The Great Depression: A Family Endures
March 9, 2013
Sometimes we come across a book, one that grabs your heart, makes you listen, makes you want to remember. “Sharecropping in North Louisiana” by Lillian Laird Duff and Linda Duff Niemeir is such a book.
I met Linda Niemeir a year ago at a book signing in a small town called Waskom, Texas. The local library there hosted several local authors and Linda came all the way from Camden, Arkansas to this little bitty town in Texas to share the story she and her mother Lillian wrote together.
These are the memories of Lillian Laird Duff, who as a child, grew up in poverty during the Great Depression. Her parents were tenant farmers or better known as sharecroppers, so they moved quite frequently.
Linda grew up hearing the stories, but her mother, Lillian lived them. They both wanted to put these memories down on paper to preserve for the family.
The stories are more than just a family legacy, they’ve become an inspiration and a testament of the faith and endurance this family experienced.
Lillian tells a vivid account of the sharecropper’s life—planting on the owner’s land and tending the crops, sharing those crops with the landowner, using his tools, living in the ramshackle houses provided. Through it all this family endure, survived, and loved.
“None of these houses had indoor plumbing during all the years I was at home. The wells or water pumps were outside and not always near the house. Baths were taken in washtubs near the kitchen stove in the winter and on the back porch in warm weather.”
“All our clothes were washed by hand at every place we lived. This required a large cast iron pot in which to heat the water for washing and a big tub of warm water for rinsing. This entire production took place outside near the pot over an open fire and as close to the water pump and clothesline as possible. White clothes sometimes required extra care, boiling the pot with a tiny bit of lye.”
Life was difficult in those times, and yet, it wasn’t so very long ago. How times have changed.
“That winter of 1932-33, we had an awful cold spell of rain, sleet, and snow. The freezing rain formed long icicles on the roof. The low places froze over, and the hogs that were out in the open range did not come home to be fed. Daddy put nails in the soles of some old shoes to prevent him from slipping on the ice and went back into the woods carrying a sack of corn on his back. He found the hogs and fed them some to keep them from starving. As soon as the freeze was over, the hogs came up to the house, and Daddy penned them up and fed them.”
Lillian paints vivid word pictures of life during The Great Depression, from hog killing to syrup making, cotton growing, and working in the fields.
She tells of the loss of a sibling, the many moves the family made going from farm to farm. Many accounts of cold winters, desperate hardships, floods, and rebuilding come to life.
This book is filled with snapshots from the life of a sharecropper, honest stories and memories. At the same time, we learn of an era many of us have only heard about.
This family struggled through one of the most difficult times of our history, but did it with love and faith.
Linda Niemeir has a Facebook Page..Sharecropping in North Louisiana.