His farm was built in the civil war days, so it was pretty old, but he still ran a dairy and had horses, chickens, and grew corn and beans. The main house had a tin roof, which made it very hot in the summertime. The upstairs was open rooms with a curtain dividing the two rooms. Dad bought a large window fan, but all it seemed to do was bring in the humid hot air at night.
I am, and will be forever, deathly afraid of snakes. This farm had large black snakes who liked to lie in the large trees in the front yard. My sister and brother didn’t care, they would play out in the shade of those trees with the dogs and chase the chickens. I would stay on the porch and watch. Once in a while when a snake was close to the house, Grandpa would shoot it with a bb gun or a rifle. I shudder to think about them even now, no wonder I never slept good while I visited there. I was the sick kid with Asthma, allergic to the chickens and hay and humidity and just about everything else. I lived for the days, when we would go to town and visit my uncle in his nice brick air-conditioned house. It was the only time I really could breathe well during the whole trip. My Grandfather smoked his entire life. There are few pictures of him without a cigarette or cigar. The smell in that house used to close up my lungs right away, but it will always be in my mind as Grandpa’s smell. Once he made my young brother smoke a cigar because he was caught trying a cigarette. It was the first time in my life, I actually saw a person turn green, and was he ever sick. You would have thought that he had learned his lesson in life from that, but later my brother took up the habit and smoked right up until his death. My father never smoked.
My step-Grandmother was a great cook and she would make meals that really we had never been introduced to. Seeing her chase down a chicken and wring it’s neck until it flopped around the yard made me not eat much for dinner. It was something us kids had never experienced in our lives. We still remember it to this day.I have gotten through it though and fired chicken is one of my favorites. My brother would go hunting and fishing and sometimes my sister would go fishing too. I stayed home with Mom and really was bored most of the time.Grandpa raised beagle dogs for hunting and they never were allowed to come into the house. Dad carried that tradition until his dying days, he hated an indoor animal and so we never had pets. They all would go coon hunting on a late afternoon, and you could hear the dogs howl echoing into the night. It was a good hunt if they came home late and loudly laughing. I just never saw the fun in running the animal down with dogs and shooting them. I guess I never will.
I loved the phone at Grandpa’s house as it was the old fashioned one with a party line and everyone in the area used it and knew each other’s voices and special rings. We used to love to try to pick it up and listen in to the conversations. If we spoke the folks on the other end had no idea who we were. We sure had fun trying to fool them. After a few years word got out when we were going to visit so they got prepared. Then phones went to private and the fun was over.
The week or so would go pretty fast if there was something to do, if not ,well you sat and tried not to get eaten alive by the huge bugs that seem to be just everywhere. Somehow the katydids are louder there and the stars are brighter at night. There is something about the country, and falling asleep to the rustling of the corn stalks in the night breeze that stays with you for the rest of your life.
Grandpa’s dairy was a stinky, but fascinating place to a city kid. I can still here the words that grandpa would yell to get his cows to come to milk in the mornings. More of a call like “OOOEEE SOOK SOOK SOOK.”. Where it came from I have no idea, he used it every day of his farm life though.Those cows would come lumbering up the lane to the barn every morning early and every late afternoon. We learned how to milk a cow by hand and to filter the milk and it was not our favorite drink. We learned how the milker machines worked when grandpa’s farm went high tech. Milk tasted like the green grass and just was horrible to us kids. Dad bought it from the store after that. Grandpa switched “blue-john”, which was the water with milk solution from rinsing the milk cans out. He placed it in the bottle that us kids drank out of . Today, that would probably be 1% milk. YES, we knew immediately! He could not fool us. We got such satisfaction out of that. We sure loved the cream made in to homemade ice cream though. I wonder why? I guess the sugar disguised the taste.
There was no bathroom in this old farmhouse. We had a wash tub and later we had a big old tub that we carried water to. This was the 50’s and 60’s not the 40’s. You would have thought that they would have indoor plumbing, but NO! One thing I hated the most was the “OUTHOUSE”. Oh , it frightened me to death. I still shudder to think about it. It was quite a ways from the house and was a scary place to a kid growing up. It was not fancy and not protected from critters of any kind. There was a path leading to the place, but tall grass or weeds on either side of the path. In the dark.. There was no way us kids would go there. We used the large buckets inside the house and then dump them out. I, being so afraid of snakes, would never go near the place if at all possible. It looked like it had been there since the civil war and never upgraded. In the late 60’s Grandpa finally upgraded his house and built on a bathroom indoors with running water and a toilet. We kids were very happy when we got that news. Made our trip there so much more enjoyable. I, however, was just about through with my visits there in the summer.
We went site seeing only rarely and a trip to town was a real treat. Hearing the people talk to each other and greet one another with “how y’all doin’? or “Y’all come back now, ya hear’” was so different and more friendly than what we were used to. My step-Grandmother worked in town and knew just about everyone there. We loved to go see her and go to the store and church with her. Her friends were always fun and easy to be around. I loved to watch the old men sitting in the square at the courthouse, and whittle away their hours. The piles of chips below their feet, they never made anything at all, just sat and talked and whittled.
Painting by our neighbor ca. 1973
Things were so laid back there. A slower type of living. Everyone knew who you were and who you were related to. It truly was a southern type of world and a northerner really sometimes felt out of place there. I found my visits there memorable and thought of that farm in the south this Father’s Day. I can still see my Dad and Grandpa sitting on the porch in those wooden chairs talking and passing the time at the end of a long summer day.
The house still stands to my knowledge. It was sold and I think remodeled some after the death of my Grandfather. The antiques in the sale went for thousands of dollars as some of them came from the civil war days. We have very little in our family’s possessions that came from the sale. It was the way they wanted it to be. I know that somewhere, Dad and Grandpa and my brother are sitting together, passing the time recalling the summers of long ago.
The memories I have are still very clear and I hope will remain in my journals for those to read for years to come.
© Caroldee 2008 HAPPY FATHER’S DAY!!