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“Life’s Sunny Side” by Harriet Patton

July 31, 2015
Harriet P - 2

Jim Davis, approximately the age of 9, in around 1938.  He’d made his own banjo out of the top of an axle grease bucket lid, a stick and bailing wire for strings. The fact that it didn’t work in no way deterred Jim from playing it and singing anyhow. His favorite song, appropriately enough in those hard times was “Keep On The Sunny Side.” He would sit on the south hay mow (part of a barn where the hay was stored) and sing with  siblings.

Harriet Patton lives alone in a pleasant track home just south of Chalk Creek in the shadow of Mount Princeton just outside of Nathrop, Colorado. Her daughter, Jo Ellen is Nancy and my life-long friend. We visited them and some of their family members this week in Nathrop, in the valley between Buena Vista and Salida, Colorado, near the headwaters of the Arkansas River. Chalk Creek runs into the Arkansas River at Nathrop. Harriet and her siblings grew up on a farm in the 1930s Dust Bowl era in Eastern Kansas. Hard times. People had to “make do” and with very little. – and did. Jim Davis, pictured here, was her brother. After receiving this picture from her sister, Harriet wrote a poem about that period to go along with the photo which is just below. Perhaps today when one hears story of people in this period who were “poor but happy,” people respond cynically, thinking that it is just nostalgia. But I have heard similar stories many times now of people growing up in the Depression Years (1929-1940 approximately) when life WAS hard, very hard, for everyone, rural or urban dwellers but that still, people had each other and a strong sense of the need to help one another. The social bonds, the sense of the importance of “service,” of “community” the manner in which people  were “there” for one another, in many ways appears today like a lost world. Of course, not to “glorify” it – there is nothing pretty about poverty, then or now – but there was something – and those of us who knew people who lived through that era – and the World War II that followed – know that the word’s in Harriet’s poem ring true. At 85 she is spry, sharp as ever. Patton

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