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Saturday, February 6, 2010

Bartley Crisp: Farmer, Horse Trader & Uncle Extraordinaire

A while-back I asked my mother about old family photos, not really sure she would allow me to ever borrow any of them to scan for myself. Much to my surprise one day when I went by to drop off some prescriptions I had picked up for her, she had a box of old photos on the dining room table ready for me to look through. Many of them I had never seen before; I'm not sure where she had been hiding them, but their cracked and broken corners and aged patina beckoned for me to come hither. This is one of the treasures that was buried in the old shoe box that housed them; the original was very faint--almost ghostlike--and required quite a bit of dodging and burning in photoshop to coax it to life. The younger man astride the steer was Mammaw Laws' brother Bartley (husband of Virgie referenced in Washing With Virgie posted earlier). The gentleman on the left and owner of this fine bovine was the grandfather of my Aunt Hilda (wife of Dad's youngest brother, Frazier). His name was Gold (Goldman) Sawyer. Both Uncle Bart and Gold were "horse traders" and throughly enjoyed getting the best end of a deal. I am not sure if they ever did any trading amongst themselves; I am thinking probably not since they were close friends until the older man's death when I was in my early teens. As a child I spent a great deal of time with my Uncle Bart and Aunt Virgie and always enjoyed getting to know Uncle Bart's latest trading triumphs, be they ponies, mules, or horses. They were never graceful "riding" equines, but rather the sturdy working stock favored by the farmers whose eyes and pocketbooks Uncle Bart was always looking to open (be aware that as far as I know he was always fair and honest in his deals; I assume this to be true as he was very well loved by everyone who knew him and had no known enemies). Even though they were capital to be sold and traded, Uncle Bart always loved to sit me on the latest mount and lead me around the pasture and yard. Thinking back, it may have been a way to demonstrate the docility of the animal to prospective buyers, but as far as I was concerned, it was just plain fun. Sometimes he would keep an animal for an entire growing season, allowing me to get very attached to it. One of my favorites was a bay mare called Trixie. Trixie was broad across the chest and flanks with a barrel-shaped middle that stretched my short legs to their limits. She was slow-paced and sure-footed with a muzzle that compared to the finest velvet. The rattling of the pasture gate perked her ears, and if she found it was me climbing the rough sawn boards with a handful of plaintain leaves or an ear of corn she came at a gallop, whinnying and tossing her head. Trixie and I enjoyed a lot of slow rides and ear rubbing that summer, but not long after the tobacco and garden were in and the wood shed was filled with fuel for the winter, the trading bug bit Uncle Bart and I was forced to say good-bye to Trixie. With tears running down my cheeks I watched her disappear around the curve with her ears just poking over the wooden frame on the back of his pickup truck. A few hours later as the truck crunched the gravel of the drive way Uncle Bart jumped out calling for me to "come here Brenda and looky what I brought". This time it was a young mouse-colored mule with long erect ears--and a muzzle soft as the finest velvet that promptly nudged my shoulder and nibbled my curls. I couldn't keep from smiling.

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