Poole: folklorist leaves void

Published 4:00 am Friday, October 23, 2015

Mr. Grover Poole’s death on Wednesday left a void in Pike County.

Mr. Grover, as he was affectionately called, was one of the few “men of the earth.” Born and raised in Pike County, he lived so close to the land that, as he often said, he “smelled like it.”

Poole lived a life that most people can’t image, but he was quick to help the understand through his stories.. He would sit for hours in his special place at the Pioneer Museum of Alabama and tell stories of how life used to be when times were hard. But, he often said, when each day closed, it was with the satisfied feeling of having accomplished something worthwhile.

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Mr. Grover loved his family and he loved his extended family at the Pioneer Museum of Alabama where he was a “fixture.”

“Mr. Grover was a part of the museum even before it opened in the fall of 1971,” said Kari Barley, museum director. “He helped Mr. Curren Farmer, who started the museum, get things together for the museum and with the placement of them. And, he has been a part of the museum for all these years.”

Until around 2009, Poole was at every museum event giving free rides on his mule and wagon and often grinding cane at the museum’s mill and offering samples of cane juice from his cane patch.

He planted the museum’s garden each spring and was in charge of the harvest. He planted cotton and peanuts “for Yankees to see,” he would say, laughing.

“Mr. Grover was a great storyteller and he had so many stories to tell,” Barley said. “He knew more about agriculture and the old ways of planting and harvesting crops than anyone I’ve ever known. He always had a big cane patch and he would grind and sell his cane juice. He would bring stalks of cane to the museum for the kids to see and learn about.”

In recent years, Poole’s contribution to the museum was mainly to sit and tell stories of how it used to be. Barley said sharing the folklore of the area was perhaps his greatest contribution.

“His stories will live on through those who were fortunate to hear them,” she said. “Mr. Grover was a logger by trade but he was one of the few loggers around who snaked the logs out of the woods with a horse or a mule. He loved the land and he treated it with special care.”

Seth Kinard, museum assistant director, learned about the old days and the old ways from Mr. Grover and those are lessons he will always remember.

“Mr. Grover taught me so much through his storytelling,” Kinard said. “He often came in the museum in the mornings and we would sit and drink coffee and he would tell me about his experiences and about how life was when he was growing up. He taught me about things I would never have known it hadn’t been for him.”

Kinard said Poole taught him to plant corn and to appreciate the land and how it provides for us and how man should honor it.

“Mr. Grover” was a good steward of the land, a lover of animals, especially his Percherons and especially Donna Gail and, most recently, his puppy “Snowball.”

Jim Powell said Poole was like a granddaddy to him.

“We both loved horses, and he taught me so much about horses and about life,” Powell said. “I wanted to call him Mr. Grover out of respect but he told me to call him Grover so I did, but I always respected him. Grover was a man’s man. He was a hard worker and he could do anything and he would do anything for you. He was honest and as good as his word.

“There won’t ever be anyone else like him. He lived our history and he shared it through his way of life and the stories he told. He was family to me and I’m going to miss him. Everybody who know Grover is going to miss him.”