Saturday, October 31, 2009

My mother's story, part 2

Well, it looks like there's a demand for this story, so here is part two. These are my mother's own words, not mine.

After our evening meal and all the "first things first" were done, Mom would pop a dishpan-ful of luscious popcorn. A couple of we kids were sent to our deep dug cellar, or cave, to fetch seven apples from the barrel... just one apiece, and once a day. How we enjoyed our apple and popcorn on those long, cold evenings around the old wood heater. Dad always made the yearly trip to the big De Long Apple Orchard to buy our winter supply of apples stored in our food celar in barrels. The lovely apples were $1 a bushel. Dad also got lots of seconds, or culls, for 50 cents a bushel. We all worked with Mom to make canned apple sauce and mouth-watering apple butter and jelly to go on those buttermilk biscuits she made 365 mornings a year.
Mom always raised a big garden and canned lots of vegetables. There were no freezers in those days. The forty acres I was born and raised on was originally part of my Grandpa Stevens' 120 acres. My dad ended up in the early twentieth century with the home place. The old papers said Grandpa got the 120 acres for $40 in 1854; my father was born in a log house there, into a large family. In the late 1800's the log house burned down. A new one was built which also burned down, I believe in 1905. Then the four-room square house was built which housed our family; the place is owned by my youngest brother, Leo, now, so it's still in the Stevens name.
Another event that was extra eventful was butchering day. Dad usually butchered one hog a year for our meat. Of course, we ate lots of rabbits, squirrel, quail and chicken. But back to butchering: A metal barrel was pumped full of water and a fire built around the barrel early in the morning. When the water was boiling hot, the fat hog was shot or knocked in the head with a hammer, his throat cut so he could bleed good, then two big men would pull that hog up and down in the hot water; that's what we called "scalding" the hog. He was then put out on a board platform (like a low table) and everyone old enough scraped the hair from the skin of that hog. As a rule, that scraped hog came out very clean and white. It was usually butchered in cool fall or cold winter weather, and after the butchering would be chilled overnight, then cut up into hams, shoulders, and side meat. All scrap meat was put through a hand-turned meat grinder and made into sausage. There was lots of fat, which was cut in cubes and rendered or cooked down into lard, which everybody used to fry and cook and make delicious pie crusts. The cracklings were the left-over product after the fat was removed. People of the early twentieth century made lye soap from the cracklings, but it was a special treat for the kids and grownups alike to just nibble on.

Around 1920, my Uncle bought a new Model T Ford touring car. After three or four years, he wanted a new model; so he sold his old one to my dad. It would hold him, Mom, and five kids very nicely, so now we were really coming up in the world. The Ford cost $600 new, and I can't remember what my dad paid; but every Saturday we went in style to our closest town to buy groceries. Mother took her eggs and the cream she'd saved for a week from our chickens and milk cows. The eggs and cream about paid for our groceries, as everything was cheap then. If she had extra, she got what they called a "due bill", maybe for 20 cents or more; she'd carry it and use it on the next week's groceries. She usually bought a pound of mixed candy for us five kids for a nickel. I guess you'd call it our allowance; it's all the allowance we had.

My mother's Grandpa Smith, born in Pennsylvania.

My grandpa and grandma had turned their farm over to their only son, my mother's brother, and had moved into Eagleville, since Grandpa Smith was a carpenter and didn't farm any more.

My mother's Grandma Smith.
When we went to town on Saturday, it was so much fun to get to eat dinner at Grandma's house. She could cook those dry beans better than anybody I ever knew. Beans and potatoes were the main two things everyone ate in those days. The early half of the 1900's there was no fancy cooking. We always had pie or cobbler, or maybe cake on Sunday. Other times our dessert was usually a jar of home-canned fruit and maybe sugar cookies or molasses cookies. Most everyone raised a few rows of cane to have their own sorghum molasses for a year's eating. The molasses, mixed with home-churned butter, made a perfect spread of golden yellow; every family owned a churn.


  1. That was very interesting. Thanks for sharing. I could relate most of those things to my own grandparents. I remember those kind of things happening when I was a child.

  2. As I grew up with grandparents living on a farm I too can relate to alot of that. My mom was a great story teller and often told about the family history. I love hearing about days gone by. And yes, I did eat some of those good cracklings when I was young too.

    Your mom's story is wonderful reading!

  3. Very interesting! Aren't we lucky to have lived to witness those years and the new of today.

  4. Very interesting story and photos!

  5. Lindie2:13 PM

    So glad you have this! You must get your writing gene from your mother.

  6. Anonymous3:49 PM

    I am soooo enjoying reading your life and about your my but you seemed to have so much fun and good times....thanks for sharing...God Bless...hugs..Ora

  7. hope it's a long story Donna.enjoyed it very much

  8. This is such a good story. It makes me remember stories my parents told about their youth. I love cracklins and cracklin' bread, and Eler Beth loves cracklins too. I guess the tradition lives on.

  9. Anonymous12:39 PM


  10. I am learning so much while I wait for my Frontierville tomatoes to ripen. lol

  11. As I read your Mother's story, Donna, it brings back memories of my own childhood, but I was born a little later than your Mom. Maybe I should write my story for my children and espedcially my grandchildren to read. None of them know what it is to do without.


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