By Rick Houser –
I think for as long as we have been around we have always been so very busy getting our business done that we sometimes don’t take the time to give family a thought. These days most married couples hit the floor early in the morning, rush to work, and drop the kids off at school or the baby sitter. In the evening a reverse route is taken and the kids are retrieved and then it’s home to fix supper or clean up and then do the necessary chores such as laundry and the dishes, before finally sitting down for the evening.
When I was a boy growing up in the 50’s and 60’s, life on our farm was a routine that kept us all on the move. It was different duties then but a similar “stay on the run” pace as we live today. It is safe to say that anyone who just looks around can see there is always something needing to be done. In my time on the farm, we were either preparing to plant crops, cultivate the crops, or harvest what had kept your attention most of the year. Staying busy was the status quo then just as it is now.
Once the fields became empty of the harvest, the mood would change on the farm. On our farm and with us being tobacco farmers, we almost always ended the year being inside the stripping room removing the leaves from the tobacco stalks, tying the leaves into what we called hands, with the base of the stem in your hand and when your hand became snug with the stems you tied the base end with the longest leaf you could find and draped it over a tobacco stick. We continued to stay busy but we were more confined in where we worked. Although very dusty, the stripping room had heat in it and working in shirt sleeves was a necessity.
Once we moved the farming operation indoors, the thoughts of family and the sudden realization that fall wasn’t only almost gone but so was the calendar year crept into our minds.. There is something about this time of year and the change in the weather that changes each of us. I could see a change in the meals we were getting. From fresh vegetables to vegetable soup. Corn bread and soup beans. Mom referred to these types of meals as “stick to your ribs” meals for cold weather.
It seemed that after Halloween passed and we were moving towards Thanksgiving our moods began to change. Since we were working in confined quarters, we talked more about the summer that was behind us and now only a memory, to the beginnings of the holidays coming straight at us. Along the way it seemed like Mom made more pumpkin pies and we would buy a gallon of apple cider from the nearby apple orchard so we could have cider with the pie. Mom also would buy a gallon of sorghum molasses of which I would place an ample amount on top of a slice of that pie.
As I said the meals changed but definitely not for the worst, they were just different. During this transition time, Mom, Aunt Margaret, and Grandma began the plans for Thanksgiving. With the labor slowing and the meal changes, the talk of the holidays approaching brought a cheerful spirit into our stripping room. Just talking about the good time to come perked up our spirits and gave us reason to enjoy that time of year.
For me even the nights changed. Instead of going up to Felicity and playing some pool and driving the miracle mile, I looked forward to the basketball games. A game in those days would assure that almost the entire community would be present, therefore it was officially a social event. It seemed that the games helped in adding a different feel to the time of the year that it was. As exciting as driving back and forth from one end of Felicity to the other was, a ball game did triumph in popularity on.
I know that the mixture of events, foods, and conversations changed in November. I can’t point to just one thing that caused the change, but just as sure as whipped cream on pumpkin pie tasted delicious, so does the feel for the time of year changing. I am not too sure how the younger generation of today sees it but I see more of them eating chili and vegetable soup, and talking with family about the upcoming Turkey Day event. Children in school today, just like when I was in school, begin getting revving up for being out of school for Thanksgiving weekend.
The truth is that no matter how hard I try to downplay how November gets me looking ahead, I am still looking and listening to whatever plans that might be coming my way. I guess for the time being I will have to buy some apple cider, go find some pumpkin pie to help me enjoy this time of the year more. (At least that is my excuse for eating rich food.)
One factor hasn’t changed for me and that is cold weather. I love the season but not the conditions. By the way when this season approached and the foods became a little more “stick to your ribs”, we were stripping tobacco and standing still for the most part, so not only did that food stick to our ribs but it also seemed to stick to our waistlines. That was certainly one way to show we had begun slowing down for winter.
Family, food, and friends. Whether it was when I farmed or these days where the world is such a rush, those three things are still held dear to each of us. Accept that it’s November and have some soup and pie.
Rick Houser grew up on a farm near Moscow in Clermont County and loves to share stories about his youth and other topics. If you want he may be able to speak to you group, He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.