Your Mother's Hands (entry 9)


,The Summer of 1961

This is a very busy time in my life. I am so busy helping Dad farm, and I am almost totally in charge of the chicken houses and sale of the eggs. I would drive the truck to Farm Bureau for chicken mash, and THAT was NOT too bad. Cleaning our several chicken houses, loading it on a manure spreader and then "spreading" the fields was all pretty hard work! Poultry was still my 4-H project. I kept good records. In 1961, I had the Grand Champion chickens in Martin County.

I could exhibit them at the State Fair, where I won Grand Champion, however, since I was a GIRL, I was NOT allowed to stay at the fair to tend to them. I forget just who did that for me. It may have been Mr. Young, I did go up one day with Dad for showing and judging. We went by Greyhound bus, as we only had the pick-up truck, and probably by now not the most reliable mode of transportation.

I also had an entry in clothing. A blue ribbon, of course!

Our Lutheran minister did NOT want me in RAINBOW GIRLS. I had to get a form filled out with church affiliation, etc. Reverend Rehrig said I could be a member, but he would not allow me to sing in the choir. I, respectfully, told him "OK", but you'll be phoning me when you "need" that strong voice at Easter time...…! I WAS GOING TO BE A RAINBOW GIRL. And, yes, somewhere along the way, I was back singing in the choir. BUT, also, about that time, I was asked to become a Sunday School teacher of the 11 year old group. I took teaching THIS group very seriously. Nothing more was EVER said about RAINBOW and I attended meetings and did various community activities faithfully.

Soon I started to "sway" from the strict structure of the Lutheran Church and almost secretly read books on Numerology and Spirituality. I was more open to other religions, and I'm becoming a "free spirit".

My Summer was filled with working some at Home Outfitter's, typing and one night a week car-hopping. so along with some "egg money", and berry picking, I had a little banking account going! I could pay for some of my clothes and I'd do my share of putting $2 worth of gas in the truck every so often. I never had to be told to put gas in, I just did it! I never heard my Dad say "fill'er up", he'd always say, "Oh, just put in a couple dollars worth." Now remember, a gas attendant put in the gas, checked the oil, cleaned the windows (all the way around), and for ME checked the water, battery, and air in the tires. Gas was 24-25 cents a gallon, or 5 gallons for $1. 10 gallons for $2 !!!!! I kept the truck as clean as a pin. It was gear shift on the floor. No problem for ME!

Our cash flow was selling eggs each week. Some by the dozens to customers that we delivered to their door, and the rest were sold by the case to Hasler's Market or to Larkin's Mercantile.

We had one milk cow. We had a cream separator in the basement. You'd put the milk in and let the cream rise to the top. You'd "skim" milk out and put the rest in the "slop" for the fattening hogs. The cream we put in a DAISY glass churn with wooden paddles, and churned butter. I learned to form "butterballs" with MY HANDS. Dad loved the fresh buttermilk, with just a dash of pepper. Sometimes we'd use buttermilk to make really good biscuits, sugar cookies or cakes. Of course, I had to use a rolling pin.

Occasionally, we'd put our daily milk in a 2 gallon crock, let it set on the kitchen cabinet and the cream would rise. We'd "skim off" the cream by hand and pour the "clabbered" milk into a specifically made "cheese bag" and let the "whey" drip off, to make cottage cheese. We'd hang it on a clothes line outside. Homemade cottage cheese was NOT one of my favorite foods, but I ATE it.

Mom would sell butter, buttermilk and cream in glass Mason jars. She would sell blackberry jelly, and people would exchange the jars. We were VERY thrifty.

Often Mom would get special orders for homemade cakes or noodles. She and I were REALLY good at making delicious candies. After a "bake sale" or Church Picnic, she would get a windfall of work.

One way I helped was to cover cardboard with tin foil for the cakes to be set on, and to look for boxes at the grocery stores to ship items. These were stored in the basement. We'd put noodles in saved bread wrapper sacks. Zip lock bags weren't invented yet! I'd collect greeting card boxes and any small box I could from the dime store and custom line then with foil, to sell candy in. I'd custom cover the lids according to the season with gift wrap or wallpaper scraps. I was a Martha Stewart, long ago.

As I said before, Dad made really GOOD homemade wine. He NEVER sold wine, as that would be "boot-leggin', but he did collect nice brandy, whiskey and other wine bottles from "customers" and always took donations of sugar in larger amounts. He used a lot of sugar in his German style wine and brandy. We stored our extra sugar in clean lard cans. Mom used from this for her projects. It seemed like we always had plenty of SUGAR!

Dad sold fattening pigs directly to a slaughter house, some for our pork to eat, some to pay for the butchering and locker bill and some to the butcher shop. We'd sell a "load of hogs" to market in Louisville. Jim Yarbourgh was the truck driver for that and he would double decker a truck with stock racks. Dad woud ride with him and pick up his check there. I got to ride with them a couple of times, usually in pig tails and my "boy clothes" when I was smaller. The stock yard was fascinating to a child. I took cookies to eat enroute.

After we "weighed in" on the scales, they would unload the pigs. I had to stay inside the truck, in case any other animals should get loose. I had given names to a lot of our pigs, and I'd wave "good-bye" to them. I KNEW that they would become pork chops and ham, but I was not TOO sad. It was LIFE ON THE FARM. Then while the weight figures were tallied, we would go eat at the STOCK YARD diner. Now that is a real experience. It smelled like food and MANURE. Dad always bought Mr. Yarbourgh's lunch and he would give me a nickel for the candy bar machine. I'd buy a Clark Bar.

There was a man at the Louisville Stock Yards whose name was Mr. Tinkle. He was a very jolly man and had an office. He would give me little advertising pencils in a round case. They were perfect for my purse. He gave me a special coin purse made out of a smaller pig's TESTICLE SKIN. For years I did not know what it really was, I was just told it was "pig skin". After I saw hogs being castrated, I figured it out!

Dad usually had grown men help him castrate hogs. I was not to be in the barn at that time.

Mom had a special "butchering pan" that Dad would drop the "hog fries" in. Mom would finish cleaning them, soak them in salt water, pat them dry with a dish towel, run them through the meat tenderizer, dip then in beaten egg, coat them in flour or cracker crumbs …….Then FRY them. Hog fries made delicious sandwiches as tasty as any great tenderloin.

We had a wonderful herd of Hereford cattle and a friendly bull named Bob. Bob bred about 75 cows a year, so he was pretty content! When the calves were born, Dad and I hoped for perfectly "marked" male calves. Their white markings had to measure to specifics. Then we could train them and sell them as breeding stock. Dad would get $500 a bull. Some years there might be 3, and other years 10.

I tried to halter train as many calves as I could. I'd hand feed the calves and brush them. We'd sell out some heifer calves to other farms. Some would go to the stock yards after we fattened them.

We fed our beef cattle in the barn in the wintertime, silage and hay. Most of the time, Dad would throw down the silage, I'd give a scoop to each cow, so they would eat contentedly. Then after supper, I'd feed them hay, so they would have something to "chew their cud". They stayed in the green pastures in the summertime.

I loved playing and working with the calves each Spring. Usually they were born out in the pasture. Sometimes the mother cow would be very protective, but by working with her, she too generally calmed down.

Weaning times were tough. We'd separate the calves with their mom's beside them, and then slip the calves into a separate stall. I'd ride my horse for this, but I was always a bit scared of the mother cows, as they could figure out what we were doing.

We'd keep the calves in the big barn for several weeks, and oh, how they would cry for their Ma Ma's! We could hardly sleep at night, and they HAD to eat "real food". They still wanted mother's milk. Occasionally, a mother cow would break through a low fence, or large gate and make her way back to the barn. Dad would handle her and get'em back on pasture. This process was never easy, and we went through it EVERY YEAR.

We would take a nicely fattened calf to the slaughter house a couple times a year. We also sold calves for others to slaughter. There were times we did butchering at home, but I was never allowed to witness that. They butchered hogs in the wintertime more frequently than calves. On butchering day, all of Mom's sister and their husbands would come with dishpans, dish towels and butcher knives. They had butchered together all of their lives, so each one did what they were best at doing. They cut hams and shoulders. Sometimes they would smoke the meats and other times leave it "fresh". Bacon. Pork Chops. Pig's Feet. Tail. One group cut GUTS for sausage casing. We had a sausage grinder and "stuffer". Aunt Hilda made head cheese, and of course there were brains.

Then came the clean up, and later they built an outside fire and rendered lard. Nothing went to waste!

If butchering was done in the early winter, much was HUNG in the "smoke house". If it was closer to Spring, much was eaten "fresh" or canned. We got a freezer in the late 50's. Before that we rented a meat locker. I never helped much at butchering time. I'm sure even then as they had done it their entire lives, it was ADULT work. It could be brutal.

We always had plenty of beef and pork, and of course several hundred young roosters every Spring. Now, I was taught how to stalk, catch and KILL chickens. Dunk it in HOT scalding water, pluck it, singe it, cut it up and clean it up. BUSY HANDS. ( I recall Mom doing this in the early 70's to an old chicken that the elderly neighbors had acquired, and thinking DAMN...…….I really shouldn't piss her off. She could "bring home the bacon...….and fry it up in a pan. SHE IS WOMAN. And, till the day she died, she loved fried chicken.) We would also butcher brood hens and they were best for baking. We too had ducks and geese, but were a more acquired "greasy" taste, and again wasted nothing as used the feathers for "down" pillows and comforters.

Squirrel Hunting

My Dad loved to go squirrel hunting. The "season" started August 15th and the limit was 5. Our farm had lots of hickory nut trees and the squirrels loved these nuts the most. So, Dad would hunt the Hickory Grove as he called it. He'd hunt very early in the morning, even before he milked the cow! This was his FAVORITE sport, using a shot gun. He'd get his limit, come home, tied by the heads with binder twine. He probably did not ever take more than 6 shot gun shells, however, he almost always came home with 5 squirrels. Then he'd "dress' them out under the plum tree.

To "dress" them, he would cut them under the tail, and using a very sharp knife, he would pull the skin gently and cut the attached membrane carefully. Cut, pull, cut, pull, like taking off a layer of clothes. He very rarely had any hair on the meat. Then you cut off the feet. Sometimes he would skin the head too, clean out the eyes and cut off the head. He would put the skinned squirrels in a dishpan and rinse them a couple times to take to Mom. She would check for "shot" and cut that out, then cut into 'frying pieces": 2 front legs, 2 back legs, and back. Then soak the meat in salt water. To cook, Mom would pat the meat dry, roll in flour and fry in an iron skillet. If it was an old critter, she would braise it in an iron Dutch oven, wrap the meat in a piece of bacon and add a medium onion.

Oh, how I loved squirrel meat, OFTEN asking to take several pieces in my lunch box when I was little! Seaon came in when field corn was also fresh, so we often had it with mashed potatoes and fried corn. Mom would freeze any extras to have as a "favorite" meal in the middle of winter. It was nothing to freeze up nearly a 100 in a season. There were times that Mom only fried up one squirrel and a whole pan full of HEADS. Dad and I'd pick the meat off, crack the skulls, eat the brains and tongues. I had NO problem with that. I actually thought it was good. People all over the world eat exotic food and believe it to be a delicacy. I'd take a plate full of tongue or brains any day over a cold box of Mc"anything".

One did NOT shoot a squirrel on the side of a tree, fence post, or running on the ground. You only shot one on a "limber tree limb" or branches, and usually only after taking careful AIM, at a moving target. THAT was an ART, and Dad was GOOD. When I was little and went with Pop, he would often give me a safety sucker to eat while we were sitting at the base of a tree, WAITING for them to "come out to play". When I would open up the "crackly paper", they would get curious and venture out on a limb, wanting to see what the little unusual noise was all about. Red squirrels are DUMB! Oh, THAT was a BAD move on the part of the "little curious squirrel"!!! BANG! Dead critter. Dad took me along for a purpose. Later I would go hunting with my .22 rifle and bring home the limit, with my OWN HANDS. Dad would make me "show" my used shells as not to waste and be careful for a sure shot. Squirrel hunting taught me PATIENCE! I probably did more hunting than both my brothers combines. Oh, how I loved to be in the woods. I knew all the trees, plants, nuts and berries.

Ground Hog Hunting

Our farm had its share of ground hogs. They would have burrowed dens in various areas. We'd go "ground hog hunting", but most of that shooting was just trying to kill the "lone brave one" that ventured into our vegetable garden or potatoe patch. I could shoot ground level, but my best and most sure shot was when I could "shoot down" from my bedroom window or from the barn. That was the best way as not to have a stray bullet hitting something else, person, car or a farm animal. That was called "gun safety first". I'd wait for the ground hog to be positioned and I'd give it a shot. If it was down in the green beans, I'd chirp or make a slight clucking noise. It would almost always stand up. I'd take careful aim---BANG----one dead ground hog! When I'd take careful aim, I would seldom miss. Let me tell you, I paid for my own rifle shells, so I really tried hard to not waste any.

Fox Hunting

The ultimate was fox hunting. Foxes were sly and very elusive! They could "stalk down" chickens and sometimes they would sneak into a hog house and "steal" baby pigs. Once they had a "taste for blood", they would be back! There was a "bounty" on a pair of fox ears. After we shot a fox, we would take a sharp pocket knife or butcher knife and cut the ears off. Then we would fasten them together ( a pair) with a hog ring. We would keep them in a clean empty coffee can in the freezer. After we had several pair, we'd take them to the Court House in Shoals. Dad would be paid $3 a pair.

We had an area in our back pasture where there were fox dens, burrows under ground larger than ground hog homes.

There were usually at least one family of foxes to a den. Dad wanted to let the baby foxes get large enough to come out of the dens, so when we killed them we would be able to collect a bounty on their ears as well. If we killed the mother while the babies were young, the babies would die. If taken later, we would make more money. Also, taking the mother seemed unnecessarily cruel.

I'm sure my Dad trusted me very much and was quite proud of me. As far as I know, no one else ever did any fox hunting with him, but me. I don't think I ever fox hunted again after my Senior year.

Hawks

I was allowed to shoot chicken hawks. They were a menace to our chickens and could "dive bomb" our very young chicks. I used my rifle to kill hawks, and I usually had no problem hitting them while they circled the chicken lot. Hey, if I could hit a running fox, a flying hawk was not a big deal. This SHOOT TO KILL was no game. It was protecting our poultry and livestock. (After moving to St. Louis for a job, I came home and lived with Mom and Don for a while in the early '90's. Mom was in her late 40's and would sit on the back patio, in her "house coat" and as the coyotes and foxes peeked their heads up over the river bank in an effort to "snatch" one of her pet feral cats, she would BLOW THERE HEAD OFF. She had no problem "poppin' off" a ground hog or potentially rabid coon either. Mom didn't drop the "F" bomb very often, but I'd laugh as under her breath when the "heads went flyin" ", would say, "that's right, you little fucker." You gotta love a middle-aged Annie Oakley in a "nightie" with a potty mouth.)

New Car

Dad bought a NEW 1961 two-tone green Rambler station wagon. Oh boy, a new car! It wasn't exactly a sports car...Ha!

By now I had my driver's license and I got to drive to church on Sunday and every once in a while I could drive myself to band practice or to work in Loogootee. When I did, I always kept the gas tank FULL and the car CLEAN. Occasionally I got to take riders, but I really did not "cruise around" very much. Since we no longer had the pick-up, whenever I hauled chicken feed, I would take extra special caution and care to keep the inside clean. It was so nice to have a car instead of just a truck, and Mom and I really enjoyed "dressing up" when we went places. It was especially nice when we have covered dishes for meeting and when we'd go shopping.

It was a stick shift on the column. I had no problem shifting gear even though in driver's education I had learned on an automatic transmission. The Rambler got EXCELLENT gas mileage.

(This is the car that I first remember my Grandparent's having. It still was driven mainly for business and special occasions. Church on Sunday's and to the bank and shopping on Wednesday, generally to Jasper as , of course, it was the German American Bank. We were always dressed up to "drive" and made our trips "count" by stopping to visit their brothers and sister, my great aunts and uncles. We were rarely empty handed "visitors" as especially my Grandma would always have "trade" for her sisters. They shared fresh produce, canned goods, buttons, material scraps for quilting and seeds for planting. Never a wasted moment, trip or gifted item. I do remember stopping frequently for lunch. That would be a big deal and Grandpa might have a beer. A STERLING beer, drank out of a juice glass with two dashes of salt: one on the inside for taste and one on the napkin so it didn't stick. A trip to Sears or Penney's would pretty much always include a small bag of Brach's chocolate drops or Maple Nut Goodies from the candy counter. All of my Grandparents were so good to me, and Grandma especially was more lenient that she ever was with Mom. I always knew this to be true, and these stories for me have reiterated that. I have learned many things from them, and it's a reminder that everyone has a story, and there are many layers, people and reasons that culminate into a LIFE.)