Thursday, December 10, 2009

Vintage Overalls

Uncle Jim in a new pair of Overalls

It is always a special experience finding a pair of old vintage overalls with lots of wear and old vernacular repairs, the sort of repairs done by hand with rolled edges and heavy cotton thread top stitching.

Among my oldest memories are visiting my great uncle Jim Martyn down at Middle Bayou on the Texas Gulf Coast. Jimmy Martyn was a unique and wonderful man . He worked the farm alone on Middle Bayou his entire life. Rejecting most modern conveniences he drove a model T truck from 1926 till his death in 1964. A crystal radio was his link to the outside world along with numerous books, periodicals and correspondences. Uncle Jim wore overalls everyday. His life was deceptive in it's simple outward appearance. He thought of himself as a progressive farmer and sought out information on current best farming practices and such unusual crops as ginseng as early as 1930.

A tiny one and half inch tall and as thick worn copy of Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" was in his pocket.

Jim Martyn saw himself as a part of the nature around him. He also saw himself as a protector. For a time he served as the local game warden and poachers or hunters that dared hunt nearby illegally often had to make a trip to the local courthouse in his custody.
A couple of times he made the trip down to the fledgling Houston Zoo with injured animals or those he felt could not make it in the wild. A large female alligator which had lost her hind legs to a prop was tied up and loaded into the T and made the trek to Houston. On another occasion when beaching his skiff in the bayou the bank collapsed to reveal a large den of hibernating rattlesnakes. The snakes were gathered up in gunny sacks and driven to town on the seat next to him in the truck.

I remember lunch one day when we had driven down for a visit. Pork and beans eaten out of the can which had been heated on top of the wood stove and biscuits made from scratch. My uncle in his beat up old overalls, My brothers and me with our dad -who had spent a good part of his childhood on the farm, all getting a glimpse of a way of life that would soon pass.

Overalls are simple humble wear. Functional and practical they evoke for me hardwork and honesty.

All images and text copyright 2009

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