He Came Back a Millionaire

Published 10:20 am Sunday, October 1, 2023

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Look up in the sky. It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s a cloud and it’s bringing rain! It’s Tuesday morning and, as I write this, it’s beginning to sprinkle. In a little while, we’re supposed to have real rain for the first time in a long time. Hallelujah! I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited to see it rain. Even a farmer who is getting ready to dig and pick peanuts said, “We need a rain really bad.” Maybe, just maybe, today is the day.

            Finally, it seems that the high temperatures, those consecutive days of 100 degrees, has passed. Getting up in the morning and stepping outside to temps in the mid-60’s is very pleasant. Fall has arrived.

            As a farm boy, I look forward to seeing the peanuts dug and turned up so that we might see the fruit of the vines. The cotton is beginning to open on the lower part of the plants and the color of the leaves is beginning to take on that rusty tinge.

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            For weeks now, the farmers have been tuning up their peanut pickers and collecting the trailers and trucks into which they will dump the goobers. We’ve come a long way since the days of stacking peanuts around a pole, one-row Lilliston pickers, and our hopes of picking four acres a day.

            I can remember when peanut pickers did not have hoppers on the top where the peanuts would be blown. Instead there would be a platform on the side of the picker and peanuts would be collected in burlap sacks. Here in the south, we called them “croker” sacks.

            My daddy was a hearty and strong man and it would be his job to stand on that platform and receive the peanuts in a bag that, when filled, might weigh a hundred pounds. After the bag was filled, it would be closed with a needle and twine. Then thrown into the back of a large truck.

            That was dusty work. Picking peanuts resulted in a man like my dad coming home at night all dirty and sweaty. As I said, we’ve come a long way from those so-called good, ole days.

            It’s the same with bailing the peanut hay. It used to be raked up in rows and bailed into rectangular bales tied by wire. The hay baler would spit out those bails along the row and we’d come behind and stack it on a pick-up truck. The bales might weigh as much as 40-60 pounds.

            That might not seem like so much weight, but, after throwing them from the floor of the pick-up up into the window of a hay loft, that last bale took all one could do to get it up there.

            Here is a true story about baling the hay. The Hurst family was the community family with the baler. J.C. Hurst was the young man who drove the tractor for the baler, while Edwin Hurst drove the rake. They worked until the dark of night drove them from the field and they would leave dusty, dirty, and showing only the whites of their eyes and teeth.

            J.C. must have had enough of farming as he became a man and moved to Florida for work. While in Florida, he hit the jackpot for real. He won the Florida Lottery and the amount was $30 million dollars. After he won, he moved back to the Hurst home place.

            He chose to get his lottery winnings in an annual payment of $1.5 million a year for twenty years. We all marveled at his good fortune. This fellow who had baled peanut hay as a boy, but was now a millionaire! But he was still J.C.