Sunday, October 12, 2014
Long ago in Shelby NE
I was young once upon a time, lets begin a journey together from about 1940. The sun crept slowly into the bedroom, streaking across the floor and bringing daylight. Curtains stirred at the window, and a rooster crowed somewhere outside. Soon horses, cows and other farm critters added their voices. The windmill creaked in the breeze. Throwing back the handmade quilt, I got myself up and into overalls for the day, no mean feat for a 4 year old. Summers were spent on my grand parents farm in Shelby Nebraska. The old farmhouse was a saltbox style, tall and narrow and square. Downstairs there was a kitchen dining room across one side of the house, the other side had a parlor and the grand parent's bedroom. No heat except the wood stove in the kitchen, no running water and of course no plumbing. If the chamber pots were used in the night, they had to be taken down the road to the outhouse and emptied in the morning. Breakfast was a big meal, usually getting the men stoked up for a hard days work. We ate oatmeal, eggs, bacon and biscuits at the long harvest table in the sunny kitchen. Grandad plowed with a team of horses and a walking plow, many hours spent digging furrows, then later hand planting the seed for corn, wheat, alfalfa and other crops. He fertilized with manure raked up from the horse and cow areas, and the barn, stacked up behind the barn. And spread each spring before the ground was tilled. Weeding was also by hand, walking the rows and hand pulling. Harvest was a big deal, the farmers got together and helped each other, taking turns on each farm. I learned to cook in grandma's kitchen. She taught me many basic skills. I stirred, rolled, patted and had a wonderful time learning to feed others. Instead of our modern kitchens, we had a wood stove and a very long harvest table that doubled as a work place for making bread, cookies and all the other goodies we ate. My first cookies were made there. The crew always came in for lunch during harvest. Gramps rotated crops every year, and let some ground lie fallow each year to renew itself. The crops were abundant and healthy, no chemicals were used in any way. Funny, we were seldom sick, and we worked from sun up to sun down. At the end of the day, we would sit in the parlor by the kerosene lamp and read the bible together before going to bed. There were always new babies to play with, one day gramps called me into the barn to meet the new baby chicks. He had me hold out my hand and placed a tiny golden fuzz ball in it. It was fine until the chick did its normal thing and my hand was messed up, never have quite trusted chicks since, certainly not sitting in my hand. I loved the calves, and foals, but my favorites were all the barn cat's kittens. I have no idea how many there were at any time, but I used to sit out on the end of the board walk with a lapful of tiny kitties, just in seventh heaven. The walks were like the ones my son builds for us here in the mountains, guessing there was not much concrete work done back then, so boards became the functional way to keep mud out of the house. There was a huge horse tank next to the windmill, and gramps kept goldfish in it. They were humongous. He always told me a goldfish was a carp in a gold dress. The horses did not seem to mind drinking from this water, maybe it added something to their diet. There was no traffic, no airplanes, just the lovely stillness of the country, punctuated with animal sounds, the breeze and occasionally someone calling out to another person. Such bliss, peace and solitude. Sometimes I think I would gladly go back there. Utilities are not all they are cracked up to be. We had no tv, and I do not remember a radio. though there may have been one. People communicated, and had time for each other. Those summers were some of my favorite memories.