Sunday, August 28, 2016
Truck patchin’ By Larry mountainborn Harmon The last thing that I had heard as I went out the door to make the long walk to the school bus stop was, “ come straight on to the house when you get off of the bus this afternoon, don’t be dilly dallying around about getting home !” The screen door slamming probably drowned out my “yes mam’ “, as I crossed the creaky old wooden porch and front steps. I didn’t know it yet, but it was a set up. Although it was a Friday late in the summer, all Friday’s were not created equal, a taking produce to town on Saturday required a little extra effort from everyone and we were already beginning to get signs of the changing of the seasons to come. The previous Sunday afternoon while walking with Grand ma Crowell to cut short sweetgum twigs that she would fray on one end to dip her Garrett sweet snuff, she had commented, “sap’s already a’ goin’ down and the switches are getting brittle”. She would test each one that I cut for her with my Barlow pocket knife by biting one end to expose the fibers and then fray it until it looked a bit like an artist’s paint brush. That was the end that she would moisten and put in the snuff bottle, then place it between the cheek and gum. The twigs were about six inches long and about one eighth of an inch round. The twig would stick out of the corner of her mouth much like some folks do a toothpick now a days. Some days she would be sitting in her old wooden rocking chair on the front porch, which would be on the cool side of the house, rocking and looking down the road for me walking home from the bus stop. Great Grandma Crowell and Grandpa Andy were the only tobacco users in the household, Dad hadn’t made it home from the Navy yet. Grand pa’s tobacco preference was fine cut Copenhagen in the round can. Dad smoked cigarettes, he preferred the old green label Lucky Strikes. Ole Scoop wasn’t at his usual place where he would meet me as I walked home from the school bus. He was running a little late. As Scoop met me near the front porch and the screen door slammed behind us, the house was totally silent. Sometimes I would hear, “Butchie ! Don’t you be a’ slammin’ that screen door so ! Since we now had electric lights in every room, I carried my books to the kitchen and dropped them on the table. No one there and the old brown cast iron cook stove was just barely warm. Thinking they might be out in the garden I went out on the kitchen porch to look. That was when I found it. Then I knew. There it was. A message for me. Just as plain as if it had been a written note. I had inherited Grandma Crowell’s garden hoe and it was leaned up against the cook stove kindling box with my straw hat hanging on it. Everyone was down in the river bottom at the truck patch and as soon as I changed clothes, split stove wood and kindling I was to go down to the bottom to help hoe out the garden. I should have noticed that Great Grandma’s rocking chair was missing from the front porch. Yep, it had been a set up alright ! The day before going to town with a load of produce from the truck patch on a Saturday, we would have an all hands effort where we got it ready for the trip to town. Grandma Crowell would be with the team and wagon under a shade tree over by rock creek, sorting and culling produce and rocking in her rocker when it was slow. One of my jobs was to load the crates of produce into the wagon. Sometimes I had trouble getting it just right to suit her, because she wanted to make sure it made the trip to town in the wagon in good shape. The prettiest went to town to sell, anything with a blemish we would can and put up in the root cellar to be used in the winter. Now about Grand ma Crowell’s hoe, it was short and light. The head had been sharpened by filing so many times over the years that it wasn’t very wide and Grandpa Andy had taken a broken hoe handle, scrapped it down with a piece of glass until it was smooth and light. I think that the Idea was that I would use a hoe that I was less likely to chop a toe off with. Since I was shuttling back and forth between the garden out in the hot sun and the wagon in the shade, there was plenty of opportunity’s to get a cool drink from the large water jug that was wrapped with layers of tow sack material and wet down from time to time so that the water inside would be cooled from the evaporation. There was a hay stack somewhat in between the team and wagon and the truck patch. So with that in mind I could make a bit of a hole in the hay stack where it would be a little cooler than under the shade tree. It was a dangerous thing to dig into the hay stack for it could slide down and bury anyone in the cool hole. Possibly smothering them. I had been warned, but still, was reckless about it. One time I dozed off and was awakened by Grandpa hunting for me and calling “Butch” ! I got my britches dusted off over that alright ! It took me awhile to figure out why it was called a truck patch when we didn’t have a truck. Though some others had farm trucks, we were still using horses and wagons. Our hay was cut with a sickle bar horse drawn mower and the hay was drug by a horse drawn hay rake to the fodder stack where it was thrown by the pitchfork full up onto the hay pole. The hay pole was a tall cedar tree that was planted in the ground and rose around twenty feet. It formed the center of the hay stack and kept it in place. The shape of the pile caused it to shed rain and the hay was pretty well preserved that way. The cattle were up near the house in a different pasture and when we harvested the last of the garden, canning most of it, the cattle were moved down to the river bottom and turned in on the truck patch. It just gave the cattle a little something extra to start into the winter with. Grandma’s “kitchen garden” was up near the house where it was handy. I would often be sent out to that garden to get a couple of this or a couple of that as it was needed when she was preparing something in the kitchen. On the Fridays where we worked the truck patch we would get back to the house with just enough light left in the day to take a quick bath in the creek and settle down in the living room to listen to the Grand Old Opry on the old battery powered radio. That radio was one of the last things to be replaced with one that operated on electricity. Before going to the creek for my bath I would rinse out the large cast iron wash pot out in the laundry area and put a couple of buckets of water in it before starting a small fire under it to warm water for those that bathed in a wash tub in the yard behind the house. Grandpa Andy would unhook the team in the yard under a tree in case it came a storm, then walk the team back up the hill to the barn for the night. Grandma would go with him carrying a milking bucket and while he unharnessed, fed and brushed down the team, she would be milking the old Jersey cow. Drawing fresh well water for the kitchen was the last thing before heading down the hill to the branch with a towel and a bar of soap. Busy times, yes, busy times indeed.