By Frances Lowery Garner
All farm families had chickens and a rooster to wake you in the mornings. Some were fortunate enough to have fenced chicken yards and others allowed the chickens to run loose on the yard. They were fed daily with shelled corn or bought feed if the family could afford it.
The yard chickens were a problem because they left their drippings in all the wrong places. If you visited someone with yard chickens you always watched where you stepped. Eggs were always gathered in the late evenings.
If a hen was “setting” on her eggs, you did not want to bother her unless you wanted to get pecked. When this occurred, Mama would get several eggs, mark them with a pencil and place them under the setting hen. We would know not to bother her until the baby chicks hatched from the eggs and she would leave the nest.
The master of the kitchen was Mama and she did not let us interfere with her cooking. We did our share of shelling and picking peas and butter beans in the summer and washing turnips in season, sifting the corn meal for the daily bread and setting the table.
Housework for the girls consisted mostly of dusting and sweeping. We did not have a lot of furniture to dust until we became teenagers and we got a living room suit complete with coffee table, end tables, lamps and a rug.
Mama had gone to work at the local factory and she knew we would be having courtin’ company so she sacrificed for us many times. I think about how little we did to help considering all that she accomplished during the length of one day.
Girls had more leisure time on the farm than boys. My Daddy was known for not letting the grass eat up the crop so the boys were out plowing or chopping on Saturdays a lot.
Many times they would anticipate going fishing or swimming at the creek on Saturday afternoon but would be in the field instead. The girls had to spend time on Saturday washing their hair and getting their Sunday clothes ready if there was a way to go to church.
We did not own a car so much of our entertainment was up to us. Dominoes, checkers, and marbles were the only board games we owned. Sunday was always a rest day with no work involved other than feeding the family and the animals.
Church was a time of renewing our faith in God, connecting with our neighbors and a time of worship. There was a lot of visiting among neighbors in those days and the front porch swing got a good work out, especially on Sunday.
Young people would get together although it was not called “hanging out” but just going to see somebody. The boys would walk for miles to see their sweetie and the girls would try to have a meeting place so they could all be together. Dusk would find them all heading home to do the daily chores.
Life was certainly not all bad. You just took the chores for granted because a family worked together as a family. The words dysfunctional, illegitimate, drug heads, sexual harassment, abuse, etc. were words we learned in later years when homes began to fall apart.
We have come a long way but to what avail? In one sense, it was the good “ole days” when you consider our present condition. Free time brought on by modern technology has replaced chores and given way to laziness, obesity, broken relationships, broken homes, and no time for togetherness.
A desire to get ahead has replaced caring for your neighbor and although the work may be easier, it leaves little time for the home life that is required to make a home. While we have gained so much with our modern conveniences, and don’t want to be without them, we have lost even more trying to keep up with the Jones’.
Living in a society of “instant grits” has taught us that we don’t have to wait to have things anymore therefore they are less appreciated because we have missed the anticipation of waiting for them.
We did not learn the hard lessons of our parents who experienced the “Hoover Days” depression era but have lived the good “ole days” of credit cards and easy buying.