Once upon a time in a seemingly far away place I picture standing on my grand dad’s and grandmother’s front porch at the steps looking through the line of crepe myrtle trees out to the main dirt road. There were eight of them. One immediately to my left was smaller and was just right for climbing. To the right of the ones on my right was a small yard area, then a row of large “switch” bushes. Beyond that was the chicken yard replete with a large coop. Behind the coop was a large pear tree that apparently had tapped into the chicken poop, because it would grow in an outlandish manner and bear pears in such abundance as to break the limbs down from their weight. It always looked like a hurricane had hit it because it always looked so damaged, yet it continued to bear it’s luscious fruit in season.
Out off the end of the “switch” bush was a mulberry tree. Now that one I climbed often, but even more so when it bore its fruit. Once up in it during that time I would pick the fruit of it, stick the whole thing behind my teeth and pull the stem through my teeth leaving the juicy berries in my mouth to savor the sweetness there of.
Out behind the chicken coop in a line straight out the back door was two rows of pecan trees. They were majestically tall and always so tempting to climb. My dad would climb them during pecan season as high as he could and shake the limbs to make the pecans fall out. We always had an abundance of pecans for just plain eating for those so tempting pecan pies.
At the end of that pair of pecan tree rows was the two-holer. Yes, an outhouse. The placement for whatever reason seemed to attribute to growth of the trees in some fashion. Nature took it course. The trees were always healthy, growing and bearing pecans.
Directly off the back porch within a hop, skip and a jump was probably my most favorite climbing tree. I know of not many if any other of this tree. It was a Chinaberry tree. It had the soft coated green berries with a large hard seeded center. To me they were not for eating, but to squish in between my fingers to expose the seed. The tree had large limbs to climb in and just simply sit and look out over the field behind the house over the back row of “switch” bushes.
Apparently my grand parents were feeling the need for these particular bushes for some reason. Whenever discipline was necessary it always took two of switches because we children would be told to go break one off and bring it to them. Yes. . .we were the ones who got our on punishment devices. But thinking to get the smallest possible one would likely get us switched with it and then sent back to get a larger one for a more thorough switching. I learned early on to cut my losses and get the bigger switch first.
There was no stopping the abundance of said bushes. The whole west side of the house was lined with the same bushes. I never went there for switches though. But I did experience something there that left an indelible mark on me. My grand parents had “regular” chickens and then there were the Bantams. They roamed free around the yard unlike the others in the pen. One day I was walked around that side of the house and apparently I provoked a hen with her chicks. She jumped out of one of those bushes and flogged me beak and claws full on. I ran screaming to the back door with that hen on full mode attack. Everyone thought I was dying from some mortal wound. From then on I gave those Bantams a wide berth.
The Guineas that roamed the farm were about as ornery, so they got the same wide berth as the Bantams. I always took them for granted, but considered them to be strange creatures that laid eggs that kept my dad on the hunt for their nests. Their eggs were smaller, but seemed to be richer looking when broken into the frying pan. Another good reason for having them was that they kept the insect population down in their on small way while being somewhat of an alarm when something wasn’t right.
So, back to the trees. The most majestic of trees in the large farm house yard were the cedars. They were huge to my small boy size. There were two. One directly to the side of the house next to my grandmother’s bedroom and one next to the pack house.
Ah, the pack house. It was where the corn was stored to feed to chickens and early on the horse, mule and cow. During tobacco season it stored the cured tobacco for grading before hauling it to the market. I spent many days in there shucking and running the cobbed corn through the sheller to get the corn off the cob. I’d fill up the big wooden box under the sheller. Sometimes when I got a bit older I would scoop the corn into burlap bags and tie them off. My dad would later take them out to the mill and have the corn ground into feed meal for the hogs. The wing ends of the pack house stored field implements, like the stalk cutter which I loved to use on the tobacco fields after the harvest was completed.
One other building was the smoke house just off the south west side of the house. Now there was where the goods were kept. A pork barrel with salted down fat back, bacon and the sorts. Hanging from overhead was hams and shoulders from the last hog killing.
Now a hog killing was a family event. Everybody got involved. It would start early in the morning around in the fall or cooler weather and would not stop till the table was set with a fresh pork dinner to sample the days labor.
That wasn’t all of the yard. On the west side of the pack house was a path that ran from the main dirt road to the family cemetery and beyond, but on the other side of that path from the pack house was the horse stable. That was where we kept a horse and a mule for plowing. The stable was surrounded by a field and more beyond. There was so much space to just simply roam in those fields.
To the east side of the yard was a field, but let’s not forget the “big barn” and the “little barn”. We also had a large tank that was filled with gasoline for farm tractors. . . and farm truck . . . or the car occasionally. The big barn was the newer tobacco barn and the little barn was much older. The little one was a log barn with daubing in between the logs. Both are gone now.
The fact is most all of it is gone except the run down house that is barely seen through the undergrowth. Many memories linger in there. Maybe I’ll write about those next.