News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Opinion

February 16, 2013

RONN MOTT: Fun on the farm

I seem to have created some interest in my Grandpa in an article I wrote a few days ago.

As I write this, I’m reminded of the fact I did not get to spend a lot of time with my grandparents on their farm. Since I was a city boy (actually, a small-town boy), I found the farm a magical place. There was always something going on, often things you did not want to happen, happened anyway.

Even though I was very young, I was amazed about the things the women did on the farm. They made their own soap. I don’t know the recipe, but I remember it being gray in color and was cured, or dried out, in a large pan and cut into squares with a large butcher-type knife. I suppose I could dig around on the Internet and get the recipe for soap, but all I have from memory is that ashes, lye and animal fat were used and that’s all I remember. But that soap was used for everything … washing clothes, doing dishes, and thrown into the tin tub when Grandma thought it was time for me to have a bath.

I also remember the cloth sacks they got flour in, or sugar, or some other product. And these were washed and dried and used for dish towels and other rags for general purpose. Some of these cloth sacks, when enough of them were available, were made into everyday dresses. It was something that didn’t happen at my house. I went along on a wagon ride into the woods where Grandpa and my Uncle Everett had found a vein of coal. There, they took a pick ax and knocked coal loose to heat the house. Another thing we didn’t do in town. (Uncle Everett was my grandfather’s eldest son and lived on the farm.)

The hay mow, which was in the horse barn nearest the house, was a great play area. The hay was pitched from a tall wagon into the loft and was there for the horses. For a small boy, it was a great place to romp and play and be away from the prying eyes of those in charge of me.

The things we ate and drank always tasted better on the farm. The women would churn butter with an old, wooden churn and I would acquire a taste for buttermilk. (The buttermilk you buy today in the grocery store is not the same thing.) I was so amazed that the orange drink they made in a big pitcher ended up just being Kool-Aid. The difference in the taste was well water on the farm, so unlike the city water in town.

Grandma took one day a week and baked. She would make all of the bread the family used, dough for all the pies, and she always took unused strips from the pie dough, baked them smothered with cinnamon and sugar, and made a private feast for me. Always when I visited, she made me a cold, milk cocoa concoction that was just cocoa, sugar, a splash of vanilla, milk and water. I don’t know if it was my youthful eagerness, or something I didn’t understand in the making of this drink, but I’ve never been able to duplicate the taste.

There were always many mysteries about the farm that only a small boy would try to understand. Perhaps it was because I was only there for a few weeks at a time, but I found it this way. Maybe it is just the musings of an old man remembering those days of youthful fun on the farm.

Ronn Mott, a longtime radio personality in Terre Haute, writes commentaries for the Tribune-Star. His pieces are published online Tuesday and Thursday on Tribstar.com, and in the print and online editions on Saturday.

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