If you missed Part 2 and Part 3, you’ll want to catch up on the history of the early years that contribute to who my Great Aunt Willie is today, Part 1. As I wrap up this series, I bring to you some of the pranks, fun and food on the farm growing up in a large family in the 1920s and 30s.
In Willie’s words, “Being the baby in a big family means many things. I was loved, catered to, spoiled, picked on, bossed by anyone older than me and the blunt of many jokes.”
“The cruelest of them all – one summer afternoon, we were digging in the dirt under the mulberry trees. We had dug about a foot into the soil and there in that hole was a beautiful, bright red stone. The older girls declared it a ruby. It looked like a ruby to me. We had struck a ruby mine in our own back yard!”
Now here comes the cruel joke. A small cloth bag was produced and that lovely red stone, which Willie thought was a ruby, was put in the bag. Then they continued digging, finding more of those lovely rubies, all the same size and shape. Well if you haven’t guessed, sure enough Willie had been hoodwinked. “When it was time to start counting our gain, the bag was opened, and there lay one solitary red piece of glass.”
“They had dropped that one stone into that hole over and over and let me find it. They stood there laughing. At that moment I loathed the whole bunch.”
Late summer and fall was harvest time.
Mama and the other women cooked up a storm during the harvest, not only preserving foods for the winter, but also to feed the hungry mouths coming in from the field. There was fried chicken, potatoes, gravy, green beans, biscuits and so much more. A real treat was when Papa brought back ice from town. Mama made gallons of ice tea.
During cotton harvesting time the school closed down for a couple of weeks. And except for Mama, who stayed in the kitchen, everyone else picked cotton.
Of course in Willie’s eyes there were many distractions; grasshoppers, birds, spiders, lizards and assorted bugs. “Same ole fuss, fuss, fuss. Someone had to help pick Willie’s row or she would get lost.” Well, don’t cha know at the end of the row, Willie’s sack always weighed the least. “I so hoped no one would notice, but they always did – loud and clear. It was enough to give a sensitive child a complex.”
But even in the cotton patch there was time for fun. Papa planted watermelons between the rows. The kids would find a good melon, break it with a thump on the ground, pull off their gloves and proceeded to do the natural thing – dig in with their hands. Willie said, “Those were the best melons I ever ate!”
As it turned out Papa planted watermelons in various places. Early in the season you couldn’t tell when a melon was ripe with just a thump. So the kids would take a knife and cut a very small, but deep plug and pull it out of the watermelon. If it was bright red, they’d cut the watermelon and eat it on the spot. If the plug was green or light pink, they slipped it back into the hole. Apparently Papa didn’t notice since he never fussed about it.
“Mama cut the rind of the melons in strips. Next she cut away the green and red part. Only the white part was left. It was cut into small pieces and was made into watermelon rind preserves. What a treat, hot biscuits, butter and preserves.”
“Down the hill from the barnyard was what we called the crossing. The water was shallow. It was the place we spent much of our play time. Near the bridge was a very large tree. Doug tied a long rope from the high limb. It was perfect. We would grab hold of the rope, walk a few feet up the bank of the river to get a running start and take off. We would swing over the river tipping the water with our toes as we glided over. We stood in a line and took turns. It was a carefree feeling, flying like a bird.”
But this story wouldn’t be complete without even more food right? Christmas in Willie’s young memories included the tantalizing smell of pumpkin pies, ham, hens stuffed with cornbread stuffing. “We gathered around the table; thanks was offered for such abundance, then with lots of laughter and chatter, we delighted our taste buds and loaded our tummies.”
And there were community picnics. “The picnic was held in a meadow with enough big trees to have good shade. There was plenty of room for baseball, three-legged races, horseshoes, sack races and many other games.” Fried chicken was the main fare. And “Mama’s potato salad was the best of all. The potatoes were cooked tender, mashed, then seasoned with onions, home canned pickles, hard boiled eggs and fluffed with pure cream.” Hard work, family time, food and fun.
I hope you have enjoyed my Great Aunt Willie series. It brings back the nostalgia and simplicity of another era – before computers and social media, text messaging and fast food. Sure there were hard times. But there were many happy times. And these children who grew up, had children of their own, each reflecting the rich heritage they grew up with. I am a product of this bygone era as my Mom’s Mother was Aunt Willie’s oldest sister.
As I bring this to a close, I’ve saved the best for last! There is a Part 5. And you won’t want to miss it! You’ll meet the lady herself – my Great Aunt Willie on her 90th birthday. Stay Tuned!