Tri-City Ledger -

By Earline Smith Crews
Guest Writer 

Country clean in paradise with a twist

 

July 4, 2019



So today I saw a post of Texans washing their prize longhorn in the local car wash. Pros and cons of comments set me to remembering my childhood and how Mama & Daddy saved time and energy by doing things the easiest way possible while letting us enjoy life to the fullest.

As the slight cool opening of the hot summer day ahead I remember hearing Mama & Daddy talking in the kitchen as they made breakfast for us. Somewhere in the bluish time of day-breaking: the smell of bacon and sausage frying, the smell of coffee as the old aluminum percolator thumped coffee into that little glass knob on the lid. Roosters crow; cows bellow way back in the edge of the Old Field. Cats scratch the saggy old screen door wanting in, but know the hole in the screen is off limits to them. Dogs scratch while nipping fleas as they lay prone on the front porch floor against the wall of our bedroom window.

I'm not yet ready for the hard day of field work ahead of us, but with some built-in awareness of fun times ahead also. The fun was what made my childhood worth remembering. Mama pulls back the sheets that hold body heat and dampness still hovering up in the ceiling. The curtains were tied in knots to allow all possible airflow through. Even though the night had brought some relief, the humidity was still in the room.

Mama tells us to rise and shine as time is wasting and the work is waiting. Field work, our life, our salvation from starvation; my way of thinking it was my sentence to damnation. I never enjoyed the drudgery, but looking back it was Paradise with a twist. Breakfast finished, sun hats, hoes, we straggle off to start where we left off last evening. We walk to the Old Field and find the first row of cotton to start on. Then we look to see the last row finished yesterday and find watergrass had grown an inch above where it had been chopped off at the roots less than twelve hours earlier.

"Hell is prolly gon'na have watergrass."

"Better not let Daddy hear you or you'll have Hell to pay."

"Shut up!"

"Psstttt!"

The rows disappear into the early morning mist somewhere down near............ Foshee. We shuffle and chop into an easy rhythm. Humpy is always ahead as he bends down low and chops like his gears are hung in overdrive. Rayford brings up the tail because he is a dreamer that can't wait to hit the road to yonder-way........always looking up and away. My sister wears her sun hat tilted to cover her face so I don't really know what her thoughts are.

I hate sun hats and bonnets as they hold the heat and keep the few cooling breezes off my face. I didn't know then that I would spend quality time in a dermatologist’s chair having sun-caused cancer damage cut off my face in my old age because I refused to cover myself. Hindsight is just that, hindsight.

The sun breaks the horizon to slowly creep into the sky. The mist burns off, the heat index increases; throats become parched. Cicada bring their crescendos and cause vibrations in the air. The stagnant air refuses to cool our sweat makes me nauseous. I think of classmates and end of school parties that I couldn't get permission to attend.

"I hope others didn't get to go either." Sigh! Buddy brings us a gallon jug of tepid water to drink. First come, first served.

"Hey, don't let your nasty lips touch the rim."

"How you drink unless your lips touch?"

"Pour."

"You so dumb."

The sun heats the earth, the gnats find ears and eyes and nose holes. Winged things buzz and crawl. We swat and look towards the rows end. My legs hold streaks of dust on sweat rivulets. We start to wilt and loose our rhythm. Nobody talks. Brows furrow, tempers lay in wait to flare. We have made several rounds to find ourselves at the backside of the field down near the Foshee end. Rayford is ready to call times. Humpy, always the practical one says,

"Nope, I ain't standing on my shadow yet. We can chop one back to the other end before we knock off for dinner."

"Come on y'all, tighten up back there."

"I'm hungry."

"Who ain't?"

"My head hurts."

"Put your bonnet on."

"Nuh-uh, it is too hot."

"Shut up then."

We reach the ends of four rows by helping everybody clean the last few yards. Hoes are hung in the fence to wait for the afternoon work. We break out in a hard run down the rutted old red clay road toward home. The Old Field and our house is separated by a forest of pine saplings, red oak scrubs, yaupon trees, sedge grasses, clumps of gall berry and briar patches. The pond and a drop towards the old clay gully defines our land. Cows, goats and mules range and graze this part of our farm. Mama had dinner on the table.

"God is good, God is great, ..............Amen!"

"Stop hogging the crust."

"Hush up and pass the peas."

"Mama, would you make a pan of sweet tater bread for us to have a snack this afternoon?"

"Send Buddy with a jug of milk too."

We repeat our mornings work in reverse that afternoon. The shadows begin to show us some relief from the scorching sun. We hear Daddy coming to check our production by the sound of his spitting a dob of snuff. Daddy looks concerned, but understands exactly how spent we are by the look on our faces. Daddy is exhausted from the long hot day of doing work on the asphalt laying, road grading and bridge building here in Escambia County. Mama is exhausted from cooking three full meals and caring for her little ones while at the same time doing the hard work of canning foods from our garden. Everybody is hot, dirty and tired.

"Daddy, will you take us to the creek so we can take a bath."

"Load up." .............ZOOM!!!!!!!!!!

Blue Goose rumbles and rattles and creaks toward swimming baths.......

"Thank you, Father, for our blessings!"

Darkness falls on the banks and sand bars of Big Escambia Creek while we splash and scrub off with a bar of Octogon. We are clean and cool and so tired. Sleep comes in waves of thankful bliss.

*That was Paradise with a twist y'all.

Earline’s first book “Life With the Top Down” is now available for sale in paperback at: http://www.lulu.com/shop/earline-crews/life-with-the-top-down/paperback/product-24146318.html

and also available in e-book format at Lulu.com, Barnes & Noble.com, Amazon.com, Kobo.com, and on the Apple iBookstore.

 
 

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