GARDENING ... AND MORE: Peak garden time brings back memories
by Ronella Stagner, Columnist
Jul 02, 2014 | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Since this is the time when our gardens, flowers and vegetables alike, are at their peak; they are what we have created, good or bad. Thinking of this makes me go back in time to another place and another time when I spent many happy days, with my dear grandparents, Will and Sallie Lewis.

It would seem that they lived an uneventful life on their little farm. They had no TV, radio, and no phone except for the neighborhood phone, which connected all their neighbors. This phone was a box affair that hung on the wall and was connected to a phone line that ran in from the front porch. If a cloud came up, we had to run and disconnect that wire to keep lightening from running into the house. That was my job if I was there because I could stand on Ma’s plank shelf for her porch flowers to reach the disconnect. I remember that it was a scary thing to do if we let the storm actually start before we disconnected the wire. Pa had no car and no longer had a horse when I was a child. Since they had no electricity and wouldn’t have it until the REA would come through that neighborhood, they had no radio, fans, heating stoves, cooking stove, and refrigerator and all the electric things we take for granted. They heated with a big fireplace and cooked on a little wood stove.

Before going further, I must tell you a bit about that most vital link to the outside, the phone. Each household was assigned a special ring such as two longs, a short and long, etc. You knew that if you rang someone, several people would pick up their phone so that wouldn’t really be a private call. Sometimes that would be necessary; if a mad dog was coming down the road of if a neighbor was sick and needed help, the word quickly got around. The big advantage to this system was that a neighbor, who lived on the county line, could relay a message to the next county and to the doctor if you had need of him. So you weren’t totally isolated.

Ma and Pa were to live that primitive lifestyle until they were old and had to leave the farm. I realized later that what made theirs such a happy home was that they loved each other and lived in such harmony. I have realized over the years that each of them tried to make life easier and happier for the other. For instance, Pa loved to fish and the only time he had for fishing was on Sunday so he spent most of the day on the bank of the Cumberland River, about one or two miles away. He and his fishing buddy, Pulley, spent many happy days on those banks. Ma loved to make beautiful quilts and was a fine seamstress so she spent the time doing her hobbies without ever complaining. I remember that she told me that Pa spent the day with his mother every Sunday when they were young and when I asked her if she minded, she told me that he loved his mother very much and that made him the man that he was and no, she never minded even though she spent that day with her two little ones in an isolated house a few miles away. Pa would always spend Sundays at home if they were to have company for the day.

Pa had a great sense of humor and was an outgoing person while Ma was reserved and quiet. She chuckled, never laughed, while Pa found many things to laugh about. Sometimes he would tease her, which did not please her but he sometimes couldn’t resist. In many other ways, they were always aware of the other’s likes and dislikes. Ma always cooked a hot meal at noon if Pa was working a field near the house and was able to come home. Then she had another hot meal at supper. Pa had a delicate stomach, though he lived to be 88 years old, and Ma saw that there was always food cooked just for him, even if she cooked for a houseful of relatives. I remember that Ma always had a dessert that he liked. Sometimes it would be a cobbler or his favorite, a plain cake with a sauce of chocolate or caramel. Ma called them her everyday cakes and she could whip one up in minutes.

They never quarreled or pouted with each other. If they ever had differences, that was resolved between them. They only spoke kindly to each other. He tried to make her life as easy as possible. He never wanted her to work in the tobacco as some of her neighbors did and he didn’t want her doing the major vegetable gardening. It was always funny to me that Ma could do so many projects at the house all by herself. If she could do something by herself, she never asked him to do it. Except for killing her chickens. She just couldn’t do it. I never saw Ma bring stove wood to the kitchen or a small log for the fireplace. Pa always brought water when she did the weekly wash and he would light the fire under the big kettle but she did all the rest of that weekly chore.

Ma was an immaculate housekeeper but she never complained about anything he did that might have caused her a little extra work. Their secret to a long and happy life was the fact that they were each the love of the other’s life and that love was apparent in all that they did.

I have tried many times to paint a word picture of those two wonderful people and I hope you have a glimpse into their life.

Please feel free to call me at 270-522-3632. Thank you for sharing your garden problems with me.
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