his job for an early lunch, and I knew he would who ate his lunch. I told my mother what I’d done. She made me go with her to the electrician and apologize, after which she invited him to come eat with the family.

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