By Lois Barefoot Mays

Charlton County Herald, August 14, 1985

“We sure were a happy bunch of kids when we were growing up,” laughed Mrs. Mary Hendrix this week as she remembered some events of her Charlton County childhood. “We lived in the county several miles from our neighbors but we had a big family that kept us from getting lonesome,” she said.

Relaxing on her front porch and enjoying the pleasure of a gentle summer afternoon breeze, Mrs. Hendrix recalled when her parents Emma and David Mitchell (“Mitch”) Mizell and her sisters and brothers, Pearl, Rosa, Lonnie, Arie Lee and Carl lived on the Holt Place near Alligator Creek and the Okefenokee Swamp. “We each had farm chores that had to be done every day but still had plenty of time for fun,” she said.

“We had a partly-tamed bull once that would come when he was called and my brothers and sisters thought it would be great fun to learn to ride him like a horse. He stood still while we put a saddle on his back,” Mrs. Hendrix said smiling at the memory. “Then they decided that I was to be the first one to ride him, so I was helped into the saddle. When the bull found out he was to carry a saddle and a child, he ran forward, stopped instantly and the result was hilarious. I sailed through the air landing in the sand on one side of him and the saddle flew off his back and landed on the other side. He wasn’t as tame as we thought!”

Mitch Mizell, whose father was David Mitchell Mizell, Sr. and nicknamed “Davy Crockett” because of his hunting ability, was responsible for the wood-roaming cattle owned by Mr. Holt, so each evening the Hendrix children fanned out into the surrounding woods and herded the cows back to the barnyard. These were penned up for the night then turned loose in the pinelands the next day. There were times when the yearlings and calves were put in separate woods from the older ones and instead of a fence a wide stream was used to keep the animals apart. The young cows were herded across the branch at a shallow ford and many times one of the children would grab the tail of a fast-moving animal which would then bring the laughing child skimming across the water. “We sure didn’t wear our best clothes when we did that!” laughed Mrs. Hendrix.

The Mizell children were students at two small one-room schools, one near Chesser Island and the other near the Richard Chesser homeplace. A water bucket and one dipper supplied everyone with water. Teachers in these isolated schools included Mrs. Hendrix’s sister, Pearl and Miss Bert Robinson. The children worked problems on their wood-framed gray slates using a special slate pencil, with boys seated on one side of the room and the girls on the other. Recalling the benches on which the children sat, Mrs. Hendrix remembers the custom of students raising their hands and getting the teacher’s permission before speaking, even talking to the child seated next to them. She ignored this custom many times with resulting “whacks” to the top of her head with the teacher’s pencil, whippings, or worse, an hour or two standing in the corner facing the wall. Although she made good grades in other subjects she didn’t make very good grades in deportment!

“We lived for a short time at Gum Swamp, Fla. and I especially liked to take flowers to my teacher there,” she recalled. “But I had to pick them on the way to school and when I jumped off the wagon carrying the children and ran in the woods to pick the blossoms, the boy from the next farm who was driving the mule, made the wagon pick up speed and I had to run very fast to catch up. I don’t know if the teachers ever appreciated how much effort it took for me to bring those flowers to them,” she said laughing.

In the summer when the corn was mature they “pulled fodder” for winter food for the cattle. After pulling off the long green leaves from the corn stalks and tucking fistfuls of these behind ears of corn so they would dry in the summer heat, “We watched the sky mighty carefully and if a cloud came up everyone ran to the field,” she said. Shouting encouragement to each other, they grabbed great armloads of the drying leaves and ran to the barn with them. The sudden summer rains were called “fodder showers” and provided the reason for lots of exercise for the children.

“We used to have the most fun at box suppers,” Mrs. Hendrix said. “You don’t hear of these any more. That was when the girls fixed supper for two, usually fried chicken, salad and slices of cake, and put all this in a shoebox decorated with pretty paper and ribbons.” The boys bid on these and according to the custom the successful bidder walked the girl home from this community event. “I remember one time when Mr. Andrew Gowen was the auctioneer and my box was sold to Cecil Gowen who walked me home. That was the same night I won the contest for the prettiest girl there and my prize was a cake,” she said, chuckling at the memory.

“Oh! The fun we used to have!” she said. “There were barn raisings and quiltings and after the work was done, we had big suppers then we square danced all night long, sometimes staying for breakfast the next day. The group was so large at times that we filled up the kitchen and living room with our sets of dancers. Having heard the music all night long it seemed that while we were doing our chores the next day, we could still hear Joe Cone playing his fiddle!”

“As we were growing up, some of our greatest pleasures were visits to relatives for several days. That’s how I met Otto Hendrix, while spending a week at Hopkins Corner with my uncle Jack Mizell who worked for the Hebard Lumber Company. About two months after we met and lots of letter writing, Ott and I were married at Ordinary J.J. Stokes’ home in Folkston.”

The happiness she had known as a child in her parents’ home spilled over into her new household at Hopkins Corner, where the couple began a marriage that lasted fifty-three years. Mr. Hendrix’s work was girdling the Okefenokee cypress trees for the Hebards. Their children Louise, Arthur and Ottis were born in Ware County and the baby Elizabeth, who lives next door to her mother, was born at Camp Cornelia where they lived for several years. Later the family lived on the Gowen Place and Mr. Hendrix worked for J.H. Johnson at his sawmill at Piddlinville on the edge of the Okefenokee Swamp. The Hendrix children, developing the same friendly personalities as their parents, attended school in Folkston.

A dedicated member of Prospect United Methodist Church, Mrs. Hendrix was asked to repeat one of her favorite verses of scripture and no one was surprised when she recited from the Book of Proverbs with joy and enthusiasm, “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine.”

Charlton  County Archives