Saturday, November 8, 2008

The life and times

Life has a way of sneaking up on you. In the days to come, I hope to share a little of mine with others. Stories of my growing up, ideas, hobbies, jokes, and just whatever happens to strike my mood.

We moved to a 136 acre farm in Hamilton Co, Illinois, when I was 2 years old. The house had a large kitchen, about 18 x 18 feet, and the living room was about the same size. It kind of had 3 bed room areas, and was heated by 3 wood burning stoves. the out house was about 100 feet to the west of the house, and our water supply was a well about 200 feet to the north, where we had to draw the water with a bucket, and carry it to the house. We had 2 large barns and 2 small ones. A creek ran through the middle of the farm, but only had water in it after a rain. We had Chickens, Bantys, cattle, pigs and turkeys, that we raised for our own food, along with Apples, Pears, Cherries, Peaches, Blackberries, Raspberries, Strawberries, Mulberries, Walnuts and Wineberries. Dad would buy Coal to burn for heat sometimes, but most of the time he and Mom would cut wood.

Even the road to the old place was something special. The original road, went south 1/4 to 1/2 mile, then turned east about 1/2 mile, then back south another 1/4 to 1/2 mile before it reached the real road. I say real road because it was gravel, and the one I just described was dirt, or mud, depending on the season. Remember, this is in the early to mid 1950s. Our car was a late 40s model, I think. It had to be parked out by the real road, so to get from the house to the car, Dad built a wooden platform on the back of a little Ford tractor, so Mom could sit on it with all the kids. We would all ride like this out to the car, when we needed to go to town, 5 miles away, and Dad made the trip every work day. He worked in Evansville, Indiana at the International steel Company, which was 50 miles away, or at the time about 1 1/2 hours away. This was our only useable road for a few years, until the county finished the road in to us from the north. I think it had a couple of bridges out.

My first attempt at poetry was to write a poem for my Mom about the road and old home place. I wrote it for Christmas 2005. It is simple, but it if you keep reading my history, you will understand it.

The Road to the Long Gone Home
It is just a road like any other
but it takes me home to my Dad and Mother.
A simple road, not fancy, but good
it is covered with gravel, and bridges of wood.
It lead to a home where laughter was heard,
and the songs up above from many a bird.
The hound dog and chickens would chase each other,
they were just Bantys, but could they fight, oh brother.
The pigs were all happy in the mud where they played,
and a barn full of chickens with the eggs they had laid.
Moms hand made quilts kept us warm in our beds,
as our plans for tomarrow danced around in our heads.
Our Icecream was home made, and sometimes from Snow,
but the joys that are simple are the best, don't you know.
We ran and we played, and our knees we did scrape,
but mom could fix anything, even a towel for a cape.
The smell of the pies, from the oven still hot.
Who could ask in this life for a much better lot.
Tho the house is no more, that was once our abode,
tis the joy in our memory that still lives down that road.

Now I would have a hard time living without my modern home, but back then, everything was good.
The first T. V. thatI remember, was a black and white console in a blond wood cabinet. It had rabbit ear antannae on top, that we had to put tin pie pans on to get 1 of the 3 stations available. We watched every cartoon that came on then, and Mom would make us capes out of towels so we could be Superman and Mighty Mouse.
Each year, we had large gardens, full of tomatos, potatos, squash, cucumbers, pumpkins, beans, everything that could canned or stored for Winter. Back then, that is just what people did, rather than run to the store for everything they need. When we finally got a phone, it was a party line, which meant when you got a call, every one else on the line's phone rang at the same time. Each one had a seperate ring, like ours was 4 rings and someone else had 3 rings and so on. Well every one would just pick up and listen, and even join in on the calls.
I started school in 1958, and failed the first year, because My sister and I had to walk about a mile to the bus stop. It was south down the road to the first turn, then climb over the fence into the neighbors pasture, and then go another 1/2 to 3/4 mile across the field to the Allen house where the Bus was to stop. Rain or snow, that is the only way to the bus and home from it to. So because of the weather, we missed a lot of school. Before the start of my 2nd year of school, the county finally put in the road from the North, with gravel and everything. It was a much better road, 100 times better than the other way in, but it still had a problem. The road started at Albion Church, and it was a really steep hill. In the snow and ice, you could not make it up the hill at all.
In the early 1960s, we were going through a drought, where it had not rained for a long time. We had pigs in a pen back about 1/4 mile west of the house, and the fence crossed a dry creek. Well my Moms brother Arnold could witch for water, and he was very very good. He came over from Evansville one weekend and we all went to the pig pen, actually about 5 acres of fenced in field and woods, and Uncle Arnold found the spot to dig the well. First, he got a Wild Cherry forked limb, then holding it by the forked limbs, walked around with it sticking straight out in front of him. He walked over toward the dry creek, where it was about 6 ft deep, and about 10 or 12 feet from the edge, the Cherry fork started pointing down. He stopped when the fork pointed straight down and then it started turning backwards in full circles. He counted the turns it made, and knew exactly where and how deep the water was. Uncle Arnold told Dad, dig right here, and at 18 feet, you will hit mud, but keep going until you hit 24 feet, where the water will come to the surface. We used an auger type post hole digger to drill down where we were told to. He was absolutely right. we dug a little ditch from the well to the creek, and the water came out and flowed to the creek.
We had a large sheep barn, about 200 to 300 feet from the house where we kept the laying hens. One day dad heard the chickens making a lot of noise, so he went to see what it was all about. Just inside the big double doors on the end, we had bales of hay stacked about 6 or 7 bales high. As dad walked in he saw a snake raise its head up from the top of the hay, so he grabbed a garden hoe by the door, and killed the snake. It was the biggest Chicken snake anyone had seen around the area. It was almost 8 feet long.
We also had Guinnies, which are a bird just smaller than a chicken, and they are grey with white spots. Mom really liked them, and they ate a lot of bugs. One day mom saw a large bird sitting on a fence post about a quarter mile or so back in the field. Thinking it was a Hawk, that would get her Guinnies, she got the 22 rifle and shot the bird with the first shot. Mom and Dad are very very good shots. My brother Brent and I ran back to the post to get the claws from the Hawk, but it was no Hawk. It was one of moms Guinnies. We hid it.
Another time I remember Mom saw a snake stick it's head out of a hole in the side of a tree. Again she got the gun and when the snake stuck his head out again she shot it off. She told my older brothers what she had done, and they did not believe her. They ended up cutting the tree down, it was dead anyway, to get to the knot hole where the snake was. It was in there, with 1 shot through the head, told you mom is a good shot.
Dad worked 2nd shift at International Steel, so he left home about 2:00 pm and got home after midnight. In 1964, we had a blizard that left snow a couple feet deep, and drifts 4 to 5 feet deep. The trip home for dad usually took about 1 to 1 1/2 hours, but this night he pushed snow with the 54 chevy all the way home. I think it took him about 3 1/2 to 4 hours to make the trip. When he finally made it to Albion Church hill, he knew he could not make it up the hill in the car, so he worked it back and fourth to get it to the side of the road. Then he got out and started to walk the mile and a tenth home. He only made it about 100 feet up the hill where the snow was chest high, then he turned around and went back to the car and waited for the Sun to come up. When it got daylight, he walked home which took well over an hour. He was so cold when he got home that all he could do was sit by the fire and wait for the pain in his hands, legs and feet to stop. He was so cold. Once he warmed up, he had to feed the live stock, cut fire wood and try to sleep before he went back to work. Now, I am not sure if he went back to work or not. He always did what ever he had to do, it was just what you did then.
When I was about 13 or 14, I was pushing my bicycle up a hill on a dirt road about a mile from home. My 2 dogs, Browney, a Shetland Sheepdog, and Princess, a German Shepherd were following me when we herd a growling. I looked up the hill, and comming toward me at a dead run was a Badger. The dogs ran past me and jumped the Badger, which began whipping both of them. I jumped on my bike and rode it up the hill and on toward home as fast as my legs could go. My dogs passed me, they were bloody and moving. About 1/2 mile along, I met a neighbor that I told what had happened, so he got his tractor and gun and we both went back to find the Badger. A Badger is as mean as an animal can get, they will fight anything, and can usually win. We did not find the Badger, but after that day I kept watch anytime I was out and about
My first job was for a neighbor farmer, where I earned 50 cents per hour. I helped take care of cattle, fixed fences and took care of farm machinery. By the time I was 16, I was making $1.00 per hour, and I thought I had it made. I had a 1952 Chevy Deluxe, gas was 23 Cents per gallon, so you could drive a week on $5.00 of gas.

Ill be back with more soon.