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OLD TIP AND HIS MECHANICAL MULE

Posted by Admin on January 1, 2016 at 9:10 PM

By Joe McCormick

 

 

Thompsy Holder was not a rich man, but it made me feel richer for having known him. He was a small man, not over five feet six inches in height, and slight in build. His head was bald and shiny, with a scruffy little trim of gray hair around the edges. A three-day growth of gray whiskers on his chin never seemed to diminish or grow longer. With a twinkle in his beady little eyes and a gap-toothed grin on his rugged face, he went about his daily business with an easy, cheerful demeanor. He was affectionately known to his friends and neighbors as “Tip.”

The Holders lived about a mile up the road from us, just across the line in Chester County. They lived in a ramshackle unpainted house on a plot of land where the Garland Road and the Needmore Road come together. Old Tip used to tell us that the Needmore Road, little more than a narrow rutted trail in those days, was so named because it “needed more gravel.” Thompsy was married to a very likable florid faced woman named Ellen. When I knew them they had two sons living at home, Toby and J.T., and a daughter named Frances. I believe they had another son named Louis who lived away off somewhere, but I don’t recall having ever met him. J.T. was about my age. He and I and my younger brother Mick hung around together a lot.

These folks were farmers, like almost everyone else in our part of the country during those times immediately after the Great Depression. I never thought to ask if they owned their own place or if they sharecropped. They obviously weren’t rich, but they always had enough to eat – at least they did the times I ate with them. Some of the neighbors made a little moonshine from time to time to augment their income, but I don’t know about old Tip. I do have it on good authority that he was known to take a sip of “shine” once in a while. My mother, who had known the family since her youth, told of a time when Tip was supposed to help her daddy do some work, and he didn’t show up. They went looking and finally found him passed out in a springhouse, smelling like a brewery and grinning like a happy idiot.

Old Tip’s wardrobe was simple…a faded pair of DC bib overalls (he pronounced it “overhauls”) in the summertime, and that was it. He might occasionally wear a shirt, if he could find one, and if the day wasn’t too hot and sticky. If he was going to have to – perish the thought – go out in the fields and work, he’d slap an old greasy cap on his head, to keep the sun from blistering his shiny dome. I suppose he must have had a pair of brogans to wear in the winter, or for one of his infrequent trips into town, but he didn’t need them in the summer. What does a man need shoes for when he’s got callous on his feet thicker than a shoe sole? I once saw him step right in the middle of a low-growing rose bush, thorns and all, and he didn’t even flinch.


More to come soon........

 

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