On July 4th there was always a County Picnic at Leonard, Texas, about seven miles from where we lived. And everybody for miles around came. We had to get up at 4: a.m. packed our picnic lunch of fried chicken and all that goes with it—cakes and pies and a big pan of blackberry cobbler.
Of course, we went by wagon—no one had cars then! Dad put quilts in the back of the wagon so us kids could sleep if we got tired—we always slept on the way home. Along the way we were joined by other wagons. On this one day Dad arranged with Jake Mackey—our “top hired hand” to take care of the chores, for it was usually midnight by the time we got home.
We had a wonderful time—most of the people only saw each other this one time during the year.
There were all kinds of games—Dad played on the baseball team. There were potato sack races, horseshoe pitching contests, etc.
And the first balloon I ever saw. Nothing like the beautiful modern balloons—but a balloon never the less.
And on this once a year day us kids were allowed to have one bottled drink, a pink concoction called “Strawberryade” and it didn’t really taste much like strawberries. We were never allowed to drink tea or coffee on the grounds they were not good for us. We had lots of milk—and drank lots of it.
We so seldom had any children to play with—when not in school—we really enjoyed all the children at the picnic—playing such games as “drop the handkerchief,” “ring around the rosie,” “hide and seek” etc. We really worked up an appetite!
After the picnic time, work on the farm really started. Gathering the corn—Dad took some each of our yellow and white corn to the grist mill and had it ground into corn meal—a big barrel of each. It was stored in the “smokehouse” for use until the next corn crop. Corn bread was so good with all the vegetables.
And cotton-picking time started, too. Old black Uncle Jim—Aunt Em’s husband—came over from Grandma Burns’ farm to “boss” the negro cotton pickers, for they would do very little work while Dad was gone to town with a wagon of cotton. Dad also farmed Grandma Burns’ farm.
Just about then the “threshing crews” came to thresh the wheat and oats. It had been “reaped” by the reaper, piled into windrows to ripen and dry. The threshing crew was about six men with a grain thresher that went from farm to farm at threshing time. All the men from nearby farms brought their wagons and teams to haul the wheat and oats to the thresher. Everyone helped the neighbors then—when the threshing crew moved on to the next farm, everyone went there to help. This was another red letter day for us kids, for the women and children from neighboring farms came along in the wagons to help with all the cooking—there were 25 or 30 men working with the threshing. They brought along all kids of cakes, pies, fried and baked chicken, etc. to help out. These were the children that went to the same school we went to, and we had lots of fun.
“Saw horses” were set up and foot wide boards twelve feet long made a long table under the shade of the big oak tree in the front yard. There wasn’t room in the house. This “make do” table went from farm to farm with the threshing crew, and all the women also went from farm to farm to help.
Us kids had a lot of fun climbing to the tops of the new haystacks and sliding down. When the threshing crew went on to the next farm, it was our turn to go help them, as they had done for us.
Dad took some of our wheat to the flour mill and had at least three barrels milled for flour, we used more flour than corn-meal.
The threshed oats and wheat was sacked in “grass” sacks—sometimes called “toesacks.” I don’t know how that name came into being. The grain was hauled to Trenton and sold to grain dealers.
We raised cane for stock feed, and Dad took some to the cane press where it was made into syrup—and some made into the thick, dark sorgum which was a must for making big iron skillets of gingerbread which we loved on cold winter nights—with plenty of good real butter with hot gingerbread, or cold with whipped cream and applesauce.
We had gallons of honey, syrup, and sorgum stored in the smoke house on shelves.
Dad was kept busy all during Spring and Summer with our two bee apiaries. Taking off honey, and capturing swarms of bees. One apiary was in the peach orchard beside our yard—on the East side—a hive under each peach tree. The other was in the upland pear orchard
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