Sunday, February 10, 2013

This is Home, Part 5 - Uncle Doc chopping wood, baby animals, the baby pig and its mother, trying to put the calf in the wagon, washing clothes, making soap, making cracklins, the lamb in the kitchen, baby chicks, Frankie and the cattle

This is part 5 of my mother's book about her life, written in 2004.

Uncle Doc chopping wood

Since we burned wood in the stoves and the cooking stove was used three times a day, Uncle Doc chopped a lot of wood. He used to tell me to stay back at the fence because I could get hit by a flying chip. I wanted to see what he was doing and I kept getting closer. He kept stopping to tell me to move back. He was really pretty patient.

When I offered to chop some because it looked like fun, he chuckled. He was using an axe with a sharp blade on each side of the handle.

I also remember that he cut his foot with the axe one time -- probably thanks to me.

Mom came out and took a picture of us once, but she had both of us move back to the fence.

Baby animals

There are so many fun things to do on a farm. Every spring the bushes and trees burst into bloom. Everything looks like a fairyland. Wild flowers grow along the side of rural roads.

There are baby lambs, baby colts, baby pigs and baby calves. Mom used to take Jean and me to see the baby lambs go in a ring -- one after the other -- around the pond bank. They would run around the pond and every once in awhile several of them would jump to the side with their back feet. They were expressing the joy of being young.

The colt with his long spindly legs, short curly tail, and big eyes could be petted sometimes. After they were a little older, the colt or colts would run around the pasture, kick their heels high and pretend to nip at each other. They would also roll in the grass.

The baby pigs were cute, too, with curly tails like corkscrews, and I always wanted to play with them, but I listened when I was told that the mother pig would get me.

The baby pig and its mother

After asking repeatedly every time I saw the pigs being fed, I finally talked Uncle Doc into letting me hold a baby pig. He had just fed the adult ones and they were all eating. He looked at the mother pig, then grabbed one that was by the fence. He gave it to me to hold. The stupid little pig started screaming the minute he picked it up and didn't stop. No up or down, just one note. The mother pig left the food and came at a dead run towards the fence. Uncle Doc held out his hands and said "Quick, Maudie, give me the pig." He got it back inside the fence and on the ground just in time to stop the mother pig from going through the fence. They are large and very heavy. The fence was wood.

Trying to put the calf in the wagon

One of the milk cows had a cute little calf one time. It was a few days old when I asked Daddy if he would put it in the red wagon I had with me so I could take it to the house and play with it. He told me no, it had to stay with its mother. I was determined, so I asked Charley after he left. Charley said no and left, too. So I decided to do it myself. Unfortunately, I found that I wasn't even strong enough to lift one of its legs into the wagon, no matter how hard I tried, and I did try.

I sat in the wagon myself trying to figure out how to get it there and finally gave up.

Washing clothes

Mom washed clothes once a week. We had a building in the chicken yard that had a washing machine and tubs. When Jean was a baby someone named Bessie came and did the washing.

We used to have three big black caldrons. Bessie used to make a fire under a couple of them and put the white clothes and sheets in boiling water with lye soap in it. She took them out with a stick and put them in the second tub to rinse them. I remember Mom washing small things in the kitchen with a washboard.

There was an interesting thing about Bessie, she didn't want Mom to pay her with money. Bessie said her husband would just take it and get drunk. She wanted food, so Mom fixed a container with a lot of meat and vegetables for her. She wanted "fat back," she told Mom, to cook with beans. Bessie was black and a grandmother. She wore a kerchief over her hair like "Aunt Jemima" on the syrup bottle.

I remember when we got a new gas washer. It had a pull cord like a lawn mower to start it. Mom had a lot of trouble getting it to start. She had a washer with movable rollers that she put the clothes through into the first rinse water, then into the second. Bluing was put in the wash or rinse water, I can't remember which. The bluing made the clothes, sheets, whatever, whiter.

The way she ironed was interesting. She had two or three irons made of iron that she heated by placing them on the stove. Even the handles were iron. She used to use one iron until it started to cool, then put it on the stove and get another one. She sprinkled all the clothes with water and rolled them up tightly before ironing. She let them set awhile. Sometimes, she starched some of the washing. Starch had to be mixed and cooked and the items dipped in it, then wrung out by hand.

She washed a certain day of the week, hung the clothes on the line, then brought them in and ironed and folded them. Then she put them away. Washing took up most of her time that day. It was a big deal. She even ironed sheets and pillow cases. Mom loved the smell of clothes that had been dried outside in the sun and wind. They smell fresh.

Making soap

Mom heated one of the cauldrons to make soap when we needed it. It was lye soap made with lard, wood ashes, lye and I don't know what else. She was proud of how white and mild it was. She cut it into rectangular cakes. It was a lot like ivory.

Aunt Opal and her children were visiting one time and she helped Mom make soap. We had a big, old, black and white dog (Pete) that looked somewhat like a St. Bernard. He slowly followed Aunt Opal around that day and died that night.

Making cracklins

Mom used to also make cracklins. She cooked small, fat pieces of meat until the grease was gone and only a crispy shell was left.

The lamb in the kitchen

It used to snow into the spring sometimes, and the wind was very cold. Sometimes the lambs started coming earlier than they were supposed to and at least two or three had mothers who wouldn't have anything to do with them. They would wind up in a big tub in the kitchen by the fire. Daddy put straw in the bottom of the tub. We usually only had one at a time. The little lamb stumbled around the tub and never stopped going Ba-a-a. I liked being able to pet it but by the middle of the afternoon, Mom was ready to throw it out. She had listened to it almost all day.

The lamb was fed milk in a large round bottle. The bottle was washed by shaking buckshot around in the water. The bottle neck was too long and narrow for any type of brush.

I don't remember how long the lamb had to stay or how we got it to be quiet if it was overnight. Seems to me Jean and I were delighted to find it still there a day or two afterwards.

Baby chicks

Every spring Mom bought five hundred baby chicks. They were cute, soft, yellow and fluffy. She had to make the corners of their brooder house round to keep them from all crowding into a corner and killing themselves. They had a round heater with an extended roof around it so they would be warm under it. Every night at 2:00 or 2:30 a.m. she had to go check them to see if they were okay.

One time Uncle Doc went to town and came back with one hundred pound sacks of feed for the chickens. After carrying them, he had to see the doctor because he had injured his back. He had his back taped up for weeks afterwards. The doctor tried to tell him that sacks weighing a hundred pounds were too much for him, since he only weighed a hundred and thirty pounds himself.

Frankie and the cattle

Daddy's cousin Frank Rice and his wife Valere gave me a little fox terrier when I was a baby. He was born on my birthday. He was small, and white with tan spots and ears. We named him Frankie. When I got him, I was too little to play with him, and later when I tried, he happily went to work with Daddy. Daddy loved dogs and horses. I think he just liked animals. Frankie stood on the wagon looking pleased as Daddy left.

In the winter back home, the cattle have to be fed as they no longer have grass. Daddy and Uncle Doc had a herd of unfriendly Aberdine-Angus (or black Angus as they were called at home). Daddy and Charley were pushing feed for them off the wagon, when Frankie managed to get off on the ground. One of the cattle was ready to go after Frankie when Charley leaped off the wagon to get him and Daddy threatened the cow with a pitchfork.

The herd was started with registered black Aberdine-Angus.

When I was a teenager and used to walk down the road to the mailbox, every time I passed by the pasture where these cattle were, some were always standing under the trees along the road. At least one of them would back up, lower its head, and paw the ground. I used to wonder if they could come through the barbed wire fence. I wasn't even threatened by a bull; they were cows. The bull just ignored me.

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