Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal

Tricks of the Trade

Glenda Barrett


My grandparents lived in the mountains of North Georgia in a small, white farmhouse up on a knoll surrounded by a lot of pastureland. While my grandmother cared for their four children at home, my grandfather worked at several different jobs over the years. In my opinion, no position suited him as well as the title Horse Trader. Not only did he trade for horses, but anything else he could make a dollar on. He made the remark once, "I’ve done just about everything to make a living, except steal." Of course, he lived during the Great Depression, so it was no easy task to make a living at all. But his charming personality, which made everyone feel comfortable around him, served him well as a horse trader.

Not long ago, a family member shared with me one of my grandfather’s experiences. It seems Grandpa was trying to sell a man a coon dog. They talked back and forth for a while to break the ice. Then the man asked my grandpa, "Adam, will this dog tree?"

My Grandpa replied, "Why son, it will do your heart good to hear this dog tree!"

After a few more questions, they made the trade. In a few days, the man came back to see my grandpa with a sad countenance. "I thought you told me that dog would tree a coon," argued the man.

My grandfather looked up with a smile on his face and said, "I never told you that dog would tree. I said it would do your heart good to hear him tree!"

Another incident occurred that was quite similar. A man by the name of Alfred came to my grandpa’s house with his cow and wanted to make a trade. Now, they had both had a few drinks of whiskey during this interchange.

Grandpa said to Alfred, "This is a fine milk cow, and it will give you a gallon of milk a day."

Alfred, feeling good, was convinced quickly, and they exchanged cows. The next morning, when Alfred had sobered up some, he walked out to the barn. He couldn’t help but stare as he looked at the white cow he had bought the night before. He could have sworn he bought a red one instead of the white one standing in his barn. Worse yet, when he milked her, she only gave a pint of milk. Alfred laughingly told me years later that his wife was so mad because he traded their good milk cow that she made him march right back over to my grandpa’s and bring it back home.

A friend of mine shared this incident recently with me about one of my grandpa’s shenanigans. He went regularly to the livestock sale held in Toccoa, Georgia. On this particular day, Bud noticed he had a dog sitting in the back of his truck. Another man walked up and said to my grandpa, "Adam, how much do you want for that dog?"

"Oh! I couldn’t part with this dog. It means too much to me. It’s like part of the family. It rides with me everywhere," replied Adam. Grandpa hesitated for a moment before continuing, "I’ll listen to you though, if you want to make an offer."

The man thought a minute before speaking. "All I got is twenty dollars and this wheelbarrow. I’ll give you that for the dog."

"Well, I shore hate to part with it," said Grandpa, "but I’ll go ahead and trade with you."

Bud laughed as he walked off saying, "I was behind your grandpa that morning, when he picked up that stray dog on the other side of the mountain!"

On another occasion, Grandpa brought home a pet squirrel he had bought on one of his excursions. My gentle grandmother, who could tame anything, had it practically eating out of her hands in a week or so. She could even let it out of its cage to play in the yard.

But one day as I was visiting my grandmother, her inside dog, Penny, who we thought was locked in the house, somehow managed to get outside. All of a sudden, the race was on. In the blink of an eye, the squirrel made a mad dash for the porch and straight up my grandmother’s long dress. All of a sudden my kind, easy-going grandmother went bananas. She was screeching and screaming with a loud shrill, and it sounded like she was saying something like, "Oh, Godee!" She then began dancing all over the porch. I was so shocked by her behavior that I doubled over into a fit of laughter.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, she managed to grab the squirrel through her long dress and sling it back out into the yard, where the race resumed. In a few minutes, Grandma pulled up her dress and began to assess the damage. When I saw her tiny legs covered in scratches, that set me off again. Even though she gave me a stern look, I could not get myself together long enough to help her no matter what condition she was in. As I write this twenty years later, I still want to laugh out loud.

There was one thing that happened to Grandpa, I never could quite figure out. He weighed about two hundred pounds and was six-feet tall, and I’d never seen him ill.

However, one day he got sick and had to be hospitalized. The doctors couldn’t seem to find out the problem, and in a few days I became worried as to what was the matter. One day, when I was visiting him, a man walked up to the door and asked to talk to my grandpa on some business. I heard my grandmother say real low, "This is not a good time to talk about work," but by that time the man was already in the room. I heard him say, "Adam, I’ve come to pay you for that horse I bought from you the other day." The man pulled out his billfold and counted the money before handing it to Grandpa. After a bit of small talk, the man left.

It was shortly after, that I began to notice a change in Grandpa’s appearance. His color seemed to come back into his cheeks, and he began to sit up and talk more. It was like a miracle. In only a day or two, he was back on the road, traveling here and there doing what he loved best.

I don’t have my grandfather or grandmother anymore. They passed away years ago, but what valuable lessons they taught me. Grandpa was a determined man, hardworking, and provided for his family, no matter what it cost him. Grandma was a gentle soul that nourished me with her kind ways. Not only that, I learned to love all kind of animals because of them. Never have I been able to pass a stray dog on the side of the road without wanting to stop and pick it up. Lastly, my mother paid me a fine compliment not long ago. She said to me, "I believe you have your grandfather’s personality; you can talk to anyone. You never meet a stranger."

I smiled.

***

Glenda Barrett, a poet, writer, and artist lives in the mountains of North Georgia. Her work has been published in Woman's World, Farm & Ranch Living, Nostalgia, Grit, Psychology for Living, and other magazines and journals.

© Glenda Barrett

Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal ISSN 1554-8449, Copyright © 2004-2012