Country Living

Photo/Courtesy of The Brown Collection
The Brown Home Place – Built in 1952 by Ellsworth Brown.

I think by today’s standards, we may have grown up on a farm. It wasn’t really a farm and we certainly would not have admitted it back then, but the only thing we lacked was a barn and a herd of cows. And all we had to do to find those was cross the road, go between the barbed wire fence that separated our property from our grandparent’s and we would be standing in our grandfather’s cow pasture. It never seemed like a cow pasture like Mr. Penn’s property because there didn’t seem to be the volume of manure everywhere like it was on his land. Grandma and Granddad had a beautiful place, especially in the spring, cool green grass that you could lie down on in the shade and immediately fall asleep. And then there were the orchards, apples, pears, peaches, by the time we came up, most of the trees no longer existed, but there were at least 3 or 4 of each still there and we took advantage of them. I had found a place I kept all to myself up in their woods that had grass surrounded by thickets and once you crawled under those, it opened up into a cool meadow. I had gotten mad at my mother one day, announced I was running away from home, packed a knapsack and spent the better part of a day up in my secluded meadow. Finally, around dinnertime I got hungry and decided that I had punished my parents enough and traipsed back home expecting them to come rushing out of the house glad to see me still alive and well, but no one seemed to notice I’d ever been gone, at least someone learned a lesson that day…

Just up at the top of the hill a bit off from my grandparent’s house was a large barn that we, and the neighborhood kids spent many a summer’s day jumping out of, we jumped out of the hayloft. Well, honestly, I was the only one too small and scared to make the more than ten-foot jump. There was an art to making that leap (the “land with your knees bent, fall forward and roll” technique), but I couldn’t muster up enough nerve to try it. While the older boys (including Baby Ray) were going through the cycle of jumping, falling and rolling, springing to their feet, proclaiming that they hadn’t been hurt, running back into the barn, climbing back up to the loft, then standing around the next jumper, egging him on and expecting that he wouldn’t have the nerve to do it and then starting all over again. Well, while all this was going on, I was usually busy with other more important things like running about, waving my hands and arms frantically in the air trying to keep the barn swallows from attacking me. If you have any experience in barns at all, you’ll know that the swallows are very protective of their young and will attack whenever anything gets within 50 feet on their nest. My grandpa paid absolutely no attention to their mock dive bomb attacks, because he knew it was just for show, very seldom did one swoop down and actually make contact, but for some reason they seemed especially attracted to me and well, “Doink!” right on the noggin… Now my cousin Anna Ruth couldn’t go up to my grandparent’s house, because every time she attempted to make the trip up the hill, she’d get right in the yard and then we’d see her scampering back down the hill as fast as lightening, she’d zing right by our house, not bothering to seek shelter behind us, as we stood outside watching all this transpire and then we found out why she was running so fast, right on her heels came “Shep”, Grandma’s white German Shepard. For some unknown reason, Annie Ruth was not welcomed up there by Shep. The dog loved us, but hated her. We’d end up going to get her and walk her up the hill to keep the dog off her, so she could visit Miss Lula as Anna Ruth called her.

We’d get our butter and milk from the man who lives up at the end of our road, Mr. Bowen. For about 50 cents a week, he’d bring whole milk, butter, buttermilk and even sometimes eggs. Momma would look over the presentation with an experienced eye, deciding what was acceptable and what she wanted to turn down. And then the “Fish Man” came on Fridays, some days the fish was fresher than others, but then there were the times when someone in the neighborhood would buy up a big batch and have a “Fish Fry”. The fish fry was a lot like the “Lawn Parties” we used to have from time to time in our front yard. Music would be blaring, there was food for everyone. Lawn parties were free; usually fish fries meant someone was trying to raise money, because you had to pay for the fish sandwiches. They don’t have those kinds of neighborhood parties around here anymore, I don’t know if they have then anywhere anymore.

Photo/Courtesy of The Brown Collection
We had pigs and chickens… we had a farm.

Except for a barn and cattle we had all the trappings of a working farm. Of course there were chickens, pigs, one or two vegetable gardens and most times there was a dog somewhere under foot. Our father would buy about 50 chicks in the spring along with several piglets and we’d raise them. We kept the pigs through the summer and fall months until “hog killin’ time”. The chickens roosted in one half of the shed and in the mornings we’d go out and collect the eggs that had been laid over night, clean them and place them in the refrigerator for breakfast the next day. The other half of the shed was where we stored our canned vegetables and cured meats, anything from the garden that didn’t get canned would end up in the freezer on the back porch. The pigs had to be fattened up for the fall slaughter so we took turns slopping the hogs. This was a task that we all dreaded, but it had to be done. We kept a big five gallon bucket on the porch and whatever did not get eaten from the dinner table was scraped into this bucket and saved for the hogs to eat (we kept this bucket covered). The pigs were fed twice or three times a day. We gave them corn and grain feed for breakfast and “ze feast de resistance”, a good slopping in the evening. That full 5 gallon bucket was no treat to carry and deciding whose turn it was to slop the hogs was a big sticking point each day. But we took our turn because we knew we’d be rewarded later in the fall for all our hard work. Unfortunately for us (me and Raymond), at some point in their lives the male pigs came of age and something not unlike a bar mitzvah was held for them, only without the pomp and circumstance. There was something about the testicles, which if allowed to remain with the pig, would make the meat taste pungent and (for lack of a better word) “pissy”. So, we had to hold the hog while my father removed his testicles. As little piggy was busy chomping away at the trough (for this he got the best meal having no money could buy), and while his mind was a million miles away, I grabbed hold of him around the neck and then dad went behind him, sprayed some disinfectant on his privates, took out the razor he’d probably used that morning to shave with and sliced and diced until the sack was devoid of any notables. The pig jumped and squealed for about 5 seconds, my father sprayed something either to numb or to keep the infection out and before you knew it the pig seemed to have forgotten that he was now somewhat less of a male than when he began his day. I really can’t tell you what happened to his “family jewels”, but let’s just say it was snack time for his little brothers and sisters who eagerly watched the ceremony from the confines of the main pen.

Now feeding the chickens was no easy task either, there was always at least one ‘Banty’ (Bantam) Rooster that was just as mean as could be and the moment one of us stepped out into the backyard we’d get chased around in circles, yelling and screaming at the top of our lungs. Once or twice we had some that were so bad that they would jump up on your back and commence to pecking you on the back of your head and wouldn’t get off until someone came out to the rescue. Oh, but we got even, whenever mom decided to have chicken for dinner, we were the ones who helped her pick out which one would be served up. And as soon as mom said he was big enough, we would choose the one that gave us the most trouble out in the yard. The rooster didn’t often get the blade, but if one got too tough to handle because of the constant attacks on the kids, then it was ‘bye-bye birdie’ for him. But picking him out was the easy part, someone had to chase him down and hold him. Usually it was mom who finally caught up with it and it was mom with the axe. We had a chopping block always at the ready whenever an execution had to be performed. We anxiously stood waiting for what we knew would be the grand finale. With the disapproving chicken in one hand and the axe in the other, momma would lay the chicken across the chopping block and with one good WHACK! “Off with his head!” and then she’d let him go because he wasn’t dead yet. That chicken would take off running around the yard, bumping into things and the three or four of us would take off trying to run away from the headless chicken to get the thrill of being chased by him one last time. Then Mom would grab a foot tub (not the same tub we took our Saturday night baths in, mind you) and put on some scolding hot water for the de-feathering and cleaning that was about to take place. As time went on and our household continued to grow, we would have to kill two chickens for a single dinner setting. Somebody once said, “Colonel Sanders might kill more chickens in a day, but Earlene Brown can catch’em quicker” …Okay nobody said that, but she was fast out there, chasing after them yard bird. They don’t raise anymore chicks at the house, now when I go visit there is only a yard full of cats. Mom doesn’t cook as often as she used to, so I don’t question where the meat comes from when she does decide to cook a meal, but you know what they say: “M-m-m-m, taste just like chicken”.

About S.P. Brown

I began writing when I was 7 years old, after being assigned to write an essay by my 2nd grade teacher. The essay was entitled "What I Did Over The Thanksgiving Break". I enjoyed retelling that story so much I've been writing ever since . The essay I wrote for that assignment was The Long Way Home, I hope you enjoy it,
This entry was posted in Country Living and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s