Press conference? 5:30 a.m., says Earl

By James Ronald Skains
Journal Correspondent

"I guess what amazed me most being around Mr. Earl was how many reporters came to the Pea Patch," Linda told the Piney Woods Journal. "When he was Governor, it seemed like the reporters from all over the state came in droves."

"He would finally get aggravated with them in the afternoon and tell them that he was going to hold a press conference the next morning at 5:30 a.m. at which time he would answer as many questions as they wanted to ask," Linda recalled. "Well, the next morning, only about half the reporters would show up for Mr. Earl's press conference."

"I remember that we had an old tom turkey in the yard at the Pea Patch," Linda said. "There were always several turkey hens and biddies in the yard, so he thought he ruled the roost. For some reason the old tom hated women and would attack them. He never bothered me I guess because he was used to me or that I was just a young girl. One day a lady reporter came to interview Mr. Earl. At the Pea Patch, you didn't get to see Mr. Earl unless you came through the yard and around to the back porch,'' Linda noted. ``If you did that, you risked getting attacked by the tom turkey, but, this one lady reporter came through the yard and sure enough the old tom attacked her. My Daddy grabbed a bull whip and started popping it," Linda remembered. "When he did, Mr. Earl yelled, `Clem, don't kill my turkey!'"

"Finally, the old tom got so mean that my daddy had to kill him right before thanksgiving one year," Linda recalled with a laugh. "Needless to say, we had turkey for Thanksgiving dinner. Mr. Earl ate some of everything else on the table but wouldn't eat a bite of the turkey."

"Just about everything we ate at the Pea Patch was grown or raised on the farm," Linda pointed out. "Mr. Earl loved field peas, okra, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, corn and fresh pork. He loved just about every kind of fruit especially peaches. When they would go hog hunting, Mr. Earl's cook, Sadie, would always pack them a lot of food so they could have a picnic lunch in the woods," Linda said. "Mr. Earl always carried along some Vienna sausage and crackers for snacks. He also carried Vienna sausage and crackers when he traveled around the state but he always insisted on eating his sausage directly out of the can," Linda noted.

"When Mr. Earl would come to the Pea Patch without Miss Blanche, she called him quite often," Linda said. "Their conversation always went along about the same line for about the first ten minutes or so. Miss Blanche was always pressuring him about his health," Linda recalled. "After about fifteen minutes, Mr. Earl would get aggravated at her and would holler out real loud to my Daddy, `Clem,' come over here and talk to Misses Blanche-eeee!"

"I can close my eyes and still hear my Daddy's side of those conversations," Linda noted with a touch of nostalgia. "Yes m'am, the Governor is getting plenty of rest. Yes m'am, the Governor is eating well. No m'am, the Governor is not over doing it. Yes m'am, I'm taking good care of the Governor."

"One of my fondest memories of my time with Mr. Earl was when we would be sitting out on the back porch and he would be reading his papers and making phone calls," Linda said. "In between papers and phone calls, he would talk to me. After a awhile, he would say, Shug, let' s take and walk and see what's going on," Linda noted. "He loved to see how the crops were growing or how the harvesting was coming along it it was that time of the year. He also loved for me and him to gather the eggs in the hen house and barn," Linda recalled fondly. I would hold the egg basket and he would reach in and pick up the eggs in the nest," Linda said with a laugh. "One time he reached into a nest and touched a chicken snake. He almost tore the hinges of the hen house door getting out of there," Linda pointed out. "From then on, Mr. Earl always looked before he reached for an egg."

All the work on the Pea Patch was done by trustees from Angola," Linda stated. "The trustees called my Daddy, Little Mr. Bossman. Usually, one of the trustees considered himself the walking boss. I remember one Saturday that we were putting hay in the barn. When we stopped for lunch, the boss trustee whose name was Jack, said to my Dad, `Little Mr. Bossman,' there's a little shindig going on across town that the boys sure want to go to tonight. Can we take the afternoon off?"

"My Daddy said very pointedly to Jack and the other Trustee, we've got to get the hay in the barn no ifs, ands or buts about it," Linda pointed out.

"Little Mr. Bossman, if you will let the boys off today, I guarantee you that I will have everyone of them out here tomorrow morning bright and early and we'll get the hay in the barn."

"I don't think that my Daddy really believed that they would live up to their promise but he let them off to go to their shindig," Linda said. "But the next morning all the trustees were out there getting the hay in the barn. Needless to say, they were all in bad shape including Jack."

"It was hot and they the sweat was pouring off them and they couldn't drink enough water, but they got the hay in the barn," Linda recalled.

"Usually the trustees were very well behaved. It seemed like a new group of trustees would come up each year," Linda noted.

"When one misbehaved or had a bad attitude, my Daddy would make a phone call and a car would show up the next morning with a new trustee and take the old one back to Angola," Linda pointed out.

"One night, Daddy got a phone call from the Winn Parish sheriff's office that Mr. Earl's truck had been run into the ditch out on the Possum Neck road," Linda said in recalling events of fifty years ago. "Two of the trustees had found that Mr. Earl had left the keys in his truck and they took off on a joyride."

"Well Daddy took off for the Pea Patch, rounded up all the trustees and carried them out to where the truck was stuck in the ditch. He made them physically get the truck out of the ditch and then walk back to the Pea Patch as punishment."

"My Daddy was extremely loyal to Mr. Earl and what was going on at the Pea Patch when he was not there was always on his mind," Linda noted. "One night, my Dad and I were going to a Future Homemakers Father Daughter Banquet. Well, Daddy had to go by the Pea Patch to take care of a little problem and we were late for the Banquet."

"Another exciting time at the Pea Patch was when Mr. Earl would come in from Baton Rouge," Linda stated. "His car would be cramped full of stuff that he had bought or people had given him along the way. Clothes, vegetables, live chickens and you name it, were in the car. Most times the windows were down and stuff was hanging out the windows. He would give away all the clothes and most of the other stuff to needy people in Winn Parish," Linda recalled. "I remember many times that Mr. Earl would tell people who got sick and couldn't afford to go to the doctor to go see Dr. Moseley and tell him to put it on his bill."

"He'd do the same thing on medicine, `Go to Sam Brian's Pharmacy and tell him to put it on my bill' Mr. Earl would say," Linda elaborated.

"Whenever Mr. Earl was giving something away or helping someone, it seemed to put him in high sprits," Linda noted. "It may have had something to do with his Christian faith."

"His mother was Methodist and his dad was Baptist," Linda pointed out. "I don't ever remember him going to church while he was in Winnfield but he talked a lot about tithing and loved to listen to gospel music, especially, the song, 'In the Garden'."

"I've heard him say numerous times, you don't have to put tithes in a collection plate. You can use your tithes to help other people.

Another thing that got Mr. Earl excited was when people would talk about the Old Age Pension that he had got passed," Linda said. "He loved to hear that people were saying; Earl got me my pension."

"When Mr. Earl came out to our place on the Tullos highway which was quite often, he always wanted to go visit my grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. James Porter who lived in a little house on our property," Linda recalled fondly. "My grandmother had known Mr. Earl since he was a little boy and drank the lye water. She would always make teacakes when Mr. Earl visited, He would always ask her about her pension and if it was a enough money to help her out," Linda remembered. "Mr. Earl would tell my grandmother, I gotta to make sure that you are getting enough pension money to keep buying the stuff you need to make these teacakes."