A typical summer day.....
I got up as soon as it was light
and took a deep breath - the house already smelled like it knew I was
hungry. I would eat breakfast, and do my assigned chores - bring in
wood to fill the wood bin, gather eggs, feed the chickens. Then I'd
take 15 eggs to the Bowers farm and return with a gallon of milk. I'd
drop off milk and...
On some mornings, if I hurried right
back with the milk, I'd be able to go out with my uncle Delmar when
he went to check his traps, a chore he did first and last thing every
day. Mostly he'd get muskrat, groundhog, possum and such, but once in
a while, he'd strike it "rich" and snag a fox or a lynx. Uncle
Delmar stretched, dried and scraped the skins and then, every four or
five weeks we'd pile them up, and walk to the farm of Mr. Cooley, who
would buy them.
Some days it would be back to the
Bowers' for play. They had three kids - Ronnie, one year older than
I, Jimmy, my age, and Hazel, one year my junior. One of our favorite
pastimes was "calf rodeo." We rode 'em, roped 'em, wrestled
'em, and generally made their young lives miserable. Sometimes we'd
cut a melon away from the vine, and take it down to the creek (pronounced
crick) and weigh it down in the stream with a big rock. Later, we'd
return and bust that booger open and...
Sometimes, we'd go back to Granny's
and raid her grape arbor, or her strawberry patch. You had to be a commando
of sorts, because that patch was visible from the kitchen and Granny
would see you if you stood straight up. Sometimes, by myself, I would
lay in there for an hour, just "a-pickin' and a-grinnin'."
She had turnips, scallions, tomatoes, and we'd eat anything right off
the vine or out of the ground. I remember at one point, we kept a pilfered
salt shaker and an old boning knife hidden for these banquets. I still
love eating a turnip like an apple.
After lunch (we called it dinner,
for some strange reason) I needed to slop the hogs. Then I could...
Some afternoons were spent exploring,
through the woods, upstream or maybe downstream. Some days we'd go squirrel,
rabbit or crow hunting. The days were always full, and I don't recall
ever being bored or lonely, even if I was alone.
Some days I'd go with Granny. She'd
take a basket and and we'd be off to the wherever to collect ramps,
fiddlehead ferns, and whatever else. She'd dig 'em up and I'd carry
the basket, and god, I wish I'd paid attention at the time!!!
Granny made wine through all the
warm weather. Dandelion wine came first, followed by fruit wines and
then clover. Her jugs of wine were the inspiration for the 'macho' game
that Ronnie and Jimmy and I played. The gallon jugs of wine were lined
up on a "low" roof (one easily accessed from ground level)
and, lord, did these jugs ever attract the bees! I understand that the
American honeybee is near extinction, and that, in some growing areas
they even have to hire a bee truck to park next to the fields for a
week. Well, not then, and not around granny's wine jugs. We three would
see who could "jug" the most bees in say, 15 minutes - dangerous
work, for a ten year old who's gonna live forever!
Usually, after supper, I'd ride
back over to the bowers' and help with the milking. They were dairy
farmers, and I think they had about a hundred head. He also sold compost
on the side! Sometimes I'd stay after and we'd play at one game or another,
outdoor games or parlor games, depending on the weather.
Back at Granny's house, there was
stuff to do at night. The two youngest of my aunts were still at home
at this time, Janet ( 16) and Hazel (13), and on some of those summer
nights they taught my to play rummy, crazy-eights and such. Or there
was granny's puzzle, and we vied to see who could put the first piece
in. Granny would still be chugging away, getting something ready for
Weekends always brought reinforcements
in the form of kin. I had a lot of cousins within three years or so
of my age, and my cousin Shirley was born on the same DAY as me, but
not, of course, in the same place. So, the house was always loaded with
kids on weekends, and Granny's table would seat six kids along one side.
in the winter at granny's there was sledding and skating and room for
some really awesome snowball fights. In cities, the snow is just not
the same. The meadow down behind the house was good for 200 snowmen,
or three or four snow-forts, with plenty of ammunition for each.
Granny kept a huge jigsaw puzzle
working on a card table against the wall in the kitchen. That table
was there from my earliest memory. Today I have just an image of me
running full tilt UNDER the table. I went away to the Navy. When I went
back to the farm to visit, I commented that the puzzle was gone. I was
told it had been gone longer than I had been gone. I just hadn't noticed.
I wonder at what point I stopped paying attention...........