A sweet friend gone

Published 2:00 am Saturday, October 24, 2015

Just how long I have known Mr. Grover Poole, I’m not sure.

Maybe our friendship goes back to the long-hot and hard day I spent with him snaking logs out of the deep woods somewhere around the Conecuh River. Maybe, it was even before that. Memory doesn’t serve me that well.

But my memory is crystal clear when it comes to sharing stories with him, riding the horse-drawn wagon with him and Miss Molen or sipping cane juice that Donna Gail squeezed just for us.

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Many times Mr. Grover asked me to tell about the time Mama wore me out at a cane mill over near Texasville. We were on the Greyhound bus bound for Eufaula when the bus driver, Mr. Jack Knight, announced we were going to stop at a cane mill on the way.

That was nothing unusual for a Greyhound bus driver to do back then. Mr. Jack would stop the bus and let us, the passengers, pick blackberries or plums along the fencerow or see a newborn calf or for any other things of interest.

I was excited to get my first sip of cane juice that Mr. Jack said was the sweetest thing on earth. And, I might have gotten a sip if the passengers had not been passing around the dipper. I knew Mama was not about to drink after all those folks nor was she to let me drink after them.

I pulled away from her and went around to the other side of cane mill and around and around. But I was no match for my long, lanky mama. She caught me, dragged me down the little hill and behind the bus where she “handled” me.

Mr. Grover liked me to tell that story again and again. He said as long as he had cane juice, I would not go wanting.

Every year around this time, Mr. Grover would stop by The Messenger with a gallon of cane juice for me. He never let me pay him. “I want you to have it” and I appreciated that. But the sweetest cane juice in the world was the juice I drank right from the dipper at Mr. Grover’s cane mill and he always had a story to go along with the sipping.

He was a wonderful storyteller, a master storyteller. And, as Kari Barley said the other day, every story was told with a twinkle in his eyes.

I’ve heard a lot of storytellers in my life and a lot of good ones and Mr. Grover was right up there at the top. He had the gift of storytelling and he had the life experiences from which to draw from mule skinnin’ to snakin’ logs to “ah, moonshinin,’” he would laugh and say. “Can’t tell it all.”

About Christmastime one year, I had the idea for a photo of a Christmas tree being brought home the old fashioned way – on a horse-drawn sled.

But, Mr. Grover didn’t know of a tree anywhere on his property that we could cut.

“What if I borrow a tree from over at Hendrick’s Homecenter and we pull it?”

He started laughing and he laughed some more. But he didn’t say, no.

That was a story that we kept to ourselves but we always got a good laugh out of it.

Mr. Grover was one of a kind. There will never be another like him. Pike County has lost a part of its heart and soul.

From now on, I’ll think of Mr. Grover with every sip of cane juice I take. But it will never be as sweet again.