Tuesday, June 01, 2010


Tinney Talk, June, 2010

Click on any image to view it in larger format.
Minnie Francis Fowler Tinney: 1886-1957.
Married Andrew Glass (Doc) Tinney February 27, 1916.
Children: Millie Lee, Mary Belinda (Pet), Hazel Virginia, Clarence Carl & Bonnie Francis.

Tinney Talk, Observations by Joe Dan Boyd

THE WOMAN WITH THE HOE during my upbringing was Aunt Minnie Tinney, who lived most of her adult life a few hundred yards from Tinney Chapel, on the land now owned and occupied by Danny & Pat Lake. When I think of her today, I am sometimes reminded of the famous painting and poem, each titled The Man With A Hoe. Both the painting and the poem, like Aunt Minnie Tinney, were products of the 19th Century.

AMONG THE DIFFERENCES were Aunt Minnie’s gender and the type of hoe she wielded so fast and furiously. Both Edwin Markham’s poem and Jean-Francois Millet’s painting paid tribute to a man with a short-handled hoe, which actually resembled what was called, during my childhood in the Tinney Chapel Community, a grubbing hoe, then used primarily for clearing new ground of brush and small trees that interfered with crop cultivation.

AUNT MINNIE’S HOE WAS THE LONG-HANDLED VERSION, which every farmer in my youth used frequently, and for a very different purpose: to thin newly emerged crop seedlings and to rid the seedbed of bad-acting grasses and weeds that would otherwise sap valuable nutrients and moisture. It was tedious and laborious, but highly essential work, and those who did it well, did it fast, or both, were highly praised and sometimes highly paid by the standards of that era.

FOR ME, THAT ERA WAS THE LATE 1930s, all the 1940s and the very early 1950s, a time that was dominated by the unusual hand-eye coordination of Aunt Minnie, who filed her hoe to a near-razor’s edge before her blade fell heavy, hard and accurately within crop rows and along seedbed ledges.

THE WELL-WORN OAK HANDLE OF AUNT MINNIE’S BLADE etched hard callus on the tissue of each hand, a badge of honor appropriate to her pioneer heritage and confirming her mystical reverence for the land. She worked crop rows with brisk precision, and those who tried to match her practiced pace were eventually put to shame and forced to concede.

AUNT MINNIE LIVED AND LABORED during a time when society honored, even revered, role models of her stripe, those associated with the positive modeling of a hard day’s work done well. She was the agricultural equivalent of Annie Oakley: Her long-handled hoe blade was the fastest, and most accurate, of them all.

The Woman With A Hoe

Proud Minnie, child of an earlier Century
Daughter of Frank Fowler and feared of no man
Spinster for her first three decades
Barefoot girl with chubby cheeks of tan

She viewed the world through narrowed brown eyes
Topped with straight brown, tightly combed hair
Framing a pleasant, yet unsmiling, countenance
Free of any makeup: No hint of worldly air

At age 30 she said yes to my Uncle Doc Tinney
Who was himself already into his fourth decade
For the rest of their lives they tilled the soil
Wresting a living with mule, Kelly plow and hoe blade

She bore their children and cooked their meals
And as an equal opportunity wife
Minnie toiled in fields of cotton, corn and grain
Where long-handled hoe technique defined her life

Minnie's hoe was always the sharpest
She filed it near to a straight razor's edge
Minnie's blade fell heavy, hard and accurately
Within the crop row and along the seedbed ledge

The well-worn oak handle of Minnie's blade
Etched hard callus on the tissue of each hand
It was a badge of honor for her pioneer heritage
Confirming Minnie's mystical reverence for the land

She walked the rows with brisk precision
Expertly thinning seedlings, eliminating grass and weed
Those who tried to match Minnie's furious pace
Were eventually put to shame, forced to concede

Years passed, decades came and went
Proud Minnie's pace began to slow
The day finally came when word passed
That Aunt Minnie had put up the hoe

But her legacy is unmatched in Tinneytown
Her fame still the toast of church and town hall
Let's hear it for Proud Minnie Tinney
Whose long-handled hoe blade was fastest of them all.

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