At least that’s what Papa always said

Published 10:50 am Wednesday, August 9, 2023

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By Lloyd Albritton

Guest Columnist

When I was a young boy I spent a lot of time in the company of my paternal grandfather, Marion Hubbard Albritton.  Grownups called him Hubbard.  I called him Papa Albritton.   Papa Albritton was a wise old man who said a lot of things during the course of his life and he was often quoted for the things he said, even many years after he died.  My family lived very near my grandparents in my early years, usually “just across the cow pasture,” and I spent many summer evenings sitting on the front porch with Papa watching the cars go by and listening to him say wise things.  I don’t mean to say that Papa was a philosophizer or anything like that.  He wasn’t.  Rather, the wise things that came out of his mouth just sort of slipped out in bits and pieces and if a young boy just happened to be listening, as I always was, he might learn something.

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I have sometimes heard Papa quoted as saying things that I never heard him say.  For example, my brother, Ronnie, quoted Papa one time as saying, “If it doesn’t work, maybe it’s not supposed to work!”  That statement was in regard to a discussion Ronnie and I were having about certain pysical malfunctions we ourselves were experiencing as a result of getting older and … well, that’s probably about as far as I should go on that.

A visiting church authority came to visit our little Atmore Branch many years ago from the big city of Mobile and during his visit he spoke to the congregation.  In order to ingratiate himself a little bit to a congregation of farmers and country bumpkins, he related how that he himself had grown up on a farm and that he knew all about this business of plowing a mule, how that the farmer shouts “Gee!” when he wants the mule to go left, and “Haw!” when he wants the mule to go right.  After the meeting I confided to my father that I didn’t believe this man had told the truth about being a farmer himself because everyone knows that the farmer hollers “Gee!” for his mule to go right and “Haw!” for him to go left.  Daddy quickly retorted, “Both of ya’ll have it wrong, Son.  Papa always said, ‘Gee, G’DamnYou’ to go right and ‘Haw, G’DamnYou’ to go left.  And that’s the way you do it.  At least, that’s what Papa always said.”

Papa was indeed hot tempered and he might very well have cussed a little bit just like Daddy said, though I must say that I saw Papa pushing a plow a few times myself and I never heard him cuss the mule to get him to turn left or right.   In fact, just to clear Papa’s good name, allow me to observe right here and now that Papa never plowed a mule at all.  At least, that’s what Papa said.  He hated mules and he never owned one.  Papa only plowed with a horse.  Papa loved horses.  When he had to go to town he rode his horse, but Papa was too proud to ever be seen riding a mule.  That’s just not something Papa would do.  Papa always said, “a good horse is worth more than a dozen mules.”

Papa also hated dogs and he never allowed his children to have a dog.  Papa believed every individual, whether human, horse, cow or dog, should contribute some kind of work to feeding the family, and he could not see how a dog contributed anything. Consequently, Papa had no tolerance for dogs.  If he saw a dog as much as pass by his house on the road, Papa would chase him and throw rocks at him, cussing him all the way.  Papa always said, “Dogs are no good for anything!”

Papa loved cows too, and he always owned a good milk cow.  I did, however, hear Papa cuss the cow more than a few times when the poor old thing would kick over Papa’s milk bucket.  The neighbors could hear Papa cussing for a country mile. And the Preacher, who lived just a half-mile or so away, well, let’s just say that he would not be coming around any time soon.

Papa didn’t just cuss when he got mad either.  If he could put his hand on a 2X4, he would knock you out with it.  If he could not find a stick or a tree limb, he would likely knock you out with his fist, which was like a sledge hammer.  One time Papa ran down the road to see about a woman whose drunk husband was beating her up and she cryed and screamed for help so long that Mama Albritton got tired of hearing it and she said to her husband, “For God’s Sake, Hubbard, go down there and see if you can help that poor woman.  When Papa arrived on scene the man ran inside and got his shotgun and pointed it at Papa.  Without hesitation, Papa snatched the shotgun right out of the man’s hands and knocked him out cold with his fist.  Later a friend asked Papa about the incident.  He said, “Hubbard, I heard you knocked old Leonard out cold.”  Papa just shook his head and said, “Naw, I just clued him a little bit.”  Papa always said, ”I can’t stand drunks.  I won’t tolerate’em!

In any event, Papa was a good man and I heard him say a lot of things as I was growing up.  I have heard him quoted as saying a lot of things too, things that I never personally heard him say.  That does not mean he didn’t say those things.  He might have said them.  I’m not saying he didn’t say them!  In fact, most of the time the things they say he said sounds just like something Papa might have said.

Still, I can’t help but wonder sometimes if Papa really said all those things.  He was, without a doubt, a powerful personality who looms large in the eyes of all who knew him, especially his eight children and numberless grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  Like Abraham Lincoln, George Washington and many other great historical characters, when one desires to increase the strengh and credibility of one’s own feeble words, what better way than to attribute the statement someone of great stature, someone like Abraham Lincoln, or George Washington, or yes, even Papa Albritton?  After all, Papa always said, “Live your life so that your words can live on after you.”

Wait a minute!  Did Papa say that, or was it Socrates who said that?  Naw, I’m pretty sure Papa said it.

An audio version of this column is below:

Albritton has called Atmore home for more than 75 years, and has written and published two books, a fictional drama set in Atmore called “Baby Blue;” a collection of short stories and poems entitled “The Albritton Letters;” and editorials and stories for several newspapers and magazines.