6 decades ago, Fayette man took a chance, and drought came to an end

Tue, 11/06/2007 - 5:21pm
By: Letters to the ...

Often this past summer, I have remembered the story Daddy told me about the drought which gripped Fayette County when I was a little girl.

He did not relate this story until over a decade ago when I was in my fifties and spending a great deal of time at his bedside. I am guessing that the year of the drought was 1940, but I’m not positive. Nevertheless, it is true and my heart is warmed every time I remember the story.


Sufficient funds

The absence of the familiar sound was eery. The noise of the water rushing over the dam, turning the wheel at Bennett’s Mill, was ordinarily a constant, reassuring sound.

August of 1940 in Fayetteville, Ga., though, was as dry as the corn waiting to be milled. The drought had left Lake Bennett so low that no water was coming over the dam and the mill wheel was still and silent. The drought came after the corn was harvested, but before the dried corn could be ground into the deep South’s staple — cornmeal.

Our family was hit hard by the silence. Daddy’s income as the miller became as dried up as the lake. Even the fish — which we could ordinarily count on for sustenance — weren’t biting. The day he had prayed would never come had arrived.

A husband and father of two children, ages 2 and 3, was told by Mother that we were completely out of food. Daddy hated to tell her that he was also out of money.

He was a desperate man and was about to do something that was totally out of character. True, he was poor, but he did enjoy a good reputation as song leader at New Hope Baptist Church.

Before he decided it was too risky for a man with a wife and two little children, he had been a deputy sheriff. Time, like the food and the money had run out. Daddy told Mother he needed to go into town.

He hitched the mule to the wagon, tied up at the courthouse square and headed into the bank. He then wrote a check for a few dollars so that he could buy groceries.

There was just one problem. The balance in his account was almost non-existent. For some reason the teller cashed the check anyway.

On the way to the store he almost made it past a familiar store famous for its “back room” where men would gather to roll dice. Someone called out to Daddy, inviting him to join them.

It would seem that a hungry family at home and the writing of a check for insufficient funds would be enough of a gamble. Not so.

Daddy and the money — fresh from the bank — walked straight into that crap game. In no time at all, Daddy cleaned those guys out, turned on his heel, went straight back to the bank to redeposit the money. From the bank he hurried to buy groceries.

In his words, “I bought everything I wanted, rushed home where we cooked and ate and ate. I can still remember how that food tasted.”

That night a satisfied family went to bed and was deep in slumber when Daddy awoke to a loud noise. The rain was beating down on the tin roof. It rained and rained and rained.

He finally got up and walked across what was then called the Newnan Road to the mill. Farmers began to arrive shortly after daybreak with their wagon-loads of corn to be ground.

This story is theologically unsound and I don’t presume to apply any New Testament principles. It does sound a little like something from the Old Testament, though, doesn’t it?

Ruth Ward Gray

Fayetteville, Ga.

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Submitted by angelakeller on Wed, 11/07/2007 - 10:07am.

That was a true story written by my wonderful mom who is a very dedicated and beautiful writer. She is a very talented lady with wonderful picturesque story telling abilities. I am so proud of her..... Love, Angela Keller

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