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James R. Stout

A Week On The Farm

            When I was young, I would stay with my grandparent’s at their farm for a week here and there. This was before I started 1st grade. All through elementary school I would stay a week at a time during the summer as well. My parents would leave me with my grandparents after spending a weekend with them and then return the next weekend to pick me up. I loved those weeks and they were very important to my formative years. Grandma and Grandpa always seemed to have time for me. We didn’t watch much TV in those days, but they did own a black and white set with an outside antenna mounted on the old windmill tower. We always watched the news at 6 p.m. and then ate supper after the news. They only received two channels in the country, and they were both CBS affiliated. So, for all intents and purposes they carried the same shows. Channel 9 in Lufkin, Texas was closer to the farm than Bryan, Texas so we usually watched the news and weather on Channel 9. There was usually one night a week when neighbors would come over and they would play the dominoes game, Texas 42. I mostly remember watching shows such as “Mr. Ed”, “The Rifleman”, “Wagon Train”, and “Rawhide”.

            My grandmother didn’t really watch much TV though. She would keep an eye on it while darning or knitting, but much of her evenings were spent quilting in another room or sewing. Grandpa and I would watch the TV together or sometimes we would just sit and talk. I would do my best to help with chores that he did in the evening such as bringing in wood for the stove. There were some nights when he and I would go out on the front porch and watch for shooting stars. He knew all the constellations and it was amazing how he could predict the weather just by looking at the sky. They had these two old wooden chairs with iron skids and springs that made them into rockers. I mostly remember them as being a dark green, but they got repainted from time to time and were white for a time and then later they were a light green. There were days when it was shady on the porch, after about 4 p.m., and Grandma and I would snap peas. It was downright addicting. I compare it to sitting down today with a sheet plastic packing and popping it with your fingers.

            Most days Grandpa would be off working in the fields either clearing brush and trees or working with his cattle. I used to love going with him in the afternoon to feed the cows. He had those rectangle bales of hay as well as corn that he grew for the cows. The barn had a corn crib that he would back up to and shovel corn into the bed of the truck. That shovel seemed like a shovel that Goliath would have used. It was huge.

            Then there was Tuesday. Tuesday was the day we went into town. The town was Trinity, Texas and it is about 11 miles from the farm. This was pretty much the highlight of the week. Grandma brushed her hair and put on a dab of perfume while Grandpa checked out his new Stetson in the old oval mirror hanging in the dining room. It was one of only two mirrors in the house. Grandma made sure that I was properly attired as well. In hot weather I wore a nice pair of shorts with suspenders and a dress shirt. Going to town was a big deal in those days. We would drive into town in their 1961 Chevrolet pickup truck that was their “town” car. There isn’t a square in Trinity, but there was a main area. The main street was highway 19 and there were two cross streets with all kinds of stores. The first stop was always the bank. It was one of only a couple of businesses that had A/C. I thought it was such a refined building. The remnants of it are still there, but it has been gutted and there are trees growing up inside of it. There were two ornate columns out front and when you went inside you were feasted to the sight of marble everywhere. The counters, the floors, and the walls were made out of marble. It was a greenish color and it fit the bank perfectly because it looked like money. Grandma and Grandpa would take care of their banking business and I always got a piece of candy from the bank teller.

            We would split up for a while after the banking. Grandma went to the fabric store for sewing supplies and I would go with Grandpa to drop off an older hat that needed to be blocked or perhaps he would look at the belts and ties. Next, we would meet up with Grandma and go into the pharmacy. Sometimes they would buy medicines that they needed, but many times we went in there to visit the soda fountain. Grandpa used to say, “Nothing beats good ole vanilli.” I was prone to chocolate myself. Sitting there at the soda fountain was magical. The ceiling fans would be twirling, and the utensils would gleam in the overhead lights. They usually had a radio on, and it would be tuned to the station in Crockett, Texas. Between country hits of the day there would be advertisements for the local businesses in Crockett.

            After we finished our treat, we would head over to the dime store. Grandma would give me 50 cents to spend and that would buy a balsa wood airplane, a package of balloons, or a water gun. Sometimes I would just buy some rolls of caps for my cap gun. I was a rootin’ tootin’ cowboy. Finally, we would go to the little grocery store. They didn’t need to buy much in the way of food because they grew all their own vegetables, had homemade jellies and jams, grew their own beef and chicken, and had plenty of eggs. Grandma had stopped churning butter by then, but we still have her old butter churn. They also would buy milk by then due to it would be pasteurized and safer to drink. Grandma would buy things like salt and pepper, bacon (they had stopped raising hogs), and baking goods. When we finished there, it was time to go home. I remember once on a very hot day telling my Grandpa that our new car had A/C and how nice it was. He said, “Well, we’ve got A/C too. It’s a 240-air conditioner. Two windows open at 40 miles an hour!”

            When we got back home it was time for lunch and then the one time every day that I dreaded the most. Nap time. Funny, it’s my favorite part of the day now. Saturday mornings I would watch reruns of “The Roy Rogers Show” and “Sky King” along with “Mighty Mouse” and “Merrie Melodies”. Grandma had a round ottoman that I would turn on it’s side and it was my trusty steed indeed. Mom and Dad and my sisters would get there around lunch on Saturday and I would get all the news from my sisters. Those days seem so long ago yet like yesterday. I miss those who are gone. My grandparents, parents, sister, all of my aunts and uncles, all of the neighbors and too many of my own contemporaries. But the great thing is that they still live in my memory.

 

Grandma and Grandpa ready for going into town. I'm a few years older than both of them were here.

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