Saturday, April 06, 2013

This is Home, Part 10 - Willow whistles and cat's cradles, the switch, my swing, helping Mom, Jean and I ride Tony, canning, Daddy and summer heat, churning the butter, ice cream, lettuce inspection

This is part 10 of my mother's book about her life, written in 2004.

Willow whistles and cat's cradles

In the spring, when Jean and I were small, Mom would cut a little branch off the willow tree and cut a piece about 3 or 4 inches off, cut a little hole in the top and cut a path in the inside (I think), also she slipped the bark off and made us each a whistle. Charley did it too, sometimes. They each could make us a cat's cradle with string and also make other things. I never could remember how to do any of it, although they tried to tell me. They could make a blade of grass sound like a whistle.

The switch

Mom also found other uses for little branches -- probably willow. Jean and I kept arguing and were driving her crazy. She cut off a branch and made a little switch which she laid on top of the warmer on the stove. She said if we kept going, she would switch us. She used it as a threat several times after that until Jean took it down and broke it in two. She didn't bother replacing it.

My swing

I was telling Daddy one time that I wished the swing under the mulberry tree would go really high. Sometime later, he and Charley came with two horses and a wagon to a tall tree at the edge of the woods with really high branches. I went along as they tied a rope over a straight branch and Daddy fitted on the board seat he had made for it. I had my swing and this one did go really high. I felt like I could see everything. Just like a poem I liked.

Summertime was a really nice time on the farm for me. Days that were not too hot, filtered sunlight and puffy white clouds of different shapes. I spent a lot of time laying on my stomach on the floor of the South room reading, after I got old enough to read. I had the Nancy Drew books, Kay Tracey books, and lots of westerns. Uncle Doc used to read them and discuss them with me. He bought me my first Wyatt Earp book, "Wyatt Earp, Frontier Marshal."

Uncle Doc told me that when he was growing up there wasn't a lot of information that wasn't local. He said that the information received about happenings at other places was reported by people going through.

He also said that when he was young, he remembered hearing about Wyatt Earp. We used to talk about the O.K. Corral. If he had still been around, Uncle Doc would have enjoyed seeing it when I finally went there years later with my children and husband. I thought about him, and missed him.

Helping Mom

Sometimes, I helped snap beans or shelled peas. As I got older, I made different kinds of salads. But I really didn't help Mom the way I should have. I did things sometimes.

Daddy used to tell me to help Mom, but she really didn't encourage it. For one thing, she had an enormous amount of work to do and she was very fast while I was so slow I don't think she had time to wait for me. Maybe she wanted us to grow up carefree because she was working hard when she was just a little girl. Anyway, I feel guilty.

She used to tell me to talk to Jean. Jean was afraid of all the animals, except the dogs and cats. She really didn't pay a lot of attention to them, either. Later, she especially liked cats.

Jean and I had the same background, but you would never know it. I loved the farm and all the animals, except the ones that tried to get me.

Jean and I ride Tony

One time when we were small, I took Jean with me and followed Daddy as he watered Tony. When he started to lead him into the barn lot, I wanted to ride. He put us on Tony. Jean was behind me. We were going up the little incline from the road into the barnyard when Jean moved a little farther back.

She said, "I'm falling, I'm falling." I told Daddy. He stopped Tony, checked where she was sitting, and said, "No, you're all right." Jean slid off of Tony and held on to his tail all the way down. Tony just stopped and stood there. Maybe this is one reason she didn't like animals, but she was afraid to begin with. Daddy and Uncle Doc had a little brother who died when a horse kicked him in the head. Daddy was careful with Jean. She just didn't -- maybe couldn't -- hold on to me except very lightly.

Jean hated the farm. She didn't care about all the things I thought were interesting. By the time she was in late grade school, she wanted to live in a big city with lots of things to do and especially lots of dresses to buy. She wanted to do things with people her own age. I was so bored talking to her about clothes and styles. She has lived in Kansas City, St. Louis, Chicago, Los Angeles and Phoenix since she grew up. She has had a lot of beautiful clothes. I guess she knew what she wanted.


Anyway, back to the summer. Mom carried vegetables from each of the gardens and canned them. It was really hot in the kitchen when she was canning. Mom was proud of her canning. Daddy made, or had someone make, a lot of shelves in the cellar for her and she canned until they were all full and nothing left to can.

We had an apple tree with yellow apples, pear trees, several kinds of cherry trees, an apricot tree, two mulberry trees, a tree with damsons. She made preserves from some of these and canned them. We had little tiny yellow tomatoes in the garden. She made preserves of them. She said we could have some in the winter that way. Daddy and Uncle Doc also bought a basket of red apples, which she turned into apple sauce and other types of canned apples.

She made dill pickles and bread and butter pickles.

All this time, she was cooking three meals a day. I don't know how she did it.

When I was little, I remember Daddy or Uncle Doc sweeping the front porch for Mom. Then entertaining me so she could get dinner on the table.

Daddy used to come home for dinner, wash his face, neck, and hands. And also comb his hair. His hair was still dark, with threads of gray, and had a wave. He was in his sixties.

Daddy and summer heat

Daddy had trouble standing the heat of summer, more so as he got older. After eating, he went down to the cellar where he rested on the cot for awhile. As he got older, he stayed in the cellar for a longer time at noon and worked later at night.

The cellar was as cold as refrigeration. There were two ways to enter. The kitchen had a door in the floor which one could raise and then climb down the stairs, which is what Daddy did. There was also a slanted outside door laying at an angle on the framework. The head was higher. This door was never locked and could be raised so one could walk down the concrete steps to the cellar. Of course, if anyone opened the outside door, the warm outside air came in. The kitchen door was later blocked off, so only the outside door was used then.

I used to follow Daddy down into the cellar and talk to him. There was an old chair down there, so I could sit beside him.

Churning the butter

There was a churn in the cellar, also. Mom used to churn butter sometimes during the weekend. Charley also came and did part of the churning. I can't remember what the churn looked like, except that it was like a large wooden bucket with a lid and a paddle in the middle. I hope what I have described is correct. The handle of the paddle stuck out the top of the middle of the lid.

I think Mom used to skim a heavy amount of cream off the milk and use it to make butter. I don't know if it had anything else put in it or around it. It may have had table salt in it.

When the butter was finished, there was thin milk left with flecks of butter in it. This was called buttermilk. Mom and Charley liked to drink it. Jean and I didn't like milk of any kind. Maybe chocolate.

Daddy and Uncle Doc wouldn't touch milk if you paid them -- not since Uncle Doc was in college and saw it under a microscope.

The butter was put into a large cereal bowl or small vegetable bowl, and set on the ice in the ice box. When it was placed on the table, it looked like half of a yellow ball.

Ice cream

Sometimes on Sunday, during the summer, they made ice cream. There was a wooden ice cream maker in the cellar with a smaller metal container in it. The cream, sugar and flavoring such as vanilla were put in the metal container. If there was anything else, I don't remember. The ice cream maker outside the metal had ice and coarse salt put in it. A handle had to be turned until the ice cream was frozen. Jean and I thought it would never be ice cream. Just before it was finished, sometimes Mom would add small slices of peaches. We also must have had a peach tree, but I can't think where.

Everyone was given a bowl of it. There was a lot left for later.

Every time Daddy ate ice cream, he rubbed his forehead in the middle and complained that ice cream froze his forehead.

Lettuce inspection

Stephen insisted that I write this down.

When Mom made a salad with lettuce, I used to carefully inspect each piece of lettuce before I ate it. They grew leaf lettuce on the farm.

I think I irritated Mom. She would say, "Maudie, I put that lettuce through several rinse waters. There is nothing on it."

I still inspected it. It was the only thing that bothered me. I was just sure it must have a little bug somewhere. I don't know what age I was. Probably grade school.

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