Friday, August 14, 2015

Freedom To Grow

The country home where I grew up was comprised of 130 acres; 10 of them where the house stood, and the other 120 down the road a piece, by the river. It was fun having lots of room to run , trees to climb, and the outdoors to explore and plunder. We had tree houses all over and nothing was more fun than playing in each one while eating freshly picked berries or something fresh out of the garden. One of my favorites was to get a fresh tomato and a  bottle of salt, and just eat and eat.

I helped plant the garden that fed us, as all the children did. We had  corn, peas, butter beans, okra, tomatoes, squash, and  watermelon. We always had a big garden to freeze and feed us throughout the year. My daddy used to rent a mule that would pull the plow when we could afford it, but more often than not, the reins were around his own neck, after he had already worked a day.

 Such was our life, struggle and turmoil to get to the next day, the next week, the next month, and then if by some miracle we have survived the year, we earned the right to start all over again. 

There were weekends spent swimming at Munson and Morris Creek, which I later learned has a different name but we call it Morris Creek. One day my cousin Vivian, Donna and I  were swimming in the Escambia River while our family was fishing and a Moccasin swam toward us.  We got out of the water  and let it swim past, then we got back in. I know now that was not very bright. but we did not have a fear of anything.
(The only known photo of Aunt Catherine swimming at Morris Creek, courtesy of my sister Donna)

From the time I awoke at 4 am to get breakfast for Daddy to the time I went to school and back, I was thinking about my straw tree houses. I built them out of the many pine needles that fell and I had a large "castle " wall with many divided rooms and treasures, a pretty pine comb, a feather or two, a rock that glowed golden in the sun, and of course my salvaged magazines.. I hid them from Daddy because I started reading "True Detective" when I was real young and they had risque stuff on the cover.. LOL. Today it would pale in comparison but this was the  late 50's. I scoured every garbage pile I could to find them. My favorite place to "shop" was down a bit on Daddy's land. It was near the pear orchard and  I would find my reading material for the day and shimmy up a tree to stuff myself silly full of pears, fresh plucked from the tree. That first bite into a home grown pear with juice running all down your chin still makes my mouth water when I think about it.

(Grandma and Grandpa Peacock, courtesy of my sister Donna)

On the way to the old place, ( Grandpa and Grandma Peacock's old house that was gone) I skipped along the clay dirt road barefoot feeling that clay between my toes. I would stop at a little trickle stream and grab handfuls of the coolest, sweetest tasting water you could ever imagine.
At times I would stop a bit and look over at the Clay mounds, that I was told were Indian Burial places. I always felt I had to be quiet and I was as I sat on the bank near them. I don't remember anyone telling me to be quiet, but  it was something I felt I should do. My sister, my brother and I picked up arrow heads from the area and clay marbles. We did not know any better and my sister still has the ones she picked up in her home. She gave me a marble when I was home and I treasure it.
When I finished doing that, I would lollygag my way back home and if no one was around start walking toward the back of the house. Daddy had cows, chickens and the smoke house and our outhouse was back there.  I walked past the barn way on back til I came to crawdad hole and the gully. The Gully always terrified me as much as it challenged my bravery, so I would roam the gullies and even go inside the small cave there. It was said it belonged to a bobcat, but they were never there when I was which was probably lucky for me. I could smell his musty coat so I think it must have been true. My young mind never entertained the thought that maybe one day the cat would be there. It could have happened but God had his hand on my life from my first breath, so I never feared things like that.

On the little trail through the woods I would see poke salad along the way. Mama came home sometimes and when she did it would be an adventure into the woods to find things to eat. Poke Salad, roots, berries, some inedible plants were gathered and placed in an apron to take home and make into food or to make into salve.
I watched Mama prepare the poisonous Poke Salad so that I would know when it was safe to eat. We cleaned it like we did our turnips and collards and then placed it in a large pot to boil. When the water turned green, we poured it out and started again. It usually took about 3 or 4 times before the water was clear and that is when we could eat them. Mama would drain the salad, pat it dry, make a bunch of scrambled eggs from our chickens and then when the eggs were almost done, throw in the poke salad. Talk about deliciousness!!

Our life was hard but it was genuine. It had highs and lows. It had tears and laughter. It was a dichotomy of emotions that somehow prepared me to be who I am today.
The memories gently ripple past
I pray to Father, make them last
Let them trickle the worries away
and Keep us safe for one more day

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