Saturday History: The Chivaree as a Rite of Passage

By: Saturday April 11, 2015 12:02 pm

Stories of chivarees being violent and destructive were not the celebrations I knew. The friendly gathering and the noisy commotion was a community’s way of recognizing and welcoming the newly married couple into their circle. It was a “pretend” surprise. The newlyweds always knew when the well wishers would come. They needed to know so they would be at home and have treats waiting for their guests. Beating on pots and pans and a few whistles announced the arrival of the celebrants. The couple inside let them make noise for a bit before they stepped out and accepted the greetings and good wishes of their guests.

The honored couple had coffee and cake or cookies and cokes in plentiful supply. Pots and pans and noise makers got left outside. Then the party began.


Saturday History: The Church on the Hill

By: Saturday April 4, 2015 12:00 pm

Gradually our church loosened rules and let men and wives sit together. None of the older folks did that because the habits run deep. Except for hands and face, women were covered head to toe. Thick stockings covered any bit of leg that showed. Shoes were ugly, black laced and chunky looking. My mother referred to the hats women wore as “pot hats” because they resembled a cook pot turned upside down. Men wore suits, usually the one they married in years before if they could still get it on. The preacher wore a long black robe. God would never see his flock joyful or relaxed. They were solemn, serious, and unfriendly.

Saturday History: Fall Walnuts and Winter Wool

By: Saturday March 14, 2015 12:00 pm

When I see black walnut meats advertised in catalogues, I wonder who gathered and hulled them, and if somebody got black hands in the process. Walnuts grow encased in a green hull that oozes black liquid dye when it is removed. The green hull covers a rock-hard shell that in turn covers the nut kernel. Observe a moment of silence when you see black walnuts meats for sale in neat packages. They did not get there without effort and patience on somebody’s part. Hickory nuts do not ooze liquid around their husks, but the shells are so thick and hard and the kernels so small, they require more energy spent than they repay in calories.

Saturday History: The Two-holer Out Back

By: Saturday March 7, 2015 12:00 pm

President Franklin Roosevelt’s alphabet soup, REA, WPA, PWA, CCC, and so on brought improvements to rural areas. Electricity came to some outlying places, but plumbing was another thing. Stringing wires could be done without much disruption of standing buildings, so some farmers got the use of power to run lights and heaters, but no changes came in access to water. As long as the farm houses stood, outhouses remained.

Saturday History: The Hicklin Place

By: Saturday February 28, 2015 12:00 pm

The farm my father purchased in 1920 was referred to as the “Hicklin place” because it was a hundred and sixty acres carved from the Hicklin plantation. The designation “plantation” was given to land owned by a farmer if he had at least twenty slaves. The graveyard for the Hicklin slaves was on our farm. My father plowed around it, so it survived as a weed patch with tumble-down tombstones. As a kid, I sometimes walked there to have a look. It always gave me the creeps, especially when I noticed how many of the stones marked the resting place for children. I wondered what they had looked like and why they had died so young.

Saturday History: Wheat Threshing During the Great Depression

By: Saturday February 21, 2015 12:00 pm

Before the threshing day came the wheat cutting and shocking. A binder pulled by a tractor went through the wheat fields row by row, cutting the grain and depositing it on the ground tied in bundles. Then came the shocking. That meant men taking four bundles and standing them on end so they stood upright. The shock was completed by laying a bundle across the top of the ones standing. The wheat was then allowed to dry before it was run through the threshing machine. I feel a bit foolish describing such a simple task as wheat shocking, but the process became history as soon as combines came into use.

Readin’ Writin’ and ‘Rithmatic with Edward and Miss Iola

By: Saturday January 31, 2015 12:08 pm

After Edward quit, the board hired Miss Iola, and my school experience changed. When I look back with the advantage of lessons life has taught me, I can begin to understand Miss Iola. Cabbage Neck was her first teaching experience. She was young, fearful, inexperienced, poorly trained and vulnerable. I thought she was downright mean, and probably she was that too. She was always cranky, or so it seemed to me. She would go in the school yard and take her time cutting a switch from a tree, a switch that would bend rather than break when she used it to strike a student. Always one stood near her desk.

Over Easy: The Agrarian Myth

By: Wednesday January 21, 2015 5:00 am

The agrarian myth was never based on fact, obviously, or it would not be a myth. For the Native Americans from whom the land was stolen by any method it took, including wholesale slaughter, forced migration and starvation, the Agrarian myth was a farce, or worse. For the thousands who labored in sweathouse factories or died building roads and rail lines and bridges and canals, the myth was a farce. For the folks and animals packed into the filth of Chicago’s slaughterhouse industry and robbed by corrupt officials, the myth was a farce.

Saturday History: Some of the Drastic Changes During Our Young Lives, 1932 – WWII

By: Saturday January 3, 2015 12:00 pm

This country had begun in war, the one called the Revolutionary War—which was really a colonial uprising. Small wars came on the scene from time to time until the Civil War when the citizens of the United States enjoyed the luxury of killing one another. Had the two oceans not acted as a barrier, surely other nations would have come in and taken advantage of a weakened, sickened country whose citizens murdered each other. The results still haunt us today. “Damn Yankee” remains one word to some in the South, and racism did not end when Lee surrendered to Grant.

Saturday History: Seasonal Farming Tasks in the Great Depression

By: Saturday December 27, 2014 12:00 pm

Of all farming activities we performed during the Great Depression of the 1930s, two were notable because they involved the whole community: thrashing of the wheat, and butchering the animals. Summer thrashing of the wheat was the most exciting time of the year because it was a social time rolled into sustenance activity.

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