egging adventure by one o’the nine

As the designated egg gatherer in my family when eggs were still produced by free-range chickens, I often worried about reaching into a nest with a snake snuggling under the hen
(especially after experience bore me out) so I can especially identify with this egg story
my uncle originally published in the April 30, 1987 issue of the Mayo Free Press in Florida in his One o’the Nine LOOKING BACK series. Some of my regular readers may remember my Ode to Chickens post of January 10, but you can read it here if you missed it. Just one more note: Despite the possibility of winding up in the family’s Sunday dinner, which didn’t usually happen if the hen was a good egg producer, chickens lives in those days were probably much happier than those confined to the horrid profit motivated egg factories of today. But retrieving all the eggs was a problem to the egg gatherers–like my uncles, and me in my day. But, there was learning going on–humor, too, depending on which side of the story you were on. Here’s my uncle’s memory:

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When I was a boy growing up on the farm in the early thirties, there was an innocence–or perhaps ignorance–that doesn’t seem to prevail with rural children today. We had a bunch of chickens that ran free and made nests and laid eggs in many unusual places. Like under the corn crib, which was only eighteen or twenty inches above the ground. Crawling under the crib to get the eggs was a chore that befell me and my brother two years younger than me. Mama made us alternate going under the crib and getting the eggs.

I was appointed to crawl under the first day and I can still remember the fear I had every time I had to crawl under that crib. The rats had carried corn shucks and fodder (corn leaves) under the crib and made beds under there. It was dark and close there and we never had flashlights to lighten our way. We had to crawl and feel our way around for the hen’s nest and get the eggs and crawl back out without breaking them. Crawling was really belly sliding. When I came to the cross sills I was always afraid of snakes being under there or getting caught under one of the sills and not being able to get out. I made the first crawl, then it was my younger brother’s turn.

It was a real challenge for Mama to get him to crawl under the dark crib. She had to threaten to whip him to get him to go, then when he did he got about one fourth the way to the hen’s nest and sulled like a possum. He wouldn’t go any further, neither would he come back out. Mama begged, threatened and everything else to get him to come back out. In spite of all her pleading and threats he wouldn’t budge. Finally, at her wit’s end, Mama told him she was going to put hot water through the crack on him. Of course she wouldn’t have done anything so cruel, but she did get some cold water and poured it through the cracks. When he saw and heard the water pouring,  my brother crawled out from under the crib. Then guess who had to go under to get the eggs. That’s right!

The chickens also laid eggs in the horses’ feed troughs. One day my older brother and I were feeding the horses and gathering the eggs from the troughs when my brother asked me if I had ever sucked a raw egg. I said no, but I had heard that my grandpa used to suck the insides out of an egg and put the empty shell back into the nest for Grandma to find. My brother, who was older than I, claimed he had done this and that it was gooooooood! He then punched a small hole in one of the eggs with a nail and pretended to suck the egg. He proclaimed how good it was, then handed it to me. I sucked away at that hole and all that came out was raw egg. It was awful, but he had a good laugh. It seems I was always a sucker for practical jokes and pranks but somehow I was always spared from real harm.

Postscript from Wintersong: When I was a child, I spent a great deal of my time under the house. That sounds funny, I know, but most of the old farm houses in Florida–that I remember and lived in–were built several feet off the ground with a few large stones with sand packed at the base served as a foundation.In the photographs (which can be enlarged by clicking on them), you can see the dark space at the bottom where a small child might crawl under and remain unseen. Because the sand beneath the house remained largely protected from the elements, it was usually very white and free of debris. It was warm in winter and cool in summer. Imagine a giant sized sand box, a great place to play and hide from adults who may have one too many chores to pass off to you–until you grew too tall to fit! Being there unobserved sometimes resulted in your hearing adult conversations that would not have been quite as explicit had anyone known you were in hearing shot! and many times I would awake there after a long nap. Funny recalling it now, today I would be scared to death of the possibility of rattlesnakes seeking the same cool spot to hang out at the same time and place.  Thankfully, at the time it never crossed my mind.

when is enough enough?

Here’s one of the dwindling supply of my uncles’ old One o’the Nine stories I happened across today as I was cleaning away the clutter that accumulated on my desk over the year. I thought it especially appropriate at this time of year, since so many families are having or facing some of the hardest times of their lives, losing jobs and homes, sometimes not having enough to eat. I don’t regret being brought up without the focus on materialism that most American children fall victim to today, because I know that the best things in life don’t come with price tags.

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Back during the depression (of the ’30s) when no one had any money, and many didn’t have enough to eat and wore patched britches–because that was all they had–we learned to make-do with what we had and appreciate anything we got. We never threw away much because we didn’t have anything to throw away except maybe a spool when Mama had used the thread from it. Back then spools were made of wood and very seldom thrown away. Spools had several uses other than holding thread.Two of those uses that come to mind are handles for doors that had no knobs, and as toys for us to play with.

A piece of string was threaded through the hole in the spool, tied together and the toddlers pulled it around the house. If we were lucky enough to get someone with a sharp knife to whittle the spool in two pieces, we would put a stick through the hole and sharpen it down, making a top (or spinner) out of it.

Other toys I remember making and enjoying as a depression child was a button with a string strung though two holes, tied together, then pulled back and forth making the button spin back and forth to make a buzzing sound.

Another was just a plain piece of twine tied to make a loop, then through manipulation of the thumb and fingers, making a “Jacob’s Ladder.” With that same piece of string and a different manipulation of the thumb and fingers we would make a see-saw–sometimes called a sawmill. I still remember how to make a Jacob’s Ladder and a see-saw. In fact I just recently made a string see-saw with the help of one of my grandsons, and I believe he enjoyed see-sawing almost as much as I did when I was his age.

I find that in this throwaway–discard– computer age, that children can still be amused by simple things. All they need is someone who will take the time to show them how to make the simple toys, and they will thoroughly enjoy them, sometimes more than some expensive technical toys.

It is too bad, I believe, that fathers and mothers can’t take the time to spend with their children teaching them how to enjoy the simple things of life. It is much too easy to buy some expensive toys, give them to the children, then leave them alone so that mother and daddy can do other stuff without being bothered by them.

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Postscript: Back when I was  a kid, around this time of year, I was so mindful of Santa’s elves sneaking around unseen and making notes on how I was behaving, I was a veritable angel. Christmases were lean enough as they were–in the ’40s and ’50s when the Depression was supposed to be over–that I couldn’t afford more than one or two transgressions between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Kids aren’t cowed by elves anymore, at least not my grandchildren. One day last weekend, our 7-year-old Grandson had at least two tantrums in one single afternoon–one of which resulted in his first–and hopefully last–running away from home caper. His mother, who–as a psychologist–has studied enough child psychology that she was prepared enough to wish him good luck and tell him goodbye, was confident enough to wait it out. He left–only to circle around and come back home long enough to get his shoes which he couldn’t find of course, so he left again, barefoot. This time he was gone a bit longer, and it wasn’t easy to resume the wait–this time closer to half an hour before he got too cold and came home.

At least part of the reason he felt compelled to run away was that his parents were awful people who never bought him anything. Never mind all the expensive Lego toy sets or the expensive electronic gadgets and almost any kids’ DVDs you can think of including Starwars, it’s just never enough.

I have no answer when his mother asks “how do you deal with a problem like this?” I wish I had a magic formula–if I did I wouldn’t sell it, I’d GIVE it away. Because I know our grandson isn’t the only child out there who has never gone without his needs being met who still expects more. His parents are looking into some way to make him understand that there are children all over the world who have real needs, who have no toys and not enough to eat.

I hope Santa has some ideas.

cooking with granny and artie mae . . . a one o’the nine memory

Day 20 November blogcwriting challenge. Great news. It took nearly 24 hours or scanning, nothing was found, but Hubby did ditch the Skype he downloaded. It’s clear to me that this computer, which he assured me in 2001 I’d never be able to fill up the memory it had…well I almost have. Nothing new will be installed on this machine, and I will begin this weekend transferring all the pictures to flash drives and CDs. I think I’ve set some sort of record in saving junk.


When I put together my family and friends cookbook and printed it in 2001 as A MOVEABLE FEAST of recipes & memories, I asked members of my family on both sides to contribute a memory about the foods or favorites dishes their mothers (my grandmothers) prepared when they were growing up. The response was underwhelming, but I did get this reply from my uncle, which I share with you here, which covers the great depression years of the 1930’s and ’40’s.

Things that Mama used to prepare and fix for us to eat are still pleasantly memorable. She used to make various sweets during the depression years using cane syrup instead of sugar. Sugar was a commodity that had to be purchased and there was precious little money to spend. I remember a sweet cornbread she used to make and called it “By George.” It was not too bad when there was nothing sweet to eat. I’m sorry that the recipe was not passed along.

There was another sweet bread that Mama prepared that was called “Stickies.” This concoction was made similar to cinnamon rolls, but cane syrup was used to sweeten them. I believe that the most popular food around our house during my childhood was hominy grits.

Grits was used as a meal anytime of day–breakfast, dinner or supper. Grits was eaten hot with butter or gravy (red eye or sawmill). Leftover grits would be firm and was sliced, and eaten with cane syrup, or fried in bacon grease and served warm.

We prepared our grits by shucking (husking)  and shelling the corn and taking it to the grist mill and returned home. We had a meal barrel and a flour barrel in the “little room” which was the walk-in pantry. By adjusting the mill just right, the corn was ground into meal and grits. Hominy grits was sifted through a sieve to separate the meal from the grits.

There was an old lady living in the county who was known for her cooking, and as far as I can tell, she cooked exactly the way every other woman on both sides of my family cooked, but some did it better than others. It was all about reputation I suspect.  Now that I’ve grown older myself and been around the world a few times as the old saying goes, I recognize it as “soul food” although no one would have called it that. When she was getting along in years, Artie Mae’s family urged her to set down her recipes, so she typed them up and had them published by a local office supply store and published them in 1988 as COOKING WITH ARTIE MAE. There’s a version of a recipe she called Quickie Stickies that I’m sharing in Wintersong. It could very well be similar to the “Stickies” my uncle remembered.

Artie Mae’s Quickie Stickies

3 cups sifted flour
2 tbsp granulated sugar
6 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1½ sticks butter or Oleo
1½ cups firmly packed brown sugar
¾ cup sweet milk
1 egg, slightly beaten
2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup seedless raisins
2 tsp lemon juice

Sift flour, granulated sugar, baking powder and salt together. Cut in ½ stick of the butter. Stir in egg and milk just until  flour mixture is moistened completely. Knead dough 5 or 6 times, roll out to a rectangle about 20″ x 9″. Spread with ½ stick of butter and sprinkle with mixture of 1 cup brown sugar and cinnamon, top with raisins.

Starting at long side, roll up, jelly roll fashion. Cut into 12 slices. Melt the remaining ½ stick butter in a shallow baking dish, stir in remaining ½ cup brown sugar and lemon juice. Place rolls, cut sides up, in dish. Let stand 15 minutes, then bake in 425ºF oven for 25 minutes, or until richly golden, and syrup bubbles up in center.

Postscript: Just in case you were stymied by the term “Oleo” in the first ingredient, Oleo was a margarine and those were the days margarine was thought to be better for you–or should I say less bad–than butter. Times sure change. I don’t imagine Granny had the sugar, so she probably used cane syrup made on the farm instead. Sweet milk is simply the southern way of referring to whole milk. Again, those were the days when the milk we used to drink or cook with came out of our favorite milk cows fresh every morning, and was then boiled and used to make butter, as well as sour milk and clabber. That’s why it was important to know that sweet milk was the milk the way it came from the cow or what we call whole milk now. Should anyone be interested, Artie Mae also had syrup pie and syrup cake recipes in her book. Anyone interested in seeing either of those, please let me know.