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Shinn column: Father, farmer, friends

CHINA GROVE ó Crawford Corriher lived nearly 100 years on this earth, all of it on the same road in China Grove. He died Sunday evening. On Tuesday afternoon, his family formed a circle in the front yard of the house he built in the late ’30s, beneath the massive pecan trees he planted soon after, and remembered their father and grandfather. The sun was warm, the March breeze cool. The family talked on as the three youngest great-grandsons roamed the lawn. From a young age, the sons and grandsons were expected to help out on the farm and especially at the sawmill. When they complained about the hard work ó both generations did it ó Mr. Crawford’s answer was the same: “It’ll make your beans taste better.” “And it did,” son Lanny said. His father could look at a log, Lanny said, and tell what kind of timber he could get from it. “The thing about Daddy, if you wanted to do something and it was safe, he’d let you try,” he said. That included everything from digging potatoes to hoeing beans to driving nails. He was the calm one in his family, grandson Brent said. “I never heard him raise his voice,” granddaughter Gay said. He was patient. He had a saying about sawing wood that he shared with them, Barry said. “You can’t put that in print, though. Quit writing and I’ll tell you.” “Oh! I know what he’s gonna tell!” Lanny said. I can’t print it, but I will say this: guys, be very careful around the sawmill. I can print what he said about farming. “All you can do,” he would say, “is prepare the ground, plant the crops when you’re supposed to and after that, it’s up to the good Lord.” Grandson Mark listed three least favorite chores: offbearing wood at the sawmill (removing the slabs once they were cut); cutting the tops off field corn; and standing on the combine with a sack to fill it with grain. “Just hang on,” Granddaddy told Mark as he stood enveloped by dust, “it’ll be over in a minute.” “Of course,” Mark said, “there were 20 more sacks left.” But, he said, “You didn’t fuss to him.” Grandson Jason would be told during those long summer days, “It’s a little hot, but you’ll be OK.” “He never stopped,” Brent said. Scott, the oldest grandson, recalled riding in the back of a two-wheeled wagon, hauling firewood. The tractor hit a bump and the pin came out, leaving young Scott stranded. “It probably wasn’t as bad as I remember,” Scott said, “but the tractor kept on going.” Scott got to yelling and carrying on. His granddaddy probably turned around and smiled ó and picked him up. Scott grew up in Florida but spent summers working on the farm. There were his grandmother Edith’s delicious lunches and suppers to look forward to, and there was always a slice of pound cake to be found. After Edith died, Mr. Crawford made the cakes himself ó the recipe included 12 eggs. Youngest grandson Adam often went in search of a warm slice of Granddaddy’s cake from his house next door. They’d eat a piece together in the kitchen, Mr. Crawford in his rocking chair, watching “The Young and the Restless” after lunch. Mr. Crawford never got mad when a watermelon got dropped. He’d stop right there and eat it. “He just had the best sense of humor about everything,” daughter Carol said. He sat with Gay’s daughter Stephanie while she learned to shell peas at 11/2. “She would open it and pull them peas out,” Gay said. “He would sit there beside her like she had been doing it forever.” He always had time for his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He taught his family the value of hard work. “I wish I had a dollar for every butterbean I shelled,” Carol said. “The man loved his beans,” Brent said. He also taught them to enjoy the fruits of their labors. Many an evening would be spent in the back yard, sitting in lawn chairs under an enormous shade tree that later fell to Hurricane Hugo. He quit sawmilling about the time he quit farming, around age 92 or 93, family members said. Somewhere up in heaven, there’s a field that’s been freshly plowed, and a faithful beagle named Tip, and a comfortable lawn chair, and an enormous shade tree, and a warm piece of pound cake. And Mr. Crawford probably turned around and smiled. nnn Contact Susan Shinn at 704-797-4289 or sshinn@salisburypost.com.

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