i A Time and a Place...: Tumbleweed Christmas...

Monday, October 31, 2005

Tumbleweed Christmas...

I was over on Echotigs' place today and saw a picture of a tumbleweed that brought back fond memories about the Xmas of 1946 (I think that was the year, +/- a year).

Mom and Pop, my step-dad,and I went to Chowchilla to pick cotton and were still there on Xmas day. We drove there from Modesto in a 1935 Ford that had a top speed of 55 miles an hour. Pop drove 45 mph.We started early in the morning and stopped at the south edge of Modesto at a Richfield Golden Eagle service station for gas.

Most gas stations of that day had gas pumps that had glass top halves that let you see the gas which had to be hand pumped in until it got up to the mark of however much gas you wanted.
One gallon, five gallon and ten gallon, etc, marks were etched onto the glass tank so you could see how much gas was in the top glass tank for filling the car.
Then the gas pump nozzle was put into the car gas tank and opened and the gas flowed down out of the pump and into the cars' gas tank.

Gas was .17 cents a gallon and when Mom paid for it, the attendant gave me a small comic book about some super-hero; The Green Hornet or Captain Marvel or someone else like that.

It was about 60 miles to where we were going (a ways past Chowchilla) to pick cotton and it took us a couple of hours to find the place. It was a tent village and we found the man who ran it and he told us which tent to use.

We found the tent all right and moved our things into it. It was daylight now but dark inside the tent. We didn't have a light bulb but had passed a general store a few miles back. The man didn't say whether or not the electricity was turned on so, Mother, the fearless one, stuck her finger in the socket and pulled the chain. 'ooops'...Yep! The electricity was on so Pop went back to the store and got a bulb.

The cotton patch looked very good. It looked like Pima cotton which is the best to pick. Almost all the cotton boles were open and full and it wasn't too leafy.We would start picking cotton later in the morning after the dew had melted.
Pop and Mom had 12 foot sacks and I had an eight footer. The cotton paid three bucks a hundred and there were two men to climb the ladders to the top of the trailers and dump the sacks. That was great for us. Many places had you dump the sacks yourself and it was pretty hard to climb those ladders with a full cotton sack. Some bosses, like this one did, hired men to dump the sacks so people couldn't put the heavier green boles in their sacks to get more weight.

Three dollars was about top wages for picking. With the three of us working, we picked between five and six hundred pounds a day. We got paid each time a sack was emptied into the trailer.

We weren't fast by any means. My brother-in-law picked nine hundred pounds one day. He was the fastest picker I ever saw. He always took two rows up and two rows back. (To pick cotton, you start at the end of the cotton patch and pick a row all the way to the end then find an empty row and pick all the way back to where the trailers are parked)

To make a long story shorter, I'll get to the gist of this one.

We got to the cotton patch two days before Xmas and worked both days. My Mother was always one for Xmas trees with all the trimmings but this was the cotton patch and there were no trees available. So, Mom being one who readily adapts, went across the road from the tent and found a medium sized tumbleweed. It was very dry and very light. She brought it into the tent and we tore pieces of a newspaper and some colored paper she'd brought and Mom made a big pan of popcorn and we strung popcorn with a needle and thread and put the popcorn and paper angels and pieces of paper on the tumbleweed. She put her prettiest hair clip barrette on top for an angel. It wasn't like the usual Xmas tree but we thought it was beautiful.

Mom made cocoa and we had hot cocoa and ginger snap cookies and sang Xmas carols. Mom and I did most of the singing. Pop wasn't much for singing carols.
"Oh. Little Town of Bethlehem, How still we see Thee lie"...That was my favorite carol.

Then we opened our gifts. Pop got a nice pair of argyle style socks and a set of handkerchiefs and Mom got some colored scarves and a set of handkerchiefs. I got a detective set. It was a small pistol, a billy club and a pair of real handcuffs. They were all on a card, sealed on with clear plastic;- Oh, and a set of handkerchiefs with my initial on them.
We all 'ooohed' and 'aaahed' over our gifts. They weren't much by todays' standards but we loved them.

That was a typical Christmas for most folks in those days. Times were hard sometimes in those days but we always made do with what we had.
I didn't even know I was poor until I was thirteen years old but that's another story.

We picked for another week or so. When that field was picked, we went to another and finished our picking there.
We got back not long after Xmas holiday was over so I started right back in school. Shortly after that, both Mom and Pop went to work for the Tri-Valley Cannery. Pop worked there until he died in the early fifties and Mom worked there until she retired many years later. (We still sometimes went to the cotton patch when we could)

Well, that is the story of our Tumbleweed Christmas Tree. At age 69, I find that more and more often things I see or hear take me back to my earlier years. It's becoming easier and easier to spend time in the past and I've had such an exciting and varied existance that there is always somewhere to go when I am bored with the 'Here and Now'.

But that, too, is another story!



Blogger MonicaR said...

What a great story. Your mother was something to make that Christmas special like that.

I've noticed with my kids - it's the littlest things that make them happy. It always takes me by surprise what their favorite present is. It's usually some little, silly dollar store thing. (Thank goodness!)

One of the neighbor girls told my oldest that all of the families on the block are poor. When she came to ask me about it I said, 'Bullsh*t! We're not poor at all. We have everything we need and more.' And we do.

9:57 PM  
Blogger sandy said...

You have more storys than Hans Christian Anderson and Mark Twain combined.

I remember some Christmas's because of that one little gift I recieved.

11:55 AM  

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