Ken Key continues his reminisces of life on the farm as a teenager
Mar 17, 2013 | 1315 views | 0 0 comments | 20 20 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Editor’s note: Walking Back In Time is a column from the Walker County Genealogical Society, Inc. It appears each Sunday in the Lifestyles section of the Daily Mountain Eagle.

During my teenage years on the farm, I would draw water from the well to be used in the house and also to water the livestock.

We drank our water from a dipper which always hung close by the water bucket. Our kitchen stove had a compartment built into the side which heated our water.

We always had chickens and plenty of eggs. The black snakes, which we called chicken snakes, would get into the hen nests and eat the eggs. The snakes would swallow the eggs whole. Mother would put white glass eggs in the nests to attract the hens, and the snakes would swallow the glass eggs.

Dad always had at least one cow, a couple of hogs, a horse or mule, and chickens. The hogs were slaughtered in the fall just before it turned cold, and the meat was cured in the smokehouse.

After the hogs were killed, mother would cook the lard out of the fat. The meat was cut up and certain parts were ground into sausage.

There was nothing better than a homemade biscuit with a fresh cooked piece of sausage in it. We took ham and sausage biscuits to school for our lunch.

Pork and chicken was our main source of meat and was eaten year around. We often had a pork chop or a piece of beef steak with our eggs at breakfast.

Mother would fry chicken and serve it with gravy and biscuits. Chicken was the most popular meat for Sunday dinners.

There were times when the water well did not produce enough water, and we had to go down into the hollow and get water from a spring.

Sometimes, mother would wash our clothes at the spring. She heated the water in an old black wash pot and washed the clothes in a tub. For many years, mother used homemade soap and scrubbed our clothes on a washboard.

Mother was a provider in many ways. She made lye soap. The process was explained to me this way. The soap was made from using the ashes from fireplaces, putting them in a barrel, and adding water until the “lye” would drip into the black wash pot.

Fat from the hogs was added and then the mixture cooked until the soap formed. This was a soft soap and used for washing clothes. Octagon soap was used for baths.

Mother said that one time Grandma Jalia was making soap and the wood barrel caught fire, causing some damage to the smokehouse. Mother and aunt Ruth saw the fire and Ruth fainted. Mother and Grandma Jalia put out the fire. The old log smokehouse still stands today bearing signs of that fire.

Come summer, Mother would cut apples and put them outside to dry in the sun. These dried apples were used for making fried apple pies. She would can vegetables and fruits for the winter months. The sweet potatoes were plowed up and put into a mound of dirt with pine straw to keep them from freezing during the winter months. We always had plenty of baked sweet potatoes to eat. Dad raised potatoes, and they were stored in the barn loft along with the onions for drying.

We spent endless hours shelling peas, stringing beans, shucking and cleaning corn, and shelling lima beans. Dad bought a freezer in the mid 1950’s, and from that time on most of our vegetables and meat were frozen for future use.

In the summer, strawberries were picked and put into the freezer. We often spent an entire day helping mother prepare young fryers for the freezer. It wasn’t all work under that tree. Many gallons of ice cream were cranked and enjoyed by all.

Faye always helped mother with the housework. Dad and mother did most of the farm work. Sometimes we were carried along to help. As Amelia grew older, she began to share the housework with Faye.

We remember when the yard was barren of grass mother would make brooms from dogwood branches to be used for sweeping the yards. We were glad when grass was planted, and dad was eventually able to buy a lawnmower.

Sometimes when we were sick with a cold, mother would give us a teaspoon of sugar and turpentine. This was good for laryngitis.

When we had the flu, mother would rub us down with salve and give us a little hot toddy to help break the fever. Mother would put kerosene on our cuts to kill infection. On a regular basis, we were given castor oil for cleansing purposes. The castor oil was usually given on Friday nights and was very much dreaded.

During my teen years, I would pick blackberries and sell them to the neighbors. I remember mother buying flour and cow feed in printed cloth sacks. She used the cloth to make dresses, quilts, etc. Some of the dishes and glasses we used in the kitchen came out of washing powder and oat meal boxes.

James remembers going into the chicken pen barefooted and the chickens pecking his toes. He said his most dreaded chore was shoveling out the manure in the barn stalls. The manure was spread out in the garden for fertilizer. One of his duties was to hold the cow’s tail out of the way while mother milked the cow.

Cutting corn tops and putting the bundles in the barn loft to dry for winter feed was a very hot job.

Both James and Amelia made many trips to the spring in the hollow to get water for washing hair. The spring water was much softer than the well water and this made washing hair much easier.