Baling hay at Rose Bud in 1915.

Smokey Memories of Autumn


President, White County Historical Society, 1972-73



n looking backward a few decades, I recall things of earlier days that I miss today. I remember the tinkle of cowbells in late afternoon as the herd wound its way from grasslands to the barnyard to be fed and milked by hand. This provided dairy products for the family. Refrigeration was a nearby spring or a wooden trough of water drawn from the “north side” of the well to keep the milk cool and fresh. It was necessary to change the water several times a day. Often refrigeration was achieved by suspending a pail of milk down into the depths of a “dug” well. Another scene to remember was that of the housewife sitting on a vine-clad back porch on a summer morning churning the milk to make butter and delicious buttermilk.

Another scene that comes to mind was near sunset on a clear fall day after a day’s work, to look across the fields and see in the distance a blue smoke curling from the chimneys and kitchen flues where the evening meal was being prepared for the family at the end of a hard day of cotton picking or “corn gathering.” The meal usually consisted of food produced on the farm – vegetables from the garden, fruit from the orchard, pork from the “smokehouse,” and fresh eggs from the flock. Sometimes in summer, “supper” would be cooked in the back yard, not on a charcoal grill, but on a wood fire built between three large rocks. The smell of that wood smoke told you that “something was cooking at the Welches,” and whatever it was, it was always good after a dip in the “blue hole” on Little Indian Creek.

It was common to see peaches and apples drying in the sun on improvised scaffolds made by laying planks across saw horses or on low shed roofs. This process required some three or four days to complete, and the fruit must be brought in each night as the dew would add moisture and cause the fruit to be dark. This preservation method was done without thought of flies or air pollution, but those fried “half-moon” pies was something to remember. On a cold frosty morning when the “signs were right,” several neighbors would butcher their hogs and bring them to our place, where water was plentiful from a shallow well, to scald and scrape the hogs, which required three or four men to handle. Work went on all day and the ladies cooked a feast at the noon hour. When crops were “laid by” in summer, there was a little leisure time before “fodder pulling” and haying time. This provided time for cutting the winter wood for the fireplaces and the wood cook stoves. During this season, on election years especially, all-day picnics were held in shaded areas near small towns with lemonade stands, ice cream and bottled soda water cooled in tubs of floating ice. There were balloons and noise-makers for the “kiddies,” the mule-propelled merry-go-round for the younger set, and all candidates were invited to speak. A baseball game was often an added feature.

I miss the country schoolhouse with its one, two or three rooms. It was the center for the activities of the community, such as debates, literary societies, community singings, school Christmas programs and community Christmas trees. Although I find it interesting to reminisce of bygone days, I would not want to stop the wheels or progress nor turn the clock back to “those good old days.” Let us move forward with the tide, with high ideals. But lest we forget – our forefathers were the rugged Americans who laid the foundation for our country as we have it today.