Saturday, July 14, 2012

With my 50th high school class reunion and the big 3 day hometown 4th of July parade and celebration (picture above) behind me, I finally have time to put some thoughts in writing again.  As usual, a casual post on facebook about fences and neighbors triggered a chain of memories of growing up on a farm in Iowa in the 40's and 50's.

Springtime was always welcome after what seemed to be endless hard winters.  Are they much milder now, or is it just my perception?  Anyway, the spring plowing done, Mom went at the gardening big time, planting enough of everything to put up canned goods for a year.  I've always enjoyed planting things in the warm spring weather, the weeding and watering in the hot summer sun not so much.  But weren't those fresh veggies just the best thing ever?  Sweet corn dripping with real butter, and the raw green sweet peas just out of the shell were yummy!  Oh, everything was m-m-m good!  And we worked hard, ate big and stayed slim!

Summertime has always been my favorite season even with the increased work on the farm.  The best memories are those of the co-op type togetherness of all the neighbors and relatives.  The men joined together forming a threshing crew going from farm to farm to harvest the oats.  With that it became necessary for the women to prepare enormous amounts of food.  Without modern conveniences or a large house, we set up saw horse tables and a wash up area for the men outdoors.  The noon meal always included fried chicken, ham, roast beef, mashed potatoes, potato salad, lettuce salad, vegetables, bread, pies and other desserts.  I seem to recall beer being offered too before the meal, then coffee and cool aide with the dinner.  Yes, it was called dinner and the evening meals were called supper.  In between were the "lunches" or maybe called "coffee" - not coffee breaks.   

The field work and cooking always started very early in the morning, so in addition to the huge noon meal, a "lunch" was prepared consisting of sandwiches of meat, cheese, egg or tuna salad, etc. in large quantities along with homemade cookies, cakes, pastries and fruit, coffee, cool aide and water, all carried to the men in the field in big baskets and buckets in mid morning and again in mid afternoon.

Then I remember chicken butchering time.  Ugh!  The night before we would round up the pullets, (young chickens raised from early spring babies) usually at least 3  dozen or more, and pen them up separate from the laying hens.  (Pullets made the best fryers.  For chicken soup or other cooked chicken Mom would use an older hen.)  Early the next morning Grandma and the aunts would come to help (and receive a few processed chickens in return). Mom and the aunts stepped on the heads and used butcher knives, but grandma just wrung the necks then cut off the heads with a hatchet.  What a sight to see a dozen headless chickens at a time flopping around the yard, blood spraying everywhere!  When they stopped flopping they were dipped in boiling water and the feathers plucked.  This is where the children were put to work plucking.  Then the ladies spent the rest of the afternoon cutting up and packaging the chickens.  Having no electricity in the earlier years meant taking them to town to a rented meat locker at the butcher shop, where they also stored our homegrown beef and pork.  By the mid 1950's we were really "upscale" with electricity from the REA,our own freezer, electric lights and even running water in the kitchen sink!  Somewhere in there we even got natural gas from the new pipeline that was laid.

We may have been cash poor, but with Mom's egg money for staples and all the rest homegrown, we never went hungry!  Even a new skirt made from a calico feed sack made us feel rich.  Well, I could go on, but the tales of growing up on a sharecropping farm in that era are about endless.  So I'll save some more for later.

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