REFLECTIONS

My Early Childhood Ė Growing Up In The Country

  So went the carefree years of my innocent childhood. Before long there would be the going to school, but there were lots of days of play before that time. I remember when a distant cousin, Olive Ebersole, would bring her children, Albert, Leora and Donald to visit my grandparents. They would stay for a week or two at a time. During those visits I had playmates and the days seemed to pass very quickly. I had a friend who visited our neighbor, Jim Stiffler; his name was Chalmer Oakes. One day we got Jim's buggy out of the shed and went down the hill using the hitching shafts to guide it. They stuck out in front, and unfortunately the rope that held them up slipped out of our hands. The shafts caught in the ground and broke off, and the buggy overturned. That finished our riding the buggy. But there were other things to get into, and the summers passed swiftly. My uncles, Irvin and Sherman and the two Stiffler boys, Warren and Brady also got me in trouble. I spent the better part of an afternoon learning to spell Chevrolet. When I proudly spelled it for my mother it came out as a four letter word that I would not repeat here. She was not too happy about it.

  It was the depression years, and as others have said it before, we did not know we were poor. All except my father, or pap, as we called him. Hard pressed for money, he made moonshine whiskey and home brew, which he sold to buy the things we needed that we could not produce on the farm. We had pigs, chickens, beef cow and a milk cow, so we had milk, beef, pork and eggs. Our "store bought" needs were mostly sugar, flour, and clothing. We had things for the holidays, because mother usually got a few things from the mail order catalogs.

  Fall was a time of gathering apples and sometimes burying them in the ground. We did that so they would "keep". They could be taken from the ground and used at a later time. The kinds were Baldwin, Northern Spy, Pippin, Sweet Apple and Oats Apple. Also in fall there was haying, which involved cutting of grain with the hand scythe, which was called a cradle and then stacking the sheaves so they would dry out. Later the sheaves would be threshed for animal feed in the winter. After the grain would be threshed and the hay would be put in the barn, then it would be hunting season. At that time you didnít have to wait for a particular date to be able to hunt. My dad and uncle Millard had several good beagles that they used to hunt rabbits. They augmented our meat supply for the next few weeks.

  Fall was time for pap to clear some new ground. He would cut the trees and brush, and use dynamite to blow out stumps. Pap would get terrible sick headaches from the fumes. Because of that, he devised a plan that he would charge ten stumps at a time and connect them to one long fuse. After lighting it, he would take me with him to a nearby hill so that I would not be in the blast area playing. As each blast occurred, he would lay a stone on his lap. That way he would be sure that all charges fired and it would be safe to return to the work area. If any changes had not fired, the area needed a cooling down period, a day or so, till he could go back and see which did not fire.

  Fall was also the time of getting firewood cut and sawed into stove sized lengths. It was my job early in life to carry the cut firewood in to fill up the wood box each day. If I played until dark, I would have to take a lantern and bring it in. Needless to say, carrying some wood and a lantern, I had to make twice the trips. I did not need to do that very often. Mother made sure I didnít. My mother loved me very much, but she taught me many lessons by being strict about getting my chores done on time.

  Winters were monotonous because we were tied down to the area around the house. Of course there was the fun of making homemade ice cream and going sledding. But sledding was not too exciting if you had to do it by yourself. Then there was Christmas. I looked forward to that time of the year. My dad would cut an evergreen tree and sit it in the "sitting" room that we never used in the winter (i.e. the one we couldnít afford to waste heat on). Mother would decorate the tree. Part of the decorations would be candleholders with candles that you would light. We would bundle up and go in and light the candles and watch them for awhile, and then mother would blow them out so that we could see them another time. Christmas morning was an exiting time, because that is when we learned what was in that package from Sears Roebuck and Company.

  Then spring would come, and mother would make sure that the sitting hens would have good eggs to hatch. We adored the baby chicks. One day in particular, I went up through the tall grass and weeds swinging a stick, imitating my father cutting grass with a scythe. Needless to say, my mother found several baby chicks that I had killed. There were always new places to explore on the farm. Maybe there would be a new calf, and of course, the baby chicks. My dad kept his horses down on my grandmother Smith's farm, because in addition to his own acreage, he planted the necessary potatoes, corn, beans and other vegetables we used. Mother did quite a bit of canning in the summer to last over the winter. The winters were sometimes long, and the canned goods were necessary. We also bought peaches to can.