An Hour Before Daylight: Memories of a Rural Boyhood
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In An Hour Before Daylight, Jimmy Carter, bestselling author of Living Faith and Sources of Strength, recreates his Depression-era boyhood on a Georgia farm before the civil rights movement forever changed it and the country.
Carter writes about the powerful rhythms of countryside and community in a sharecropping economy, offering an unforgettable portrait of his father, a brilliant farmer and a strict segregationist who treated black workers with respect and fairness; his strong-willed and well-read mother; and the five other people who shaped his early life, three of whom were black.
Carter's clean and eloquent prose evokes a time when the cycles of life were predictable and simple and the rules were heartbreaking and complex. In his singular voice and with a novelist's gift for detail, Jimmy Carter creates a sensitive portrait of an era that shaped the nation and recounts a classic, American story of enduring importance.
but there was one in our house. It was number 23, and we answered two rings. On the same party line, the Bacons had one ring and the Watsons picked up on three. (In fact, there were usually two other listeners to all our calls.) We seemed to have an omniscient operator in Plains. If we placed a call to Mr. Roy Brannen, Miss Gladys would say, “He left for Americus this morning at about nine-thirty, but he plans to be back before dinner. He’ll probably stop by the stable, and I’ll try to catch him
learned how to fire the boiler, to keep the steam pressure at the proper level, and how to burn the squeezed stalks, or “cane pummlings,” as supplementary fuel without smothering the fire. On occasion, Daddy had to sell some of the Plains Maid syrup through wholesale distributors, but he didn’t like to lose a substantial part of his profit to any middleman. • • • Corn was not a cash crop, bringing only around thirty cents a bushel, but it was crucial for feeding both animals and humans, and
an adequate supply of equipment, two mules, a milk cow, and a few pigs, covering the cost with a mortgage on these things and the year’s crop. The next spring, someone reported that the man had sold some of the mortgaged hogs. After the farmer admitted what was, in effect, a theft, he and Daddy worked out an arrangement for him to be paid in cash for the work he had done already, he was given credit for returned items, and he moved off the place. We then finished working and harvesting the crop
enjoy a kind of homecoming in the cemetery, with warm welcomes to all the out-of-town people who had come to honor the deceased. Like everything else, the Lebanon Cemetery was segregated, with whites buried on the west side and black graves located to the east. All the funerals were impressive affairs, budgets straining to give maximum honor to the deceased loved ones. The largest ceremony was when Bishop Johnson died, and was buried in the cemetery at Archery. The procession of automobiles,
baseball, including farm boys like me who couldn’t go out for the school team because springtime farm work interfered with regular practice. One leader would throw a bat to another, and we would alternate fists up to the top of the handle. The last one able to grasp the bat well enough to throw it over his shoulder got first choice of the boys assembled to play, and sides were then chosen alternately. The second level of baseball was scrub, when kids yelled “batter, catcher, pitcher, first,