Down On The Farm

 

 We moved to the farm in Louisiana when I was about eleven years old. I had been raised in a very small country town and we had cows and chickens but no hogs. My grandfather did at one time have hogs but it was before I was old enough to remember them. I loved the farm but didnít care for the hogs. They didnít suit my nose so I stayed away from the hog pen.

Back in the late forties there were no cattle laws in Louisiana. Everyone let their cattle roam wherever they pleased. Except for us. My grandfather and uncle fenced in our property. However, everyone elseís cattle were always breaking down our fences and getting in to our property.

One day everyone except my grandmother and I had gone fishing for the day. I went out on the back porch and there was a big red hog in the yard. I went in and told my grandmother that someoneís hog had gotten in our yard. She told me to go open the gate, get a stick and chase it out.

We had a little Boston Terrier named Patsy and she went out with me. I opened the gate and chased the hog to the gate and Patsy chased it back. This went on until the hog got mad and started chasing me, at which time I gave up. I went in and told my grandmother that every time I got the hog to the gate, Pasty would chase it back.

Grandmother said, "Go look in our pen and see if we have two hogs there."

I went out to the hog pen and sure enough, there was only one hog . I was trying to chase off our own hog and the dog had more sense than I did. If you think I ever lived that down, you are wrong!

When we first moved to the farm it was a mess. It was a large four bedroom house. It needed painting and repairs in a big way. There was no running water or electricity. We used oil lamps for light and drew our water from a well. But my uncle was a plumber, pipe fitter and electrician. He got busy and wired the house, then he and my grandfather dug a septic tank and my uncle put in the pipes and an electrical pump on the well and installed a bath room at one end of a long hall and a sink in the kitchen. They painted and did repairs and when they were through, it was a nice looking place. We had a long driveway with beautiful tall oak trees on either side.

We all loved it on the farm but my grandfather was in heaven. He loved making a garden and plowing the fields. He didnít have a tractor, just a plow and a horse but his rows were straight and even. He and my uncle took care of the planting and the harvesting. My aunt, grandmother and myself took care of the house work and canning. This suited me fine as I never cared to work in the fields because I am allergic to too much sun. I did occasionally have to do some weeding though. One thing I loved to do was shell peas and string beans. Most people hate the job but I still like to string beans. It was always my job to wash the canning jars because my hands were small and could get down inside the jars. I had done that job for my grandmother since I was a small child. I love my hands in water and never minded doing the dishes which was another of my jobs. That is, until my uncle's son, Tommy, who was the same age as me, came to visit for the summer and ended up staying and going to school there till we moved away. Then he went back to live with his mother. He had to dry the dishes and always took the towel and gave me a few hard flips with it. That hurts! One day he did it till I got so mad, I threw a carving knife at him and cut his finger. He never did it again. He was a thorn in my side as he loved to tease me. ( worse than my brother) He and my uncle were two of a kind. But I could always get back at him. He was so funny! He sucked his thumb up until he was about sixteen years old. Can you imagine? Now this boy played on the football team! We had the same classes in school and I would look over at him and he would have his thumb in his mouth. Iíd catch his eye and stick my thumb in my mouth. Then he would jerk his out real fast and look around to see if anyone else had seen him.  

We made our own butter, so another of my chores was to churn. This was a monotonous job for me, one I did not care for.

If you were raised on a farm, you may remember when flour came in big, printed, cotton sacks. My aunt always bought her flour this way because she baked light bread and rolls, cornbread, biscuits, cakes and the most delicious pies. And there was always gravy, so she used a lot of flour. We emptied the flour in to large tin cans and unraveled the seams on the sacks and washed and ironed them. Some, we hemmed and added lace to the bottom and used them for dish towels. Sometimes we were lucky and got three or four sacks with the same print. I was quite handy with a sewing machine. We had an old treadle machine. Remember those? So, I made myself pajamaís and skirts.

When we first moved to the farm one of the neighbors, Mrs. Baldwin, came to visit and brought two loaves of homemade bread. They looked delicious but when we cut into them there were weevils baked inside. We thought at first they were poppy seeds until my aunt took a little closer, thank goodness. Mrs. Baldwin had a daughter who was slightly retarded and she had the most beautiful eyelashes. Everyone was always telling her how beautiful her eyelashes were. One day she came to visit and she had cut all her lashes off.

We had eighty acres but they didnít farm it all. Out in the back pasture there was an artesian well with a hand pump. This is where the animals were watered. There were two large wooden troths and the water was so cold, we kept a dipper there and always had a good cold drink ourselves. On out through the pasture, it became woods and there was a small creek. The banks were very high but the water was shallow. This was my wonderland. I used to go and sit under one of the trees for hours and listen to the water. Sometimes I took a book, it was so peaceful.

We had some wonderful neighbors. Two familyís I will never forget. They were both named Thompson. No relation. One lived up the road and the other lived down the road. The Thompsonís who lived up the road were Swedish. Mrs. Thompson always made a cup of hot tea for me when I came to visit. I didnít care for hot tea but I was taught to be polite, so I drank it. She had a piano and I loved to hear her play. I loved the song, Ramona and always asked her to play it. One day she told me to sit down at the piano and she would teach me to play it. I learned a few chords but thatís about as far as it went. Of course, I thought I was really doing something.

The Thompsonís who lived down the road were a sweet couple in their eightyís. Mrs. Thompsonís name was Sarah. Their house was very small. The outside was unpainted as well as the inside and the floors were made of dirt. They shined like glass. The house was spotless clean and Sarah made the most beautiful tatted lace. She had some very pretty china figurines on little what-not shelves. My aunt used to send me down with fresh produce for them. I loved to sit and talk with Sarah. She told me fascinating stories of her life. I've always had a soft spot in my heart for the elderly. Now, I am getting there myself.

We lived thirteen miles from the small town of De Ridder. I rode a bus to school. Our little country church was about the same amount of miles in the other direction, so I rode the church bus. It was an ugly green bus but it got us to church twice every Sunday and on special occasions.

Our church was Shady Grove General Baptist. Our pastor was Brother Greene and he was a farmer also.

We had a community center called the Shady Grove Community Center and named quite aptly for it was in a shady grove. A very peaceful and serene setting. This is where we met for our 4H and FFA meetings and all the special events, like picnicís, Halloween parties, Hayrides, Easter Egg hunts, Christmas partyís. It seemed there was always something going on. Of course we always had Easter and Christmas at church also.

Have you ever been to a charivari (shiví Ėa-re)? Now that was fun. It was the custom when someone got married, all the friends ended up at the couples house, bringing food and presents. Also a pot or pan and wooden spoons. After everyone ate and the presents were opened, instead of going home, the guestís marched around the house till well after mid-night, banging on the pots and pans. Of course all the neighbors lived at least half a mile away but it didnít matter about the noise because they were usually in on it.

Have you ever been chased by a bull? Let me tell you, it will scare you to death. There was an open field across the gravel road from our house. I used to cut through this field to go visit one of my friends. Now I have told you, there were no cattle laws in Louisiana at the time and a lot of the people raised Brahmaís. The bulls are big, evil looking animals, whitish, gray in color, with a large hump on their back and would scare you just to look at one.

I had visited with my friend and was on my way home. I had just entered the field and there stood this big Brahma Bull. I thought, "What am I going to do? If I turn around and run the other way he will probably chase me and he will kill me for sure. BUT, if I go on and pretend he donít scare me one bit, I may get away with it." Silly me!

I started on through the field and he started snorting and pawing the ground. I knew I was in for it. Lucky for me there was a lot of big trees in that field and I was a good runner. I ran and hid behind one and that old bull came running up to that tree and I took off for another one. In that way, I managed out run that old bull. He stopped chasing me when I got to the road. There was a good sized ditch between the field and road and I guess the good Lord put wings on my heels that day because I jumped it with no trouble at all. I have never been so scared in my life. Believe me, being chased by a bull is one experience you will never forget. We later found out the people who owned the bull considered it to be a pet.

We had all kinds of pets. I can tell you that Armadilloís and Possumís do not make good pets. Raccoonís on the other hand make excellent pets. We had two, a girl and a boy we raised from babies. Their names were Mert and Bert. They were more fun than a barrel of monkeys. I loved to watch them wash their tiny hands. We kept their food and water on the back porch and always had an extra pan of water for them to wash in. Sometimes, depending what they had to eat, they would wash it first. Mert used to ride on our dog, Patsyís back. But when they got grown, Bert got the wonder lust and a little on the mean side. They were never kept in cages and were allowed to go in and out as they pleased. Bert started staying away more and more, until he never came back. Mert stayed around for a good while but eventually, one day she never came back either.

We moved to the town of Sulphur after my grandmother died and I have been a city person ever since. Not by choice, just the way things turned out for me. I will always cherish my memories of life down on the farm.

By Lora Cox

Picture on top is my grandfather and I, guess you can tell it's the hayloft.

This picture is, on the left, the brat, my brother John all grown up, my cousin Tommy, my friend Lenora, from Arkansas, and me. Can you see my pigtails and bare feet?

 

 

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