Lesson on a Tennessee Farm
A friend of History Chip recounted this story. We look forward to more from our new friend.
My father grew up on a subsistence farm in Hickman County, Tennessee. His father, John Wesley Alderson, who was born in 1890, was the oldest person I knew when I was a young child. First—and only—of his siblings to go to college, my father eventually became an Army dentist, went to Germany with his young bride, and started an odyssey that would last thirty years before he circled back to the house where he was born, and where he and my mother live today.
So in the summer of 1961, I was five years old, and we were fixing to move to Fort Greely, Alaska. We were spending some preparatory time at my grandfather’s farm, gearing up for the cross-country move, when a stray dog showed up at the place. I named the pup Curly, and started to get attached. I don’t remember what Curley’s transgression was, but my grandfather shot him. “But why, Papa, why?” I was bawling away. “He was no count,” was the answer. “No count” was an all-purpose dismissal as often applied to people as to animals, although for people it was rarely a capital offense. I began to understand that I need to be of some count. Around Hickman County, anyway.
Two years later, summer of ’63, we were back from Alaska, and I found myself alone with my grandfather in his front parlor. He had a sense of humor so dry as to be nearly undetectable, and I will never know for sure how serious his query was. But he looked straight at me, long enough to make me a bit nervous, and said, “Are you any count?”