... because I was looking through them and these two were what struck me.
First, the Lyon family, circa 1925:
The man on the left is my grandfather, Leonard Lyon, with his mother, father and brothers.
Second, Grandpa Lyon with his wife, Zelpha, on their 40th anniversary (I think they were married in 1927 or 1928, so late '60s):
I only recall seeing Grandpa in anything other than overalls and a long-sleeved shirt three times: At his 50th wedding anniversary celebration, in the hospital after his stroke, and in his casket.
By the time I came along, he wore a railroad engineer cap instead of that "workman's cap" in the first picture. And he always had his pipe, matches, pouch of Our Advertiser tobaccco, and a handkerchief in his pockets (as a kid, I bought him tobacco and handkerchiefs for his birthdays).
He presumably grew up working on his family's farm. After getting married, he worked as a share-cropper. My mom (the third of 12 kids -- so we know how he liked to spend his spare time) was born in 1933 in the log cabin where they were tenants. The cabin had originally been built by the land-owner he farmed on shares for, who was a former slave. My guess is that working for a former slave in southern Missouri in the 1930s was a long way of saying "poor."
If I'm not mistaken, my mom was three when Grandma and Grandpa were finally able to buy their own farm. The well on the farm was no good, and it was several years before they could afford to have a new well dug. My mom remembered her and her two older sisters carrying buckets to and from the creek (probably half a mile each way -- I walked that walk many a time myself, at play rather than at work) every day to keep the family in water.
They didn't get a truck until after World War Two. Until then, transportation meant walking into Stoutland (about three miles), or hitching mules to a wagon, or hiking to the nearest highway (not much less distance) and flagging a Greyhound into Lebanon. My brother tells me he thinks it was the 1950s before grandpa got a tractor, which means that until then, plowing involved a lot of staring at the ass end of the aforementioned mules.
When I was a kid in the 1970s, what was left of that old mule-drawn wagon was still on the farm -- four iron wheels on axles, and the center board running from front to rear. My cousins and I would climb on board and get it rolling downhill, toward an old apple orchard and a ditch. The last one to jump off "won." I don't know how fast it went, but when that wagon hit the ditch, it would fly end over end in the air. Then we'd roll it up the hill for another go. I may be misremembering, but as I remember it I tended to do well in the "wait until the last second and hope you don't break anything" game.
Also some time in the 1970s, the kids and their spouses showed up one weekend and the men installed an indoor bathroom. I remember that day well -- it was a BIG deal. They had running water for sinks, but until then, doing your business was a matter of trekking to an outhouse.
I don't know how big the farm was when Grandpa and Grandma bought it, but by the time they retired in the late 1970s, my recollection is that they had around 400 acres. Some in corn, some in soybeans, quite a bit in pasture for cattle (also a chicken coop and IIRC a hog wallow), and not a little of it wooded. When we would visit and there didn't happen to be cousins around to play with, I wandered all over that farm, including down to Bear Creek and to Jordan Creek (pronounced, for some reason, "Jurdan"), a usually dry wash. If I got lost -- and I sometimes did -- I knew I just had to find and follow one of the two creeks back to the road and I'd get home.
It seems to me that my ancestors (on, in this case, the Lyon/Burke side of my lineage) were some pretty tough people. And I know my parents gave me a much easier childhood than either of them enjoyed.