Eugene Edwards Was Rented Out By His Father For Eight Dollars A Week
Eugene “Brother” Edwards was born in 1923 in St. Helena Parish, Louisiana. At at the age of 93 years old he still plants his crops and harvest it himself. He pulled himself up on his old tractor and got to work disking his rolls for planting. I wasn’t there just to interview him, I wanted to watch him work, so I dare not stop him from his days work. He use to plant nearly twenty acres of land, nowadays, he’s not planting near that much. He breaks for lunch and return in the evening. No matter how hot the summer days get, he’ll be out there planting and working. The cold days can’t stop him when it comes to planting. It’s his way of feed himself and making a few extra dollars for the month. He left and went up to Detroit and worked in the plant for a while. I guess you can take the boy out the country, but you can’t take the country out the boy. Eugene returned back to the Deep South and never left again.
Eugene still heats himself up in the winter with his old pot belly wood burning stove, while cooking a pot of fresh red beans and some fresh collard and mustard greens for dinner. When visiting with him, it seems as though time stood still in his neck of the woods. The old wooden house
He told me how his father rented him out to an old white man. The old white man furnished his room and board and paid the eight dollars to his father, Ben Edwards. According to his registration draft card, he lived with his father Ben Edwards at the age of twenty-three year old at RFD #1, Amite, La.; He was farming with his father. Eugene signed his name on the registration card.
His parents Ben and Annie Williams Edwards.” His mother Annie died at a young age after falling off a horse and died from complications,” said Sharonne Hall, a cousin to Eugene Edwards. This was the oral passed to Sharonne by her grandmother, Luella Butler Johnson Morris, a first cousin to Eugene.”
Luella and Eugene was a couple of months apart in age. His father later married a woman by the of name Careetha. His siblings were; Geneva, Estelle, James, Willie, Shadrack, Abednego, and Machae. His three brothers were after the men in the Bible.
Farming is in the DNA of Eugene, and he will plant and harvest until he just can no longer do what he love and enjoy doing. Eugene can recall the names and history of the people who make up the Parish of St. Helena. He came from a long line of farmers and learning the art of farming from some of the best. And yes! He plants by the moon and stand by the Farmer’s Almanac like most farmers.
It has been a long time since I visit him last. I can see the hard work of farming has taken a toll on his body. He was walking bent over more than he was several years ago. His son moved next door, and his grandchildren help him harvest the crops.
“Are there any lessons we can learn from Eugene,” yes there are? If only we would take the time out to talk with him. There aren’t that many people his age left that we can talk to about the era he came up in and what he experience and witness. I was delighted to introduce him to Eddie Ponds, owner of the African American Newspaper in Ponchatoula, Louisiana. Eddie and I talked about his oral history project, and I thought Eugene’s story would be a great story to write about.
I wish I had more farmer that I can interview about planting, harvesting and storing what you grew. My grandfather Jasper Harrell, Sr. was a farmer. He passed away when I was two years old. Although I learned some lessons of planting from his brother Palmer Harrell. Their mother Emma Mead Harrell was a farmer. They lived on the place that Emma purchased in 1896 and 1902. She farmed about twenty acres. And she drove her mule and wagon to town to sale her produce.
Eddie and I both was happy to see that he was still physically and mentally able to continue what he love. There always somebody visiting him and talking with him, The wisdom and his vast sense of humor keep the visitors coming.