i A Time and a Place...: Reminiscing...

Thursday, July 20, 2006


For the last many years I have been writing my life story, my journal, for my kids to read after I am gone to join my family in the big internet in the sky.

Once in a while I read portions of it. Today is one of those days.

The following is an excerpt I read today and think you might enjoy.

It begins after the house my family lived in in Merced burned down and my family was in the process of moving to Modesto.

Moving to Modesto

...Not long after that Mother was canning some fruit on a kerosene heater in the kitchen (I think this is what happened- maybe the heater was just on for heat) and the heater caught on fire and blew up and the house was burned down. We lost almost everything. Uncle Nick lost everything.

I don’t remember much about what happened immediately after that. I know we started for Modesto. Dad was there with us. We had a two-wheeled trailer that was pulled behind our car.

The trailer had a frame for the top that could support a canvas top to make it like a covered wagon. Mom and Dad slept in the trailer and us kids slept on pallets on the ground.

When we were travelling, Dad would dig a hole in the ground where he wanted to build a fire. He carried a piece of tin with him to make an oven to cook biscuits. He would mix the biscuit dough and grease a pan and put the biscuits in the pan. Then he would put the piece of tin over the hole and build a fire on top of the tin. The hole under the tin would get hot and Dad would put the pan of biscuits in the hole and use the hole as an oven to bake the biscuits. It worked very well and Dad’s biscuits were always perfectly browned and extremely tasty.

We never had a whole lot to eat but we always managed. Sometimes Mother would boil water and put in sugar to make ‘sugar syrup’ for breakfast. We almost always managed to have chicken (chicken was very cheap in those days) at least once a week.

Sometimes we would have bacon and once in a while we’d have spare ribs. But mostly it was biscuits and potatoes and gravy for dinner and biscuits and cream (or water) gravy or biscuits and sugar syrup for breakfast.
Mother and Dad used a lot of canned cream instead of milk for gravy or other milk dishes. Canned cream went a lot farther than milk because it could be diluted to whatever strength was needed and, when there was milk left over in the can, they could put a tiny piece of bread in the hole to effectively plug the can and preserve the remaining milk. It’s amazing how long canned milk kept without spoiling.

I remember spreading my pallet under an apricot tree to go to sleep one night. I was, of course, sleeping with someone else, probably Joan. During the night it started to rain. Joan went to the trailer and told mom it was raining and mom said to pull the quilt up, so we did.

It was very warm under that quilt that night. I must have had a fever because I couldn’t get cool and the next morning I found I was covered with chicken pox bumps. Mom looked them over and said I had chicken pox and needed to keep warm and dry for a few days. No one else caught them from me. There were no ill effects from the disease.

As a child I don’t recall missing not having someone to play with. I spent a lot of time alone, playing cars with wooden blocks, arranging the dirt and rocks into roads and buildings and making streets through them. I spent hours sometimes just playing by myself, cars or cowboys and Indians or a wealth of other games I could imagine.

When I was too little to pick cotton, Mother would sit me at the end of a row while she picked the row of cotton and back. She’d tell me to ‘sit there and play until I get back,’ and I would.

Later, when I was bigger, Mother made a cotton sack for me out of a potato sack with a shoulder strap so I could go along behind her and get what she missed. Of course, after I was ten and older, I had my own sack, probably a six-footer.

I’ll tell more about cotton picking (and other things)later.



Blogger CA said...

As I think about it now, my first real cotton sack was probably a ten footer. They came in 71/2-8-10-and 12 foot lengths. Mom would get a ten footer for me rather than an eight footer. She would allow for my rapid growth.

9:48 AM  

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