A website defines ‘featherbedding’ as “the practice of hiring more workers than needed to perform a given job.”  But that is not what I think of when I see the word.
I grew up living in a modest but adequate home located in the country and designed for rural/farming living.  We had all things country: chickens, hogs, cows, ducks, peacocks, quail, all kinds of fruit trees, walnut and pecan trees, grape vines, out buildings and a  large garden attended by my Elkins – Lee/remarkable mother (of 10 children).
The home built in 1926 across the street (now Elkins Road) from the family store business, LEE&LEE established in 1911 was a basic rectangular frame, four room house with as main hall.  It had a small front porch, a drive through ‘carport’ on the front, mostly for architectural effect and a small back porch.  It had no indoor plumbing, no electricity and was heated by fireplaces.  While it seems third-world by today’s standard, back then it was what one might consider as an average middle class dwelling. It was worlds away from the home where my father was born, a short distance away which WAS third world indeed.
As the family grew, so did the home.  A room was added here and there, an upstairs was built, and an enlarged back porch and bath rooms were added along with a wrap around screened porch.  The fireplaces were no longer used, (The spaces were converted to closets.), when the den was given the principal heating system: a tall ‘Warm Morning’ coal fired heater capable of easily bringing the temperature to 100+degrees.  This meant that other than the three room complex of the den, dining room and kitchen, there was no heat.  We slept in cold rooms so it was understandable that once we left the bed on a cold winter morning, we did not hang around the bed room very long.   There was a mad rush for warmth.  But we did not sleep cold thus featherbedding.
Actually we had several layer of sleeping warmth: flannel sheets, heavy homemade quilts and the most effective element of all: the featherbed.  The quilts by the way were made from sample patches taken from a large made-to-order clothing (suits) catalog the store received each year.  Yes, one could actually order a tailor made suit from this country store.  I had several custom ordered suits, but the fit was something to be desired.  Anyhow, the sample patches were not thrown away at the end of the season, they were used to make quilts and they were indeed thermal proof.  But back to the featherbeds.
My parents believed in making use of almost anything and that included feathers from the many fowl that were had on the homestead.  These were gathered and later included in a “tick” making a mattress-like addition to be placed on top of the normal mattress.  The pile was usually very soft (feather soft) and when properly made into a bed, the loft made the bed to appear twice as high.  When a tired, young body fell into the feathered addition to the bed, he would literally sink into the soft featherbed, enclosed in a deep pocket covered by the woolen patch quilt.  That was some good sleeping.  Once in the bed, you were somewhat immobile; you did not move about  because of the enclosure and the literal weight on top of you. In a moment’s time, you were enveloped in a warm cocoon and sleep arrived quickly.
Today, the featherbed is gone; I do not know if that is an improvement or not.  But instead, there is the welcoming electric blanket that serves the same purpose without all the weight.  But somehow sleep is not a sweet today as it once was. 
I wonder ??? why.
Bill Lee
PO Box 128
Hamer, SC 29547

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