Remembering my Uncle Johnny

By: J.A. Bolton - Storyteller

John F. Bolton, my Dad’s brother, was born Apr. 17th in the year of 1917. He was the knee baby of three brothers and had been named after his grandfather.

Like so many others families of that time period, the Bolton’s were farmers living in northern Richmond County. Johnny, his two brothers and cousins, learned quick the value of hard work but still found time to roam the woods and creeks around their farm.

It seems one Christmas, Santa must have known what each young boy around the neighborhood wanted and that was a cap pistol. All the boys got together that Christmas evening down around my grandfather’s barn and started popping off them caps. Won’t long, the hay scattered around the barn caught on fire and the fire was running up the side of the barn. Just so happened, there was a watering trough with several buckets lying beside it. All the boys grabbed a bucket of water and got the fire out before it could burn down the mule barn. Needless to say, all the guns were taken up and each boy was given a good scolding.

As the three brothers got old enough, they attended a local one-room school called Covington. It was about a three-mile walk up one hill and then another because there wasn’t any school buses. Each brother carried their dinner in a small lard pail or an old paper poke. Their dinner mostly consisted of left over sausage or ham biscuit and a cold sweet ‘tator. Uncle Johnny always said he just hated to keep up with his dinner and he would just go ahead and eat his on the way to school.

Johnny and his older brother Everett didn’t go to school long because each had an inherited eye disease which got worse as they got older. It seems two of their great aunts had the disease and both went totally blind before middle age. There was no cure for this disease back then and maybe not even today.

Even though their vision was not that good to read, each helped out on the farm and eventually started driving. Both enjoyed taking trips to the tobacco markets in Winston-Salem and both drove pick-ups for several years until their impaired vision stopped them.

Everett stayed on with his parents and farmed while Johnny got married and moved to West End to work at the furniture factory. It was always told that when Uncle Johnny and Aunt Ina first went to buy their weekly groceries that Johnny only bought five pounds of cheese and two boxes of sodie crackers. I wonder If’n they didn’t need a box of Ex-Lax to go along with all that cheese.

Uncle Johnny and Aunt Ina eventually bought their own home on the outskirts of West End. Also with the home came enough land to plant a rather large garden. Every year, Uncle Johnny would pay an old black man to break up their garden with his mule and breaking plow. Then Johnny would take his garden rake and level the whole garden out. When it came to laying off the rows, Johnny would take his push plow, tie a plow line to the front of it and pull the plow while Aunt Ina guided it with the handles. Why, some said them rows was straight as an arrow when they got through. Hard work you say, but back then you made it the best way you could.

J.A. Bolton is a member of the N.C. Storytelling Guild, the Anson County Writers Club, the Anson and Richmond county historical societies and the Story Spinners in Laurinburg.

J.A. Bolton