Growing up in the country was fun. Our house was just across a pasture from Grandmother and Papa, and most of my cousins lived within a mile of us. And oh, my, do I ever have cousins! Hundreds of them.
Tony started to school in September of our first year in the country, so the barn burning incident was the last of our huge destructive incidents. Did I say Our? I really meant HIS. I just followed along for the ride. We could climb the fence and run across the pasture to visit Grandmother and Papa any time we wanted, and there was always something interesting going on over there. Both of my aunts still lived at home, and 3 or 4 of my uncles lived there also. And oh, they were a fun group to be around.
The uncles who came home from the war brought back an Army truck. The kind of truck that was built to transport people through the worst conditions imaginable. So…one Sunday afternoon when all of the family was there, they wanted to show us. The women and children were piled in the bed of the truck, and then any of the men who wanted to go along for the ride jumped aboard, and off we went. Through the field, across the roads, and then the big test, through the pond. Well, more like half way through the pond. To put it lightly, we got stuck. I can’t remember if the pond was deeper than they expected, or if it was the added weight of the overloaded truck bed, but we were truly stuck, and the women and children were screaming, children crying, chaos ruling the moment. The uncles got out of the cab and slogged through the muddy pond to get some tractors to pull us out. I don’t remember what happened to that truck after that, but I do know they never offered us rides again.
On the lazy Sunday afternoons when we all visited them, Papa would pull out the old ice cream churn, one of the uncles would chip the block of ice for him, and the cousins would take turns sitting on the burlap covered churn to hold it down while Papa turned the crank. That was Papa’s job, always. No one else was allowed to turn that crank, and he always knew the exact moment to stop and pull the dash out of the bucket. Then he would choose the two cousins who would be assigned the task of “licking” the dash each week. He always remembered who had had their turn, and whose turn it was for each week. I don’t know how he kept it all straight, because there had to have been at least 30 of us at a time, but Papa was good at remembering important things where his grandchildren were concerned.
One Sunday when dinner was ready, Grandmother asked me to call Papa to the table. I decided to be so grown up about it, so I went to the door and called out “Rattle, Rattle” as loud as I could, only to hear the grown ups laughing. I turned around to see what was so funny, and noticed they were laughing at me. Grandmother always called him “Ran-ell” (his name was Randell) and to my childs ears it sounded like Rattle. Papa didn’t care, he just wanted his fried chicken and didn’t care what we called him as long as we didn’t call him late for dinner.
Grandmother’s table was always loaded with the best of the best food. She was one of my first teachers when I started learning to cook. My mom taught me a lot about cooking, but Grandmother taught me how to make some things I loved that mom wouldn’t make, like the light, fluffy dumplings we all enjoyed every Thanksgiving at her house. Mom always made the dressing, and it still can’t be beat, but she wasn’t a fan of dumplings, so I learned to make them. For a long time I was the only one who knew how to make them, but then the sibs who live away started missing them, so they would watch me when they were home, and most have learned now.
Tony, Steve and I were hanging out with Papa while he was feeding the animals one summer day, and we found some chicken nests with eggs in them. We gathered the eggs, and I put them in my pocket while we watched Papa milk one of the cows, so when he turned the cow out of the stall, she was kinda happy to leave. Steve and I were standing on the gate, and when Bossy went through the gate she gave it a not so gentle nudge, sending us back into the stall. Two pockets full of scrambled eggs complete with shells are not pleasant. I dripped my way home across the field with a couple of Papa’s dogs following me, trying to get to those eggs streaming down from my pockets.