Read CHAPTER III of The Life and Adventures of Nat Love Better Known in the Cattle Country as "Deadwood Dick", free online book, by Nat Love, on ReadCentral.com.

Raising tobacco, our first year of freedom. More privations. Father Dies. It never Rains but it pours. I become the head of the family and start to work at $1.50 Per month.

As soon as the corn crop was in the ground we commenced to plant tobacco. Before the seed was sown, it was necessary to gather large piles of brush and wood and burn it to ashes on the ground to destroy the seeds of the weeds. The ground was then spaded and raked thoroughly, and the seed sown. After it had come up and got a fair start, it was transplanted in rows about three feet apart. When the plants become large enough it is necessary to pull the suckers off, also the worms off the leaves. This task fell upon Jordan and myself.

In picking the worms off the plants it is necessary to use the greatest care that the plants are not damaged, but Jordan and I were afraid to touch the worms with our fingers, so we took sticks and knocked them off, also a few leaves with each worm. This fact called forth some rather strong language from father, who said we were doing more harm than good. But our aversion to the worms was so strong that we took several thrashings before we could bring ourselves to use our fingers instead of a stick. When the tobacco was ripe there would be yellow spots on the leaves. It was then cut, let lie for one day, then hung on a scaffold to be sun cured. It was allowed to remain on the scaffold for perhaps a week, then it was hung up in the barn to be smoked, after which it was made into a big bulk and a weight placed on it to press it out, then it was stripped, and put into hands and then it was ready for the market. Our crop the first year was not large and the most of it went to pay the rent and the following winter proved a hard one, and entailed considerable privation and suffering among the many ex-slaves, who had so recently been thrown on their own resources, without money or clothing or food, and only those who have had the experience can appreciate the condition of things or rather lack of things, at the close of the war, and these conditions did not only affect the ex-slaves and colored people, but covered the entire south, and many former well-to-do slave owners now found themselves without a penny they could call their own, having been stripped of everything and compelled to start all over again. Surely “war is hell” but slavery is worse. Early in the spring father went to work for a neighboring planter a couple of weeks in order to get his plows and horses again to plow his land. A somewhat larger crop was put in this year, but unfortunately for us when everything was planted father took sick and died shortly after. This was a stunning loss to us just at a time when we most needed a father and husband’s help, counsel and protection. But we did not lose courage for long.

The crop must be looked after and the coming winter provided against. My sister Sally had been married about three years at this time and was with her husband and two little girls on a small farm some distance away, which my brother-in-law rented. That left mother, Jordan and I to look after things. Although I was the youngest, I was the most courageous, always leading in mischief, play and work. So I now took the leadership, and became the head of the family. Things were beginning to take on a more hopeful look, when my brother-in-law died, leaving my sister sick with two small children and in about the same circumstances as ourselves. Everything, indeed, looked hopeless now, as our late master and his brother had left the old place and gone north. So remembering I was the only man on the place now, though only fifteen years old, I said to mother and sister who were weeping bitterly, “brace up, and don’t lose your heads. I will look after you all.” I said this with a bravado I was far from feeling, but I could not see the use of weeping now there was work to be done, if we were to keep from starving the coming winter. We all turned in to help one another and in this manner. The crop was gathered and we were in fairly good condition for the coming winter, but the work was too much for Sally who lingered through the winter and early in the spring we laid her beside her father and husband, and her two little orphans were left to us. It now became very apparent to me that something must be done, because the crop raised the year before was barely enough to last us through the winter and we would soon be in actual need again. We needed clothing, especially the little girls of my sister, and we had no money to buy seed for this season’s crop or food to last us out. So I concluded to go to work for some one if I could find anything to do. With that resolve, I put on my best rags and to mother’s inquiry as to where I was going I told her I did not know myself. It fairly made my heart ache to see my little nieces going around almost naked, bare footed, and have them always asking for things I was powerless to give them. I determined to go from place to place until I secured employment of some kind that would in a measure, permit me to feed, and as far as I was able, clothe mother and the children, now dependent on me.

The fact that I was now free, gave me new born courage to face the world and what the future might hold in store for me. After tramping around the country for two days, I finally secured work with a Mr. Brooks, about six miles from home at one dollar and fifty cents a month. Notwithstanding the smallness of my prospective wages, I was happy and returned home in a jubilant frame of mind, to impart the news to mother. I was to commence the next morning. Mother said it was not much, but better than nothing. I told mother that I thought I could bring some food and clothing home for the children before the month was out. The little ones hearing this, were overjoyed and looked on me as a rich man indeed. Jordan was to remain at home and attend to what little there was to do, and the next day I started work for Mr. Brooks. In less than a week I made my first visit home, taking with me some potatoes, bacon, cornmeal, and some molasses, which I had rustled in various ways. I also had a bundle of old clothing given to me by the neighbors, which mother could make over for the children, and to say the children were happy is but a mild expression.

For the second month I received a raise of fifty cents, and the third month of my employment, so good did I work, that I received three dollars. With so many at home to provide for, my wages did not last long, but out of my three dollars I bought each of the children a book. The rest went for provisions and clothing. One day while passing the store of Mr. Graves, near our home I saw a checked sunbonnet and a red calico dress which struck my fancy as just what I wanted for mother. On asking the price Mr. Graves told me I could have the sunbonnet for twenty-five cents and the dress for four bits. That seemed to be within my means, and quite reasonable. I asked him to keep them for me until I got my wages at the end of the month. This Mr. Graves promised to do if I would pay him something down. I only had fifteen cents of which I paid five cents on the bonnet and ten cents on the dress and went on my way, filled with happy thoughts as the result of my bargain. I resolved to be very saving this month and I became very impatient for my month to end and was continually asking Mr. Brooks if my month was not soon over. He would laugh and say “yes, soon.” But it seemed to me that was the longest month I ever knew. When at last the month was over he gave me fifty cents, claiming I had drawn my wages during the month. I knew that was not so. I also knew I had a balance coming to me and told him so. But he denied it and the result was that we had a fight. I hit him in the head with a rock and nearly killed him after which I felt better. Then going to Mr. Graves the storekeeper, I told him the whole trouble. He expressed sympathy for me and said to give him the fifty cents and take the bonnet and dress, and we will call it square. And you can imagine my feelings as I took the things home to mother, and she was more pleased with them than any queen with her silks and satins. There being plenty of work to do at home, I did not again look for other work. The only thing that worried me was that the little ones were still without shoes, but on my promise to soon get them some they were satisfied. It was here I got my first lessons in self-dependence and life’s struggles. I learned true usefulness and acquired the habit of helping others which I carried with me all through my after life and that trait perhaps more than any other endeared me to my companions on the range and all with whom I have had dealings.