I may chat about my books, what I'm writing or reading, or just general thoughts. You may read posts about my cats or just my crazy life in general. Comments are welcome, if anyone wants to interact with me. Maybe we can share war stories, whether it's writing related or just about life in general.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Z is for Zoo and Zealous

Okay, our family fits both of these.  The house was always a zoo with so many people in it.  We also were over zealous about everything growing up.

 Happy Little Sisters courtesy of David Castillo Dominici 

All of us would become so enthusiastic playing games that we hurt ourselves at times because we were laughing and cheering each other on and not paying attention.  This resulted in a few mishaps that caused nothing more serous than bruises or scratches.

Thinking back on my childhood, we were a bunch of crazy kids.  Something was always going on and we would get crazy over mundane everyday happenings.  Maybe we spent too much time on the farm, or maybe we were just a bunch of happy kids.  That had to be it because we had very little, except each other.

 Countryside courtesy of Dan

We don’t have those times today.  I almost feel sorry that things have changed so much and the kids growing up now will never experience the pure joy of all the simple things we had before technology took over.  We had to use our brains back then to think of things to do to occupy ourselves.  We never heard of computers, ipads, or cell phones.  We didn’t even have a TV until I was six.  It was black and white and had rabbit ears.  We didn’t have Dish or cable in those days.

I don’t remember when we got a telephone.  I think I was a teenager and we were on a party line then.  The phone was a big black one with a rotary dial.  I don’t think they make them anymore.

Today I’m a big computer user and cell phone user.  I wonder how we managed without those things growing up, but we did fine and probably were healthier for it because we played outdoors all the time and learned to make due with what we had.

I want to thank all of you for stopping by to read my crazy childhood tales during the past month.  It was fun reminiscing about all those times.  I’ll still post some more tales later, but will go back to my regular stories of my daily life and my cats.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Y is for Yard

We always had dirt and weeds growing in the yard when I was a kid.  Any grass sprouted up by accident.  Once we moved to town when I was about fifteen, we had a regular house with grass in the yard, but the grass would be knee-high before anyone bothered to mow it.

I probably mentioned that Rosenberg Mamaw had a big garden, as well as the peach tree; fig trees, paper-shell pecan trees, a black walnut tree and a mulberry tree, but we always bought 50-pound bags of potatoes and onions and bushels of peaches at the fruit stands.  Everything was in big quantities and very cheap at those stands.

This is the closest thing I could find on the net to resemble my grandmother's house

When I think about her pretty yard all kinds of things come to mind from my childhood.  We would climb the mulberry tree when we got the chance and sit up there and eat the berries.  They were wonderful, long, purple, and sweet.  We never got away with this though because we always came down with purple hands and stains around our lips and on our clothes.

This is what berry juice does to your hands

The paper shell pecans, on the opposite side of the house from the garden, were enormous and wonderful shade trees.  The lower branches dipped down and touched the ground in places.  It was all molten leaves under there because it was too shady for grass to grow.  We would also find many pecans that fell off the trees.  We gathered these pecans, as well as picking some.  Daddy would take us down to the park by the Brazos River, so we could sell them by the coffee can full to cars that would stop.  There were more pecan trees down there at the river.  It was always tempting to eat them as we went because they were very easy to crack.

Pecan Tree

Several pink crepe myrtle trees grew in a line along the fence on that same side of the house.  The trees were loaded with lacy blossoms that looked pretty during spring and summer.

Rosenberg Mamaw loved figs.  She had about four or five fig trees on the highway side of the house.  She would use them to cook with and to eat.  She probably also canned them.

 Fig tree from Wikipedia

Sometimes I would get a crazy hair and mix up concoctions for my siblings to eat or drink.  I put figs in chocolate milk one time.  My sister, Thea, said after that she couldn’t stand figs anymore.

In the front corner next to the fence was a black walnut tree.  Those nuts were very hard to crack, so we generally left them alone.  Mamaw was happy about that because she used them in her baking.

Now that I’m grown, I try to keep a nice yard filled with flowers in the summer time.  Trying to grow grass is a constant battle with the heat.  Living in the desert takes its toll on everything that needs a lot of water; so many people leave their yards in a natural desert landscape except for right around their houses.  Actually, the desert landscape is very pretty in areas.  I took this pic behind my house.

Taken on the trail behind my house

Monday, April 28, 2014

X is for Xamined by Dr. Mamaw

That’s right.  My Daddy’s mother thought she had the perfect remedy for everything that came along.  She would mix up concoctions for us to drink or rub on all of our “ouchies.”  This didn’t seem to hurt any of us.  Whether it cured us of what ailed us, I can’t say.  We always got better, but it may have been a case of the ailment running its course.

She would mix up lemon juice with honey and a shot of whiskey for sore throats.  Maybe or was the whiskey that made us forget about our sore throat.  We’d go to bed and be much better in the morning.

The only pic I have of Daddy's mother

We used Vicks a lot.  We rubbed it on our chest when we had a cold and we’d even put a dab on our tongue and swallow it.  I don’t think people do things like that today.  In fact, I’m sure there must be a warning on the label not to ingest it.

When we had a bellyache, they instructed us to lie on the floor with our butt against the wall and our legs extended up the wall.  We had to lie there for about twenty minutes.  It usually fixed us right up.

We rarely went to the doctor for anything because we didn’t have the money.  They fixed most things on the farm with old-fashioned remedies.  The only time I can remember any of us having to go to the hospital for incidents was with one of my sisters.  Bonni was always getting into a mishap.  She had to have her stomach pumped once for eating some old medicine out of the garbage and another time when she cracked her head open.  Mama tried to stop the bleeding with vinegar and water, but that didn’t work because the gash was a big one, so they took her to get it sewed up.  However, it did stop by the time the doctor was ready to work on it.  I guess my sister remembered her first trip to the emergency room and her sheer fright stopped it.

Did you have any childhood mishaps or have to suffer through childhood remedies?

Saturday, April 26, 2014

W is for Watermelon

It was a lazy summer afternoon.  The Texas heat was almost unbearable with the humidity sitting at 98% and the thermometer matching it.  Of course, we wouldn't really realize the full impact of the heat and humidity until we were grown and had traveled to other dryer places in the country.  To us, as kids, this was just summer and it was hot.  We thought it was like this everywhere.

We loved the three-month summer vacation except for working in the fields.  Any kind of work was miserable in those conditions.  Sometimes even play could be miserable so most of the time we just sweat, drank tons of ice tea from mason jars and tried to ignore it.

Looking back on this, I’m not sure what was so great about summer vacation because we were stuck on the farm, but I guess we preferred it to being stuck in the classroom.  Most of the time we all enjoyed each other’s company and would entertain ourselves in many ways.

“Oh look at that one!” my sister, Scherri, exclaimed.  “It looks just like a face.  See the nose and the chin is right there.”

“Yeah, yeah I see it and there’s a giraffe,” I chimed in. His head is above those trees over there, to the right of the face.  See the long neck over to the left?

“Duh, yeah,” she said.

“Oh look, there’s a rabbit forming over there,” my sister, Bonni, sounded excited as she joined the conversation, “see the ears coming up?”

We were lying on the grass in the backyard watching the clouds form shapes as they rolled by.  Most days the sky was a brilliant blue and there were many big, cumulous clouds to be seen everywhere.

We were sticky from the heat and itchy from the grass, but this was one of our favorite pastimes and a good way to take a break from all the childhood games we invented.

After breakfast, we had walked up the dirt road, past our grandparent’s house, to the highway to watch the cars go by.  One of our games was to pick a certain color of car for that day and we had to watch the road until that color went by.  Once it did, we could go home.

The chickens clucked and scattered as we walked by, pecking at some invisible seed in the dirt and gravel, like they did all day everyday.

About an hour later, an old red car passed by on its way to town.  That was today’s color, so we headed home and found our tin cans and pieces of window screen and spent the rest of the morning sifting dirt we had gathered from the ditch and the front yard.

The black dirt had such an earthy smell about it.  It started out as clods in different sizes, so we would sift for hours to get it real fine and then make our mud pies.  Sometimes we would mix some hay in to make it different and then lay them out in the sun to dry.

Beads of sweat clung to our upper lips and rolled down our cheeks as we sifted and sifted.  The air was so still.  Every now and then, a welcome little breeze came along which felt oh-so-good, in spite of the fact it carried with it the usual farm smells of the chicken coup and the cow pasture.

During the summer months, the clouds could darken quickly and a cool brisk breeze would start up.  We would all go outside on the porch to cool off.  The rain would pelt the place in gigantic drops.  These quick thunderstorms didn't last long, but were such a relief from the heat.  Then afterwards, when it was over, it was hotter than ever.  The ground would steam and it wasn't long and it was dry and dusty again with the cracks that formed on the top layer of that black dirt giving it the appearance that it hadn’t rained for months.

Now, as we older girls lay and watched the clouds roll by, we made chitchat and wondered when Daddy would be back from town.  He had gone with Papaw, after breakfast, to take care of some business.  When he came back, we were going to cut into a couple of big watermelons.  They were from the garden and chilling in the bottom of the icebox.

While still lying in the grass, we looked around and saw the old, wood picnic table and benches, which is where all nine of us would gather later, laughing, talking, and eating watermelon.  A big pecan tree, with its spreading branches, shaded part of the small back yard. Beyond that was the pasture with its fence posts and barbed wire to keep the cows in.

The back door to the house was open and it revealed a long hallway, which was part of the addition to the house when the bathroom and a bedroom were added.  We knew later on that there would be a line in that hallway as we waited to use the bathroom.  That was one thing about watermelon, but the inside bathroom was a definite improvement over the outhouse.

When we were younger, our parents allowed us to strip down to our underwear to eat that juicy watermelon.  The three of us had to laugh as we thought about stripping down to our undies.

The juice was sticky and sweet, dribbling everywhere.  Then you could hose yourself off.  It was so much easier.  Now this privilege was only for the younger kids.

“I wonder if we have time for a quick game of jump rope or hide and seek.”  Scherri wanted to know what we thought.

Before we could answer, we heard the old pink and white station wagon sputter to a stop in front of the house and we knew Daddy was home.

We got up and brushed ourselves off as we walked around the house, which stood up on cement blocks.  Some of the old, brown fake brick siding was peeling off in places.

Everyone was gathering by the green front door.  The funny thing about that is that it was one of the few things ever painted in that house.  As an adult, it makes you wonder about this, but as kids, we just accepted it and never thought to ask why the rest of the house was bare wood two by fours.

We just took joy in the simple things and our mouths were already watering at the thought of that watermelon.

We laughed, cried, and generally made the best of all situations, whether it was games, watching the clouds roll by, or eating watermelon and then standing in line waiting for the bathroom, making each other laugh to see who would wet their pants.

Friday, April 25, 2014

V is for Birds Flying in V-formation

We used to see this on the farm every spring and fall as the geese flew over our heads on their way either north or south depending on the season.  We would hear their quacking and run outside to see them flying over in large groups.  I’m sure most of you have seen this where you live.  I swear it seems like everything was an event on the farm because we sure too notice of nature and all that was around us.

From ibtimes.con

The birds fly in V-formation because birds are smarter than you realize.  They sync themselves together carefully positioning their wingtips so as to catch the updraft from the bird in front and to the side of them.  This practice saves energy.  If you think about this, it makes perfect sense.  They would be tuckered out by the time they reached their destination miles and miles away from where they started their flight.  There was a study done on this by scientists and printed in Nature magazine.

It’s estimated the birds use 20-30 percent less energy flying in V-formation.  They have to remain careful and aware of their neighbor at all times.  No one knows how they decide on the course and how the leader picks to appropriate place to start.  Birds seem to be smarter than you think.  Their survival depends on it.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

U is for Underwear

I remember the first time I slept without any underwear.  This was when we visited Mamaw’s house (Daddy’s mother) in the summers.  We would go three or four times a year in pairs to spend the night.  She told us to take our underwear off so we could “breathe”.  Of course, we thought this was very odd, but did as she asked.  It felt strange to us until we got used to it and then we laid awake half the night wondering why we had to wear underwear at home.  Of course, we knew why.  We had cramped quarters at our house and many people around.

We would lie in bed and watch the lights from the highway run across the walls until we fell asleep, occasionally hearing the whistle of the freight train.  The railroad tracks were on the other side of the highway, so very close to my grandparent’s house.

Do you remember the first time you slept without underwear?

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

T is for Thanksgiving

Most of this is a reblog from Nov 2012

This is probably my favorite holiday because I think we should be thankful for all our blessings and I’m glad a day is set aside to remind people to be thankful, if they need reminding.  I really get upset today when I see all the Christmas decorations out way before Thanksgiving has arrived.  Every year this gets earlier, and has almost squeezed Thanksgiving out of the mix altogether.

When we were growing up, Thanksgiving was the only holiday that we all got together to eat and make merry.  By all, I mean our first cousins, aunt, and uncle who lived on the same farm with my daddy’s parents and us.  It was a day we could put all of our feuding with each other on the back burner and just enjoy all that life had to offer.  This great feast always happened at Mamaw’s house every year, but of course, this all changed once we started growing up, moving away to lead our separate lives, and our grandparents passed away.

Rosenberg Mamaw (daddy’s mother) would always cook the turkey and dressing every year.  We were all too young then and not allowed in the kitchen, so I’m not sure if all the adults would contribute to this dinner other than taking part in all of the cooking that went on and there was lots of that.  Mamaw was a terrific cook and was always baking something.  She would start out a couple days ahead making the pies and cakes, cookies and kolaches.  I remember very well going into her big dining room and there on the buffet against one wall would be all the desserts lined up for Thanksgiving.

My aunt and mama would be in the small kitchen with Mamaw most of the morning getting all the food prepared.  Of course, once we got over there, the house smelled like turkey and made all of our mouths water.  Mamaw had gotten up around five AM to get that big bird in the oven.  With the 24-pound turkey almost done, they would start preparing all the other side dishes.  Every time we kids would go in the kitchen, they would chase us out in the yard to play until it was ready.

Growing up in southern Texas, the weather is still very nice at Thanksgiving, sunny with leaves still on the trees, maybe just starting to turn color in places.  It was definitely warm enough to play outside without wearing coats.  As kids, we took full advantage of this.

Mamaw’s yard was huge and we would get into playing all kinds of games: tag, hide-and-seek, red rover-red rover, Simon says, jump rope and many other things.  We could spend hours out there.  Most of the yard was green lawn with a narrow cement sidewalk splitting it in two.  The garden sat in an area off to the left of the house.  The rest of the yard surrounded by trees growing next to the fence, large sprawling paper shell pecans, crepe myrtle, mulberry, with fig trees across the back of the house that faced the main highway into town.  A large peach tree grew by the sidewalk about midway between the house and gate that led out to the chicken coop, the barns, and “jelly man hill” by the pump house.

The milk house was also out there across the road, a place where we’d like to go in the hot summers because it was very cool in there, once used for processing milk, as my grandparents used to run a dairy before we were born.  When we were growing up the diary had long gone, except for milk used by the family, which Mamaw cooked on the stove and bottled, the cream skimmed off to make homemade butter, which each of us got to experience as part of growing up in the country.  Mamaw now used this small block building for a washhouse and usually kept it locked to keep us out of there.

The fenced off cow pastures lie beyond that with farmland off to the other side.  We made use of most of these places to play our games, but on Thanksgiving generally sticking close to the yard.  We wanted to hear that call to dinner, which was usually around two PM.  We had all worked up quite an appetite by then.

Mamaw had a large dining table, but not big enough to seat six adults and thirteen kids, so she sat up card tables that stretched from the dining room into the living room.  This is where most of the kids had to sit, the privilege of sitting at the grown up table left to the oldest kids.  After fixing plates for all the younger kids, we could sit down and serve our own.

Her dark brown table, always dusted to a high shine, was barely visible under all the plates, platters, and bowls of food.  Everything smelled terrific and we dug into out turkey and dressing with gusto.  There would be several vegetables and of course, the usual green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, cranberries, home baked rolls with homemade butter, and plenty of iced tea in mason jars.

With a sufficient amount of turkey and all the trimmings consumed, it was time to cut into the delicious baked goods.  It was really hard to make up your mind on this, being pretty stuffed already, but I usually always had to have a piece of homemade apple pie and of course at least one homemade kolache.  The chocolate cake was hard to turn down as well, so we usually ended up so stuffed it was a wonder we could go back out in the yard and play, but we did.

The ladies would chase us kids out of the house and the men would sit on the porch “chewing the fat” and watching us, or lie down for a nap.  We always seemed to have boundless energy and Thanksgiving was one day when we all got along.

It was wonderful to be out there playing and not having to face that enormous cleanup that we helped with, as we got older.  As I reflect back on my childhood, it really didn’t seem fair at all to make the women do all the work while the men sat around.  I guess that’s the way it was in those days, what a man expected out of a farm wife.  Not only did they do all the cooking and cleaning, they did many chores and worked the fields along with the men.  Farmwomen had long days and never stopped until long after the men folk were able to relax.  I made up my mind back then that I didn’t want that kind of life for me.  I would have made a terrible pioneer woman and I’m glad I didn’t grow up in those times, which were rougher than our farm life.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

S is for Scarecrow

Rosenberg Mamaw (what we all called Daddy’s mother) was a remarkable woman.  She made almost everything we needed on the farm, from food to remedies to soap to scarecrows.  She always kept busy and whenever we needed something, she used whatever we had on hand.

When the corn started getting tall and ears would come on, we had many crows that would make the rounds from farm to farm to feed off the corn.  Something was in order to keep them away because we ate the corn, as well as kept a good portion of it for the cows.

Our grandparents threw very little away.  Mamaw always kept Papaw’s worn out shirts and pants to make scarecrows for the corn patch.  I also suspect she pulled stuff out of this box of goods when it was time for Halloween.

Armed with an old broomstick or handle to serve as a stake, a stack of clothes over her arm, she’d head for the bran in search of loose hay.  It wasn’t long and she had several scarecrows made that she would place strategically around the field.

We played hide and seek in the corn patch just before harvest season.  The rows were so tall and thick and the field so vast that it was an excellent place to hide.  We could hear the caw from the dozens of crows that circled the area as we giggled and scrambled through the corn.  All these decoys made hide and seek even better.

Monday, April 21, 2014

R is for Road Trip

We didn’t get out much as kids but I do remember us making a couple of trips to visit our great grandmother in Tyler Texas.  This was in the hill country and about three-hundred miles from where we lived on the farm.  What a trip, as you can imagine, with seven kids making a constant racket about something all the way there.  I don’t know how our parents kept their sanity.  It’s probably why we only went there every few years.

We tried to amuse ourselves by playing all kinds of made up games, such as finding the letters of the alphabet (in order) on the road signs as we drove along and looked out the window.  After we finished that, we started doing the same game with license plates, or seeing how many different states license plates that we could count.  I’m sure we probably had some games in the car too, such as Chinese checkers and other peg games or perhaps coloring books.

One of us always had to go to the bathroom every time we passed a rest stop, so it took a few hours to get there.  Plus my sister, Tedo, always got car sick so we had to stop for that too at least once coming and going.

Once we reached the hill country, our eyes were glued to the scenery because we didn’t get to see hills and big trees much where we lived, and certainly not any red dirt.  We wanted some of that for our mud pies.

 Tyler State Park

Our great grandmother lived in town too so this was a treat to get out and walk on the sidewalks in the neighborhood around her house.  There weren’t any sidewalks in the country.

Once my sister, Scherri, and I reached twelve and thirteen, we met a couple of boys on our walks, so we would hang out all afternoon talking to them.  If I think about it, I can still picture us back then.  The guys were real cute and nice.  I can see them as clear as day in my mind.  I even remember what they smelled like.

In our teen years, our grandmother (Mama’s mother) would take us with her (two at a time) and we would spend the summer in California.  We all looked forward to this trip, which entailed traveling out of the state for the first time.  None of us had ever been on a trip that far from home.  It was exhilarating.

The first stop was going to be Tyler to visit great grandmother Kersh.  Mamaw would drive to Texas, as she did every summer, and then drive back to California.  When it was our turn to go, it was going to be my sisters, Scherri and Bonni, and me.  But at the last minute Scherri decided she couldn’t leave her boyfriend, so as much as I tried to talk her into going, she wouldn’t budge.  We had no choice but to leave her in Tyler for Mama and Daddy to pick up.

Bonni and I were anxious to get started.  For one thing, we drove the whole way, so we saw lots of country we had never seen before.  None of us had been out of the state of Texas before and never farther away from home than Tyler.

 Mamaw (Mama's mother) at 92

The thing with being in the car with Mamaw though is she was so short that she had pillows to sit on and pillows behind her back.  She drove with a foot on each peddle (gas and brake), so you would go down the road in a jerking motion.  She would hit the gas and let off, hit the gas again, etc. all the way to her destination.  Many times, we wondered if we’d get there in one piece, but we did and had the most wonderful and exciting summer of our lives.

I was ready to stay, but Mama and Daddy wouldn’t hear of it and wanted us back to start school.  Unlucky for us, the airlines were on strike and we had to take the Greyhound bus all the way back to Texas.  That was the most miserable three days I’ve ever spent.  Someday I’ll have to write a post about that trip.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Q is for Quiet

Life on the farm was never quiet in our house, not with seven kids.  There was always a commotion going on over something, unless it was the middle of the night and we were sleeping.

I think that fact is what made up my mind not to have any kids of my own when I grew up.  I was the oldest in this group and ended up doing many chores from about the age of six onward.  I changed diapers for my siblings, fed them bottles, and rocked them to sleep.  I also stood on a chair to wash dishes because I was too short to reach the sink in the kitchen.

All the noise usually came from our excitement over something, but there were times when we fought with each other too, but soon resolved our conflicts.  The only ones who could never wave a white flag and settle on peace were my two bothers.  They were never close and aren’t to this day.

Once we moved to town, we all had to watch it, if they were at each other about something, because shoes would fly over your head sometimes.  They hurled things at each other a lot in those days.  I’m surprised they never had any fistfights, but if they did, I never knew about it.  They were eight and eleven when I moved out of the house, so this could’ve happened.

 Sunset in the Desert - Sunni's Pics

I do know one thing, Mama loved kids and started taking in kids to babysit once we started growing up.  This shocked me and I hated it because I was glad for the quieter times.  I don’t know how she could put up with all the racket, but it didn’t seem to bother her a bit.  She would have made a good little old lady in the shoe with all the kids.

Friday, April 18, 2014

P is for Pasture

When we were kids, pastures surrounded everything, if it wasn’t cropland.  We could walk behind the house and come face-to-face with cow or two.  We always had quite a few cows, some were for milking and others were for meat.

 The corn barn was also located in the pasture.  After harvest season, we would pull the trailer out there and shovel corn into the barn for the cows.  This structure stood up on stilts with open cutouts for windows.  The cows would always surround the place looking in at us, hoping to get anything we dropped on the ground.  The guys would usually do the shoveling and we girls would get inside to scoot the corn around so there was enough room.  It was hot and humid in there.  We always had a bead of sweat on our upper lip anyway in the summers.  By the time we came out, we were itchy from playing in the corn particles.  Usually, it seemed cooler once we stepped outside, even though it probably wasn’t – just not a confined space anymore where we struggled to stay upright on the ears as they rolled around under our feet.

We dreamed up many forms of entertainment as kids, but it wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the ball games in the pasture.  We would all get together with our cousins and play baseball using the dried cow patties as bases.  We had to watch out for the fresh ones, of course, and make sure to run around them or jump over them when running the bases.  We had a few mishaps along the way but not too many considering how many of us there were.  I’m still not sure why we didn’t pick another place for the games and use rocks or something for the bases.  I guess it was a lot more interesting this way.

Brahma bull

Occasionally a bull would get out of the pasture.  When one escaped the fence, it was exciting and all of our eyes peered from the door or window while we watched for it to come running down the road.  We knew if we valued our lives to stay indoors while the men rounded him up and mended the fence.  Only one time my sister, Scherri, and I were out in the field when the Brahma bull got out of the fence.  He was the meanest one we ever had and we were both scared of him.  But this is a story for another post.

All of us kids could take pleasure in the least little thing out of the ordinary because nothing much happened on the farm.  The thrilling moments offered a great diversion from ordinary life.

We laughed, cried, and generally made the best of all situations.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

O is for Outhouse

Oh boy…the outhouse, what a smelly place.  What farm would be complete without one?  Probably not many of you reading this have ever used one as your primary bathroom, but we did.  Sometimes life on the farm was primitive when I look back on things we endured during those years.

Once we moved into the sharecroppers shacks from the Colonial trailer (much like an Airstream), it was a couple of years before anyone added the addition onto the shacks doubling them in size and adding an indoor bathroom.  What a luxury this was, yet our grandparents had an inside bathroom in the farmhouse way before this, but Papaw was very set in his ways.  He refused to use it for months, preferring the outhouse instead.  He didn’t fancy new ways, he would always say, and was happy with things the way they were.

Outhouse and calf shed demolished after Hurricane Carla

The outhouse had its place on the farm until the early 1960’s when Hurricane Carla blew it over, along with a calf shed.  I think this forced Papaw to use the inside bathroom.

We lost part of the chicken coop, the screen door to the house, and part of a big tree among other things during the hurricane, but it was probably a blessing in disguise.  The shacks were still standing when we returned home, so the situation could’ve been a lot worse.  That was the only time we ever had a direct hit from a hurricane.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

N is for Nests

There are many kinds of nests on a farm.  Chickens nest, usually in the chicken coop in boxes filled with hay.  Birds build nests up in the trees in the spring, filling the air with sweet birdsong.

Courtesy Wikipedia

But there are also rattlesnakes, which we’d see occasionally on the farm, but never did see a nest of them.  Usually Papaw would come with a hoe and chop the head off, if Daddy wasn’t around to take care of it.

One thing we had plenty of on the farm was army ant nests.  These are mounds of fine soil with a hole on the top about the size of a nickel.  They were everywhere.  You never knew when you’d run across one.  I think the ants constantly weaving in and out of there broke the dirt down into the sandy texture.  The dirt on the farm was usually black and hard unless it rained.  Once the land got dry again, big cracks formed on the surface layer.

If one of these ants bit you, it really hurt and left a small red welt.  If you accidently stepped onto a mound, they were on your legs by the hundreds.  Daddy would pour gasoline or kerosene down the hole in the top and set the hills on fire to get rid of the ants.  This was an on-going battle and part of farm life.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

M is for Merry-Go-Round

How many of you are old enough to remember these?

I got to the thinking about this today.  As an adult, I’m so busy it seems like I’m on this thing a lot of the time and can’t get off just to take a breather.  That makes me wish for the childhood days and recess when we could play and forget all of our cares.

Of course, we had these things on our playground in elementary school as well as the monkey bars and swings.  Back then, people weren’t so worried about their kids falling off and breaking arms and legs or cracking their heads open.  However, today there are so many regulations in place for every stage of life and playground equipment is no exception.

Today these open merry-go-rounds are possibly a hazard, so how did we manage it “way back when” and live to tell about it.

We had all sorts of destructive entertainment at home too, when I was a kid, and amazingly, we all grew to adulthood without too much wear and tear.

To give you a brief synopsis, we played on rusty wrecked cars parked in the weeds to the side of the house.  I’m sure we scratched ourselves many times on those as we crawled across the trunk, top and hood, pretending they were a divided highway and we were the cars going down the road.  I think about this and wonder if we had highly imaginative minds or were a bit crazy.

We had chinaberry fights all the time and were always climbing trees to gather ammo while dodging the berries fired at us.

We always came home with lots of welts.  We swung high on tire swings tied to a cottonwood tree near the cow fence.  I think we all got scratched more than once on the barbwire.

We would play darts in the hallway and it’s a wonder no one’s eye was ever put out by sticking your head out there at the wrong time.

We even fell in cow poop occasionally playing baseball in the pasture.

The only disaster I can recall is when we were playing Tarzan, swinging from the chinaberry trees and my sister, Bonni, fell and cracked her head open when it was her turn.  She’s the only one that ever had to go to the hospital for an accident.  I think that’s amazing, considering there were seven of us into something all the time.

Part of this is a re-blog from 2012

Monday, April 14, 2014

L is for Lemonade

I’m not sure what it is about lemonade, but I always feel coolerafter drinking an icy glass on hot summer days.  We had lemonade a few times growing up, but when you’re raised in the south the beverage of choice is sweet tea.  We went through gallons of this stuff, usually drinking it from mason jars.

I still drink tea today but not as sweet as we did back then.  Sometimes I put a container with teabags out on my wall in the summer and make sun tea.  Today I love my lemonade for those hot dusty summer days.

We go through lots of ice.  I always think I’m going to buy one of those extra small icemakers to supplement what we get from the icemaker in the fridge.  This idea really gets enticing when the fridge decides to stop making ice about once a month.  My husband always teases and says it must be female – going through its monthly cycle.  Good grief!  Although I do have to say, this fridge has done this quite a bit ever since we’ve had it.  Good thing there’s a small market close by where we can buy ice by the bag.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

K is for Kitchen

We spent a lot of time in the kitchen in the shacks so here is a little story about that.

Usually the crowing of a rooster would wake us up.  I could hear the voices of my parents in the kitchen, if Daddy hadn’t left for the field yet.  Usually he was gone early.  Once we started school, Daddy would drag us out of bed by the feet, if you didn’t get up when he called you.  He expected us to be punctual and not miss the bus.  Once our heads hit the floor, we were generally somewhat awake and didn’t dare crawl back into bed.

When we were younger, we all made our way to the kitchen for breakfast together.  It was a sparse room with worn linoleum floors so cracked and brown that the pattern wasn’t visible any longer, especially in the traffic areas.  The room was dingy with its unpainted walls and the single light bulb that hung on a cord from the ceiling.

 Cast Iron Skillet

Mama, looking tired and frazzled as usual, stood at the old stove in one corner cooking a big iron skillet of scrambled eggs.  I thought.  “Not scrambled eggs again!”  But they were plentiful on the farm with the one hundred fifty chickens we had.

The stove was a small apartment size with burners on the top and a mini-size oven underneath.  Later Daddy would buy Mama a full size electric stove.  Mama would love that stove except for the oven that would not heat very long and for some reason they never got it fixed.  Looking back on it, I imagine the reason was not enough money when we were doing fine with it the way it was in Daddy’s mind.

Daddy usually went to his mothers for breakfast.  Sometimes he would leave just before sunrise, long gone from the house by the time we got up.  After Mamaw fed the men, they would head out for another long hot day in the cotton fields.  She would join them after she did the dishes and walked out there from the house.

We all seated ourselves at the table that was to the left as you entered the room.  The older kids sat on a wooden bench against the wall that Daddy built for us complete with a footrest and boards on the side so we wouldn’t fall off.  The younger ones sat in high chairs arranged around the table, some of which didn’t have trays on them.  Daddy had placed a sheet of plywood on top of the original table to make it large enough to accommodate all nine of us.  I don’t think we ever owned a tablecloth in those days.  Did they even make one big enough to cover an eight by four foot sheet of plywood?

Next to the table on the left hand wall was a door to the outside.  This door was for ventilation purposes in the summer time.  Window screen nailed to the doorframe kept the door permanently shut and kept the bugs out.

The old white icebox sat between the outside door and the small opening that led to an open space with a few shelves for can goods and dishes.  This space had no door.

On the far wall was a freestanding porcelain sink with drain boards on each side, but no cabinets.  Starting at age six, I used to strand on a chair there to reach the sink and help Mama with the dishes.

 A view similar to this one except this is from creative commons.  We didn't have a camera in those days

Next to the sink, through a small window, I could see my grandparent’s house down the old dirt road.  The aged stove was in the far corner.  We inherited it, as we did most of the furniture in that old house.  The oven went out shortly after we moved in, so we did all the cooking on the top burners only.

On the right hand wall was a door with a window that opened into a hallway and the addition to the house that started out as three sharecroppers shacks joined together to make one house.  Also, an old bench once belonging to a picnic table sat in the kitchen.  This was the place we had to sit as punishment when caught doing things we weren’t supposed to do.

As I looked around the room, I thought there must be a better way than this.  I wondered why the only thing we ever painted in that house was the doors and they were a sea green color.  Mama explained to me later that they wanted the house to look old-fashioned.  Oh my, I would think it would look old-fashioned anyway.