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Small victories
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One man's road    Posted 06-11-2004 at 12:44:01       [Reply]  [No Email]
I grew up in the big city. To young to be a baby boomer, to old to be Gen x. Just kinda stuck in the middle. Dad was self employed. Mom had a job. Dad being raised in the city himself, his "farm" life was restricted to a garden, raising a few rabbits, chickens, and a pig. We had 20 acres in the country where most of these activities took place. There was no buildings, running water, or electricity. Twice a day we drove 30 plus miles out to care for the animals. Garden duties were taken care of on the weekends. This is where I experienced the turning of animals, raw fruits and veggies into something that could be stored and used later. I also hunted quite a bit there and found Quail to be quite tasty. Squirrel, & rabbit were often on the weekend menu, as we would spend Saturday nights at the property. Sadly dad was quite the collector and over the years the place became quite crowed with lets say "stuff" and it became almost impossible to do anything there. Around age 13 I became old enough to be involved with moms side of the family. She came from old Texas farmers. The difference was night and day. Dad, mom, his mom, and sisters would let ya stand on a chair next to the stove and watch them cook or can while playin 20 questions with ya. Mom's on the other hand was just opposite. The Men and kids had no business in the kitchen. Period. Kids did chores and then went off to school or play. The men worked for 2 hours and then came to breakfast. Lunch generally was in the field. Dinner came after dark, regardless of the time. It was here I learned to hoe cotton, drive a real tractor (not a lawn mower), and the value of good shoes. They lived 4 miles from the nearest paved cross roads, 35 miles from the closest town, and 60 from a hospital. Grandma did it all. She would gather eggs first light and cook up a king sized breakfast. All the fixens and then some. After cleaning up from it she would begin the laundry. I still remember the day she got a automatic washer and couldn't quite figure it out. She would stop around 11:00 am and fix up a bunch of sandwiches and lemonade to send out to the boys (as they were called) for lunch. There was a lot of value in seeing everyone coming towards ya, climbing down off the equipment when you (carrying the jug) and an older cousin with lunch approached. Just made ya feel important, even if just for a moment. Then the laundry was hung out. She then would being to prepare for dinner. Home made noodles would be laid out on the freezer on the back porch. Jars of peas, green beans, corn, beats and a ton of potatoes would come up outa the cellar. Generally you knew what you were havin for dinner by the pan placed on the stove. A large pressure cooker - Chicken and noodles, broiler - Roast beef and noodles, fryin pan - Fried chicken (with a side of noodles). I can't recall sittin down at her table and seeing anything that resembled hamburger helper, mac & cheese, or pizza. There was red pop, and Dr Pepper and water. Only booze I ever saw was when an uncle (40 year old grown man) carried a beer in one day. I don't recall him doing it a second time. It seemed at the time she did nothing but feed 15 -20 people three times a day. But I know she did more. She sowed their own clothes, tended everyone's aches and pains, someone had to put all that food in the cellar. Kept the house clean, beds made, yard mowed, and tracked children. Here kids ranged from 5 - 15. For some strange reason literally the day I turned 13, I was expected to go off with the boys. My first job was hoeing cotton. On foot, hoe in hand, mile long rows, two at a time. It was an experience to say the least. I had an uncle point out the cultch, brake, and gas peddle on a 5 ton grain truck, pointed down the field and mumbled something about being where he was when I could see the hopper was full. Trust me I was watching too. I commented to a cousin that last week I was playin in the creek, swinging in a tree and chasing chickens just a few days before. Now I am sun burned, sore, and tired. I can sleep standing up and have vague memories of a thing called TV. At 14 I got two rides to the elevator, shown what to do and who to talk to there and then I was on my own. Although I never really was. The fella at the elevator, other drivers, even the old folks running around were watchin ya and help out if ya needed it. I can't imagine a 14 year old driving 24,000 lbs down the county highway today. I learned that cotton gins were major fire hazards and if you saw smoke in the wagon, you better get up there and start shoveling it out. I attended my first cattle sale when grandpa needed a bull. Couldn't understand a word the guy down in the rink said. Grandpa's 4 fingers would raise up off his knee and that fella would point at him. Then another would grab his ear and he would point at him. The next would rub his nose, and round and round it go. I recall loading that monster of a beast into a 49 ford pickup with side boards that barely held themselves up. Grandpa didn't waist time with birds and bees, A few minutes with a new bull in with the heifers and you knew what the difference between boys and girls was, and why. Never really gave a thought to the roles grandpa and grandma played in my life. Even after there passing and I quite going down to work the farm in the summers, it was just back to the city life and spending time in dads garden. After dads passing, I started mine own family and continued to dwell in the concrete jungle with the occasional breakout. It wasn't till my older brother had divorced, kids turned into delinquents, that I realized the value of the country. You didn't have time to experiment. Oh we had some that were caught kissing in the hay loft, one that forgot to remove the chewing tobacco form his pocket, and the occasional fist fight. We learned from role models (aunts, uncles, parents, grandparents) not TV. The only time I think that thing was on was Saturday morning cartoons, the news, and farm market report. You had kids after you married. One aunt potty trained everyone's kids before they could walk. An uncle served in WWII, had an old Thompson 45 cal machine gun and knew how to use it. Another pointed out the do's and don't around the baler and other equipment, and could build anything. My favorite cousin taught us how to catch catfish, Another cousin gave tractor driving lesson. You didn't have a job. You lived a way of life. So when it came my turn to become a single parent, I bailed. I moved to a small town, joined a small church, and begin to look for a chance to get out in the country. I helped my neighbors, and learned to asked for help when needed. I can't say I made it just yet. But my kids are not junkies, hoodlums, or loose unlike my brothers. My 12 year old keeps house. My 14 year old drives the farm truck, can run a baler, tag cattle, and sleeps at night. My soon to be 17 year old is active in church, has the boy come see me before going to an afternoon movie, and cooks dinner for all of us. Far cry from their city cousins.

eb    Posted 06-11-2004 at 13:54:04       [Reply]  [No Email]
Country boy's can survive!!! Hank Jr. said it best....

deadcarp    Posted 06-11-2004 at 13:51:28       [Reply]  [No Email]
I like to hear stuff like that - if only to remind me who the real heroes are. Thanks. :)

New-Gen    Posted 06-11-2004 at 13:58:54       [Reply]  [No Email]
Good story--we need more like that here--

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