Saturday, February 26, 2011

... three squares connected, a double square, two more squares ...

Although I have vivid memories of this house and this farm, these trees and this road, I have no memories of  this DIRT road.  It was paved before my memories of it began.  The house was always close to the road, a huge benefit when it was raining or super cold and we had to wait for the bus.  We would stand watch and between the time we saw the yellow bus and the time it stopped in front of our house, we had just enough time to dash out, cross the road, and be standing in place when Mrs. Lewis drew the bus to a halt.  Sweet Mrs. Lewis, on rare occasions, would be there before we were out the door and we'd hear the bus horn; a dreaded sound!  We NEVER wanted to hear that horn.  Once I was on the bus, breathing a sigh of relief, when I noticed that I still had on my warm pink fuzzy slippers.  

My first memories of the road was of it as a 'hard road' with black tar and small rocks. We knew two types of roads: dirt roads and hard roads.  Because Granddaddy and Grandmother were about the first people to live on the road, it was unofficially known as "Lee Road' for many years.  

There were few vehicles on the road in front of our house.  Once we were half-grown, we were often out on the road.  We learned to ride bikes early.  Each of us had our own bike.  I learned to ride a bike when I was 8.  Sometimes I wonder if the road was worn out and had to be repaved from the vehicles or the many hundreds of miles we rode on our bikes, back and forth, back and forth.  It was a game to see how far we could ride without hands.  In time, the dirt drive wore down a bit, causing a 12" drop from the grass to the road, just where the drive and the hard road joined.  We'd ride our bikes as fast as we could across the lawn, flying off the little drop off, landing on the dirt road and zipping onto the hard road. In our minds, that little 12" drop was dangerous, daring, and exciting.  

We would pick up a piece of lime-rock while waiting for the bus, drawing hopscotch on the pavement.  Each of us had another rock, stick, or other item to throw into the hopscotch squares.  As long as I was the youngest, I lost every time.  When Sandra and Stanley came along, I began to win the game.  (We drew hopscotch on the dirt drive more often, playing in the driveway and yard too.)  

This is how the game looked, without the irregularity of squares and circles as they're drawn by children. Oh, the times we'd 'erase' with our feet and hands and redraw a crooked square or circle!
Our hopscotch consisted of three squares connected, a double square, two more squares, another double square, one square, and the final circle. We each had our own turn, one after the other.  We threw our rocks into the first square and had to jump on one foot in every single square, jumped down with both feet in the double squares, back on one foot when we were back to the single squares, back to both feet in the double squares, etc, and was able to land on both feet and walk about in the circle.  We were never allowed to step into the square that held our rocks.  We turned around and hopped back to the beginning, stopping on one foot in the square before the one that held our rocks, bending over (still on one foot), picking up our rocks, and then finish hopping to the beginning.  Each of us knew our own rock.  If we hopped through without making a mistake, we could then throw our rock into the next square and keep hopping.  When we put down both feet when we weren't at the double square or the circle, stepped outside the lines, skipped a square, our rock landed outside the right square, or stepped in the square with our rock meant that it was the next person's turn.  We all continued playing till one of us had our rock in the big circle. That person was the winner.  At times we'd keep playing, moving our rocks back to the beginning, square by square. The first person who had their rock back to the beginning was the winner.

We grew up without a TV, learning to amuse ourselves with the reality of our own lives.  We rode bikes, took walks, played in the drive, along with the many other farm and fun activities limited more by imagination than anything else other than concerned parents.

Waiting for the bus was the perfect time to obtain our substitute 'chewing gum'.  The tar was soft in the middle of the summer, baking in the hot Florida sun.  We'd take a stick and dig out little bits of the soft tar until we had enough to chew. This is one activity I think that Mother had no notion that we kids were doing.

Trees grew in the fence line across the road.  Wild grapevines grew up the trees.  When they were ripe, we'd pick grapes and eat them, sitting on top on the vines, 6' from the ground.  On rare occasions we'd pick what we considered a good amount of grapes and would go inside to make grape juice.  Of course, being kids, what we thought was a good amount was rarely more than a couple of cups, at the most.

We all had our falls from the bikes on the road.  My worst was when Stephen and I were dating (I was 15) and we were riding bikes up a little hill just beyond the house.  The bike I was riding had a banana seat, long and narrow.  We were racing and as I put my weight onto the back of the seat, pushing hard on the pedals, the front of the seat broke loose.  I flipped in the air, landed on my back, continued rolling over and skidded to a stop on my knees.  An x-ray determined that my collar bone wasn't broken, but I thought it hurt enough to be broken.

The road was never busy and dangerous.  We rode and walked against the traffic.  We always had plenty of time to move over when a car or truck came into view.  After I married Stephen and moved out, a middle school was built at the end of the road.  Traffic became heavy at times, making the road no longer the safe road that was a safe playing ground for us kids when we were old enough to understand danger.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

He was an army cook.

We all have heroes of one kind or another in our lives.  One of my heroes has always been Uncle Charles, my Daddy's brother.  

The first photo below is Uncle Charles in 1950, in the army.  He was an army cook.  The second photo was taken in 1953, an ex-POW in the Korean war.  He was one that made it home.  There are many heroes that never made it home. We're all thankful that Uncle Charles did make it home.

We always celebrated Christmas by giving gifts. We didn't decorate or have a Christmas tree.  But the year Uncle Charles returned home, we had a Christmas tree for the first and last time.  I use the word 'we' liberally here.  I wasn't born for another tso years!  

Mother at Christmas

Uncle Nobel, Granddaddy Waddie Lee, Uncle Charles Lee in 1953

While I speak of memories, I can't allow these photos to go back into the nothingness of a computer folder without sharing them.  After Stephen and I married, Uncle Charles visited us often.  Those visits were wonderful times.  We always played board games and he would update us on his children and how they were.  We never spoke of his experiences during the war and I never have told Uncle Charles how much I appreciate his service and him.  Although one of many who paid a terrible price for our freedom, he is one of my dearest heroes.  

Uncle Charles

(Published with Uncle Charles' permission.)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

I can still hear the peals of laughter ..

Birthdays were always special.  Every single birthday meant a cake, toys, and a birthday photo.  Although I can't remember how old I was, one birthday that I remember well was the one when I received my Ken doll.  I can't remember my age but I do remember the day.  With Sandra and I, Barbie dolls were a big part of our lives.  By the time this birthday came around I had Barbie, Skipper, and Midge.  This year Mother bought me Ken to add to my set.  

Mother continually sewed dresses for Sandra and I to wear.  She often made Barbie clothes with the scraps.  We were some of the few girls who had Barbie dolls with clothes to match our own dresses.  There were little buttons, little eyes and hooks, and tiny snaps on the clothes. Lace and other decorations made the clothes better than most of the store-bought Barbie clothes.  Ours were one-of-a-kind!  We had Barbie doll cases with little hangers and more Barbie clothes than some stores.  

Edith, birthday bike and Ken

But let's go back to the spot where I am standing in this photo.  I am standing beside my new bicycle which is by the buffet with my cake sitting on it.  I had no idea I was going to receive a bicycle that year.  It was a total surprise.  We had been working in the field all morning, went home for lunch, and back out to the fields to work.  I knew we were going to have my cake and ice cream and I'd be able to open my presents, but for some reason the cake/present time was delayed.  (Looking back, it was probably so someone could bring the bicycle out of hiding and put it in place.) Later in the afternoon Mother said we could all go in and have cake.  I ran in with everyone on my heels, Mother calling out for me not to go into the house until everyone was there.  When I was allowed to go in, I was so excited to see the buffet, where the cake is sitting, with presents on it.  I opened a present, walked around the bike and picked up another present before it registered that I was walking around a brand new bike.  Every day of the year an ironing board sat in this exact spot.  I thought I was walking around the ironing board as I opened my presents. My mind didn't register that the object I was walking around was a bike until I had walked clear around it to the back of it. I can still hear the peals of laughter from everyone who was standing around when my mind finally registered the fact that they ironing board had been replaced by a brand spanking new bicycle.  

Sandra ironing, Edith at the side

This is the same spot with the ironing board in its normal place, lowered for one of us gals to iron something.  We learned to iron when we were young.  When we were young, we begged to be able to iron.  Mother would allow us to iron Daddy's handkerchiefs.  When we had that down pat, we ironed his undershorts.  Gradually we moved up to ironing shirts and dresses, much to our disgust.  By then, ironing had become a chore.  Mother wasn't the only female in our family who was thrilled when permanent press was invented.

It was normal for me not to notice things, like the bicycle where the ironing board normally sat.  My mind simply isn't wired that way.   

My older brother Harold and his wife Patsy were in Germany the summer of '72.  They talked to Mother and Daddy and invited us to fly over for two weeks to stay with them to see that part of the world.  Mother and Daddy talked about it and told us three youngest (the only ones left at home) that we were going to Germany.  Daddy had to stay home and wouldn't be able to go.  I was informed that the trip would have to take the place of my birthday that year.  It was my 16th birthday, a very special one.  I wasn't allowed to write a boy a letter until I was 16.  In fact, I received my first official letter from a boy while I was in Germany.  I don't remember the cake, which I'm sure that Patsy and Mother cooked for me.  I did receive a couple of presents and can't remember what they were.  They trip was a wonderful present.  We went to Holland, France, and Switzerland.  We saw windmills, the Alps, and so much more.  We ate REAL Swiss cheese.  Let me reword that. THEY ate real Swiss cheese.  I took one bite and I've never eaten it since.  

Edith, Stanley, Mother, Sandra

When we flew back into Florida, Daddy met us at the airport.  I hugged Daddy and laid my head on his shoulder.  Someone was taking photos of our homecoming. 

Something about everyone's laughter struck me as a little different and I began to listen.  Everyone was talking about Daddy not shaving.  I turned to look at Daddy again.  I was the only person who had not noticed that Daddy hadn't shaved for the entire two weeks we were gone. 

Mother, laughing at Daddy's beard
Bottom left, Stanley was looking at Daddy's beard
To the right, I was totally oblivious


Mother always wanted Daddy to shave.  This had been his only opportunity to go without shaving.  The beard didn't last another day!

Friday, February 11, 2011

... saw a cow walking around with a monkey sprawled out on the cow's back ...

We had dogs and cats at the farm all the time.  Occasionally one of us young'uns would end up with a white mouse, hamster, parakeet, or another animal.  

The most unusual animal we had was Mono, our monkey.  Mono was not a petting animal.  He considered himself at least an equal to (if not better than) any of us.  Pet?  Hug?  Hold?  Forget it!  It wasn't that Mono was afraid of people.  He just did not consider himself a pet.

Mono enjoyed pulling up Daddy's vegetables that were growing in his garden.  Up and over the fence he'd go, pulling up vegetables every day.  Daddy decided to take care of that problem.  He added an electric wire on the fence.  The next day, Daddy heard a chattering in the garden and sure enough, Mono was in the garden, had pulled up some vegetables, and was scolding Daddy, clearly telling him to open that gate and let him out.  It didn't take long to figure out that the monkey was simply climbing up a tree, going out on a limb that grew over the garden, and dropped into the garden.  There was a simple cure to that one too.  The limb was removed from the tree.  Problem solved!  Or so Daddy thought.  But sure enough, before long, Daddy heard Mono chattering in the garden again, demanding to be let out.  It took a little while to figure that one out.  Day after day, Mono would be in the garden, demanding to be let out again.  Eventually Daddy saw Mono's little trick to enter the protected garden.  Mono had a favorite cow he liked.  He'd climb up on a fence (not the electric one) and wait for her to wander by.  When she came within reach, Mono would simply jump over on her back.  The sight of a cow walking around with a monkey sprawled out on the cow's back caught people's attention when they came to the farm.  They'd rub their eyes and look again, not believing what they saw.  This tickled Daddy to no end, answering the questions people asked, doubting their own eyesight, sanity, or both.  Mono would ride the cow for a long time as she wandered here and there.  Mono was patient.  He simply waited for the right moment.  Sure enough, sooner or later she'd wander by the garden and with one leap, Mono was over the electric fence and into the garden again.  After pulling up some of Daddy's vegetables, he'd once again start his chattering, demanding to be let back out of the garden.

Although Mono had his special treats, he liked people treats too.  When he saw us eating a cookie, he wanted it.  He had as sweet a tooth as any of us.  The Charles Chips man came to the house every week, leaving large tins of chocolate chip cookies and potato chips.  After recovering from the shock of seeing a monkey running across the roof of the house or across the yard, he and Mono became good friends.  Mono would hear the Charles Chips truck and from wherever he was on the farm, he would take off to the front porch roof.  The roof was only about 7 feet off the ground.  Mono would go to the part of the roof, just over the steps and back door. The Charles Chips man left the cans of goodies inside the porch each week or two.  Even before he climbed out of the truck, he would have a cookie in his hand, ready for Mono.  Mono would be sprawled out, reaching over the edge of the roof, waiting for his cookie.  Like the independent little rascal he was, as soon as he had his cookie he was gone.  He always took all of us and our gifts for granted, as if we were there to serve him.

Stephen and I were sitting in lawn chairs eating grapes down by the pond one February when we were dating.  Mono would come waltzing along, checking to see what was going on.  He always had to make sure that he wasn't missing out.  He was a curious rascal, never willing to be left out of anything.  A cluster of freshly washed grapes were in my lap, sitting in wax paper to protect my skirt.  When Mono came along, I'd hand Stephen a grape and Stephen would offer Mono the grape.  Mono would hop up on Stephen's chair, take the grape, and take off a short distance away.  After eating the grape, he'd come back to take another grape from Stephen again.  He repeated this process several times, enjoying our grapes as much as we did.  Finally Mono jumped up on Stephen's lawn chair and slowly sauntered up Stephen's leg.  He reached toward the grape in his outstretched hand, gave one leap, and landed in my lap.  It was pre-planned, that much was clear.  He was in my lap for only the few seconds it took for him to grab the entire cluster of grapes and make his get-away.

Stephen protecting his grapes from Mono

In 1972 my bedroom was upstairs and my bed was underneath the rooms one window.  Underneath the window was the roof of the kitchen.  Mother and Daddy rebuilt the house one room at a time. Daddy had taken part of the roof off the kitchen as they began the rebuilding process.  This removed the covering over part of my window.  Daddy covered the lower part of my window with tar paper to keep out the rain and critters. (People who have lived in Florida understand that there are a lot of critters that will enter an open window.) For a week or so after Mono discovered the tar paper, he would tear it loose and enter my room. At sunrise, I'd wake up to a monkey jumping up and down on my bed.  Although it sounds like a novel way to wake up, mornings were never my favorite time of the day and it didn't take long for me to find a more secure method to cover the window.

Stanley had the worst Mono experience.  Daddy's shop was always in perfect order.  We never borrowed a tool without putting it back.  Hand tools hung on the back wall.  The wall was painted white and the tool's shape was outlined with paint.  If a tool was missing, the outline immediately indicated which tool was missing.  

Stanley was half grown when Daddy noticed tools missing, one by one.  Daddy scolded Stanley for taking the tools.  Stanley had to bear all the blame.  One day Daddy was walking out to the shop when he saw Mono speeding out of the shop out on all threes - cradled in his other arm was one of Daddy's tools.  It was one of the few times that Daddy had to apologize to one of us young'uns!

... we'd slip in and grab another cup of Cheer ...

Swimming in the irrigation pond wasn't always an option when we were young.  We little kids couldn't be left alone in the water, the older ones were working, and Mother was too busy to watch us.  Daddy built the 'little pool' by the house.

It was made of concrete blocks, stacked two high.  In one corner was a metal pipe fitting with a plug.  When it was time to clean out the pool, we simply unscrewed the plug and out came the water.  The pool filled up with leaves over time and the leaves would clog up the drain while we were draining it.  Our little hands would reach into the drain again and again, impatiently pulling out leaves.  Sometimes the leaves would stop it up and we couldn't get them out.  A short dash to the nearest stick and we were back again, pushing the stick through the drain, trying to push the leaves through.  Of course I'd always grab a stick that was too weak, it would break off, and off I'd go again with pigtails flying.  A little further out in the yard on I'd find a more substantial stick.   Back again, I'd push the stick through the drain, pushing leaves out to allow the water to flow faster. We were ready to do anything we thought would drain the pool quickly.  As it drained, we'd clean up any leaves or other trash in the pool.  When it was finally empty, we'd wash it out and refill it with water.  Of course, we washed it out as little as we could get away with.  We kids didn't care about the bits of leaves and sticks.  We wanted the pool filled with water, we wanted to get into it now, and NOW was never soon enough.
Edith Ellen sitting on the empty pool

The little pool was by the slide and clothes line.  It was a neat place to do a quick hide during hide-and-seek games IF it was empty.   A leap over the side and we'd lay down against the wall closest to 'it', the person hunting us.  When it was empty, gopher turtles were placed in it until David Taylor came to pick them up.  

Every so often we would ask Mother if we could use some clothes detergent in the pool.  We didn't ask often.  Mother would quickly let us know that soap was only to be used when the pool was drained and refilled.  If the pool was already full, the soap wouldn't make bubbles.  To our delight, every now and then she'd say yes.  Off we'd go to get a cup of Cheer from the kitchen cabinet.  This was a special occasion!  We well knew how to make the most of this privilege.  We would hurry to clean out the pool and drain all the water.  ALL the water was to be drained and the pool especially cleaned out THIS time.  The precious cup of detergent sat to the side, waiting.  After the pool was cleaned, we'd replace the plug and put in the water hose.  Ohhh, but the water from the hose was cold!  We normally 'swam' in the pool in water that had been sitting for days in the pool, heated by our hot Florida sun.  When the water began to cover all the bottom, it was finally TIME!  We'd pour the detergent in the deepest corner and place a thumb over the end of the water hose, causing it to come out with more force.  Pointing the strongest force of water into the corner where we had dumped the soap, we'd watch and laugh as bubbles started forming, building up into big mounds of white suds.  If we really felt daring, we'd slip in and grab another cup of Cheer to add to the water when Mother wasn't looking.  Our fingers would be so sore and tired from holding the end of the hose and restricting the force of water.  The more force, the more bubbles.  When Mother realized that we had taken more detergent than she expected, we knew it would be a while before she would give permission for us to use Cheer in the pool again.  If we put that much work and intensity into our daily chores, Mother and Daddy's life would have been much easier.

Every now and then, somehow, some of the detergent would end up on the slide with the water hose at the top.  For a few slides, it was super slick!  If the youngest had a chance to be first when soap was added to the slide, it simply meant that there was a good reason for the older ones to stand back.  The reason was usually that it was so slick that the youngest, finding herself/himself unexpectedly flying wildly down the slide was a source a amusement to the older siblings.  

Donald, Judy, Harold sitting on the edge
Edith Ellen in the pool

When we were very young, this was such a highlight of our day.  Mother was glad to have us cleaned off so that we didn't have to have 8 baths that night!

A few years later; Daddy sitting on the edge of the pool

Thursday, February 10, 2011

... with no concern, not caring if I drowned ...

at least a half mile deepWe kids spent many happy hours swimming in the pond.  Daddy dug it to provide irrigation.  The other benefits were many!
George with the box on back of the tractor.

I don't remember the farm without a pond.  'The pond' was always there, like the shop and the house.  I was 5 when it was dug.  I do remember the box on the back of the tractor, filling up with dirt as Daddy and my brothers were digging the pond.  Dirt was dumped around the pond, on all sides.  To a little 5 year old gal, these piles of dirt were mountains!  HUGE, they were.  In reality, they were fairly small.  As the dirt was piled, the dirt was spread.  

Some little piles of dirt were on the house side of the farm as they worked.  I would find frogs (toad frogs) regularly at the farm.  Their first reaction was to pee.  It didn't take long for us little kids to learn how to pick up a frog and avoid the pee. We'd pick it up from the top, around the middle, and wait for it to pee. When it was through, we'd carry it in our hand.  I'd carry a frog around and with my hand and arm, make long tunnels in a pile of dirt, all the way to the middle.  These piles of dirt couldn't have been more than 2 feet across and 30 inches tall, at the most.  After making the first tunnel, I'd go 1/4 or 1/3 way around the pile and make another tunnel to meet the first one.  Then around a bit more I'd go, making tunnel after tunnel.  All the tunnels would meet in the middle.  Then the poor toad frog was placed into a tunnel and the mouth of the tunnel stopped up. I'd wait impatiently, going from side to side, tunnel to tunnel, to see which hole the frog would choose to exit the dirt pile.  Being smart, the frogs rarely exited the dirt pile.  After a 5 year old gal had been toting it around and digging tunnels and toting it around for a long time more, being placed in a tunnel in the dark in a pile of sand had to be the best thing to happen to it.  Eventually, I'd pull the dirt out of the mouth of the tunnel and push the frog farther into the tunnel and try again.  

Mother, me, and someone I can't identify.(Does anyone know who?)

Harold and Donald

Harold, Donald, and me

I don't remember this boat. The boat I remember was larger.  I would sit on the dock or stand in shallow water, watching my older siblings play with the boat.  Yes, play WITH the boat, not play IN the boat.  They'd all get on one side, push and pull, causing the boat to flip.  The goal was to keep it going, over and over, over and over, continually.  I was too young to join in for a few years then finally the day came when they decided I could swim well enough to join in.  Looking back, it was a dumb 'game' with no purpose but it was fun!

Another game we played with the boat began the same way for me.  I was too little, couldn't swim, and wasn't allowed to play.  I could only watch.  The oldest male always seemed to win 'King of the Mountain' - I mean - 'King of the Boat'.  When Donald and Harold played, though, the game never seemed to end.  No one would give up.  When I could swim well enough to join it, it wasn't fun.  I was simply too small to do anything other than climb up the first time and be knocked off.  The rest of the time I just tried to climb on but was continually pushed away and never allowed back on.  After all, that was what the game was about!  If someone couldn't knock someone else off, they'd simply rock the boat far enough for the 'king' to fall off.

When the larger boat was left upside down, sometimes Harold and Donald would swim under it and come up underneath it, breathing the air trapped under the boat.  To strangers and guests, it was scary.  Although we knew where the brother disappeared to, no one else would know. Guests would become nervous, scanning the water, holding their breaths, waiting to see a head pop up for air.  This was another one of the games we thought was fun but I'm sure that others didn't think it was funny!

The windmill

The windmill was eventually put up over the well.  The well was a deep hole in the ground, at least a half mile deep, that had a pump in the bottom.  Well, to me it was a half mile deep.  Actually it was pretty shallow, probably about 15 or 20 feet deep.  It was only on rare occasions we younger kids were allowed to go down into the well.  There was always a chance that a critter would be caught down there.  The behavior of a rattle snake loose in the field compared to trapped for days/weeks in a well would be quite different.  A rattlesnake that was trapped would be more apt to strike.  Once we were teens, we could go down into the well at times.  It was fun to go down but when we were older and we climbed down the ladder, we realized that the magic was gone.  After all, it was just a hole in the ground, covered with wide metal grating, with weeds and a pump in the bottom.  What could be special about that?

Even more exciting was the opportunity to climb UP the windmill ladder.  We were permitted to do that less often than we were allowed to go down into the well.  From the top of the windmill, you could see for miles around.  Well, it seemed like miles to a little girl.  

Water was pumped from the well to the pond to keep it full for irrigation.  When we swam, sometimes we'd go by and stick our heads under the flow of water.  Compared to the hot water of the pond, the well water was cold.  For me, putting my head under the water was enough.  It was just too cold.  We didn't drink the pond water.  Cows would walk into the water, people were in the water, ducks were in the water, fish were in the water, turtles were in the water ... no, we didn't drink the water.  But the fresh clear water coming from the well was another story.  We'd drink deep from that flow.

Daddy had cows in a field that joined to two sides of the pond.  Two sides of the field's fence went about 15 feet out into the pond, keeping the cows on their side of the pond and out of the side where we played and away from the well.  

A bit of water in the pond

Digging and digging - the dock is beginning to take shape at the left
The farm is full of rocks, part flint and part lime rock.  We spent many hours picking up rocks.  Later I'll share some of the rock stories that make up a huge part of our farm life.  Rocks from the farm were used to make the docks.  The size of the windmill is better illustrated with this photo.  You can see the tractors and people in the foreground.  In the background, left, is the windmill.  
Waiting for the water, leaning against the dock as it's being built
Judy, Sandra, Edith

When the pond was finished and we played around it and swam in it, there was a good deal of blood added to the water.  Flint rock is as sharp as a knife.  Because the bottom of the pond was clay (we slipped and fell a lot until we learned how to walk on clay) little bits of flint rock would be trapped and cut our feet.  It was rare for a bleeding cut to stop us.  Although there were a few cuts that were so bad that we couldn't continue to swim, in most cases we'd play and swim and only complain after we were told to get out of the water.  Bees and wasps would gather at the edge of the pond.  We had as many bee and wasp stings as cuts from flint rock.  Rarely did anything keep us out of the water.

Many years later, the dock is being used for fishing

The pond was full of bream, bass, and speckled perch.  It seemed like there were millions of minnows in the pond.  We kids used bread, cheese, or hot dogs as bait most of the time.  Mother would clean the fish and fry them up for supper.  The crisp friend bream tail was something we really liked to eat.  Mother loved to eat fish roe, something for which I never developed a taste.  Mother simply dipped cleaned fish into cornmeal with a pinch of salt and fry them. Simple cooking that was absolutely delicious.

My swimming lessons were the same swimming lessons that most younger sisters found themselves as UNwilling participants.  I would be on the dock or shore and suddenly found myself flying through the air.  Landing in the water, I'd dog paddle, keeping my head above water, yelling that I was drowning.  As everyone laughed and watched me with no concern, not caring if I drowned or not, as I dog paddled my way to the dock.  (Of course they were watching to be sure I made it back safely, but you couldn't have convinced me of that for anything!)  I would complain to Mother but it continued to happen again and again until one day I realized that they weren't throwing me into the pond any longer.  Instead, I'd always be in the pond swimming before they had a chance to toss me in the water.  

Daddy built a diving board on the dock.  He painted it and placed sand in the wet paint so it wouldn't be slick when it dried.  No matter how wet it was, our feet always had a good grip on that diving board.  When the sand began to wear off, Daddy would repaint it again and add more sand.  The 24 - 48 hours it took for the paint to dry were rough days; no diving board access! A few feet out from the end of the diving board was the deep part of the pond, dug 12 feet deep, to allow for safe diving.  

The metal railing at the top of the diving board was the spot for the most daring of swimming feats.  Again, I wasn't allowed to do this major daring trick when I was young.  With so many older brothers and sisters, I didn't dare disobey. There were too many of them that would tattle on me.  It began with my older brothers balancing on the metal railing and jumping off into the water.  Then they were diving off into the water.  One day I was allowed, with Mother standing right there by me, to climb up and jump off by myself.  I thought I was the most daring swimmer in the world!  "Look at me" had to be something everyone was very tired of hearing.  Looking back at photos, I have to laugh.  Daring?  No.  But it was a highlight of my life!
Mother was from Long Island New York, moved to Florida for good when she was 11, and could swim extremely well.  When she was in New York, she swam in a public swimming pool with Johnny Weissmuller (who played Tarzan in the movies).  Well, he was swimming in the same pool as she was at the same time, anyway!  Actually, it was just a public pool with quite a few people swimming in it at the same time but it was a highlight of Mother's swimming life. 

Aerial view of the farm.  Both docks are visible in this photo.

In the middle of the summer, we'd often take a bar of soap, wash cloths, and bottle of shampoo to the pond.  At the end of the day we'd wash the parts of our bodies outside our swimsuits and shampoo our hair before going in to supper.  That was plenty clean enough for the night's sleep and the next day’s work and fun on the farm.  We swam almost every day in the summer when school was out.  

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

... out arm wrestle most of the boys ...

Daddy built his work shop when Harold was young.  The front sliding doors were on rails and together, both opened wide enough for a tractor to fit inside.  The shop was close to the back door of the house, far enough for Daddy to bang a bit and it not be too loud, yet close enough that a fast dash wouldn't make one too miserably wet in the rain (just slightly miserable).  Of great importance was that Mother or one of us kids could open the back door and yell, "DADDY, TIME TO EAT" and if he didn't have machinery running, he could hear us.
Daddy, Harold, and the new shop

Jean and Sandra (on tractor) in the shop, about 12 - 14 years later.  

One of my brothers (George) organized Daddy's tools as an FFA project.  
(Future Farmers of America)
Daddy was always particular about his tools. They were always organized.

In the shop were his tools, chain hoist, welder, drill press, and a million other tools that were wonderful.  I was always fascinated by his drill press.  He had a foot pedal that operated it.  Because he could hold the item he needed drilled with both hands, step on the pedal to raise and lower the drill, he could move things around with more accuracy with both hands on the item.  When I was a bit older and I was allowed, I would drill holes into scrap wood.  It was the tool that impressed me more than any other. His grinder was attached to the work table, a grinding wheel on one end and a wire brush on the other end.  We would play with his chain hoist when allowed, stepping on the hook and raising ourselves a few feet off the floor and back down again.  He rarely allowed young kids to do much in 'the shop'.  (Remember, I was younger than most of my siblings and although my older brothers worked in the shop, I wasn't old enough to truly do that type of work.)

On the joists, below the rafters, he had built a platform of wood that was about 10' above the concrete floor.  I loved to be allowed to go up to this area and see the wonderful things stored there.  I never understood what the tools or other bits and pieces stored there actually were, but they were wonderful.  What made them the most wonderful was the fact that I had permission to go up the ladder and see them, whatever they were.  This was a rare privilege.  Daddy was usually too busy to 'babysit' and watch to be sure we weren't doing something dangerous.  He had work to do.   If we took a step to far, it was a long way down to a concrete floor.  If we knocked something down, it could be damaged beyond repair.  He had to know we wouldn't fall when he gave us permission to go up.  He would say "no" when we asked to do things like this and when he said "no", that was it.  We didn't ask again.  We knew better than that.  And if Daddy said no, we didn't ask Mother.  If Mother said no, we didn't ask Daddy.  We knew that there would be consequences that we wouldn't like very much, to say the least. 

He had a sign in his shop that I'd mull over nearly every time I saw it.  It became a part of my inner being.  It read, "the hurrier I go, the behinder I get".  Quite often, when I hurried through something, I'd have to start all over.  It was a good lesson and a good reminder, nailed up on the wall.  

There were at least 10 of us (Mother, Daddy, and us kids) living at the house for some of the years I spent growing up.  The 10 of us shared one bathroom.  Daddy finally built a toilet room that opened into to the shop.  It was wonderful for those of us kids who 'couldn't wait' while someone was taking a bath.  It was also wonderful for anyone working in the shop, for us kids playing outside, and for the field hands.  People with muddy feet tracking through Mother's clean house to use our family bathroom wasn't a good option.  She sure didn't mind us keeping our dirt outside although we didn't use the shop 'bathroom' often.  Many of the field hands were strangers.  With children and personal belongings, even in those days, strangers tramping through the house wasn't comfortable to anyone. Two dozen pairs of muddy shoes are rarely welcome in anyone's house, strangers or not!

On the floor in the back corner is a box.  Harold is sitting inside the box.

In the left back corner of the shop was a room that was encased in hardware cloth.  In this room Daddy stored his seed peanuts, saved from one year's crop to plant the next year.  Mice and rats thought it made a dandy pantry for them.  The hardware cloth helped keep them out.  Dogs and cats had free range in the shop, helping keep the rodent population down and preserving the seed peanuts.  Sometimes we'd find a mouse nest and the little naked pink mice were terribly ugly/cute.  I always wanted to keep them.  I never was allowed to do so. When Daddy had the seed room door open, it was another wonderful magic world.  It only had croker bags of peanuts, piled one on top of the other, but any area that we were never allowed to see into was magical when the door was opened.  Every so often a hamper with a rattlesnake would be sitting on top of the croker sacks, waiting for Daddy to have a break in work so he could take us to Ross Allen's Reptile Show at Silver Springs.

The house is to the left. The shop is in the center of the photo.

George working on a tractor in the shop as part of an FFA project.

Many years later, the shop shows its age.  It was eventually torn down.

When we were older teens, we were allowed in the shop without asking for permission. It was understood that if we used a tool, we put it back where it belonged. If we made a mess, we cleaned it up.  We didn't use things that Daddy might need later.  Scrap wood was OK to play with but if we thought there was a chance that Daddy would need it, we would ask permission before we did anything with it.

Years and years later, after we had families of our own, Sandra and I built a fish cleaning table for Daddy.  He had a good laugh when we all realized that I had measured the legs wrong and one side was a few inches higher than the other.  You'd think we had never seen a saw before in our lives!

Living on a farm, watching brothers and Daddy work on machinery and build things in the shop, I knew things that many girls didn't know.  In my senior year of high school, I took DCT (Diversified Career Technology).  During the long morning class that our teacher rarely attended, we students played around.  I could out arm wrestle most of the boys simply because we did a good bit of heavy work on the farm. Believe me, they tried to beat me!  Being out arm wrestled by a little scrap of a 117 pound girl wasn't the brightest part of their day.  It wasn't long before they decided that arm-wrestling wasn't the best way (for their ego) to spend a half-hour in DCT class.  In mechanical aptitude tests, I scored about the highest in the class.  It was always fun to hear the boys complain when they were wrong and I had the right answer to these type questions; "If gear A is turning clockwise, what direction is gear F turning?"  Watching farm equipment made the answer to that question automatic, as automatic as the answer to 'does rain fall up or down'.  Growing up on a farm and hanging out in Daddy's shop had it's advantages.

Years after I married Stephen and moved out of the house, I realized how much I had learned in Daddy's shop.