Thursday, August 31, 2017

Life on the Waterloo bottoms (part 2)

I'd like to make note of the fact that Jim wrote this little history of his childhood in 2006, over ten years ago.  Some readers didn't notice that fact in the previous entry, and thus had the mistaken idea that he is in his 70's now; you need to add eleven years to that.  Still, this is someone who is ten years older than I am and led a much more primitive life than I, as a child.  I didn't realize there were people of that time who lived without electricity.

Part 2 of a series
see part 1 HERE.
Jim Perrine

During these years we moved to my grandpa's house on Waterloo Hill, although my dad continued farming in the Waterloo bottoms.  I forgot to mention that our farm equipment (plows-cultivators-planters-animals) all had to be moved to the safety of the hills during flood time.

I must comment on my dad's perseverance and stick-to-it-ive-ness for staying with our little tenant farm all those years that I was around (1934-1953).  It would have been beyond me to have endured the obvious pain and heartache of seeing one's efforts being drowned by the yearly floods.  My mom is my hero for sticking it out as his wife.  Probably not many wives would have that strong will.  Living those years on Waterloo Hill was an experience that I can recall like yesterday.  The big plus was that my cousins Jack, Randy, and Geraldine lived across the "holler" from grandpa's house.  Grandpa had moved out to live with his daughter Lillie in Waterloo, an unincorporated community.

Grandpa's old house was a two-story structure that had a huge living room/bedroom combined; I was always amazed at the I-beam, which was a huge hewn log.  The kitchen area was the only other downstairs room.  The furniture was much the same as described in our little bottoms home.  The land encompassed probaby four or five acres on Waterloo Hill.  The upstairs in Grandpa's house was one big area.  This is where I slept each night, with a tin roof over my head to keep me from the elements.  I still recall the rain pattering down on that roof:  It's very pleasant to recall that time in my life.  Outbuildings were a one-car detached garage or shed; a nice barn to house horses, mules, and farm equipment; a chicken house; and an outhouse for a toilet.  Again, no electricity, no running water:  the Perrine family had, in fact, no modern conveniences as we know them today.  We always had a battery-powered radio that was played at noon only, to get the news of the day.  Very few, if any, weather reports were available.  My dad would insist that we go to the cellar if a storm even threatened, and I think my respect for bad weather comes from him.  I still remember hovering in the cellar during storms with a kerosene lantern as our light.

Experiences from living on Waterloo Hill:

Arrowheads!  After a good, heavy rainfall, my cousins and I would head for the nearest plowed field overlooking the river.  There must have been an Indian encampment in that bluff area, because we found numerous artifacts glistening in the bright sunshine after the rain.  I remember trading a huge sack of perfect arrowheads for a sack of Bull Durham smoking tobacco.  We needed our butts whipped, but boys were boys, I guess.  We hid the tobacco in a corn shock:  the first time it rained, our tobacco was ruined.  

Here's something that happened one day as I stepped out of our outhouse with my trusty rubber gun:  A rubber gun was crafted out of a 1 X 4 piece of wood, made to look like a rifle.  The board was notched five or six times to hold a piece of rubber inner tube stretched from the end of the barrel to each notch.  A leather strap was the trigger; when pulled, it allowed the rubber "bullets" to be fired ten to thirty feet.  We kids played rubber guns like kids today play paint ball.  But back to my story:  As I stepped out of the outhouse, the meanest damn rooster on the place headed for me and backed me up next to our barn, prepared to flog me.  I immediately prepared to swing that rubber gun like a baseball bat.  When that rooster flew at me with all his fury, I swung and connected for a Babe Ruth home run by hitting that old rooster smack in the head.  He immediately went down for the count.  I was stricken by the fear of knowing I had done my folks' rooster in, so I picked him up and hid the body under trees in the holler.  For several days I didn't see that rooster.  I knew the folks would wonder what happened to him.  But wouldn't you know he showed up again alive!  However, he was never so aggressive with me and my rubber gun again.

Entertainment on Saturday nights usually entailed going to the cousins' house across the holler and listening to the Grand Ole Opry on their electric radio.  Mom and Dad would sometimes have a game of cards there, and drink home brew that Dad's cousin had made.  Occasionally they would go to a dance; my dad played banjo/guitar/french harp by ear).  Mom had grown up in the prohibition and flapper age, and she was quite a sight doing the Charleston; she taught me how to do it for a class play in high school in later years.

My last anecdote from this period involves the old road that led to what we call the Canyon Road.  It was a road with dirt sides that extended 20-30 feet straight up; a lot of farm vehicles used the bottom land.  I used to enjoy walking the old road because numerous names were carved way up the sides of the dirt walls.  I even carved my own on the lower level. 

Note from Donna:  Our address is Old Canyon road, but there are no steep dirt walls here.  Perhaps the road used to extend farther back.  These days it dead-ends.  

Other random memories in no particular order: 

Mr. Kincaid looking out the top second-story school window, spotting kites flying, and stating, "Now I know where they are!"

At age six, pestering "Ol' Jocko", Happy Goodloe's monkey, in back of his station and watching Ol' Jocko grab my first-grade picture from inside the cage and eat it.  I cried and cried, and probably called him some of my aunts' favorite names.

Christmas at our Waterloo Bottoms home was usually a piece of fruit and homemade candy, but few presents.  In 1940 Mom wrapped up my old toys to open on Christmas:  When you don't know any difference, it doesn't make any difference.

Halloween, 1949-1950:  Halloween in Wellington was a night of mischief; today it would be called vandalism.  It was the stated goal of each group of young folks to turn over more outhouses than the others.  Some town folk resigned themselves, some waited for the perpetrators and tried to grab them, some braced their outhouses to keep them from being turned over, and some moved their privies forward three feet to allow those guys to (hopefully) fall into the mess.  The last time I went to push over sheds or outhouses was when, after pushing one over, a man we knew ran out on his back porch and cried, "Halt or I'll shoot!" just as I had my head of steam up.  It was too late:  I saw the flash of a gun and heard the sound, so I stumbled up that dark alley to end up in the Baptist Churchyard looking for holes in my body.  As it happened, he was using blanks, or I would have died that night.  I thanked God and promised never again.  That's a promise I kept.

The day school let out for summer vacation every year, I took my shoes off and only put them on for trips to town.

In 1944-48 I recall visits to my grandmother and step-grandpa at their home between Rolla and Fort Leonard Wood at Waynesville.  I remember the clear water rivers where we played.  I visited the home of a friend who took me back in the woods and showed me his log cabin home with no floors, orange crates for a table, and straw for bedding.  I felt like I was really rich and blessed, living in the Waterloo bottoms.

I remember bouncing along in our old 34 Chevy with my mother driving me out of the Waterloo bottoms so I could catch the bus to Wellington School.  Sometimes through dust, other times mud and water up to the running board.

The first day of school with Mom:  My teacher, Ms. Webb, had us students introduce ourselves; when she came to me I just looked at my mom and said, "You tellum, Mom, you tellum."  Boy, was I shy.

Attending the Wellington Fair in 1948, I walked past what appeared to be a box with a moving picture.  "What is that?" I asked the guy.  He replied, "Son, that is a television."

Hitchhiking to Wellington or walking there or riding my bike, to be able to meet the guys on the dirt basketball court on the school grounds to play basketball for five or six hours, with only a break to have a Pepsi with a bag of peanuts dumped in it for lunch. 

To read the next chapter of this story, Click HERE.


  1. Thanks for sharing jim's story. I am enjoying it.

  2. I'm not as old as Jim, but all the simple ways (and sometimes mischievous ones) we entertained ourselves are very familiar. Pre-TV, computers, and cell phones, we did a lot of running around and hanging out with other kids, playing outdoor games, biking, sledding(when it rarely snowed) and playing board games.

  3. My Mom is a dozen years older than Jim, but these are so similar to stories she has told. I'm so glad you are sharing his story.


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