The one time of year I miss being a child the most is summer. I have a deep yearning to be back there on our farm, feeling the dirt under my bare feet, watching a sudden shower from the cover of our front porch, playing until the dark’s only light is dancing fire flies. I long to hear Mama’s voice say, “Connie, run down to the garden and get me an onion so I can cook these squash for supper.” I wouldn’t complain about the harsh July heat, not as long as I could work beside Daddy– pulling weeds from the acres of garden, listening to the steady chop-chop-chop of his hoe.
Lately, I’ve had the fantasy of being able to take my sons with me back in time to just one day on the farm so they could know what it was like. Being the next generation, they would get a better understanding of the stories they heard from Grandma Rosser; then they would see a clear picture of what I’ve tried to describe. Our farm was a world unto itself with all its buildings, barn, sheds, chicken house, tree house, playhouse, pond, fields of different crops and woods.
Yesterday, I had a partial fulfillment of that dream. My younger sister, Peggy, and her husband, Chuck invited me to come to his tractor show that’s held on the farm where I grew up. They live there in their twice-renovated house that contains a main portion of our original Rosser home place built in 1880.
My brother-in-law didn’t grow up on a farm but came to love tractors after restoring a Cub that had been given to him. Chuck joined the INTERNATIONAL HARVESTER (IH) COLLECTORS CHAPTER 37 EASTERN NORTH CAROLINA in 2005 when it was formed. The two-day tractor show was actually the “CubOlina Cubfest,” an annual summer event put on by the chapter that Chuck had hosted for years.
From their Facebook page, I learned that Chapter 37 is a member of a worldwide collectors’ network whose goal is to maintain and enhance the history, products, literature, memorabilia, and knowledge of International Harvester for today’s and tomorrow’s generations. The IH Collectors Club reaches around the world with approximately 40 chapters and many thousands of members, representing the enormous positive effect that International Harvester has had on the world for more than 100 years. https://youtu.be/5yet04PIWYA
In addition, the IH network gives scholarships to those pursuing agricultural careers. I like that since my son, Brooks, who joined me yesterday with his two sons, was an Agronomy major at N.C. State University–like two of his great uncles.
When I arrived with Brooks and my two grandsons, Baker and Parks, the grounds where filled with rows of shiny Farmall tractors that were built by IH between 1924 and 1973. One area was roped off for the Cub cadets–and cones were placed for the kids and adults to ride and race. There were displays of IH memorabilia which were of keen interest to the members–some of whom had traveled from out of state, one in an RV that parked beside the pond. Mostly men, were gathered around in the shop and underneath tents enjoying the fellowship of a shared passion, a way of life that is remembered and carried forward.
I marveled to see this new scene, comparing it to my memory of how it was long ago. The tobacco barns that are now workshops were the center of July harvesting. My arms ache remembering those long hours of being a “hander” — gathering several stems of the tobacco leaves, transferring them to my other hand, and giving them to Mama, who was a “looper.” She took the hand and wrapped the twine around it and slid the bundle up next to the previous ones-that were evenly distributed on each side of the tobacco stick. At the end of the row, she tied off the twine then the heavy stick of green tobacco was taken to the barn and hung between poles to be cured.
I followed my grandsons around, stopping to play with the displays. Baker had his first experience of shelling corn– putting the dry ears down into the metal container and turning the handle to cut the corn away from the cob.
“That’s what Grammy did as an after school chore, Baker,” I told him. “Mama would leave a note for how many ears I had to shell so the animals would have food.”
I remembered the dry corn in a large pile in one of the buildings– the quiet of the room and sound of the grinding–sometimes as many as 40 ears. I was probably lost in a daydream like I was during much of the repetitive farm work; my only companion was my imagination.
Parks was curious about the tractors and liked it when I put him up in the seat.
“Your Grammy could drive a tractor when she was 8 years old,” I told him and let him play like he was driving. (I had a great picture of this but couldn’t get it to load–tech problems!) Soon he was ready to get down and we joined family over in the Cub cadet section where the older great niece and nephew were driving with minimal assistance. The man overseeing the activity asked me wouldn’t I like to ride on one. I told him I hadn’t driven one in a long time and he said he’d show me. I challenged Peggy to a race, wanting to compete like we did as girls, wanting to entertain our grandchildren.
Three times around and Peggy won every race. She gloated over her win like she did when we were young!
“You had an advantage because you never left the farm!” I defended.
She laughed, then Brooks chimed in.
“No, it’s because Aunt Peggy has always had a lead foot!” we all laughed, remembering how she’d leave us in the dust when we were to “follow her car.”
The humidity rose with the heat and meanwhile the gnats of the Sandhills were giving my grandsons lots of aggravation; they weren’t used to them since they lived on the clay soil of the neighboring county. The gnats love that sandy soil of the farm. We went inside Peggy’s to cool off and then I slipped out to take pictures and spend some time by myself visiting my old homeland. I walked to the edge of the tobacco field and touched the gummy leaves, and smelled the bloom of the healthy green plant. Later, Brooks would tell me he’d “touched a tobacco leaf for the first time.”
My cousin, Betty joined us. She has memories before mine of the farm, and can see buildings that were there before I entered the scene.
I can imagine Daddy walking around and seeing all that had gathered on his land. He would have loved talking with the men about tractors and farming, “Got a good crop of tobacco this year. There’s been just the right amount of rain.”
Mama would have wanted to feed her company–as she always did. She would have been pleased that there was a food truck from the Solid Rock Church in Pittsboro that did the cooking for her. Their chicken and dumplings tasted a lot like Mama’s and their fresh orangeades were as refreshing as the ones from the Lee Drug Store fountain. They even had fried apple jacks like they made back in the day–from apple slices dried in the sun and fried inside dough. My grandsons wanted to know what they were and I told them it was like an “apple quesadilla.” They took a bite and loved them!
It was time to leave and get the grandsons home for a nap. I walked about the grounds one last time. Chuck came over to me and I told him he’d done a great job. He’d gone to a lot of effort to assemble everyone and from the looks on their faces, it had been worth it.
“What do you think your Daddy would have thought of this?” he asked.
I imagined Daddy beside me, looking out at the shiny red Farmalls, the tents with people gathered around visiting, the displays of farm equipment, the grandchildren and great grandchildren learning about life in the past.
“He would be very pleased,” I responded.
I went away, thankful for my day with my family back on the farm. My childhood memories had now been added to with new memories of the next generation enjoying the land and the people who made it special.
7 thoughts on “Back Home on the Farm”
What a great job of sharing about the events of the day and the details helped those who were not there to feel like they were. I love the picture of daddy working in the garden. If I recall that was where some of the tractors were parked yesterday. He would have been proud and enjoyed talking with everyone and of course he would have loved the food too. Thanks for sharing this time with me and also being willing to admit I won all 3 races, lol.
Thanks so much for your compliment. I’m glad that my writing helped create an accurate picture of our day.
Yes, I love that picture of Daddy. It was so typical of how we remember him in daily life. Looking at it I always feel like I could be standing next to him–there’s such a presence about the photograph.
Yes— I had to admit you were victorious. I think next year I should get there early and practice so I can beat you next time! Can’t have my little sister making me look soooo bad! Haha!
Thanks for your generosity in sharing your home and the farm. Y’all did a great job and the grounds, flowers, everything looked great– well manicured like Daddy would have wanted it.
Oh Connie, how I so enjoy your piece this week. You seem to have relived some of those times as a young girl, and then in a time now, that were the same steps you took as that young girl. Not everyone can put something like this together as you have. Then your incorporation of your family that have
benefited from all those years your parents offered for learning. You have put it all so well. My memories are that which live in my mind and i may never be able to share. Love and Blessing to you.
Connie, I love this piece and how you shared so many childhood memories. I grew up in the suburbs and have NEVER touched a tobacco leaf…but while my memories are very different, they came flooding back nonetheless. We are both lucky to have such warm thoughts.
Thanks so much for reading and for commenting. I’m so glad you enjoyed this post.
Yes, whether you grew up on a Southern farm or the Chicago suburbs, we all share in common the longing for our childhood. You have specific memories of the touch and taste of your environment that was home when you were a girl. I’m glad you could relate and go back to your fond memories.
Maybe one day you should just stop by a tobacco field and touch one of those gummy leaves. It’ll be a new Southern experience for you! Ha!
I would like to visit your childhood area and taste and touch the things that make it special.
Best to you, Karen.
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Thanks, Marie for providing another Round-Up. Wishing you and everyone the best.