Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Good Memories of life on an Adams County Farm
This article was written by my good friend Emma Kay Simpson Jones and published in the "Reflections" section of the February 22, 2012 edition of the People's Defender newspaper.
This is dedicated to my sister, Barbara Bailey, my two brothers, Ronnie and Darrell Simpson, and in memory of my sister, Mima Fulton.
In my opinion, good memories are a gift from God. I am one of the people that had the good fortune to have been raised by loving parents, Lane and Julia Simpson, on a small farm in Adams County. As I reflect on my years in Adams County, I hope the stories that I am going to share will warm your heart and bring a smile to your face.
My Mom and Dad moved from Flemingsburg, KY, to Ohio in 1946. With them came my two sisters, Mima and Barb. I was born about a year later in the farmhouse, delivered by a midwife named Murdy McNeil. After me came my brothers, Ronnie and Darrell. My parents bought a farm from a woman named Ebrite. It is located about a mile and a half from Eckmansville, on Eckmansville Road. This small town consisted of a few houses, a crossroads, a Presbyterian Church, a small blacksmith/welding shop and a general store. The store was owned by a man named Glenmore Roberts. It had one gas pump. Glenmore would let people charge groceries and gas on their word alone. That's a way of life that is almost unheard of anymore.
The farm had 78 acres, and sat on both sides of Eckmansville Road. My dad donated a corner of the property to build a Christian Holiness Church, and Bruce Stamm donated the adjoining property for the parking lot. My dad was a deacon and a Sunday School teacher. My mom wholeheartedly supported the church, and I think she cooked for every visiting evangelist that came around. The church is still active today.
The farmhouse sits on a small hill overlooking a big yard with a pond on the side of it. There is an artesian spring at the mouth of the pond that has the best tasting water in the whole country. There was always a bucket at the spring with a small rope tied to the bail. All you had to do was throw the bucket in and give it a slight "yank" while on the top of the water, causing it to sink and thus filling it with crystal clear, cold thirst quencher. Later on, Daddy dug a ditch, and had the water pumped into the farmhouse.
We didn't have electricity in the barn, so Daddy dug out a hole beside the spring, and encased it large enough to hold two milk cans. The cold spring water around it served as a refrigeration unit to keep the milk cold until the milk truck came to pick it up. I can remember the milkman having ice-cream packed in dry ice. It was always a special treat to get some of the ice cream, and us kids had a ball playing with the dry ice.
My Mom and Dad were honest, hard working, and God fearing people. My mother went from "Mommy" to "Mom" but my father stayed "Daddy". All five of us kids still called him "Daddy" till the day that he died.
Daddy milked a few cows by hand at first, then later on he had a Grade A dairy, with the bulk tank and milkers. He always had hogs. I can visualize the new litters of piglets; the baby pigs' skin felt like velvet when you stroked it. Daddy was great with hogs. He hardly ever lost a baby. He would say, "a hard pig is a good pig". Even when there were eleven babies, and only ten dinner plates, he always managed to save the runts. There were times when the sow would accidentally step on a baby, and break the skin open. Daddy would bring the baby pig to the house and someone would hold it tightly for him while he sewed it up with a needle and thread. He always had a magical touch with animals. In the winter, sometimes a cow would deliver a calf out in the freezing cold. When Daddy found it, he would bring it into the back porch room to get it warmed up. He kept a bottle of whiskey handy to give it a little shot. Then back out it would go, to it's mom and all was well. Mom didn't like animals in the house, but she always made an exception when it was necessary.
We never ate much beef, but we always had pork on the table. Daddy had everything to slaughter hogs with. We had the hoists, scalding troughs, and all the other tools of the trade. When he got ready to do the job, several neighbors came with their hogs to slaughter also. On slaughtering days, it was a busy, busy time. After the hogs were killed, gutted out and cleaned and washed, they were cut into halves and from there came out the hams, shoulders, bacon, sides and so on. Mom had a sausage grinder and she would make up patties and bake them in a big pan in the oven. After they were cooked, she put them in canning jars and poured the hot grease over them. She sealed them tight, and turned them upside down so they were sealed. When the lids all popped, they were ready to take to the cellar and be stored, still upside down. I loved the fresh sausage on crackers with a little mustard. Mom sugar cured the shoulders and hams. I used to watch her work her fingers down in the bone, putting the salt and sugar at the perfect spots. I only remember one single ham going bad in all those years. She rendered down all the lard. She had a lard press, and after the grease was all out, you were left with the cracklings. I loved it when she made a pone of cornbread with cracklings in it. Yum! Yum! She always gave away the feet; she just didn't like doing anything with the feet. She usually gave away the head also, but she saved the brains, and we had fried brains. Mom always laughed and told us that eating brains would make us smarter.
Mom and Daddy raised their own chickens from babies. One time a weasel got into the brooding house and killed a bunch of Mom's chickens. She cried and cried. I've seen her wring a chicken's neck to make chicken and dumplings. She would hold it tightly to keep it from bruising. Sometimes she hung it on the clothesline to bleed out. Then she would scald it to get off the feathers, clean out the insides, wash it, then wash it again. to get off the pin-feathers, she used a rolled up brown paper sack that she had set on fire, or she held the chicken over the flames on her gas stove to singe them. I hated the smell of the feathers burning! But it certainly did a good job.
Mom loved to cook; she lived to cook. Her biscuits were perfection; she made them in a big granite bowl with sifted flour. She added a little of this and a little of that , and made a big dough ball, then pinched out every biscuit by hand. She added a little dab of bacon grease to the top of each biscuit before baking and when they came out of the oven they would melt in your mouth. I loved hot biscuits with squirrel gravy and homemade black raspberry jelly. She loved to cook for company, and we had LOTS of company. Daddy could always get work hands to help in hay or tobacco because they knew that Mom was going to fix a scrumptious meal at dinner. Our meals were breakfast, dinner and supper rather than breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Daddy baled hay for people all over the county and share-cropped tobacco in addition to raising his own base. He was a township trustee, and loved to read and talk the Bible. He was also a great story teller. He would hypnotize you with his coon hunting stories. One story that he would tell happened right after he and Mom moved here from Kentucky. He loved to coon hunt, and one night he was out with his dogs on a hill somewhere between Eckmansville and Decatur. The dogs were walking close to him, and he started holding up his lanten to light his way when he realized that he had walked through the entrance to a graveyard. It had a rock wall around it and several tombstones with the same name on all of them. They had all died in the same year. He thought that meybe they had died from the same disease, then all at once, out of nowhere, a snow white cat jumped up on the rock wall. The dogs made no effort to chase it, or even bark. It sat there for a few seconds, then jumped off. Daddy went his way, and when he got home, he told Mom what he had seen. Years and years passed, and my brother took up coon hunting. One morning at the breakfast table, he said, "You won't believe what happened to me last night. I found myself in a graveyard up on a hill between Eckmansville and Decatur. On one of the tombstones sat a big snow white cat. It sat there a while, then disappeared into the fog. The dogs didn't even bark." My brother had never heard Daddy tell his story about the cat and the graveyard; my brother wasn't even born when it happened to Daddy. Now you see why the stories were hypnotizing. Daddy would tell about being chased by a wild cat, and tell stories so vivid that the hair would stand up on the back of your neck. Us kids inherited our Daddy's storytelling ability, and I love it
Mom and Daddy raised a huge garden. I'd like to have a dollar for every quart my Mom canned over the years. She lived to be 95 and at 94 she still canned beans and picked them herself. She and Daddy were married 71 years, and always worked side by side in the garden.
I have so many memories. One sad memory was when our big old red barn burned to the ground. I cried and cried and my husband tried to console me. He said, "Kay, it was just a barn." But it wasn't just a barn; it was where I walked the rafters with my brothers, and chased bats with tobacco sticks. It was where I gathered the eggs, and had my hideout in the hay. It was where the baby animals were born and where I made my mud pies and played house. When it burned, a part of me was gone. No, it wasn't just a barn.
Just like the farmhouse wasn't just a house, it was a shelter full of laughter, a kitchen filled with the smells of fresh-baked breads, pies and sassafras tea. It's where we ate meals as a family at the table after grace was said. It was a place where we learned to respect others; where we learned morals, and right from wrong. It was where us kids bonded together, and loved each other because we saw so much love coming from our parents.
My brother, Ronnie owns the farm now, and whenever I get down there and turn into the drive, I can see the house still sitting on that little hill. It needs some repair and things will never be the same since Mom and Daddy are gone. But when I step through the back door, in my mind I see Mom cooking in the kitchen, and I hear Daddy laughing from his easy chair. And in my heart, I'm always coming home.
I was fortunate to know Lane and Julia Simpson very well. We attended the same church - that little country church in Eckmansville, Ohio. Clark and I were married in that church and Lane and Julia had our reception in her little kitchen. Clark remembers that once he was short on money for his car payment and Lane loaned him fifty dollars until Clark earned money to pay him back. Clark worked in the fields for Lane many times and enjoyed meals prepared by Julia. That woman could put on a huge spread in a short amount of time. She was a small lady, full of energy and love for her family and friends. Whenever the church had Homecoming Day dinner, Lane and Julia would bring out the large farm wagons into the yard and everyone would bring covered dishes for dinner. Julia always made a big pot of chicken and dumplings. Everyone always made it a point to get some of that. This was a wonderful tribute by Emma Kay to a wonderful family. May God Bless You!