I recently heard from a cousin, once-removed, whom I have not yet had the pleasure of meeting. She was enjoying reading stories about her grandfather, my uncle, and asked if I had considered adding illustrations. I admitted that I had not, but coincidentally or providentially (take your pick), my father-in-law asked the same question the very same week. I mentioned the idea to my wife, and she agreed it would be a good idea. So, with that groundswell of support, I will begin adding illustrations. Most of them will come from my private collection; most of them will be contemporaneous. I hope they add to your enjoyment. And now to Chapter 5: Sadie.
Sadie watched Grady carefully place his coffee cup back in the saucer and sigh with contentment. Her four-year-old sister Maurice fidgeted at her side and Sadie knew why. Her sister’s sweet tooth rivalled that of their older brother who slid his cup and saucer back indicating he was finished.
Sadie knew the bottom would be coated with a slurry of coffee and undissolved sugar. Mother was forever chastising Grady for using so much sugar. Sadie picked up the saucer and cup and, with her mother’s nod of approval, set them in front of Maurice who immediately plunged a forefinger into the cup.
“Use your spoon, Dear,” Mother admonished.
The Hotel Irving
It was just the five of them again. She and Grady had been up early to see Father and Morris Bailey off with the wagons. Morris Bailey was only three years older than her, but he looked so grown up sitting up there on the wagon. He had grinned down at her.
“See you tomorrow, Curlyhead. Don’t forget to mind Mother. And Grady.”
She had looked about for something to throw at him for that last part but ended up just laughing.
Then he and Father had clucked up their teams and rattled off down the brick street in the pre-dawn dark.
She looked over at Willye who was staring out of the window at the people and automobiles and the occasional wagon passing up and down the street. Her half-eaten breakfast was growing cold.
“Willye Pauline,” Mother said. “Finish your breakfast. We cannot go shopping until you do.”
Willye was only seven, but she already liked dressing up a lot more than Sadie did. Sadie would have worn pants if her mother would have let her. She envied the freedom her brothers had.
Grady rose from the table.
“I believe I’ll take the Ford down to a garage and make sure all is ready for tomorrow,” he said.
Sadie turned anxiously to her mother.
“Mother, may I go with Grady?” she pleaded.
Grady gave her a baleful stare.
“You know you have outgrown your Sunday dress,” Mother replied. “And this is the perfect time and place to replace it.”
Her shoulders sagged, then she perked back up.
“Couldn’t you shop for Willye and Maurice first and me later when Grady looks for his new suit?”
She was about to give up when Mother relented.
“Ask Grady if he minds,” Mother said.
She turned expectantly to her older brother who rolled his eyes, then said, “Only if you promise to mind me and not be a nuisance.”
Well, that the first part rankled, but she would pay that price, to some degree.
“I do, in both cases,” she agreed.
She dabbed at her mouth with her napkin, then placed it back on the table.
“Mother, may I be excused,” she asked.
Mother smiled and said, “Of course you may, Dear.”
She followed Grady out of the dining room, pulling on her coat and tugging her hat down over her head. They crossed the lobby, and stepped onto the sidewalk. It was all she could do to keep up with his long strides.
“Grady,” she implored. “Slow down.”
“You keep up,” he replied even as he slowed his pace, just a little.
“What is our new home like?” she asked. She envied him. He had actually been there once with Father.
“How many times have I told you? It’s flat,” Grady answered.
“Grady! You know what I mean.”
He mashed her hat sideways on her head.
“I think we’ll like it a lot. The house is an adequate house, although Father plans to build a larger one as soon as possible. The land is really good, perfect for cotton. You saw how the fields stretched away as far as you could see when we were coming into Greenwood? Well, that’s what it looks like.”
That certainly was flat, she thought.
Grady went on, “It’s a big place too. Over two thousand acres, more than three square miles.”
“Gosh,” was all she could think to say. “There will be lots of hands then.”
“I imagine so.”
“How far is it to school?”
“A little over four miles to the school in Sumner. Over five miles to the high school in Webb.”
By now they had reached the car, and Grady pulled out the choke before giving the crank two half turns to prime the engine.
“Let me crank it,” Sadie pleaded.
“No, too dangerous,” Grady said.
She gave him her most dejected look.
“But you can help,” he relented as he handed her the key. “Get in, put in the key and turn it to Battery.”
She jumped up on the seat and did as Grady told her.
“I know what to do next,” she said eagerly “Push the lever on the left all the way up.”
“That’s right. That retards the spark.”
She stretched her neck and grinned at him over the hood.
“And pull the right one down a little,” she added.
“Exactly. Three clicks should be enough,” Grady said. “What else?”
She thought for a moment.
“Oh, yes,” she said. “Pull the hand brake all the way back. That’s done.”
“Here we go,” Grady said as he grabbed the left fender with his right hand and taking the crank in his left, gave it a quick turn. The engine coughed into life and the car rocked and vibrated roughly.
Grady walked up to her window.
“Pull down on the throttle. Just a little,” he said as he reached in and pulled down on the spark lever.
The engine smoothed out.
Grady opened the door.
“Slide over,” he said.
“Let me drive. Please.”
“Slide over,” Grady repeated. “Not in town.”
She could tell from his tone of voice that cajoling would not work and she reluctantly slid over. Grady climbed in, then flipped the key to Magneto, depressed the Reverse pedal, and backed their Model T into the street. Engaging Low gear, they chugged down the street.
Sadie leaned her face toward the window. She liked the rush of cold air on her face and pulled off her hat so that the wind blew through her hair. She closed her eyes and shook her head in the whishing wind.
“Let’s drive to California and see the Pacific Ocean,” she said dreamily.
She looked over at Grady who looked back at her but said nothing, only shook his head.
The streets were lined with glass storefronts. People were walking up and down the sidewalk. She tried to imagine where they were going. To one of the upstairs offices? Shopping in one of the many stores? At the corner they pulled into Crump’s Oil Company. The two-storied building was built right out to the street, but part of the ground floor was cut out creating a covered area where the gasoline pumps were located.
Grady pulled under the covered area and up to the pumps. The place smelled of oil and dust. It tickled her nose. There were shiny new cars for sale behind the large glass windows.
A man approached as Grady climbed out of the car. He was short and dirty and looked to be about 30-years-old. Grady towered over him.
“What can I do for ya, young fella?” he asked, wiping his hands on a soiled rag.
“I would like to top off the gasoline. And check the oil and the pressure in the tires, including the spare,” Grady answered.
Grady sounded so grown up, she thought. Well, he was five years older than she was.
“I’ll see right to it. Shouldn’t take too long,” then man said.
Sadie could not help but notice that the man’s words sounded soft and drawn out, almost like he was softly singing. Their waiter both last night at the Elite and the one this morning at the Hotel Irving had sounded like that too. She got out of the car and went to stand beside her older brother.
Grady watched as the man checked all five tires, crawled under the Model T to check the oil, then lifted the front seat to get to the gasoline tank. He dipped and removed a measuring stick, then inserted a hose and began operating the hand pump.
Sadie watched the globe at the top of the pump fill with amber liquid and whispered, “Grady.”
“Does everyone in the Delta talk like he does?”
Grady snorted. “Guess so,” he said. “I imagine we will too soon enough.”
She smiled to herself.
“I hope so,” she sighed. “It sounds so – beautiful.”
Grady looked down at her, laughed, and taking his big right hand tousled her already windblown hair.
“You just won’t do, Sadie Belle.”
The man replaced the hose.
“That’ll be four bits,” he said.
Grady paid him, and they got back into the car.
“May I drive now?” she asked.
Grady did not even answer her this time. He just adjusted the spark and throttle. The man turned the crank for them and off they went.
“Grady, can we cross the river before we go looking for Mother, Willye, and Maurice? I want to see Grand Boulevard.”
He gave her a conspiratorial look.
“Let’s,” he replied.
She scooted to the edge of her seat for a better look.
“Father said it is a swing bridge. Maybe there will a steamship coming through and we will have to wait for it to pass,” she said.
“Don’t get your hopes up,” Grady answered. “I expect that bridge has not been swung in years. The railroads ended most of the river traffic.”
Old Yazoo River Bridge
They crossed over to Fulton Street and headed towards the bridge. Grady was right. The only thing on the river was a small boat with two boys. They were fishing and did not even look up as the car rolled across the span. They passed several cars and trucks headed into town.
Suddenly they were on a divided street with a few large homes here and there set well back from the road. Young, slender, bare trees lined the street. Brown, winter grass covered the median that ran down the middle of the road, Grand Boulevard.
As they motored up the street, her head swung back and forth taking it all in. The houses were certainly large and grand, but …
“It’s not as grand as I imagined it,’ she sighed.
“It will be,” Grady said. “Given time. Those trees will grow and spread and it will be all shaded and peaceful looking. Like our yard back home. Or Grandpaw’s. Only with bigger houses and wider lawns.”
She looked up at her brother, surprised. He had a dreamy look she had never seen before. Two young girls in pretty frocks waved to them as they passed. Sadie waved back and suddenly she saw Grand Boulevard as Grady saw it, shaded lawns and families at leisure.
Soon the houses became fewer and further apart. Grady nodded to the left as they crossed a wide street.
“That’s the road Father and Morris Bailey took this morning, the way we’ll take tomorrow,” he noted.
They continued until they reached the Tallahatchie River where they turned around and retraced their route. The two little girls were gone. Colored maids were out sweeping off porches and sidewalks. She pulled her coat more tightly around her, jammed her hat down over her ears, and scooted back across the seat to lean against her big brother.