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Monday, May 16, 2011


As a kid I used to hear the expression ”It’s either root hog or die” upon hearing that I knew things were not so good. It has been many years since I have heard someone repeat that adage, and really mean it.

When my dad was around, and my mom and brother were living with him, things were almost good, nothing like they are today, but so much better than most other people.

I remember visiting my uncle and his wife Cynthia once and it was time for supper. Finally my aunt Cynthia decided she would fix supper, and I was watching her start to cook. She opened a can of tomatoes and emptied them in a pot, and then poured some milk in the pot also. After cooking it for awhile she crumbled seven or eight crackers (all she had) into the pot, and I remember saying to my uncle that I liked the crackers separately. He then told me crumbling the crackers into the soup would make it go farther.

The six of us enjoyed our supper, at least what there was of it. If my dad knew there was no food in the house he would have brought some with us or went to the store, but there was only one store for miles, and it was closed that time of night.

'Root-Hog-Or-Die' Days; During the Great Depression of the 1930s, times were hard back then.

People sometimes referred to those years as the "root-hog-or-die" days, meaning that if you didn't keep grubbing you were a goner.  Lots of folks were "hollerin’ and hongry," and longing for a little gravy on their grits. A black preacher on the Sea Islands prayed, "Hear us, Oh Lord, we're down here gnawin' on dry bones!" And on New Year's Eve, Florida Latins intoned, "Go bad year, so we can see if the coming one is better!"

Another view of welfare while recognizing the need, some feared it could become a generational life style;

Many of those in positions of power embraced a philosophy captured in the old expression "root, hog, or die," meaning that individuals should work hard to provide for themselves and their families or face the harsh consequences of failure. Proponents of such a laissez-faire philosophy feared that guarantees of governmental or private poor relief would remove incentives to labor, causing workers to become unproductive and lazy.

During those days in the south there were; the white people, the black people and, the white trash people.

While we were poor, we considered ourselves white, and not white trash. In fact if anyone alluded that we were trash, the fight was on with fists swinging. If it should continue the shot guns were loaded, and then taken to a higher level. Usually a change of mind happened, and things settled down.

Though we were poor and with few assets the one thing root hog days couldn’t take from us was pride.

Root hoggin days were not the most pleasant days of my life but it produced in me the desire to be productive, and doing whatever it took (that was legal) to be successful.

A verse in Roman 13:8 admonishes everyone to “Owe no man anything, but to love one another.

The first part of that scripture I have always practiced and I’m working hard on the second.

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