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Life on the Farm, Part III Final

Swift Home Place

My parents moved us around a good bit considering the times. I think we were the generation when a lot of our parents threw their nets wider, looking for better jobs. Our travels would have us living in Virginia, Tennessee, Florida, and Ohio. This made our trips back home so much more special.

The highlight for me as a kid was going with Granddaddy to round up the cows for milking. I am not sure how much of the 33 acres were available for pasturing the cows, but I would guess at least 5-10 acres. Of course we were never awake for the morning milking, but the evening milking was a different story.

We would all pile in the back of his old black 1951 Chevy truck and off we would go down the long road toward the barn. Once past the barn, the chase would be on! The truck would climb the hills and make a large loop around the back to urge the cows toward the barn. The windows would be down and Granddaddy would yell at the cows as the truck bounced up and down the hilly terrain. It seemed like the truck flew, but I’m not sure we went over 15 or 20 mph. It was the farm version of an amusement park ride!

It’s funny what the mind holds onto and what it files away for safe keeping. As I started writing this, the inside of the truck cab materialized. I could breathe in the familiar musty smell as if I was sitting inside the truck today. I could see the dashboard, the speedometer and the manual gear shift that my grandfather would move through with ease.

I only remember Granny milking the cows, but her purview was also the yard and the garden. The garden was huge by today’s standards. From corn to tomatoes to cucumbers to potatoes to beans, onions and everything in between, it was all canned and preserved for winter. You could expect Granny hollering upstairs at 7:00 am to get us up to go pick beans or hoe potatoes. There were always chores and everyone did their part.

At the end of the driveway near the road, stood an apple tree. It had been grafted with what Granny referred to as ‘pound apples’ each one weighing almost a pound each. This was the apple used for her applesauce and apple jelly. For us, it was a great climbing tree with a wide Y, perfect for gaining your initial footing. In the fall, we had to be careful and dodge the bees that fed off the overripe apples that fell to the ground.

There was no such thing as eating out, or food ‘to go’. Every meal was cooked and served at the dining room table, although with large family gatherings, the cousins were relegated to any spot we could find – the couch, the stairs, the piano bench, the floor, or even outside. Milk was cold and fresh and butter was freshly churned from the fat that rose to the top of the milk jug. Bread consisted of homemade biscuits or rolls, and cornbread.

Granny had two special recipes she made on special occasions. Idiot Rolls were made for large gatherings and Angel Biscuits for Sunday dinners. They were works of art and although I have her recipes, mine never look like hers did.

And there was almost always a cake of some sort. Sometimes Granny would use a boxed cake mix, but never without adjusting it by adding addional eggs or other ingredients. Almost every cake had a handful of nuts thrown in and most times were iced with a hard brown sugar caramel frosting. The kids (and my father) were well known for sneaking into the dining room and breaking off a piece of the hard candy frosting. Granny often ended up with a partially naked cake.

Every Saturday during the spring and summer, Granny would cut flowers and deliver them to the church to be used on the altar during Sunday service. She grew the most beautifully colored gladiolas I think I have ever seen.

Evenings we marveled at the ‘robot’ eyes we saw in the shed, making up stories about what we saw. The glowing lights were actually the lights from the controls for the electric fences that surrounded the fields. On cold nights, we would pull the rocking chairs my grandfather made close to the fire. Those chairs were precarious. The rockers were long and always made you feel like you were going to fall over backwards!

My brother and my oldest male cousin always loved GrandDaddy’s old muzzleloader rifle. Under his watchful eye, they would follow the steps to clean, lubricate, load and fire the gun. I never had a fascination for guns but they sure did. You can see the instructions here if you are so inclined.

The hay loft was also a place of great fun. The loft was in the upper portion of the barn where baled hay was stored. Access was by ladder, through a hole in the floor. The smell of the hay permeated the barn. We often played there, looking out the upper door that dropped to the ground. (I wonder if this is why I have a fear of heights?)

After a full day, feather beds would be pulled out of the closet and spread on the floor for the kids to sleep on. I can still remember the feel of my head on the pillows and often pulling on a lone sharp feather that had poked its way through the blue striped ticking.

I am sure some kids, somewhere in the midwest and maybe some isolated farms in the south still have experiences similar to these. For me it was 50 some odd years ago. When I spend my time recalling those days, the memories come flooding back. It was a great time to be a kid.