My grammar school days were quite memorable due to having several very important friends as classmates. Among those and best remembered for the longest time is my good friend today, Barry Elwood Nichols.
He and I started 1st grade together and graduated high school together. We played basketball together and in the last couple of years in school, Elwood had a cut-down truck that he drove to and from school. He would often provide me a ride home after basketball games or other school activities. This saved me walking 2 ½ miles to get home at night and this was walking a dirt road lit only by the moonlight. Others that are memorable are Yvonne Roberson, Dorothy Nell Aspinwall, Lawton Mixon and Robert Lee. There was one special girl that joined us in the 9th grade which I have spoken about a little later while discussing my teen years. We enjoyed many good years together with several of us graduating high school together.
Along with my other life and experiences of that time, I very much looked forward to visiting and playing with the Mixon, Davis, Knight, and Lee children who lived nearby on the other community farms. The Mixon children were grandchildren of the Ira Davises who lived across the field in the Northwestern direction from our farm. Lawton Mixon was my classmate and playmate. He had younger brothers and a sister. They lived nearby and to go around the roads to their grandparent’s home they were about three quarters of a mile from our house, but across the fields it was only about one-half mile.
I loved going to visit for these were part of the large Davis family that were musicians and I always enjoyed listening to them play and sing. Several in the family would play guitars, violin (fiddle as they called it), banjo, and mandolin. The grandfather, Mr. Ira Davis who perhaps was in his late sixties or early seventies, was a wonderful banjo and fiddle player and he enjoyed playing for all of us children. He seldom would sing a song, but would hum along as he so skillfully played the banjo. His music could be heard some distance from his house since often, it was so quiet it the neighborhood community. If one didn’t hear his music, the silence was filled with the sparrows, blue and red birds chirping and singing.
On special days and occasionally Mr. Ira Davis would take time out from his farm work to gather a group of us kids and take us to the Little Satilla River to swim. To get to the river, he would have to take us through the woods and swamp which was about a three mile jaunt. My sisters were considered to be too young to join in, but I was often a member of the group. He had built a little mule-drawn cart, which he called his “jiggy cart” on which he would load 6-10 of us (stacked on each other) and hook up his mule and away we would go, having fun all the way.
Once we got to the river, he would unload us on the big sandbar, hitch his mule to a tree and join us in the river dressed in his 1920’s bathing suit. The river could be a very fast moving river during times that there had been a lot of rain, but normally it was fairly slow moving. I can still see him to this day, standing in the water up to his waist, while on the sand bar extending into the river, grabbing a kid by his feet and “flipping him backwards” into the river and laughing all the time he was doing that. He enjoyed it just as much as we kids did. It was in this place and with him that I learned to swim. He was patient beyond words with all of us. After 3-4 hours of this and a little lunch of fruit or watermelon, we would all then load back into the “jiggy cart” and go home. It was a great trip and we would be exhausted by the time we had travelled the three miles back home.
What to me seemed unusual about all this is that my parents seemed to have the view that we should stay out of the water until after we had learned to swim, but Mr. Ira had a different view and he no doubt taught many children to swim over his lifetime. In fact, I think most of the kids in the larger community where we all lived, most likely had been taught to swim by Mr. Davis. He was a great neighbor, community farmer, kid organizer, and was liked by adults and kids alike. It was in this community that I entered into my teen years.