As usual, all the really fun things happened on Ma and Pa’s old farm. My cousin, Glenda, was raised by Ma and Pa and we were busy from the time we got up until bedtime. I didn’t live with them but spent a lot of time there.
We had a wonderful play house just inside the fence of the pasture where the wicked old cow lived and who loved to catch us in her territory. So we played with one eye out for old Red. Our “house” was the big roots of an old tree. We divided the roots into rooms and we filled those rooms with dishes and furniture made from red clay. We dug the clay out behind the smokehouse from a wonderful clay bank. Mixed with a little water, we molded plates, cups, bowls and furniture into shapes and then took them into Ma’s kitchen where she let us bake them in the stove oven. We used beautiful green moss for carpets and pieces of fabric from Ma’s scrap bag for quilts, tablecloths, etc. If we saw old Red coming, we had to run for the fence.
When we got tired of the playhouse, we made chains of clover blossoms, hunted for four leaf clovers, or dug for grass nuts. Now there was something really delicious. Or we could go down to the pond behind the cow barn and look to see if we could spot the big catfish that lived in the little pond. Sometimes we would go to the creek, dam up a little spot and dip up minnows into our bucket to take back to feed the big catfish. I think he was about a yard long but he seemed bigger. Pa would feed him occasionally and we loved to watch that.
One of our favorite games was to catch Ma’s frying size chickens, tuck their heads under their wings and whirl them round and round and then lay them down in a row. Sometimes, we would have more than a dozen lying like that. As they came around, we would spin them around again and put them back. Then, Ma would catch us and make us let them all go.
On rainy days, we played paper dolls. We cut the dolls out of the Sears catalog, then cut out dresses from the same catalog or a magazine. We would make a paste of flour and water, with Ma’s help, and glue the dolls to cardboard to make them more fun to dress.
If it was cold enough to have a fire in the big fireplace, we got out the long handled tin corn popper and had popcorn. We could also crack walnuts and hickory nuts and pick out the meats with a horseshoe nail. If she was not too busy, Ma would cook molasses till it was just right and we made popcorn balls. Best things I ever ate.
After my family moved to Canton, about 30 miles away, I made all new friends and the things to do were more varied. My girl friends were tomboys so I had to learn to climb trees and swim in the creek and other more challenging things. I had trouble at first learning to climb the big shade trees in the middle of the little village so my friends tacked small pieces of wood to the tree to give me climbing grips. I learned to shoot marbles, play baseball and swing by a rope tied to a big tree and let go at just the right time. My friends were both boys and girls so I had to learn to keep up with kids older than I and so I did.
Swimming in the creek came about the time I was nine or ten. I knew, from the beginning, that this would be forbidden if my parents found out so it was kept a big secret. It wasn’t hard to do because we roamed all over the little village, fished in a pond nearby, went from house to house looking for some fun thing to do. How I kept the secret of the creek was to pull off my overalls and swim in my underwear, which was the usual thing for most of the kids who didn’t want to get their clothes wet. My big reason for needing to go home with dry clothes was my Mama. I knew Daddy was all bluster and hysterics but Mama would wallop me. I knew this instinctively, though she had only swatted me once in my life. However, she did a thorough job.
Though we had never heard of TV and didn’t care for the radio, we had been to one or two Western movies. So we used one of our old coal houses for a bar, put a plank across the door and served Pepsi Cola in little glasses. Only two of us had cap pistols, Billy Wallace and Jr. Ricks, so the rest of us were bar tenders or Indians. Two things that our father would never let us have were pistols and bicycles. The ban on guns was because he had to wear a gun in his job with the state and the bicycle was because he had such a fear that we would be run over by a car or get hurt from falling off. I had to pay a friend a quarter to let me wear his guns for a day and a quarter to ride his bike all afternoon, all behind Daddy’s back.
Somehow we all grew up in that Utopia called Canton. We were to learn later of racial intolerance, cruelty of all sorts and crimes against children. But for a time, life was just about perfect in Canton.
Please feel free to call me at 270-522-3632 with comments and suggestions. For my book, Going Through the Garden, send $13.50 to Ronella Stagner, 137 Main St., Cadiz, KY 42211.