Saturday, April 06, 2013

This is Home, Part 11 - Sheep shearers, harvest hands, summer nights, the wolf, Rowdy and Buster, a dog with a broken leg, hanging in there, yellow tomatoes and an apple tree

This is part 11 of my mother's book about her life, written in 2004.

Sheep shearers

There were quite a few extra men eating at our house sometimes. In the spring when the weather was finally warm, we had sheep shearers who came and removed the sheep's wool so they would be comfortable in the summer. The wool was then rolled into bundles, tied with binder twine, and sold.

I took hold of Daddy or Uncle Doc's hand and went in to see how they did it. The sheep looked so silly sitting meekly on its tail while it had wool all around it. They were shearing evenly down the sheep. When they got through, the sheep looked very white where the wool had been.

While it is still weather for jackets or coats in the spring, the lambs have to have their tails cut off so they only have a short little tail left. It is done for sanitary reasons. Uncle Doc was cutting them off with a sharp knife while Daddy or Charley held the lamb. One held and one dipped.

I told Uncle Doc that I didn't want him to do this, because it would hurt the lamb. He said no, it really doesn't. Then he took my hand and said "Feel here. It is a joint; I'm not cutting the bone. It separates here."

I could feel that the bone was missing at that particular place and it felt like just skin. The lamb didn't even bleed that I saw. It's tail -- what was left of it -- was immediately dipped into a fairly thick substance that smelled really awful. Then the lamb rushed away to its mother.

Harvest hands

In the fall, harvest hands came to cut the hay with a combine. It was hot still, so they rested at noon sometimes and worked late at night. Daddy had two hay fields that I know about. The smell of newly cut hay is wonderful.

When the harvest hands came to dinner at noon, they had taken off their shirts because the shirts were sweaty and had hay dust on them. Mom asked Daddy to ask them to wear their shirts because of us. They shook them out and put them back on.

In the summer, we always ate on the long front porch near the kitchen door. Mom had a table with sides that folded down to about eight or nine inches from the floor. It had an extra leg on each side that was attached to the middle. They would swing out in the middle and hold up the folded down side. Mom put an oil cloth on this table instead of a table cloth.

I think it was called a gate leg table.

Mom always fixed a huge dinner. There were pitchers of ice tea and lemonade setting on the table. She made pie for desert.

Summer nights

It was cooler eating on the porch than in the kitchen. When we ate out there at night we had some determined flying insects who wanted to come in and join us. However, they couldn't get through the screen. The lamp was setting on the table and the light attracted them.

We had the most beautiful moonlight nights back home. There was a breeze most of the time. I remember when I was dating Edgar later that the weeping willow branches made lovely shadows on the porch when they blew in the wind. I always silently admired them when he brought me home.

We used to have moonlight almost as bright as day.

The family used to sit out in the yard on summer nights. The stars were so bright. Charley used to show me the little dipper, big dipper and other configurations in the sky.

Missouri had beautiful rolling green hills. The farm house was built on high ground. We could sit in the yard and see the light of Moberly and Huntsville in the distance. Those were good times. Moberly was twenty miles away by the road and Huntsville was fourteen miles away. Of course, they were closer "as the crow flies."

No matter what the season, Daddy always went to bed at 8 o'clock. He would let Frankie in and wind the clock. Then off to bed.

However, he slept poorly. He had injured his knee when a log rolled and pinched it, and it still ached. Besides, I think his legs may have cramped. Anyway, he slept in short naps. He walked around for awhile between naps and then tried a different bed, such as the living room couch, or the cot on the porch, or even the hammock between two of the cedar trees in the yard.

Uncle Doc had rheumatism and arthritis when he got older, so he was up with his hands and legs cramping. Night was a busy time at our house.

Every night at 4 a.m., I would hear the train whistle as it came around the bend before the crossing in Jacksonville. It was a lonesome sound, but a comforting one too, because it was dependable. I always heard it.

The wolf

Sometimes, we heard a wolf howl. Sometimes another one answered, but we usually just heard one. Daddy said he was talking to or looking for a mate. When some of the livestock such as lambs were taken, the neighbors got upset and stopped by on their horses to see if Daddy wanted to help hunt the wolf and kill it. Daddy was about twenty years older than they were. He just wanted to sleep. Besides, I think he hated to kill it. It looked like a dog.

One time they actually did kill a wolf. One of the neighbors (I think it was Roscoe) stopped to show it to Uncle Doc. He had it tied to the bumper of his car. It was so thin and small, I felt sorry for it. The wolves had a bounty on them at that time and the neighbor was taking it somewhere to collect.

We still heard a wolf howling. I told Daddy it was killing lambs and chickens because it was hungry. I said, lets get it meat from the meat house and put it close to where it is so it won't be hungry.

Daddy said wolves were too smart to eat anything touched by a person. There was no way to feed him.

Rowdy and Buster

We didn't get to keep Rowdy and Buster. When they were about half grown, Irvin Williams, who owned the farm directly up the road from us, came and told Daddy that one of his animals was missing and that he had seen the two pups running across his land. He said he couldn't afford to lose any livestock, and if he saw the pups on his land again he would shoot them.

Daddy asked if he had seen them chasing or trying to kill his livestock. Irvin said no. Daddy told him the pups were not hungry -- that they were fed a lot of food. He said pups run and play. Daddy reminded him that there was a wolf or wolves around. Irvin didn't care -- he wasn't taking any chances. He told Daddy to do something with the pups.

Daddy did something all right. He had a new barn for the sheep so he could put early lambs and their mother inside, instead of covering the snowy pasture with straw again like he did last time. He put straw on the floor of the new barn, a bucket of water inside and some food. Then he gave the barn to the pups. They could get sunshine in and see out, because spaces had been left between the boards so the sheep wouldn't be too hot. At least I think that was why. Maybe it wasn't finished.

Daddy and Charley fed, watered, and petted them. Jean and I petted their noses though the boards. Sometimes they could be heard running and playing inside. Jean and I were afraid to open the door. We thought they might run out and get shot.

Finally, after quite a period of time, Daddy said it wasn't much of a life for them staying in the barn. He asked if we would care if he could find a good home in town for them. We agreed. So away went Rowdy and Buster.

A dog with a broken leg

Rowdy and Buster's mother managed to break her leg. Daddy made a sling for her. It fit underneath her with four holes for her legs. Then he fastened it to a limb of the mulberry tree in the yard. She could just barely touch the yard with her feet.

She stayed that way until her leg healed. He also put a splint on her leg.

She got lots of petting and attention. She managed to get around a little on three legs while waiting for the other one to heal.

Hanging in there

One embarrassing incident I remember is when Aunt Opal and her kids came from Colorado for a visit one time. I had been told repeatedly not to step in between the wood supports for the unfinished floor on the right of the staircase upstairs. I knew better than to step on it, but I just didn't believe it wouldn't support me. I wanted to see what would happen. I found out immediately when I stepped there. Suddenly, I could see into Charley's room. I had gone through his ceiling and would have fallen if I hadn't doubled my arms and put each arm straight out so it would rested on one of the supports. The supports were close together.

Aunt Opal heard something and came in to find me suspended through the ceiling with my legs dangling down into space. She yelled for Mom and the two of them took hold of me and got me down. It was most embarrassing!

What was really bad -- the ceiling always had a place there that looked different even when it was repaired and papered. Every time I looked at it, I felt guilty.

Yellow tomatoes and an apple tree

Jean and I found something to do that was fun. The fourth garden was just off the chicken yard by a pond. There was a large, old, yellow apple tree there in the corner by the wood fence that separated the garden from the sheep pasture. This was inside the garden.

The tree had a trunk that separated into two parts that went outward. If the tree didn't touch the fence, it almost did.

We would get a play bucket or basket of little yellow tomatoes from the garden, climb up on the fence and sit in the tree to eat them.

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