"Life Is So Good" by George Dawson and Richard Glaubman, Chapters 1–6

George Dawson, who lived from 1898 to 2001 and learned to read at the age of 98, reflects on the life lessons he learned over the course of the 20th century.

Here are links to our lists for the book: Chapters 1–6, Chapters 7–12, Chapters 13–18, Chapters 19–24

Activities for this list:

definitions & notes only words
  1. beckon
    appear inviting
    I don’t know if it was pride from Father’s words or the pleasure from a piece of hard candy that beckoned, but I felt so good I thought I would burst.
  2. provider
    someone who supplies the means for subsistence
    Papa was a good provider.
  3. partial
    having a strong preference or liking for
    I was partial to the general store, but I liked to walk by the livery stable too.
  4. possible
    capable of happening or existing
    But at that moment, in the general store, when my father told me that I could do a man’s work, anything seemed possible.
  5. mercy
    showing great kindness toward the distressed
    “I swear to God it wasn’t me. Have mercy, you’ve got the wrong man. I didn't touch her.”
  6. reverend
    a spiritual leader of the Christian Church
    It was like the reverend told us: All had been darkness and now there was light.
  7. memory
    the cognitive process whereby past experience is remembered
    I can’t let loose of my memories, even if I wanted to. Yeah, I’ve seen it all in these hundred years, the good and the bad. My memory works fine.
  8. improve
    to make better
    “George, I know you’re tired. But President Lincoln, he didn’t free us to be lazy and no good. He freed us to work hard and improve ourselves.”
  9. fierce
    marked by extreme and violent energy
    I heard one of the generals say that he never saw no unit, white or colored, fight as fierce as we did.
  10. acre
    a unit of area used in English-speaking countries
    “As freed slaves we were given forty acres and a mule. It was a start.”
  11. cozy
    enjoying or affording comforting warmth and shelter
    Ever since I remember, even on the cold mornings when the fire had burned down, I would wake up under a blanket, always with some brothers and sisters next to me. We were warm and cozy.
  12. bait
    something used to lure fish or other animals
    For fishing, we made our own poles out of willow branches. Almost anything made good bait.
  13. stretch
    extend one's limbs or muscles, or the entire body
    Next day, I took home as much as I could carry and told everyone all about it, except my arms wouldn’t stretch big enough to tell it right.
  14. shepherd
    a clergyman who watches over a group of people
    “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want,” Johnny read.
  15. harvest
    the gathering of a ripened crop
    Papa always said that our soil produced a good harvest of rocks and stones.
  16. credit
    money available for a client to borrow
    Till the day he died, Papa always said, ‘It’s a good thing there was some nice folks like the McKenzies that would lend, because a bank was never going to let colored folk have any credit.”
  17. success
    a state of prosperity or fame
    My uncle Henry always said, “A white man enjoys his success, a colored man has to pay for it.”
  18. amazement
    the feeling that accompanies something extremely surprising
    She wore a look of utter amazement.
  19. gesticulate
    show, express, or direct through movement
    I couldn’t hear a word, but Papa was talking and gesticulating with his arms. He swung his right arm wide and Mr. Blake was laughing. They was just talking like two people, not like a colored and a white talking.
  20. property
    something owned
    “Okay. See these papers here? They say we can buy eighty acres that Mr. Blake has next to the McKenzie property we bought.”
  21. term
    a statement of what is required as part of an agreement
    We can buy it on time and fill out the terms that will work for us.
  22. machete
    a large knife used as a weapon or for cutting vegetation
    Within minutes of swinging that old machete, the morning chill would leave my body.
  23. trough
    a long narrow shallow receptacle
    As we worked, cane juice would run down a trough into a barrel. We called it ribbon syrup. It was good.
  24. stock
    the merchandise that a shop has on hand
    Since money was scarce, ribbon syrup also made for good trading stock. At the general store we could trade a barrel for just about anything; nails, shotgun shells, and, if times was good, store-bought cloth and such things.
  25. parched
    toasted or roasted slightly
    But I think it was parched corn that I liked the most.
  26. dispose
    make receptive or willing towards an action or attitude
    I felt awfully good when Papa said, "He’s right about that and I told him so. He said that if I was ever disposed to your doing some work at his place, he could always use you there.”
  27. philosophize
    conduct rational investigation
    I’ve never spent much time philosophizing and such, but I do wonder, “Why am I still here and so healthy too? And why is it that after all these years everybody wants to listen to what I have to say now?”
  28. gauge
    judge tentatively or form an estimate of
    I had never really talked to any other white folks about such things as the Klan and so I watched to gauge Richard’s reaction.
  29. witness
    someone who sees an event and reports what happened
    I said, “I am a witness to the truth. That’s why I am still here. I can’t let the truth die with me. That’s why you’re here: to help me get the true story down, before it’s my time.”
  30. slaughter
    the killing of animals, as for food
    We both raised pigs, and when it was slaughtering time we would get together and help each other.
  31. entrails
    internal organs collectively
    My cousins and I would help take out the entrails. Nowadays some people throw them away. We would take the liver, and the kidneys, and the heart, and some intestines, rinse off the blood real good, and give them to Mama or Aunt Mary. They would boil that till it was hard. Then they would melt some lard down in a big skillet and fry it up good. That’s what chitlins is.
  32. prosperous
    in fortunate circumstances financially
    They weren't as prosperous, though. We had glass in our windows and their barn wasn’t the size of ours neither.
  33. fortunate
    having unexpected good luck
    "Yeah, son, not everybody be as fortunate as we are. That’s a good thing to remember.”
  34. decent
    socially or conventionally correct; refined or virtuous
    “Folks around here, white and colored, say that he’s more than decent."
  35. wage
    something that remunerates
    “Glad to hear it. I understand your boy here is a good worker. You can come and take his wages at the end of each month.”
  36. chore
    a specific piece of work required to be done
    I had more chores every day, but in a short while, I could see what needed to be done without being told.
  37. raise
    the amount a salary is increased
    Though Papa still got the payments, I understand that I had gotten a raise that put me over $1.50 a week. I got to feeling pretty good.
  38. extend
    stretch out over a distance, space, time, or scope
    I had expected an empty wagon and was taken aback to see Ashley there extending a plate toward me.
  39. ignore
    give little or no attention to
    I felt like smiling back, but I figured that the best thing was to ignore it all.
  40. courage
    a quality of spirit that enables you to face danger or pain
    Looking back, I appreciate how much courage it must of took to say something like that.

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