Smiles When I was Young

My mother made the coats that my brother, Rex and I are wearing in this picture. We are smiling as Gladys Bailey snapped this picture at my Uncle Roy’s house in Greenwood Center. My oldest brother, Roland stands behind me with his hands on my shoulders, indicative of the type of “big brother” he was.  I barely remember my mother cutting up the old coats given her and sitting at her treadle machine in the corner of the kitchen, sewing the coats for us. This picture always makes me smile because we just looked so gosh darn happy.  We had so little materially and yet there we stand, grinning for the camera.  I smile to think how we made our own fun, never depending on anyone or anything to entertain us. Perhaps school was the exception with its holiday celebrations. But generally speaking, we took each day as it came and found our fun in that particular day.

I wonder how many kids today would be so thrilled at the simple things which really made our day exciting. Oh, the excitement when one of us realized the road was going to be tarred that day. We sat on a rock in my Grandmother’s field and waited for the truck to go by, and believe it or not, relished in the smell of the hot tar as it passed. I still love the smell of tar…well to a point, anyway.

My Grandfather had more fields than he knew what to do with and that meant plenty of hay come summer. What excitement to see Oz Palmer and his team of horses pulling that long , high hay wagon coming down the “flat.” We were forbidden to get near the wagon or the horses but we ran next to the wagon as it passed the house filling our noses with that sweet smell of new mown hay accentuated with a sneeze or two.

It was such a day that we almost had a tragedy  in the family. The hay wagon had stopped in front of my Grandparents’ farm. I think, perhaps, they were raking the little field by the pond. I remember Roland getting into Uncle Louis’s row boat tied to the tree. I was surprised as I knew that was a huge no-no and soon another boy from the haying crew joined him. I don’t know what happened, but the boat rocked and Roland went over the end into the pond. I ran toward our house, screaming that Roland was in the pond. I can barely remember my mother running past me, down the field and jumping in the pond and grabbing my brother, who was choking and spitting up water. She took him to the house and we were ordered to follow. As a teenager, occasionally someone would bring up the day that Ma saved Tink from drowning.

Ma was probably the one person I knew who could make do with almost nothing. We came home from school one day and Ma motioned us into the little room off the kitchen to “show us something she had done.”  Because she had no bureau, she had taken two boxes, stacked them, fashioned some drawers with makeshift knobs and covered it all in wall paper. It was a work of art and she used that for years. She was as proud as punch to show off her handiwork and I smile everytime I think of it.

I loved music so much that when Dad announced Fred Davis was visiting my Grandparents, I could hardly wait to go and see if he would be playing his banjo. We were cautioned not to make a nuisance of ourselves and if others came to visit , we were to come right home. We spent many Sunday afternoons on Grammy’s porch listening to banjo music and watching Fred’s foot tap along in time.

I always loved to walk down to my Uncle Roy’s and once I got to the ledge, the tar stopped and the dirt road began. It didn’t matter as the tarred road seemed rounded to me in the middle and sloping on each side. I wonder if it would seem that way now should I walk the same route. I loved the old mill by my Uncle’s house and looked at it every time I crossed the bridge to see him.

Years later, of course, the walk was extended to Dubey’s store. One of my first jobs ws “tending” the store when the owners had errands to run or on vacation. It was a one room affair with shelves built into the walls, holding canned goods. There was a cooler in one corner with a few assorted  cold drinks and beer. The only bad scene I encountered was when someone vacationing wanted to buy beer and I had to tell him I was too young to sell it. He was nice, but extremely disappointed when I couldn’t tell him the exact time someone would be available to provide him with his favorite beverage.

One of my favorite smiles is remembering all the back roads Dad used to drive . I love old dirt roads. That may come from going up the Ames Road and part way up the back of  somewhere that took us to the Wolf River apple trees. Oh, I loved to see if perhaps a coon or hedgehog would come out and try to cross the road. Dad was dodging rocks to save the oil pan on the car, but that did not stop him from wanting to explore.

I wonder if there are still a lot of old cellar holes. I think I got that love from my Dad as well. I always noticed that there were lilac bushes where someone once lived and probably raised a family. I tried to imagine little kids running in the yard and sounds of laughter coming from what was once a happy home. Dad always pointed out the Penley Place and Tracy’s Flats and waved a hand toward where that house apparently was at some time. Years and years later, my brother, Curt, dug up some Blood Root plants  from the Tracy cellar hole and brought them to me. Every April, around the anniversary of his death, the Blood Root presents its pure white blossoms for one day and the rest of the summer, is a mass of huge elephant like leaves.

I wish cellar holes could talk. Years later, as a teenager I went on a first date with a young fellow. Guess where we went… yup, traisped through a field so he could show me the cellar hole where his grandparents or great grandparents had lived. I can’t remember the relatives, but I do remember there was a clump of lilac bushes at the corner.

Can you imagine all the smiles I would have missed if I had been looking down at a phone?  It’s a whole new world.

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