Monday, January 31, 2011

Driving the tractor at 3 years old. (by Lila Jane Lee)

Driving the tractor at 3 years old.

My Daddy had me driving the tractor when I was three. Mother didn’t like the idea at all; she was afraid I would get hurt or fall off the tractor. I would drive it with my hands until I got tired and then would use my feet. I would drive it from one peanut hay stack to another one. Sometimes Daddy would have to take me off the tractor and put me in the cab of the truck to take a nape; then it was driving again. If a man did that this day and time, he would be jailed for child abuse. We farm girls all had to work on the farm and that is the reason we know how to work today. When I got older I got to do the harrowing, but never was allowed to plant the peanuts, as those rows had to be straight as an arrow.

Daddy would throw the peanut vines into the peanut picker and Mr. Bob would fill the sacks and sew them up. It was a lot of work, but fun work. I loved going to the plant to sell the peanuts with Daddy. They would stick a big tub into the peanuts and check for dryness. The dryer they were the better the price would be.

Some people wonder why I take such long steps today; I was a Daddy’s girl and he was 6ft 2inches. He would not slow down for me, so I took long steps and fast ones to keep up with him. I use to tease Daddy and tell him when my brother came along, he, “Daddy” dropped me like a hot potato, he would let me know right off that was not so.

(Written by Lila Jane Lee)

Lila Jane and Aunt Hazel
(My great-aunt, Lila Jane's aunt)

Bob Kimsey

Lila Jane Lee's Snake Memories

(Lila Jane sent her snake memories and gave me permission to share them!  On a farm, the gals can drive a tractor too.  The great thing about growing up as a Lee farm kid was that it didn't occur to us gals that we couldn't do what many people consider mens work.  It was all the part of a normal day.  The account below is written by Lila Jane.  Lila Jane is Great Uncle Nobel's daughter, the same age as my oldest siblings.  )

I was harrowing one day in front of our house and a big rattle snake was on the ground in front of the tractor. I stopped the tractor and got up in the seat and yelled rattle snake and Daddy came running. He caught the snake and put it in the basket. The next day he gave me $5.00 and I asked him what that was for. He told me it was for the loudest yeller on the farm. I for one hate snakes of any kind.

He sold all his snakes to Ross Allen. He started to get off the tractor in the field and looked back and there was a big one there, if he has not looked back he would have stepped right on the snake. He didn't have anything with him, so ran the tractor tire over the snake and walked to the house to get a hamper.

(Side note: You can run over a snake without doing any damage to it.  In soft dirt, a tractor could sit on a snake for a long time without harming it.)

Lila Jane

Grandma Daisy, Uncle Nobel, Aunt Lucy, Lila Jane, CK

Lila Jane holding me

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Donald's Cow Memories

Donald's Cow Memories - written by Donald

On the farm we had a few cows and some hogs at times. Most every winter Daddy would buy some calves to fatten on the winter rye.  Also there were feeder pigs that he would get in the fall to clean up the peanuts that the combine left.

Daddy would get a broker to buy the calves for the winter and most of the time they would buy half Brahma calves whose eyes was about 4 inches apart. A half Brahma would gain good weight on the rye and it was a good yearling to sell to the stock yards in the spring. The calves would be bought about 300lbs and would double there weight during the winter on the rye. But they were wild as Jack Rabbits” and would give you a look like “if you mess with me I will run you over and then jump every fence I see” and they would some times. The “fun” would be in the spring when it would be time to get those half-breed idiots in the cattle pens and onto the trucks to head back to the market. 

A week or so before time to pin the cattle in the spring Daddy would buy some sweet feed and get the yearlings used to eating in the cattle lot.  He would cut off all water except the cattle trough in the lot. The yearlings would come in to eat and drink but I think that their eyes would get closer together every time they came in.

We would work on the pens getting the top boards nailed tight and some times putting them higher.  Every year the pens would get higher and higher, the fence around the cattle lot would get more barb wire and he would replace all the bad boards. But each year some of the cattle would jump or just run through the fence.

Old tractor shed and cow pen 

Cow pen and cattle chute (in the middle) with new shop on the right

When the yearling would finally get up the cattle chute with the truck ready to load it would still be more “fun” to get them on the truck.  The first one would go on but when the next ones would hear the first yearling’s hooves on the truck deck, that sound would stop all the rest in their tracks.

Daddy and the truck driver would push, yell and some times use a cattle prod to get them moving. 

One year when we were loading before daylight (as usual) there was one big steer that was not going to go up the chute no matter how much pushing we did and used the cattle prod till the battery was going dead. The steer was standing all four feet out and head down, then blow hard and jerk his head up “bbbaaaaa” every time the cattle prod was run down his back. We had an extension cord stretched from the tractor shed with a trouble light so we could see (there was no lights in the pens). We had the pick-up’s head lights shining but with all the boards it did not get much light in the pens.  Daddy asks one of us to pull the extension cord out of the plug in the tractor shed. Then it was real dark but Daddy went over to the headlights and cut the end off of the electoral cord, then he stretched the two wires about three inches apart and cut the insulation off about an inch back.  Then Daddy said “plug it back in”.  When Daddy run the bare wire’s with 110V down the yearling
back he made a very loud “BrBrBrBrAAAAAAAAAA” and jumped up the chute and all the way to the front of the truck.  Don’t think that the hooves touched down more that once or twice.

One time Daddy was working with the cattle one of the steers kicked him in the forehead. Daddy wore that hove print on his head for several days.

There was one of the brood cows that would always try to get you. She would come across the field or pens just to see you climb or jump the fence.  But she every year she had a good calf that bought a very good price so Daddy put up with her but warned us kids about getting to close.  Then one year when we were working the cattle she got Daddy in back of a gate and she tried her best to gore him, she would rake her horns up and down the gate, back up a few feet and hit the gate again and again. Soon some one got her attention and Daddy got over the fence. Daddy was black and blue for some time and I think that a few ribs were broken. The next sale she was gone.

Every year Daddy and Uncle Nobel would always split the cost of raising a steer to butcher for the convention. Uncle Noble did not have pasture for cows so the steer would stay on our farm.  To us little kids that was the convention cow.

When I was young there was a milk cow (always a Jersey) and sometimes I got to help. Later the milk was cheaper to buy than the cost to keep a milk cow.  There was a large stainless-steel bucket for Daddy or one of the older brothers and there were one or two little stainless-steel buckets for us little boys. We would go and get to milk one side while Daddy filled the big bucket on the other side. Daddy showed us how to spin a bucket over his head while not spilling the milk. But the first few times I tried it there was milk on the ground and my head. I learned about gravity and centrificial-force.The milk was put in the frig poured on cereal and drank with no pasteurization and sometimes Mother made butter.  But Mother never learned to milk a cow. She said that if she ever started milking Daddy would go to work and leave the milking to her. One of my older brothers would squirt anyone who was near with milk and would squirt milk in the dog’s mouth as they would gather by his side waiting for the treat of warm fresh milk.

When Daddy was young he shared the chore of milking the cows for his Dad. Granddad always make whoever milked the cows feed the farm cats some milk. Daddy would have to keep all the dogs away so the cats could have time to drink.  Daddy got tired of that chore also so he put the pan for the cats on a box and put a wire from the spark plug (water pump) in the pan. The cats would jump up on the box and drink that milk but the dog would walk up and lap the milk with his tongue and his paws on the ground (Daddy made sure the ground was wet). Needles to say the dogs did not steal milk from the cats with the pump motor running.

Donald's Rattlesnake Memories

(Donald's rattlesnake memories, written by Donald.)

Growing up on a farm in Central Florida and plowing fields for other farmers we saw a lot of wild critters.

There was a place called “Ross Allen's Reptile Institute” ( in Silver Springs where you could take Rattlesnakes and sell them. Mother loved to take the snakes in as she and us kids got in free to see the Springs and also got $5 for each snake in the 50,s and early 60,s. (later the price went up)  Mother would always put the money to good use as money was always needed on the farm.

Daddy would catch the rattlesnake's put them in a bean hamper and keep the hamper in the seed room. The “seed room” was a small room in back of the shop that was wrapped in screen to keep the rats out. If there was a snake in the room there was a lock on the door.

Daddy made a snake hook ( 3' of 1/2” iron pipe with a steel hook wielded on the end), but he would catch them with any thing handy, hoe, pitchfork or tree limb.

I can remember every rattlesnake I ever found. Something about the triangle head, silted eyes, flickering tong, diamond marked skin and the rattle they made seem to burn a spot in your memory. When we were little Daddy was the catcher later all of us boys would catch them.

All the neighbors knew that Daddy would take the rattlesnake and would tell him where they had seen a snake or some would bring them over.

Daddy use to pin the snake head down and pick up the rattlesnake's with his hands but that come to a screeching halt when he was showing us boys the snakes fangs and how the poison came out. The snake's venom got squirted in Daddy's eye's. Mother fussed just a little bit at Daddy over that one.

When we had company or relatives over we would show off any rattlesnake that we had. Daddy or one of my older brothers would get a snake out, dump him on the ground in front of the shop. Then we would have a snake show. Some time's we would blow up a balloon and the snake would strike it making a loud pop.

After school we would run in the front door of the house drop our book's then out the back door to the shop to see what Daddy was doing. One day my oldest brother George ran out the back door jumping the steps and out to the shop. When he came back there was a rattlesnake on the steps. Good thing he jumped that day.

One day a Otis a man from East Reddick came in the yard blowing his car horn. Daddy was in the shop with some of us boys and when we got to the car the man was shaking. Otis was picking oranges and some of the other men picking with him found the snake and put it in a bag in the back of his car. Otis gave Daddy the keys to the trunk, when Daddy got the snake from the car and dumped him out on the ground we heard a noise. We turned around to see what was going on, Otis was on the top of his car and would not come down till Daddy put the snake in a hamper.

Once Daddy was going some where in the car when he found a snake. There was nothing in the car to put the snake in so Daddy placed the rattlesnake in the trunk. After Daddy got home he could not find the snake, after a long search the rattlesnake was found under the drivers seat. The snake found a hole in the panel and got out of the trunk. That ended placing the snakes loose in the car.

Mother and some of us kids were working in a peanut field at the Raisers farm, when some one found a rattlesnake Daddy was combining peanuts so he had a sack. Daddy had Mother hold the sack and he was going to put the snake in with a pitchfork. Every time Daddy got the snake near Mother she would throw the sack at the snake. Daddy soon gave up and held the sack while Mother put the snake in the bag.

The heaviest one we caught was in Lowell, I was sent to a quail farm to disk and plant some crops for the quail. When I got to the farm I backed the tractor up to a quail feeder in the woods to wait for Daddy to show me what to do. I had never seen a quail feeder before so I walked back over the disk jumped down near the feeder and when I heard the rattlesnake I levitated back to the tractor seat. That one was not but 4' long but his body was over 7” wide and his head was 4” wide. The snake hook would not fit him.

Daddy use to bank at Florida First National Bank in Ocala. It was on the square with a drive up exterior teller on the street (It was a metal box with mirrors in it so you could see the lady in the bank.) There was always a guard there and he loved to talk. When Daddy would pull up the guard would always come up, prop his right foot on the step on the pick-up truck , rest his right arm on the truck bed and talk and talk till Daddy was blue in the face. You could not drive off with the guard on the truck. The guard did that one day when Daddy had a rattlesnake in a hamper right under the guard right arm. Daddy said “don't think you should do that there is a rattlesnake in the back of the truck”. The guard laughed and did not stop talking. When Daddy reached back between the guard and the cab of the truck and hit the hamper. When the snake started rattling the guard started moving. The guard never rested his foot on Daddy's truck again. When the guard saw Daddy or Mother coming up he would start backing up. He would talk leaning up on the bank, across the side walk, when Daddy got his deposit slip he would wave and off he would go.

One day in the 40's Daddy and Uncle Hubert were looking for hogs across the road from the house when they found two snakes, Uncle Hubert was telling Daddy about a snake that he was about to step on and there was another one under the log that Uncle Hubert was standing on. With Uncle Hubert watching the snakes Daddy went back to the house to get two bean hampers to put them in. Another $10.00 Daddy said that Mother bought a lot of diapers and socks with the rattlesnake money.

I was working at a new neighbor's (Doc) farm when I found a very big snake but when I went to the truck to get some thing to put it in the Doc drove up in his truck. He ask what I was looking for, when I told him a sack or some thing to put a rattlesnake in, Doc jumped back in his truck. After telling him about Ross Allens and selling the snakes he reached for the gun rack grabbed a shot gun and emptied in on the poor snake, then he reached in his wallet and gave me $20 and drove off.

The last snake was caught by Stanley and me. We were spreading fertilizer for “Uncle Billy” and found a 5' one Stanley and several of his friends took it to Ross Allens.

Donald and Edith Ellen

The Clorox Bottle

Spending the day on a tractor is thirsty work.  Plowing, harrowing, mowing, planting, discing, whatever; the sun is hot and the day is long.  The day is especially long if the driver is on the tractor from 12 - 16 hours per day.  

Daddy and my brothers either packed a lunch or Mother took it to them.  A great deal of her time was spent driving to the fields where they were working.  She would take them more diesel, tools, parts, food, or whatever they'd need that day.  Sometimes Daddy would be in a field in another county while one of my brothers would be 40 or more miles away.  Mother did a good bit of driving back and forth.

Daddy was glad for custom farming jobs.  A farmer would need tractor work and Daddy would take the job.  Whether it was plowing, planting, or spreading hay, it put food on the table.  After all, farming was not the most profitable business in the world.   

But no matter, Daddy always provided for us.  We always had good clothes and never went hungry.  As far as we girls went, Mother made most of our clothes when we were growing up.  The house had heat in the winter.  We worked and we had fun.  We always had a bicycle to ride.  Growing up in the country with a farm on a 'hard road', a bicycle was an essential. But bicycles are another story.  So is Mother's sewing expertise.

Donald and Stanley

Once plastic bottles and jugs became popular, our freezer always had a Clorox bottle or two in it.  Oh yes, I know, bleach bottles should never be reused for anything.  They should be disposed of properly.  But Mother would take off the label and wash them out extremely well before she filled them with water.  She would place them in the freezer until they became a solid block of ice inside.

When Daddy or one of the boys headed out for the day, they would take one frozen bottle with them.  Hooked within reach on the tractor, the ice melted just fast enough for the driver to have plenty of water to drink.  In the middle of the summer, if the water wasn't frozen it would become too hot to drink.

Mother always knew the short cuts to make things last longer and do a better job.  She was into recycling and reusing before the phrase was hardly invented!

(Not that I'm encouraging anyone to reuse bleach bottles in this way.  For us, though, it made perfect sense.)

Saturday, January 29, 2011

... carrying them one by one around the side of the shop ...

Harold, Sandra, and Donald with puppies.

One of the photos I most regret not having is one of Spot, MY dog.  At least I considered her my dog, whether anyone else agreed or not.   Spot and Dot, who I assume were sisters, would have puppies at the same time.  Spot would have hers in the back of Daddy's shop and Dot would have hers under the big mower.

Spot and Dot would carry their puppies from one location to another when they wanted to move.  They'd grasp a puppy by the scruff of the neck and, head lifted high, carry it to the desired location.

We could watch Spot steal Dot's puppies, carrying them one by one around the side of the shop, putting it in with her puppies.  Well, we assume her puppies. As we watched, Dot was stealing Spot's puppies, carrying them one by one out to the mower. Unless we watched them being born and marked them all, we wouldn't be able to tell which puppy belonged to which dog.  They traded back and forth often.

Donald with puppies

I spent many hours with Spot. She must have been tired of me.  With all us young'uns around, she had plenty of loving.  I have no idea why Spot was so special.  Dot was so much like her.

It was so long ago that I can't be sure, but the dog in the background was probably either Spot or Dot.  

One day I called and called and Spot wouldn't come. I looked and looked but I couldn't find her.  After a long time searching, I asked others if they had seen Spot.  No one would say they saw her. I would ask Daddy, Mother, brothers, and sisters.  All replied that they hadn't seen her recently.  For a couple of weeks, I'd go out every day, looking and calling for Spot.  Eventually they told me that Spot had ran out from behind the tractor shed just when someone was driving the tractor around the end.  Neither could see the other and Spot was killed by the tractor.  

Sandra and Stanley with puppies

My parents never lied (we always called it 'told a story') but this was the closest they came.  I'm sure they hoped I'd forget about Spot and wouldn't have to tell me about her death.  'Recently' obviously could mean 'in the last half-hour!  I don't remember ever missing an animal as much as I did Spot.

Forget the birthday girl (my 9th).  Forget the presents.  Forget the kids.  See the slide?  At one time THAT slide was probably the most used slide outside of a city park!

Not only did Mother and Daddy have 8 children, they adopted one niece and another niece lived with them for a few years after Mother's sister passed away.  As hard times hit relatives, Mother and Daddy realized that they were blessed to have a home and was glad to have entire families move into our 6 bedroom house.  I never knew the difference.  I simply had more people to play with.  Six bedrooms seem like a lot of bedrooms, but with so many children and one bedroom being essentially a large upstairs hall that opened into another bedroom, I am sure it did get crowded.  Because so many of us were 'slide age', the slide has a workout.  (I won't talk about the fact that we had just one bathroom!)

We monkey brats (as Daddy always called us with a big grin on his face) used that slide.  Our favorite addition to the slide was a water hose.  On a hot summer day, the metal slide could make us sit up and take notice fast.   In hot summers, the water hose was essential if we wanted to use the slide. The hose would be hooked to the top, running water down the metal slide.  

At the bottom of the slide was a little dip in the sand where feet hit the ground hundreds of times.  When the water hose was added, the little dip in the sand become a little pond, the dip growing a bit larger as we hit the bottom and splashed out water and dirt, again and again.

We girls would wear either sun suits or swim suits as we impatiently waited our turns when the water hose was turned on.  Before long, we were covered more in mud than cloth.

I've wondered how many band-aids were used to cover scrapes, burns, and cuts from sliding down that slide.  

When we weren't sliding, the slide didn't always sit alone.  It seemed like we always had puppies and kittens at the farm.  Cats and dogs were wonderful at helping keep the mice and rat population a little under control.  

Jean with mommy cat and a few kittens

Puppies and kittens had a turn on the slide. Not that they asked and not that we necessarily thought they'd like a turn.  But they had turns, like it or not!

Sure enough, there were a dozen or more holes ...

Great Uncle Eddie and Great Aunt Evelyn had a jazzy car.  They had a nice house.  Uncle Eddie built boats; NICE boats.  His boats had beautiful woodwork, natural wood, crafted from a tree into absolute beauty.

Although he was Great Uncle Eddie, we always called him Uncle Eddie.  He was Mother's uncle.

Uncle Eddie was an artist when he was handling his tools and wood. Aunt Evelyn would often show us tables and other items Uncle Eddie built her.  One table was made of tiny squares of wood, each about an inch square.  The squares fit perfectly next to each other as if the tree grew that way.  The table could only have been built by a master wood worker.

When we visited, Aunt Evelyn would always show us the new things Uncle Eddie built her since we were there last.  She knew Mother loved to see them.

One day when we arrived, we sat and visited as always.  We children were taught to sit quietly while adults talked.  While Mother, Uncle Eddie, and Aunt Evelyn talked, we sat in the chairs and couches and waited, knowing that after a while we would be able to go outside for a few minutes.

After the adults had caught up on the news of all the relatives, Uncle Eddie went out to his work shop.  Aunt Evelyn took Mother and I around her house to show us her new soffits, her latest pride and joy.  As a child, I had no idea what a soffit was.  It was just the area under the roof, outside, that stuck out from the house.  Aunt Evelyn was so proud of her new soffits.  I normally tuned out what they were saying while I tagged along but this time Aunt Evelyn caught my attention as she told the story of her new soffits.

She had been telling Uncle Eddie that she wanted new soffits.  She didn't like what was there.  I'm not sure why; stained, dirty, not the material she wanted them, I'm not sure.  But she kept after Uncle Eddie for new sofffits.  He told her that they were fine and didn't need replacing.  The next day, she took him back out to show him that holes had developed in them.  Sure enough, there were a dozen or more holes, about two inches across, spread out under the soffits.  Aunt Evelyn had taken the broom and poked holes in the soffit. She was so proud of herself.

I found this an interesting window into their marriage.  I couldn't imagine Uncle Eddie not being mad but they must have had a very special relationship!

Friday, January 28, 2011

... pull out a gopher leg, and a coin would fall into his hand.

Gopher holes are part of the landscape in central and north Florida.  I was nearly grown before I realized that our 'gophers' or 'gopher turtles' are really better known as 'tortoises' to many people.  For me, these holes were made by 'gophers' or 'turtles'.  

When startled, a gopher will draw its head into its shell and pull all four legs tight to the shell. It takes a good bit of strength to pull a leg away from the shell.  As a child, I could only move the leg a little bit and it would snap right back in place.  

We kids would find a gopher and take it home, putting it into the old dry concrete block above ground pool or something else large where it had room to wander but couldn't escape.  We'd take the gopher food and water, keeping it for a few days before we let it go again. 

The small dry pool, many years later.

Gophers were fun.  We found them often.  Some were fairly small while others were 'big ones'. At least they were big to a little girl who picked them up and carried them around.  Any one that we called a 'big one' was always  large and strong enough to carry a 2 year old child standing on its back, balanced by an adult's hands, for a short distance.  Of course, first the gopher had to stick its head back out of its shell and began to walk again for that to happen. They startled easy.  

 David Taylor, Daddy's right hand man, enjoyed gophers in a different way. David and his family enjoyed eating gophers.  (We tried a fresh water turtle after Stephen and I were married. None of us liked the turtle.  Stephen used to date a girl whose family ate possum.  We never tried that meal at all.)

(left) David Taylor and some of his family at one of our family gatherings, many years later
(right sitting) Granddaddy Waddie Lee, (leaning over) Daddy, (standing) Uncle Charles, Daddy's brother

David told me that he'd pay me for any big gophers I'd catch for him.  Oh boy, I was ready to go! I could find a lot of them!  He paid me according to the size.  Many were just too small and he would let them go again. But he'd pay me from 15 cents to 50 cents per gopher that was large enough to become a meal for his family.  

At first he would simply look at the gopher, reach into his pocket, pull out some change, and hand me the amount it was worth to him.  After he had bought several gophers, he changed his approach.  The next time he bent and picked it up and pulled out its legs one by one, looking under each one in turn.  He turned the conversation (such as the conversation could be between a 6 year old girl and a grown man) to how the gopher itself paid me.  This caught my complete attention.  HOW did the gopher pay me?  I was full of questions.  David proceeded to show me.  He'd cup one hand under the leg area, pull out a gopher leg with the other hand, and a coin would fall into his cupped hand. I was amazed.  He'd do this with each leg, then hand me the coins.  

Oh, this was exciting!  I told Mother, Daddy, my brothers and sisters, everyone who would listen. Some showed amazement too, some scoffed, some laughed at me, some told me that I was being stupid.  It didn't matter. David showed me and I saw him do it.  I KNEW it was true.

I stayed enthralled.  Each time I caught a gopher, I'd pull and tug.  But when I did have enough strength to pull the leg out any, it would snap back in too quickly for me to look under it.  I'd flip the gopher on its back and try it again.  All four legs one by one, partly out then it would snap back in, partly out, then in, over and over and over.  It was a real tug-of-war.  But I was a determined little girl.  I wanted to find that money MYSELF. I would fight with the gopher for a long time before giving up and putting it in the dry block pool to wait for David to come in from the field or come from his home.  Each time,  I told David that I couldn't find the money under its legs and each time he would patiently and slowly show me how simple it was.  He would gently pull out a leg and presto, there fell a coin into his hand.  Four legs equaled four coins.  All four coins were for me!

I don't know how many gophers it was before I found out that David was teasing me.  My parents had gone along the teasing, expressing amazement to me, saying they'd never seen anything like that!  It never occurred to me that Mother and Daddy were never there when I gave the gopher to David.  I'm sure their expressions would have given the whole thing away.  

It was fun having parents that knew when to tease, when to go along with teasing, and when teasing wasn't appropriate.  It was an honor to know David Taylor.

A good grasp on the rope and a big jump sent them flying from the roof ...

Mother and Daddy's grandchildren enjoy something we all enjoyed growing up; swings!  Tire swings, swing set swings, and croker sack swings.  I especially liked croker sack swings.  

I'd grab the bag and back up as far as I could then run forward as fast as I could.  With both hands holding the rope above the knot that held the bag, when I had run as far as I could I'd pull with both arms, jump into the air, and throw my legs around the bag.  Back and forth, back and forth; it would go in many directions.  We could twist it round and round, round and round, till it was almost too high to lift ourselves onto.  Then as the rope straightened back up, we'd spin and spin until we were dizzy.

Daddy grew acres and acres of peanuts each year.  When he combined the dry peanuts, they went into croker sacks, a job that fascinated me.  I loved to watch the guys keep up with the peanuts.  They came down a chute that divided into two openings.  A sack was hung over each opening.  When one bag filled, a flap was flipped and the peanuts would then go into the second bag.  While the second bag was filling, someone had to tie off the first bag, kick it off the combine, and hang another bag.  As soon as that was done, it was time to flip the lever and do it all over again.  Someone went through the field later with a truck, picking up the filled bags.  

When a hole was in the bag, too big to repair, the bag made good stuffing for a croker sack swing.

An empty crocker sack would be stuffed with other croker sacks or other material.  The top would be tied and hung from a limb.  It was easy to swing on it.  

One year Donald and Harold had tied a swing to the super tall oak trees by the house.  One would go onto the roof and walk to the edge.  No, not the lower roof over the porch. They were at the higher roof, to the side of the house.  The other would grab the swing and with a mighty heave, throw it up to the brother on the roof.  A good grasp on the rope and a big jump sent them flying from the roof, higher than any swing I had ever seen.

The arrow to the left shows the roof where they stood to jump.  The arrow to the right shows about where the swing was tied.

As a little sister wearing a skirt, I was enthralled but knew I would not be allowed to swing by jumping off the roof.  One day Mother and Daddy surprised me by telling me I could swing from the roof too.  With them standing by on the ground and one of my brothers on the roof, I was allowed to go onto the roof and jump off.  The oak tree was awfully close as the swing went past it, high up into the air.  This was fantastic!  I'm not sure how many times they allowed me to jump.  It wasn't enough for me, I remember that, but they were all very patient, allowing me to take many turns with them.  

That particular day is the very day I had the most fun on a swing, ever.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

... and watch the rattlesnakes pop balloons.

Tractors were always a part of our lives.  Green John Deere tractors were normally either in the field or in Daddy's shop being greased or repaired. Daddy always had tractors going.

Sometimes in the spring, when Daddy needed the tractors in our fields and his custom farming customers needed the tractors in their fields too, both tractors were going 24 hours a day for several days per week.  Donald, Harold, and Daddy would take turns driving them, one of them at home sleeping while the other two were out on tractors.  

One of the fun things we did was visit Silver Springs.  We normally only saw Ross Allen's reptile show and portion of Silver Springs.  

George at Silver Springs

With 8 children at home, money for fun things like Silver Springs wasn't anywhere to be found.  Just putting food on the table, clothes on us kids, and buying the other necessities of life took all the money we made, leaving nothing for Silver Springs.
Jean and Edith at Silver Springs in 1960

Daddy and my older brothers would often keep a bushel basket and lid on the tractor they were on.  When they saw a rattlesnake, off the tractor they'd go, they'd capture the snake, and put it in the bushel basket.  The basket would be hooked back on the tractor.  None of them were even bitten by a rattlesnake.  (Stanley reminded me about the time when a rattlesnake spat in Daddy's eyes and that Daddy had a twitch for a days afterward.)  When they came home in the evening, the basket would go into the seed room in the shop until we had free time.  Rattlesnakes live for months without food so feeding it wasn't a problem.

As soon as Daddy had free time, we'd all pile into the car and head to Silver Springs.  It may be weeks or a couple of months after the snake was caught, but off we'd go.  Every time Daddy took Ross Allen a rattlesnake, we could all go in free.  We'd watch them put alligators to sleep, watch Ross Allen milk rattlesnakes of their venom, and watch the rattlesnakes pop balloons.

Imagine!  Free entry for 2 adults and a minimum of 8 young'uns in exchange for one rattlesnake.

Shhhh, Daddy's .....

We saw Mother and Daddy reading the Bible often.  One of my favorite photos is this one.  I am sitting in Daddy's lap, giggling, while he is intently reading his Bible.  

We saw Daddy praying too.  Daddy always gave thanks to God for our food, every meal we ate.  To eat without praying would have been as odd as seeing Daddy fly like a bird.  Other than before each meal, the only time we heard or saw Daddy or Mother praying was in church meeting.  In meeting, everyone would take turns praying.  Praying and reading the Bible was a normal part of our life.  

The reason we didn't see them praying at other times is that they prayed behind this closed door at night, kneeling beside their bed before they went to sleep.

In this photo, Daddy is holding me, a newborn baby.  Behind him is his desk and, more important, Mother and Daddy's bedroom door.  

Do you see that door?  At night it was the most important, the most comforting, the best door in the entire house.  You'd not guess from looking at it.  It looked like all the other doors.  

Behind that one specific plain door was the solution to so many problems! Leg aches hit at night were a common pain for me.  I'd go knock on the door and Mother would come out, take me back to my bed, and rub my legs until I fell back to sleep.  Nightmares and bad dreams sent me to their door.  Again, Mother would come out, take me back to my room, tuck me in, and I'd contentedly go back to sleep.  I would feel sick, be throwing up, have a fever, and I'd head for that door, sometimes crying and always knocking.

Mother always came to the door.  We never expected Daddy to come to the door.  It was natural to us to see Mother in her housecoat open the door and slip out.  Daddy took care of other problems at night, especially those that meant going out into the cold. Mother took care of us young'uns at night.  

If we went and knocked on their door shortly after they went in their room and closed the door, Mother would come to the door with a "Shhhh, Daddy's praying" and close the door again, leaving us waiting.  We knew she'd be back.  Later we realized that she was grabbing her housecoat before coming out.  If Daddy wasn't praying, she'd grab her housecoat first.  To her, stopping the knocking immediately was extremely important if Daddy was praying.

Then off we'd go to my room, she would take care of my needs, then off she'd go back to her room. For her to say "Daddy's praying" was as normal as if she'd said, "Daddy's sleeping".

After we had children of our own I realized the obvious that never occurred to me before.  I interrupted HER prayers dozens of times per year.  She never mentioned that fact.  She always patiently took care of me before going back to her room to finish her prayers before going to sleep.

It is fun to discover the things that others did for me, like Mother and Daddy, that I didn't realize until much later.  If they ever thought about it, they knew I'd realize it one day.  It probably made them smile.

I leaned over to take off her glasses and lay them down beside her.

I look at old photos and wish I could remember some of the people I see. Grandma Daisy Lee's smile tells me that I missed knowing someone special.

Although I don't remember her, she knew me when I was young.  Here, Grandma Daisy is holding me and George is standing in the background.

What I do remember is a funeral in Great Uncle Noble's back yard.  Uncle Noble's back yard was also Grandma Daisy's back yard.  I remember Daddy carrying me past an open casket, with Grandmother inside.  But as I do research, I find all the photos of Grandma Daisy shows a heavier face than I remembered in the casket.  How could it have been her when I have a mental image of a thin face when her face was fuller?  I have been researching photos to see if I can find a face that matches my memory.

The memory is vivid.  I understood death.  After all, I lived on a farm.  Even at 3, I had seen our cats and dogs kill animals and eat them.  I had seen other dead animals.  

From Daddy's arms I looked down into the casket and saw Grandma lying there with her glasses on and eyes closed.  This struck me as odd.  People simply do not need glasses when their eyes are closed.  I leaned over to take off her glasses and lay them down beside her. As I leaned over and down, reaching for her glasses, Daddy immediately tightened his hold.  This pulled me back upright in his arms.  He did a quiet, "No, shhh".  

Years later I asked Daddy and Mother about the funeral.  They didn't remember the incident, probably because to Daddy I was just leaning,  He probably wasn't even aware that I was reaching.  As a parent, I know that when a child leans over, the reflex is to tighten grip immediately and Daddy probably pulled me upright before he was even aware that I was reaching.  But when I asked them questions many years later, they assured me that Grandma Daisy died when I was 3, so it had to be her funeral I remembered.

What puzzled me was that Grandma Daisy's photos are of a woman with a plump face.  Was it really Grandma Daisy that I remember.

Then I found this photo.  Yes, it was Grandma Daisy!  Her face is thinner here, just two years before she died.  

Left to right: Grandma Daisy, (Great) Uncle Noble, (Great) Aunt Lucy, Lila Jane, and CK Lee.
My Aunt Bertie, her granddaughter and my Daddy's sister, tells me that Grandma Daisy died in 1959.  

All that was left was a cloud of dust ...

.... leaving a cloud of dust behind ...

At the far end of the pond is the irrigation dock.  There is a square hole in the top end of the dock, where pipes went down into the water to pump out water for the crops.  Because of the amount of fish in the pond, the water had to be drawn from an area where fish couldn't swim.

The photo below is the end view of the dock, when the pond was pretty dry.  It shows where the hole (normally under water) in the dock opened to the pond itself.  A metal mesh was attached to a long metal rod that went from the top of the dock to cover this hole.  When water was pumped out of the dock, water would go into this hole.  Fish couldn't be drawn into the hole and into the irrigation pipes.  A fish in the pipe would stop the sprinkler and we'd lose valuable time clearing out the pipes.  

The hole that was normally under water was fairly large.  Plenty large enough for a thin hard-working farm boy to fit through.

Donald and Harold were working on the dock one way, working with the irrigation.  They had the wire mesh off the hole.  The pond was full of water.  No one could see the hole. The pond was as full as in the first photo.

Some of the young field hands had stopped work and was leaning on a nearby fence watching my brothers work.  Finally, Donald went into the water at the top of the dock and out the hole in the bottom.  He came to the surface on the opposite side of the dock where he couldn't be seen. 

The boys leaning on the fence were watching.  They finally asked my brother that was still on the dock where the other one went.  He looked down in to the hole, around the pond, and said, "I don't know; maybe the gators got him".  Then he kept on working.

All that was left was a cloud of dust as the field hands decided that it was time to go back to work ...

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Black and white and noise all over!

Black and white and noise all over!

Our piano was a staple of life.  It was as necessary as a sofa or a dining room table.  Every one of us young'uns took piano lessons.  I well remember my piano lessons but I don't remember much about the others taking lessons.  (I'm on the horse.)

Mother had told me the story of how I had colic as a baby.  She said that she would lay me down, crying, under the piano.  As long as she practiced the piano, I'd sleep and not cry, hours at a time.  She was always so disappointed that even with all that practice, she couldn't play the piano at all.  I don't remember ever hearing her play a song on the piano although I'm sure my brothers and sisters have clear memories of her at the piano.

The year before Daddy died, I heard a hymn being played on the piano in his house and wondered who had come in and started playing.  I thought I was the only one there besides Daddy and I knew he didn't play the piano.  

I walked around the corner to see Daddy playing the piano.  I had never noticed this photo from their album, a photograph of Daddy playing the piano.  OK, so even Daddy played the piano!  That was the biggest piano surprise of my life.

Jean was 10 years older than me.  When I was a child, I'd go to sleep listening to her play the piano.  Two of the songs she played often were 'Beautiful Dreamer' and 'Red River Valley'.  To this day, those songs make me think of her.  She was 15 in this photo.

My first memories of 'playing' the piano begin with me listening to Jean play.  When she was finished, I would climb up on the stool and 'play' loudly with both hands, all the way up and down the keyboard, like Jean did.  I would call out, telling Mother to listen, that I could play as beautiful as Jean could.  Now, I wince at the memory.  What a lot of loud racket it had to be.  My feet didn't touch the 'loud' petal, luckily for Mother.  Or maybe it was luckily for me.

My first memories of playing the piano, REALLY playing it, was in elementary school.  There was a piano teacher at school.  Those of us taking piano lessons (our parents had to pay) were released from class to go another building to take lessons once a week.  On rare occasions, the piano would be wheeled from classroom to classroom, for us to play for the class.  I'm not sure if maybe this was our 'piano recital' or why it was rolled around.  I was so excited to do something special in class.  I think that I was the only one in my class to take lessons so I was honored to be the ONLY one to play it in our class as far as I remember.  Everyone at home played the piano better than I did.  It was a treat to be able to play and for once, I was able to contribute something that others couldn't.  I felt special.  (I don't remember it making me proud but then, if it did, would I have realized it?)

Later, when I was a older, I took piano lessons in Ocala from Mrs. Sullivan and then Mrs. Bats (who married and became Mrs. Olinger.)  After lessons were over, I was always ready to begin lessons again and after just a few weeks, ready to stop again.  Practicing was the problem.  I did not like to practice.  Mother was wise enough to make me keep taking lessons and not allow me to stop/start/stop/start continually. Our children were just like I was, wanted to take lessons but didn't want to practice.  As if I'd learn without practicing ...

Dusting the piano was a weekly chore.  We cleaned and dusted the house every Saturday.  The piano keys had to be scrubbed every so often.  As I look at some of the piano photos Mother had, I realize how many fingers were touching the keys.  No wonder they had to be cleaned!

I think George and Jean played the piano the most in their lives after they left home, more than the rest of us did.  Mother and Daddy had cassette tapes of George playing the piano and would play them in the car, over and over, for hours.  It brought them so much pleasure to hear him playing.  They were so excited when Jean bought a new piano for her house in NC.  To us, she always played beautifully.  Some pieces of music, played on the piano, takes me right back to being a little girl in bed at night, listening to Jean play until I fell asleep.

I don't remember the high back piano in the pictures above.  The photos below are of the 'new' piano.  This is the one that fills my memories.  In the first photo, Mother is playing the piano.   

Here, George, Jimmy, and Jean play together.  I don't remember them playing guitars at all.  When I was in my teens, this scene was repeated with other teenagers, including Stephen playing his guitar when we were dating.  But that is another story.

God, family, food, and work were more important than the piano, but I think the piano was next in line.  

To this day I can't play the piano.  I can pick out tunes but that is all.  Stephen could always play the piano better than I could. When we had a piano in our home (Stephen and I) I learned how to quickly stop someone from asking me to play.  I would tell them the first time that they asked, "I can't play".  With a small grand piano in our living room, they'd not believe me.  I'd play the piano when they asked the second time.  They'd believe me and not ask me again.  Ever. Seriously!

She was NOT Aunt Annie ...

I first knew her as and called her Aunt Annie.  But that changed in one sentence.

She was Granddaddy's last wife.  (Yes, he outlived several wives.)  When I was a small child, Granddaddy and Aunt Annie lived in Ocala, a short distance from our house.  Uncle Eddie, Aunt Bertie, and their children lived in a house next to Granddaddy and Aunt Annie for a while.

My cousins called her Aunt Annie and I did too.  She loved us so, always smiling and glad to see us.  I don't have strong memories of her while I was very young.  I do remember her smile and my memory has vivid images of her bending over with her smile, talking to me, while they lived in Ocala.

One day Aunt Annie invited me to spend the night.  I'm sure she also invited Sylvia, my cousin who lived next door to her, at the same time.  Sylvia and I played together often when we were at Aunt Annie's.

I was so excited!  I was just a little thing and this was a HUGE event.  Imagine!  Spending the night with Aunt Annie! I quickly ran to ask Mother and Daddy if I could spend the night.

The response I received floored me.  I was told, "When you start calling her "Grandma", you can spend the night".  I well remember wondering where THAT came from.  I didn't remember ever hearing anyone call her Grandma or me being asked to do so.  (Of course, that doesn't mean that they didn't and that I wasn't asked to, I just don't remember it).  But from that day on I called 'Aunt Annie' "Grandma".

They later moved to a lake, not too far from Ocala.  I spent several nights there too, in a little cabin. Grandma would invite me and ask me to bring a friend, through middle school and into high school.  What wonderful hours were spent there, talking with Grandma and Granddaddy, and visiting with my friends.  Wow - without parents around, even!

Grandma loved horse races and spent many hours watching them on TV.  As a young child, I never saw what was interesting about horse races. They just ran in circles, around and around, and the horses pretty much all looked alike.  But to Grandma, it was her passion.  We'd sit and watch horse races with Grandma.

Of course I am filled with regrets for not spending more time with Grandma and especially for not asking about her and her life.  There are so many questions I'd like to ask her now about her childhood.  I guess this is common to all man, that when a loved one passes on, we wish we had spent more time with and talking with most of them.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


Cats were part of our lives.  Cats ate mice and rats that ate Daddy's seed peanuts.  Cats were outdoor animals (as were dogs) and were not allowed indoors.  Never.  Ever.  (After Mother died Daddy told me that she was allergic to cats.  NOW I understand one of the reasons we never had cats indoors.)

In this photo, Mother is bending over Daddy's desk.  Daddy would sit at this desk when he was doing his farm bookkeeping and other paper work.  The doorway to the left was the end of a long hall. At the other end of the hall was the kitchen and kitchen door.  It was a straight shot from the open door to the desk.

This is the same doorway, Daddy standing by his desk.

The floor of the hall was linoleum tiles, the kind we had to wax often.  We'd spend an entire day, taking the old wax off and waxing the floor again.  The fun came when the floor was freshly waxed and it had dried.

Every so often a cat would decide to come in the kitchen door.  It was a straight shot down the hall. The hall was a bit darker than the rest of what it could see and it would take off down the hall to what appeared to be safety.  On rare occasions, Daddy would be doing bookwork at the desk when a cat took a notion to come indoors, a all-out run down the hall.

We'd hear the cat's claws on the tile and would look up, waiting, a grin already on our faces. The biggest grin was on Daddy's face as he waited for the right moment.  Sure enough, when the cat was just a few feet from Daddy, running as fast as it could, Daddy would suddenly throw out both legs and arms and yell, "SCAT"!  The poor cat would try to stop and run the other way, scared out of it's wits.  The waxed floor didn't offer much grip for it's claws and it would literally be going full speed, trying to turn around, yet not be moving an inch in either direction.  

It took a while for THAT cat to try it again.

How DARE she, the usurper?

Does this face seem a little unsure of what it going on?  Somewhat like she was told to smile and just couldn't quite pull it off?  Well, take a look at the WHOLE picture!

The expression on my face isn't one of glee.  I'm told that I wasn't too happy about this addition to my life.  It was a little sister.  The problem wasn't the sister, it was the fact that I was no longer the 'baby' of the family.  I was no longer the center of attention.  In Mother and Daddy's words, I was JEALOUS.

Although I don't remember her birth, I have many memories of times with Sandra and, soon after, Stanley.  But a note about Stanley will be written another day.  One sibling at a time!

Once I adjusted to having a younger brother and sister, I must have become a nightmare to them both.  Sometimes with good intentions.  Sometimes with bad intentions.  Most of the time with bad intentions.

I would bite Sandra if she didn't do what I wanted.  I had crooked front teeth so I couldn't get away with it but that didn't stop me.  Mother could see the teeth marks and know it was me.  Sandra couldn't even pretend I left teeth marks; mine were as distinctive as a fingerprint!  

I would threaten them if they didn't do what I wanted.  (The chicken story will come later, Stanley.)  I'd tell them that I'd tell Mother and Daddy "......" if they didn't do whatever it was I wanted them to do.  They'd usually do whatever it was.

Sometimes the two of them would get mad at each other and would start arguing. They'd get loud and wouldn't play together.  I could tell it bothered Mother. She was busy and had to stop to fix the problem of the two youngest quarreling.  I would, in my eyes, "come to the rescue".  I'd go to them and deliberately say something that would make them both mad at me.  It always worked.  They'd suddenly start getting along, start playing well together, united in anger at me.  Mother didn't believe that I was doing it on purpose with good intentions.  She didn't believe that I was "coming to the rescue".  Of course now I can see how frustrating that had to be for Mother and that I was causing trouble again.  But I can say that in those few times, I honestly had good intentions.  And it worked; they did start getting along!  As much as I picked on them, why would Mother believe that THIS time was with good intentions?   

Sandra and I did not get along at home.  Mother would point out two girls we knew who, as Mother said to me, "always get along, why can't you be like them and get along with Sandra"?  It would make me mad.  It wasn't MY fault Sandra couldn't get along with me.  Even if it WAS my fault, in my mind, it was always her fault even when I knew deep inside that it was my fault.  Accept blame?  Not me!

Now that we're grown, Sandra and I are the best of friends.  If I could have seen the future, the first photo would have been one of glee and thanksgiving, looking forward to the future.  But when you're 5, being 55 is the last thing you're thinking about.