Teenage famine expedition

On New Year’s Day 1959, the communal canteen in my hometown was cut off after supplying the last meal for the community members. There was no grain in the house, I followed the villagers to the mountains to pick the seeds of Ruo leaves home to grind powder to feed the hungry. It is said that Ruo leaves (dumpling leaves) only bloom and seeds once in 60 years, so we came across such an opportunity is really providential. I also dug ramie roots in our own vegetable garden and went to the mountains to dig fern roots, and mashed the roots of these two plants to make ramie to satisfy my hunger.

In the fall of that year, my mother went to Fengyang, and my older sister was studying at Fengyang Higher Agricultural College. One day, my father said to me: “You go to Miss to point food stamps back to ……” not long before my sister from Wuhu Teachers College assigned to teach in Nanling County Junior High School, my home is more than 100 miles from Nanling, I have not been there, I was 11 years old. That day I borrowed a yuan from a relative on the street, Grandma Huang, and my sister-in-law got a catty of rice for me. At that time, money could not buy food outside.

The next day, I walked 20 miles through the hills, rivers and fields to Kakimubu. I saw a truck parked on the side of the road, and the driver was working on it with his head down. I approached him and talked with him. I told him that I was going to Nanling to look for my sister and hoped he could take me to Nanling. The driver said he was only going to Jing County, not Nanling. He thought for a while and said he could take me to Jing County. I was very happy and handed him two pieces of fern root poop. The driver saw the black poop I brought and laughed and said he didn’t eat it.

The driver fixed the car and let me sit in the driver’s seat and took me to Jing County. I got out of the car and waved my thanks to this kind driver. I came to the bus station in Jing County and saw that it was packed with people, and there was a long line of people buying tickets, so I guess I couldn’t buy a ticket to Nanling, so I decided to walk to Nanling.

When I walked to Changqiao, a place 15 miles from Jing County, it was almost dark. I went to a hotel to stay, the hotel lady is very charitable, she put me into a room to stay, did not charge me for accommodation. During the night I heard her say in the next room with people: “The little one lives in that room, a few days ago there was a person hanged in it.” I was shocked to hear that, but I quickly fell asleep, probably tired of walking and did not think much about it. I don’t know why I didn’t agree, but now I think I’m really sorry for her.

The next morning, I brought my own rice in the hotel for a bowl of thin rice to eat on the road, that day, Jing County to Nanling road there are not many pedestrians and vehicles, a person walking in the mountains on the road or some chills. Before noon, I walked to the boundary between the two counties, and used the rice I brought to exchange a bowl of rice at a roadside restaurant. When I reached the bridge of its forest in the east of Nanling city, it was the time when the elementary school ended at noon, and I seemed to see hope and quickened my pace.

Walking to Nanling County, I remembered that JI Lanfen’s classmate back home was studying at Nanling Teacher’s College, and I asked to find her at her school. She was very enthusiastic and immediately took me to the western suburbs of Nanling to find my sister. At this time the sun was setting, I could not walk anymore, the soles of my feet out of the foot blisters. My sister felt sorry for me and bought two eggs at a high price to treat me.

My sister’s school had not been opened long ago, and the road in the school was still a yellow dirt road. My sister lived in a room with a female staff member. The house was a straw hut and the east end of the house was the student dining hall. In those days, food was scarce and the staff was fed on a rationed basis. Every day, my sister took her share of food from the cafeteria back to the dormitory, mixed it with boiling water and boiled it, then shared it with me. Sometimes there was no food in the rice, so we poured soy sauce into the bowl as a dish. We also went to the wilderness to collect wild vegetables to make dishes, to feed the hungry, and so lived in my sister’s school for a few days. Through her efforts, my sister raised three pounds of national circulation food stamps for me to bring back.

One Sunday, my sister asked me to follow a student from Yijiang Town home, and I stayed overnight at the student’s house. The next morning, he sent me back across the river on the ferry. When I walked into a bamboo garden, a man in his forties came out from deep in the garden and blocked my way, searched my whole body, and opened my backpack for inspection. I brought back three pounds of national circulation food stamps, because my sister hid it in the socks, not found by him. He didn’t find what he wanted, looked at me with disappointment and let me go. I was shocked and thankful that the food stamps I had brought with me were not searched by him and he did not make things difficult for me.

I walked more than 10 miles to a place called Chang Shan Tou in Han Ting, stretching for miles of hillocks full of thatch, the roadside thatch is higher than the heads of people, the hills are silent, there is not a single family around, not a pedestrian. I was walking alone in the mountains, so I ran at a fast pace until I saw a place where there was a family and then I breathed a sigh of relief.

My house is in the southeast of Eagle River town, so I asked for directions as I walked. At dusk, I asked for directions to Xiting Agricultural High School, where my brother teaches, and he criticized me, saying that I should not have run blindly by myself.

On the third day I went home via Gaoqiao Tan village, Tam village is a larger village, I passed by without hearing a single dog bark, did not see the village people, the family closed the door. I returned home in the afternoon and gave my father the three pounds of national circulation food stamps that my sister had brought home, and he was overjoyed.

Sixty years have passed, and I have never forgotten the teenage excursions of the famine years.