Cowboy was a character and a half. . .Floyd Cook was born on one of Granddaddy's farms and continued working for Daddy when my Granddad passed away. I never knew him as anything but 'Cowboy'. . .nor do I know the story behind the name. . .It was only when we moved back to Arkansas nine years ago that I learned of his birth name. . . As I said, he was a character--wore boots, smoked a cigar, Western shirts were his choice and he had a gruff but endearing way about him. . .Every now and then Mom would ask Daddy to send Cowboy to our home in Dell to help her weed the flower beds. . .Cowboy sure didn't take kindly to that chore. . .He'd mumble under his breath and make it obvious he had no interest in 'women's work'. . .I remember Mom becoming so frustrated with him. . .I quietly watched and laughed to myself. . .It was like two goats butting heads. . .I still grin every time I think about it.
At Christmas my Dad carried on with Granddaddy's tradition of giving a box of Russell Stover Candy to everyone who worked on the farm--as well as friends and neighbors. . .It fell to my brother and me to deliver it on Christmas Eve each year. . .Of course, Cowboy's shotgun house was one of the places we were sent. . .He would come to the door, smoking that cigar, take the box of candy and acknowledge with a loud, "Humph". . .That was it. . .Never knew if it was a good Humph or if he was expecting more. . .
My encounters with Cowboy were mostly brief and at a distance. . .yet any time I think back to those days on the farm, I think about him. . .Somehow he became endearing to me. . .Maybe I romanticize it too much like we so often do when looking back in the past. . .but I do wish I had spent more time around him and learned of his family history and listened to the stories he told. . .When you're young, you think the familiar people in your life will always be there. . .
When John and I ordered our two shotgun houses, built by the Amish in Mississippi, I knew one had to be furnished for Cowboy. . .I never went inside his house, so I've furnished it with much artistic license. . .I furnished it as I remembered him. . .the items I saw him wear. . .the cigar boxes I'm sure he emptied. . .the kerosene lamp he must have owned. . .It's definitely a masculine house. . .very plain and make-do as I remember the interiors of other shotgun homes.
In fact, even though the furnishings look sparse, there is actually more than many tenants had. . .Cowboy is doing well compared to many others during the Great Depression. . .
No running water. . .It had to be carried in from the well. . .No electricity. . .In the early 30s there was no service at all even if the tenant could afford it. . .No indoor bathrooms. . .That's where the Saturday night bath in a #2 washtub came about. . .Often no interior walls, although it seems most of the homes here did have sheetrock as an added barrier to the cold north winter wind. . .Newspaper often covered the walls in the same manner of store bought wallpaper. . .It helped insulate and added a little interest, too. . .
It was a life of make-do. . .'waste not, want not'. . .They were 'Going Green' and recycling long before the present time. . .I suppose many see only the hardship endured. . .I asked Daddy one time what it felt like to live through the Depression. . .He came from a family with very little money. . .They lived in Alabama until they were about to starve. . .He talked often about not having any breakfast except for a piece of left-over cornbread and a little sorghum molasses. . .I couldn't imagine going to school without a full stomach. . .But, when I asked him how it felt, he shrugged his shoulders and said, "It wasn't any big deal. Everyone was in the same boat so we didn't know anything else." He and his siblings were loved and happy and that was enough. They moved to Kennett, Missouri for a better life. . .Daddy was 13 years old and took on two jobs--one before and one after school--in order to help the family out. . .Soon after the move, times got better. . .They were never without food or other necessities again.
Times were hard in the Delta, too. . .Sharecroppers and tenants rarely got out of debt. . .Houses were provided but often lacked anything but the basics. . .I marvel at people such as Cowboy, born and raised in the fields of the rich Delta dirt. . .who stayed their entire lives no matter the hardship. . .There must have been a deep love for farming. . .for the simplicity of this lifestyle. . .for the ties of work and family that kept them here. . .We in the Delta owe Cowboy and many others like him more credit than we give them for making our farms the successes they are today.
|'COWBOY' FLOYD COOK|
And that's why the shotgun house is staged in Cowboy style.
I've only given you a sneak peek. . .Guess you know what you have to do to see more. . .
COME SEE US AT THE FARM