|'Homebody' until age 99|
|The Press - Features|
|Written by Kelley Lannigan|
|Thursday, 05 May 2011 10:31|
At age 99, it’s not unusual that Clyde Johns would be residing in a nursing home.
What is unique, however, is that he just moved into Macclenny Nursing and Rehab last month. And he moved from home.
“We made an agreement long ago,” said his son, Clyde Hal Johns. “We agreed he would be able to live in his own home for as long as possible.”
The younger Mr. Johns kept his promise to his father, who has lived his entire life in Taylor.
The elder Mr. Johns seems to be adjusting well to his new surroundings. In July, he turns 100. The Press caught up with him on a recent morning while his son was paying a visit.
“I just couldn’t protect him like he needed,” said Clyde Hal, tucking a blanket around his father’s knees. “This way we both have some peace of mind.”
When asked about his childhood, Mr. Johns sat silently for several long moments, thinking. Finally, his eyes brightened a bit.
“The old store out there, I remember going there a lot,” he said in his soft voice.
He was referring to the old Taylor Store, now gone, but at the time a rustic, unpainted wood building where Mr. Johns often went with his family to purchase what he called “staples” — flour, salt, sugar, etc.
Often the family traveled together in a horse-drawn buggy. Sometimes, Mr. Johns rode on one of the horses by himself.
Clyde Hal was adopted by Mr. Johns and his late wife R.O., a longtime educator in Baker County. He spoke about how he admired and respected the man who became his father.
“He was a good daddy and a good friend to me too,” said Clyde Hal. “I admire him for everything he taught me.”
The son was referring to the work ethic and the hands-on skills the elder Mr. Johns passed on to him such as farming, butchering, raising livestock, hunting and taking care of the family.
He’s also talking about conduct, how his father taught him that you treat people with good manners and respect, how you keep your promises, and that a man stands by his word.
“He taught me that a man was as good as his word and this was very important,” said Clyde Hal. “He taught me manners and he didn’t tolerate disrespect. If I messed up in that area I knew what was coming. I’d get the gallberry!”
He laughs as he remembers his father’s way with punishment. It meant a switching with a neatly trimmed branch from a gallberry bush.
“I remember I sassed him one day out by the barn. He didn’t say anything, just started walking steadily toward me, cutting off a gallberry branch with the pocket knife he always carried.
“He was stripping the leaves off it as he came toward me and I tried my darnedest to get up over the gate but he took hold of me and then I got it good.”
He turned to his dad.
“You remember that?”
“I remember it,” said Mr. Johns with a nod and a slight smile.
Mr. Johns attended Taylor school but only up to sixth grade because he was needed at home to help on the farm and support the family.
He remembers milking cows in the early morning hours.
“I’d get a rope around the horns to hold them,” he said. “You milked quick, without a stool. The cow wouldn’t stay still long enough for that.”
Farm families worked together back then, which helped everybody in the community survive.
“I used to watch my daddy on butchering day when everyone got together and butchered hogs to make sausage and chitterlings and head cheese,” he said. “It seemed Daddy was the only one who could hit the hogs in just the right spot behind the ear to put them down.”
The father took his son along when he went hunting for bear, wild boar and alligator. He was a crack shot and had a sixth sense for knowing where animals would be.
“Daddy just seemed to know when an animal was going to appear or come out on the road. It never ceased to amaze me,” said Clyde Hal.
He told a story about a huge buck that suddenly emerged from the woods one day while they were out burning off the pasture. It ran, trying to leap the fence that separated the pasture from the house.
“That buck got its antlers hung up in the fence and here comes Daddy running full tilt toward it,” he said. “Before it could escape he put a pitchfork through its neck. That buck is on the wall at home today.”
Mr. Johns had his own matter of fact philosophy about life, often seeing things simplistically for what they were.
An experience with a hound dog helped Clyde Hal understand this.
“Daddy wasn’t particularly impressed with one of the sooner hounds he ended up with. She was young and hadn’t shown much potential. He decided to take her way out past Olustee and drop her off to fend for herself,” said the son.
Three days later the hound showed up at the back door step, having somehow found her way home across the miles of rough, wooded terrain.
Mr. Johns studied the dog for a minute, thought about the situation and then reconciled himself to it.
“Well,” he said, “I guess she’s earned her right to be here.”
And that was that.
Looking back, Clyde Hal says he is glad for growing up on the farm with his dad and the self-discipline it taught. There was always something that needed doing.
“It seemed all we did was farm,” he said. “Lord, I had me a neck full of it! We were always hoeing crops, breaking and stacking corn to dry and loading it in the wagon or picking velvet beans that made your skin itch so bad you couldn’t hardly stand it.”
But the ability to be self-sufficient and the knowledge of living off the land that came from his father is something he will always be grateful for.
“Today I mix the old ways with the new,” he said. “I happen to think things in this society may be moving back to some of the old ways out of necessity and I’m glad I have the experience. I have it because of my father.”
|Last Updated on Thursday, 05 May 2011 13:23|