this weekend i'll be headed to points south, spending some time with my aunt lou in the place i call my home town... o'donnell, tx. just the thought starts me down memory lane taking me back to life on that postage stamp of a dry land cotton farm i grew up on.
shortly after school let out for the summer, the work began. dressed for winter, but really just to ward off the sun, in long sleeves and gloves, long pants and a hat of some sort-- but no sunglasses, no sunblock, no mp3 player, nothing to distract from the miserable heat of mid-afternoon, the task of chopping cotton. day in and day out, plodding down and back on row after row cotton searching out curl lace, blue, white and milk weeds. anything that wasn't cotton had to go and be danged careful not to chop up a precious stalk of cotton in the process.
that was my lot until daddy deemed me old enough to drive a tractor. being higher up in the heat was no better than being down on the ground plus there was the added heat coming from the engine, the metal cowling and fenders with the added bonus and never ending siege on the ears by the "popping johnny". ("G" model John Deere). (huh? what did you say?) sun up to sun down, all the summer long. i still feel for my sis who must have walked a jillion miles up and down those rows while big brother rode in style.
come saturday there was a break for a trip into town to do laundryand buy groceries; to maybe take in a movie if for nothing more than a delicious couple of hours in the chill of the air conditioning. for 10 cents you could get a rainbow snow cone from the stand on the corner across from the chevrolet house. for us kids it was a treat. for our mom, it was just another day of work. doing laundry today is still a chore. laundry in the time of the ringer washing machine left her frail frame even more exhausted when piled on top of a week in the field, cooking meals and all that came with seeing to our humble home.
sunday, was a day of rest. praise the lord and pass the biscuits.
of course we planted a garden ee-v-ery year. there's nothing better than fresh veggies picked that day or the sweet chill of a vine ripened watermelon or cantaloupe. but there's work involved there too. "putting up" the beans, and black eyed peas, cucumbers for pickling, squash, corn, whatever could be grown was canned or frozen to ease the burden of the grocery bill through the coming fall winter and spring.
it'll be good to see my aunt lou, my sis, cousin ava and any others that happen to show for the scheduled family meeting of the mcmillan estate llp. but the big bonus? there's no telling what will be dug out of one lou's many freezers to be whipped up into some lou lou deliciousness.
my mouth is watering just thinking about the possibilities.
to work alongside my family, to make another round, to labor toward getting the crops "laid by", to harvest after a summer of concerted effort toward the common good. those days in the summer heat forged me into the man i am today. i learned hard work never killed anybody. i learned the satisfaction of seeing how many rows, how much ground got covered by days ends. i learned the reward of a days honest exertion.
my kids don't have a clue. the truth is, life on the farm was all we knew. the truth is, had my kids been put in that circumstance they would have carried on just as we did because we do whatever is needed. truth is, had they been, they likely would have been better for it on the other end.