Well, the calendar tells me it’s spring outside, but the snow weighting the tree limbs and coating the red crocus that recently got the nerve to stick their heads out to nod at us are telling me another story. We did have enough nice, warm sunshiny days a couple of weeks back, however, that got me leafing through flower catalogs and dreaming about summer bounty.
One day a local “everything from soup to nuts pharmacy type store” had a sale on seeds. Four packs for a dollar! Even though I had no idea where I would sow them, I couldn’t resist buying a dollar’s worth: okra (which needs hot summery sun and a long growing season), sweet basil, 2 packages of carrot, and mixed color cosmos.
Hope springs eternal. You can take the girl out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the girl. Nor stifle the pleasure of buying seeds (when they’re so cheap!) even when you know their fate will probably be worse than death under your brown thumb.The only excuse I have to offer is, it’s in the blood. To back my claim, I offer another of the LOOKING BACK series from One o’the Nine, my uncle’s story about spring planting.
I remember walking home from school in the afternoon in the late autumn and changing my overalls, then going to the kitchen for a cold sweet potato and piece of sow belly bacon or a biscuit that I would punch a hole in with my finger and filled with good cane syrup, and head for the corn field to break corn. Along the way we had to pass a persimmon tree and of course we had to stop and get us a few of the small, wild persimmons to eat along the way.
In the spring it was a different story. We had to get out of school in March to help plant the crops. I will always remember the old horse I used to pull the old Cole planter as we planted corn and peanuts. The horse’s name was Old Georgia, and was the worst horse I have ever known.
When the seed was beginning to run low in the planter I would stop at the end of the run to refill it. I had to leave the planter just long enough to dash over, grab a bucket of seed and dash back. You can bet while I was gone Old Georgia would move up just one step and turn the planter over, spilling all the seed that was left in it. I was so small, about all I could do was cry, pick up the spilled seed and go again.
Old Georgia had a habit of getting her foot out of the trace chain each time you turned around at the end of the row, and if you stopped to unhitch it to put her foot back inside, you could bet she would move just enough to turn over the planter, so I would just let her walk with her foot out and skin her leg.
In the spring and summer we always went barefoot when we plowed. There is nothing that can hurt worse than when you strip a briar or a nettle that has gotten hung up on your plow between your toes. Some of the black men that worked for us wore shoes, but they were cut along the sides and wired together with haywire.
Yup! Those were the Good Ole Days.
Postscript: I was involved in spring planting of tobacco, that dastardly weed without which my family would have had even fewer material things in our lives. Even a small child is quite capable to dropping one tobacco plant, about 4 or 5 inches long, down the throat of a tobacco planter, either the single, manual one, or the one that came along later that was pulled by a tractor, and two planters (one of which was me) sat side by side practically dragging along on the dirt taking turns plopping plants in the trench automatically dug and covered again by the contraption we rode along on. Those were the days before laws had been made about taking children out of school, so spring school attendance was sporadic at best. That would change a few years later. By then my father had given up on farming because I was eventually the last one left at home to help.
At least planting tobacco didn’t involve a cranky Old Georgia . . . and I’ve lived to tell about it. As Uncle said, those were the good ole days, no doubt because life was so simple then. And as a child you knew where your place in the world was: down at the bottom of the totem pole to be told by everyone older than you what you were to do. I feel compelled to add one thing more about that tobacco. Probably due to by vast experience with it, I’ve never had a desire to smoke it, because I can tell you–working with and in it was pretty yucky–tar buildup on my hands from the leaves that I know you would never want to have on your hands, let alone in your lungs. If you smoke, quit. It just ain’t a healthy thing.
Wow! My mom told stories like yours of growing up on my grandparents dairy farm. They don’t grow ‘backy up there so she was spared that. She had 4 brothers so they had to do the field work and take care of the cows. And she and her 3 sisters took care of the truck garden and the hogs and the chickens and geese. Farming is damned hard work. I’ve been out on the wagons during haying so I’ve had a taste of it.
Do you think Old Georgia ended up in a glue factory? About totem poles…I understand that the figure on the bottom is the largest and the most important and powerful of all.
I’m so grateful that you ended up ok with your tobacco exposure. What stories you all tell. How old was he in that great 1960ish photograph? It looks Beatle era.
I don’t know what happened to Old Georgia, ML. Now that you mention it, I don’t know what happened to Old Jack (our mule) either. I like the sound of the last sentence about the figure on the bottom of the totem pole. Since I’m likely the only member of the family (since the uncles anyway) to write these things, and considering that words can be powerful (emp: can be) maybe so . . . hmmmmmm
Mage, I’ve often thought our family and others from the area I grew up should be studied in relation to cancer. Two things–tobacco being the main crop, and the prolific crop dusting program adopted by the farmers to control worms and other pests. There have been an unseemly number of cancer related deaths in my family as a whole: my eldest brother at 54, my sister at 56, sister’s son at around 32, many aunts and uncles (some at premature ages)… to name just a few. I can’t help seeing a connection myself. My salvation is that I was so much younger than the others and we left the farm and the village when I was 15. If we only knew then what we know now.
Kay, farming was hard work, and with a whole family working from sunup to sundown for long periods of the year, you didn’t make much more money than it took to live…after the church took 10% of that if you joined one! I love the memory of farm life but not the hard work. If your mother escaped unscathed I’m be very surprised.
RYN: No, dear Alice. I didn’t know that I could interact that well with thousands of folks at the same time. LOL And I can. Now I am back in quietude, and I do miss the confusions of the ballpark.
I’m a city gal, and always had a backyard garden, nothing like your having to farm acres of crops. This year, I swore I was going to quit, but realize it’s impossible, my peach trees are ready to bloom, and people keep giving me seedlings. Discovered I love Chinese bitter melons, and saved the seeds to try to grow a couple of hills, and I’ll probably buy spinach seeds and grow cherry tomatoes. Where’d I ever get the idea to quit??????
Eiko, I’m tired just thinking of all the work these require, but it must be nice living in a place where you can have all of these. Where’d you get the idea that it was your decision to continue or not … I tell you, it’s in the genes! Ours is only to submit.