Saturday, August 27, 2011

As School Resumes

The children are all back to school around here. It seems to start earlier and earlier each year. I'm sure the boys and girls are excited about new school supplies and clothes. Makes me think back to a special dress my grandma made for me when I was a little girl. May I tell you about it?

The Dress Grandma Made
New clothes were a rare treat in my childhood. I was happy with anything new or even hand-me-down that I could get. 

Then, one day, when I was about eight years old, Margaret and Georgine, two neighbor girls, wore their new store-bought dresses with full circle skirts to our one-room rural school house. I longed to have such a dress. No matter how I tried to pull all the fullness in my skirts to one side of my seat, not one of my homemade feed sack dresses had the fullness of those magnificent circle skirts.

Soon after that, Grandma offered to make me a new feed sack dress. I chose a pink-flowered print and asked Mama if Grandma could make my new dress with a circle skirt. Mama reminded me that there wasn’t much material in one feed sack. But, as I waited impatiently for my new dress, I couldn’t help dreaming of twirling around in it and having the skirt flare out in a rippling circle around me. 

I pictured myself standing on the floor grate of the school’s coal furnace while the rising air made my skirt float up like an open umbrella. Most of all, I pictured myself sitting at my desk with my skirt draping to the floor on both sides of my seat, just like Margaret’s and Georgine’s.

At last, the dress was finished.  The drive to Grandma’s house in town to get it seemed longer than ever before. Then we were standing in Grandma’s kitchen. With a proud smile, she held up the flowered pink feed sack dress she had made so lovingly for me.

I swallowed a huge lump of disappointment as I spread the skimpy dirndl skirt. Although I was an average-sized eight year old, there hadn’t even been enough fabric in one feed sack for the entire dress. Grandma had to make the collar, sleeves, and midriff of matching plain pink fabric.

“How do you like it?” Mama asked, prompting me to give a grateful response.

I can’t remember what I said. I hope I thanked Grandma profusely. After all, her labor in making it for me was a gift of love. And it really was a pretty dress, even if it didn’t have a full circle skirt.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Summer Jobs

I've been without my computer for a few days. Now I'm back at it with more memories to share. Hope this one doesn't make you perspire! It's been a hot summer, hasn't it?

Summer Jobs

Hot summer days bring back memories of two of the hardest jobs I had to do in my childhood on the farm. One was pulling cockleburs.

In those day, most farmers didn’t spray to get rid of weeds in their corn fields. They pulled them by hand with the help of their children.

That would be an almost impossible job these days with corn planted so thickly in close rows. But back then, corn was “checked” when it was planted so the stalks grew equal distances apart in all directions allowing the farmer to cultivate between the rows.

Dad would awaken us early when he was ready to have us pick cockleburs so we’d be done by noon. We’d dress in jeans, long-sleeved shirts, and sturdy walking shoes. 

Dad wore his straw hat. My brother wore a baseball cap. We girls donned our homemade sun bonnets. In those “costumes,” we were ready to withstand heat from overhead, sharp-edged corn leaves at face level, and nasty sand burrs on the ground. 

Dad assigned us each a row or two, and the walking began. We kept our eyes cast down, looking for pesky weeds to pull. If we found one too big to pull, Dad chopped it off with a big corn knife which looked something lake a saber.

Up and down the rows we walked until the field was weed-free, and we were sweaty, dusty, and tired.

The other dreaded summer job was shocking oats bundles, and it was even worse than pulling cockleburs!

Instead of walking in at least a little shade provided by tall corn stalks, we had to work out in the blazing July sun. And those oats bundles were heavy!

Usually, my older sister and I worked together. We’d start by setting two bundles against each other. Then we’d pile about six more bundles against them to make a shock. The shocks stood there, the oats kernels safely drying out at the top, until threshing day.

The worst part of shocking was lifting a bundle and finding a snake under it. They were harmless garter snakes, but they scared me anyway.

The only good part about picking cockleburs and shocking was getting the job done so we could go back to the house. Mom usually had ice cold watermelon waiting for us.

Picking cockleburs and shocking - two jobs I’d rather reminisce about than ever do again.