Saturday, August 13, 2016

SATURDAY’S in POLK COUNTY ARKANSAS By Larry Mountainborn Harmon Friday afternoons after school could be very busy, or at least it seemed so to me. They went like this. Get off of the school bus at the end of the road that ran out to our farm. It was a mile and a quarter and I could get in trouble for dallying along the way. I was bad about getting distracted by the cool things such as squirrels, terrapins, rabbits, etc. . Then, ole scoop the family Rat Terrier and my buddy, would meet me along the way somewhere. It was pretty often that I heard, “you better get on around, you have kindling to split and a bath to take”. On Fridays I had to make sure that there was enough kindling and cook stove wood in the box on the back porch to last a couple of days because Saturday was town day. Drawing well water and filling up the hot water reservoir on the old brown and cream colored cast iron stove in the kitchen and filling the sink side buckets, as well as the drinking bucket with the enamel dipper was part of Friday’s chore list. But the water drawing didn’t end with the kitchen. I had to draw bath water for that old galvanized washtub that hung on the back porch. In warmer weather, I could skip drawing the bath water and slip off down to the branch in front of the house with a bar of soap and a towel. As the weather cooled and when I finally stretched that branch bath as long as I could stand it, I had to draw well water to bathe in. By the time I came back up the hill from the branch it would be getting dark enough that I needed to watch my step while keeping an eye out for snakes. The coal oil lamps in the living room were coming on by then. And I could always tell when Grandma lit great grandma’s lamp it had a tall glass globe/chimney and it was much brighter. Scoop would be “muting” around by the branch, but he could always beat me to the house, noisily crossing the front porch and tapping the front door screen. By then everyone was beginning to gather in the living room and when I came through the door I often heard, “your Saturday clothes are laid out on your bed, don’t get them dirty”. The old wooden battery radio cabinet was the focus of attention on a Friday evening, because the Grand Old Opry was on then. Radio station WSM was located at 650 on the dial. However Grand pa had made a small pencil mark near the number to fine tune the AM frequency. While the Old tube type radio was warming up, Grand pa would fill up the living room wood stove, if it was cold weather. If not he would fill his pipe with tobacco, carefully tamping it down and lighting it as we listened to see if the reception would be good on that night. Warm weather meant less of a chance of good reception. All too soon it was time to turn in for the night. Usually the last thing I would hear before dropping off to sleep would Grand pa putting wood in the living room stove and Grand Ma walking back to the kitchen with a coal oil lamp to shake down the ashes in the cook stove fire box and add wood before dampening it down for the night. Even though four thirty came early, I seldom heard the alarm clock go off, especially on a Saturday morning. In the predawn cool of Summer time I could hear the gentle creak of the boards in the floor of the house as Grand pa tended the living room stove and Grand ma went to the kitchen. The creak of cast iron stove doors seemed to be my signal to get up and get going. In warm weather the living room stove didn’t need wood so Grand pa would draw an extra bucket of water for the kitchen. Grand Ma always did the dishes before leaving out for town. One of my favorite sounds in the morning was hearing that large old wooden bowl put on the counter and the biscuit dough being kneaded by Grand ma. It had a certain rhythm and smell as the buttermilk was poured in. By the time the biscuits were put in the oven I was already getting instructions about what to fetch to the table, stove or sink counter to help out. The old wooden ice box was outside on the back porch to one side of the kitchen door by the wood and kindling box. At some point while the biscuits are beginning to brown and the gravy is beginning to thicken, I would get the word to shake down the ashes in the cook stove and add wood to the fire box. During one of my fetching runs out to the icebox I would hear the harness jingle as Grand pa brought the team of Percheron draft horses down the hill from the barn and hooked them up to the wagon. The old blue speckled coffee pot had been slid back off of the stove eye and was slowly percolating as I waited for Grand pa to come out of the dark, stomping his feet on the porch steps before coming into the kitchen. Always grand ma said “pour PaPa a cup of coffee and come to the table”. When we had Black strap molasses it was a tough decision about which to pour over smoking hot, well buttered cat head biscuits. By the time “town Saturday” came around we were out of, or nearly out of ice in the ice box, so one of the things that we had to make sure was in the wagon, for the trip to town, was an old heavy quilt, several clean tow sacks and a tarp to put over the fifty pound block of ice that we would bring back. Soon Grand ma was mentally going down a check list of things to be sure we had, such as an umbrella and a collapsing drinking cup in every ones pocket so we could get a drink from the spring in Janssen Park. I always had mine in my pocket because I would often slip away and be roaming the town at large and if I came back to the wagon, I ran the risk of being collared and taken in hand to stay with the adults. Lots of folks brought extra produce to town and we also did. Packing flats of eggs so they wouldn’t break and produce so it would not get bruised. Most mornings the sun would be coming up as we listened to the wagon brake squeal on the metal rims of the wood spoke wheels, holding the wagon back while going down the Rock creek hill. When we got to town we would make the rounds of the stores where Grand ma traded, dropping off eggs and produce as needed, before tying up the team and wagon by the bear pen in Jansen Park. Many that brought wagons and teams to town wouldn’t park near the bear pen because the bear would spook them. Training the team about the bears smell and sounds meant that in the summer’s heat of the day, the wagon and team would be in the shade.

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