Sharecropper’s son is a ‘triple dipper’

Published 8:15 pm Monday, July 26, 2010

Gene Jordan has quick eyes.

They kind of dart back and forth as if he’s pulling your leg.

Then they settle and you think maybe he’s not.

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Jordan’s story of his birth in rural Pike County is quite a tale.

Seventy odd years have passed since the day his mama strapped her minutes-old baby boy to the back of a calf and mounted Bessie the cow and outran a band of “spirited” squatters to safety.

That’s plenty of time to embellish a tale but, then, maybe …?

Jordan’s tale of his birth was the inspiration for his book titled “From a Sharecropper’s Son to a Triple Dipper.”

The tale has a connection to the movie, “Big Fish,” which is a story about a son trying to learn more about his dying father by reliving stories and myths his father told him about himself. The movie prompted Jordan to put his life’s story down on paper for his five children, his grandchildren and anyone else who might find it worth reading.

“It all started back in the spring of 2004,” Jordan said. “My daughter, Joanne, brought by a video she thought I would enjoy. ‘Big Fish.’ The son in the video realized that he didn’t know much about his father. But, he – the father — had told a tale so often about a big fish that everybody was tired of hearing it. So, I wondered if Joanne was telling me she was tired of hearing my story about my birth. But, then, it dawned on me that my children don’t know much about me as a person. So, I decided that I wanted them to hear about my life from the horse’s mouth. Not from somebody else.”

Jordan’s life began in meager circumstances. His dad was a Pike County sharecropper and his mama shared her kitchen with the family’s milk cow.

“Half of the kitchen had a dirt floor that was used primarily as a stall for the milk cow. The dirt floor made it easy to scoop up the cow paddies,” Jordan said with a half smile. “We had a wood burning stove in the kitchen and a table. Mama used the milk churn for a chair and Daddy said on a nail keg. Daddy had to bootleg whiskey to put food on the table. It was a hard life.”

Jordan said one of his most vivid childhood memories is of going to the bank with his dad to settle up for the year’s crops.

“The banker stamped a paper, ‘Paid in fill’ and handed Daddy a $20 bill,” Jordan said. “Daddy had made a decent crop and all we had to show for it was twenty dollars. We climbed on the wagon and went back home.”

Jordan attended school at Banks and got his picture in The Troy Messenger when he raised a bumper acre of corn as a 4-H project.

As he grew older, Jordan realized that there was a better life for him out there somewhere and he was determined to find it.

“I attended Troy High School over on Elm Street and the day I turned 17, I walked out of the school and straight to the Army recruiter’s office,” he said. “If there was a better way of life for me, that’s where I thought it would start.”

After a good bit of youthful persuasion, Jordan talked his dad into signing the papers for him to join the United States Army.

“The Army life was a good life for me,” he said. “I served 20 years, including tours of duty in Japan, Korea, Vietnam and Germany, where I met my wife, Barbara, who edited my book.”

Following his retirement from the Army, Jordan worked with Civil Service from 1976-1996 and now is “dipping” into Social Security.

“I actually went from the life of a sharecroppers son to a triple dipper,” he said, with a smile. “That’s quite a distance.”

Now, in what Jordan calls the “twilight years” of his life, his interests are playing the guitar and singing the music he loves – country – and putting his life’s story on paper so that his children don’t have to depend on others to tell them about their daddy.

“My prayer is that my children and grandchildren will read this book and travel with me back through my life as I revisit my youth and that they will gain insight into my life,” he said. “I want them to know about the hardships as well as the good times. That’s what this book is all about – from life as a sharecropper’s son to a triple dipper.”