Spring rituals on the farm

This is the time of year that takes me back to childhood. We would all be excited about the approaching “end of school,” and each morning would bring that longed-for day closer.

6-25 Page 4A.inddEarly morning began with the sounds of tractors cranking out at the barn. I could stand on the front porch in my cotton pajamas and watch Leroy leave the barnyard on the Super M. Uncle Jack would be out there directing the day.

He’d be wearing one of his khaki shirt and pants that were like a summer time uniform with a tan ballcap and sunglasses. He always had a pack of Lucky Strikes in his shirt pocket and a cigarette lighter in his right-hand pants pocket.

He was wiry and energetic and always working. We loved to hear him tell a story or describe almost anything going on. He could make the most mundane activity sound exciting. And to him it was. He covered ground like a racehorse and never shirked a task.

To this day, if I see a green pickup truck, Uncle Jack comes to mind. He’d always have something in the back of the truck hauling it out to the fields or bringing it back. It might be fertilizer or seed, gas for the tractors or water for the hands.

After everything was started for the day’s work, he’d drive back to the house. We could hear him coming up the front steps and opening the screen door. It always squeaked when it opened. He’d walk down the long hall calling for Grandmamma, although he could count on almost always finding her in the kitchen. When Grandmamma heard him coming, she’d set a cup and saucer on the kitchen table and have the coffee pot ready.

In he’d come, always wearing a big smile and bringing the outdoors into the kitchen. He smelled like tobacco and gasoline and oil and cotton dust. He’d take off his sunglasses and lay them on the table and sit down for a few minutes to drink his coffee. Grandmamma would sit down with him, and they’d spend a few minutes talking. He’d always be full of news, as he was the farm’s link with town and what was happening on other farms.

Buie Company was having a sale on sugar, Nip Ellers had some fresh fish just in, gas was 27 cents a gallon, and had we heard about the goings-on at the new church out near the gin store? The new preacher had absconded with the offering and the organist, and nobody knew where they’d gone. This was unbelievable news, but it was almost impossible to shock Grandmamma. Her response was, “Well, I’m not surprised. He was too good-looking for his own good.”

She’d report her plans to make a pound cake, as we had extra butter and the hens had begun laying more eggs, a regular spring event. She’d have already brought in the pail of fresh milk. It would be sitting next to the kitchen sink ready to be strained.

Butter-making would happen when we got home from school. That was my job, and I enjoyed it. Gathering the eggs was another of my jobs. Truthfully, I dreaded it, as the hens were always trying to set in spring and were a little cranky about being disturbed and having their eggs stolen. I was a little afraid of them, as I’d been pecked a time or two. It wasn’t that being pecked was that painful. It was always the surprise of the attack I found unsettling. They were a sneaky bunch and unpredictable.

I’d listen to them talk while I finished breakfast. It would by then be time for the bus, which came by faithfully by 7:30. We’d often wait for it on the front porch and get a good look at the day’s beginning when the dew was still on the grass. Spring on the farm was a good time to be alive.