July 29, 2008
Turner Co. - It takes a few seconds more for 85-year-old Henry Britt to sit down at his dining room table than it does for some other people.
"I eye-ball my chair before I sit down in it," says Mr. Henry, even though he regularly sits in the same chair to eat and to write his legacy in a rather odd form.
Instead of leaving a big bank account or a long letter, Mr. Henry wants lots of people to know about his life; the more the better. So, he decided to write a newspaper column that appears in the Wiregrass Farmer newspaper, circulation 2,800.
"I wanted to leave something for my kids and my grandkids," says Mr. Henry, and he has lots of stories to leave them, and a deep desire. "I want their future brighter than mine."
He enjoys talking with young people, to hear what they have to say and to share his experiences as he grew up with a brother and five sisters. He's particularly proud of his support to get a local 4-H club started decades ago.
His column titled, "A Farm Boy's Life" chronicles his life from about five years of age to the present. He enjoys telling his stories, many humorous and self-depreciating, to anyone who listens. As soon as he finishes one story, he starts another.
"Thank the Lord I have a good mind that I can remember back then," says Mr. Henry. "Sometimes I can't remember what happened two days ago."
Back in his time, young people often built what they wanted. Mr. Henry and his friends wanted a swimming pool, more like a swimming hole, so they used two mules to pull a dirt scoop around and around in a field to make the pool.
"I was 13-years-old and three friends helped me. We dug it on their grandfather's land," says Mr. Henry.
It took them a while, but they made one. They placed a sign "Boys Only Swimming Pool" nearby and one day they got unexpected visitors. Three of their sisters found them skinny-dipping in their do-it-yourself pool. After a good laugh, the girls turned their heads so their brothers could dress.
After that, says Mr. Henry, they removed the sign.
While someone can remove a sign, you can't remove his many memories, especially about deer hunting. He recalls visiting a family friend who had caught fawns for later release in the wild.
Mr. Henry fondly recalls holding a soft drink bottle for the fawns to drink from. "I wasn't but 10-years -old; that's when I got started. I was fascinated by that kind of animal."
His deer hunting often involved more deer watching than aiming his shotgun at a passing buck.
"I had to go about two years before I could make up my mind (about shooting them)," he says.
He enjoys telling stories of fawns playing in the wild and nursing. He would often see trophy-size bucks come within shooting distance, but would let them walk by without giving it a second thought.
Twenty-three didn't get a free pass. Mr. Henry proudly displays their antlers and some heads in a room he calls his office.
"That's the first one I killed when I was about 30," says Mr. Henry as he points to antlers in the corner of the room.
Many of the antlers in his collection are less than perfect. One pair looks as if it has one antler and a horn growing from the other side. Another pair has one antler growing up and another one growing down. Another includes a normal-looking antler with the other looking much like a lobster claw.
But, the point is that Mr. Henry wants people to understand life as it really was back in the 1900s, a life he remembers vividly at 85, a life he gladly shares with anyone who reads his columns or will listen to him.