Farm kids John and Leonard Jones doing chores during hard times in Bradford.
My granny Ella Malin always managed to have
a little backyard garden when I was growing up at Bradford. However, in 1936 when we lived in the
Shelton house where my youngest brother John Richard was born, we had a lot of
acreage and my daddy Thomas Virgil Jones borrowed a horse and plow from a
neighbor and broke a couple acres of land. He planted potatoes, peanuts and turnips as a supplement to the garden
that Granny Malin and my oldest brother Bob grew. It was a family effort when time came to harvest all these
foods. Dad would turn over the potato
rows and we kids would go along behind and pick up the potatoes and put them in
a bucket we each carried. We then toted
them up to the backyard and piled them near the well. After they were all gathered we would get a big washtub and fill
it with well water to wash the potatoes, then dry and store them for winter.
One year a neighbor told Dad she'd sure like to have some of those potatoes. She lived next door with a brother who was injured in World War I. They were both middle aged and I suppose times were hard for them. She took care of her brother by keeping house and cooking and doing the laundry. Dad told her, "If you will come down here tomorrow and help these kids wash these potatoes, I'll give you a share." Next morning she showed up early and we all gathered around the tub full of potatoes, us kids sitting on the ground and our neighbor using a little wooden stool. A while into the process we noticed one of my little sisters, Emma Ruth, giggling. Looking around to see what was so funny, we spotted the fact that our neighbor didn't have on any underwear so we all joined in the giggles. And Ruthie, being herself, just had to go tell Mama about it. Well, shortly afterward, here comes our mom, sauntering out to see how we were doing. She stood around for a bit then said, "Well my goodness, you had better pull your dress down, don't you know those potatoes have eyes?" She quickly adjusted her clothing and went on washing potatoes.
After finishing, all us kids helped her carry several buckets of potatoes home. The rest we dried. Then we pulled a tarp under the house and stored the potatoes there for future use. The turnips were harvested in early fall and we took them up to the corner of Granny's garden and made a big pile in the corner, back out of the way. Daddy then piled dirt on them, very thick, to protect them from the freeze. And all winter long as Mom needed the turnips, she would dig into the big mound and get what was needed. Then she would pile the dirt back on top. By winter’s end that mound was very small.
The peanuts were laid by, the same as the potatoes. Dad would loosen the dirt by plow and us kids would pull the vines up and shake the dirt off. They were then hung or laid out to dry, according to the weather. I always loved it when time came to pull the nuts off the vines. Of course we would eat a bunch of raw peanuts as we worked and then suffer “the back-door trots.” (The toilet was out the back door.) In the winter Mom would make peanut brittle and roast the nuts. Still one of my favorite things to eat.
Daddy would raise a hog to butcher, when we had a place to grow one. We always looked forward to fall or early winter for butchering time. Some neighbor would come help Daddy butcher, before my older brothers Bob and Stanley got big enough to help. The neighbor's share was always what we called the lights, some liver and a piece of fresh meat. Everything on that hog was used except the squeal. Granny would take some lights and liver and make a pot of very good dumplings. She would use the head to make souse, which some folks call head cheese. That was also tasty as she put a lot of spices in it. It would congeal into a loaf and was easy to slice. Dad had an oblong wooden box where he would layer the hams, shoulders and sides. Between each layer he put some special smoke-flavored salt. These would cure out into bacon, smoked ham and picnic. This would do us for breakfast during the winter. I also always liked to stir up some greasy gravy with some sorghum molasses and eat on a hot biscuit. Granny would grind up the scrap pieces or trimmings, and make that into a very good sage sausage. There would be more than we could eat in one sitting and since we didn't have a refrigerator she would fry the extra into cakes and store them in a big crock jar, covering it with the fat that was cooked out of the sausage. That would keep for a long time stored in a cool spot.
The hog’s fat was rendered into lard that was used for cooking. The entrails had a web of fat on them that was called "leaf lard." This was stripped off and rendered too but kept in a different container as it had a definite taste to it. It was also used for many things other than eating. It made a good “oil” for squeaky doors and was good for preserving a saw or other tools that would tend to rust.
The skin that wasn't used for anything else was rendered into cracklings. Mom put these into a deep bread pan and stuck them in the old wood stove oven. When all the grease was cooked out, these skins made good crunchy eating. Today they are called Chichirones or pork rinds.
One winter, Dad got very sick and was unable to work for a while so we had to figure out a way to help. At that time Henry Scoggins had a pecan shed down between the old gravel highway and the railroad tracks. You could buy pecans in the shell, take them home, pick them out and sell them back to him for a higher price. So, we decided to do that. My brother Bob would go get a 100-pound sack and carry it home on his shoulder, about a mile. We would put them in a big washtub and pour boiling water over them and let them soak. After the water became cold he would drain it off and spread the pecans to dry. I think the soaking was to prevent the meats from being so dry and crumbling. He would then sit and crack all those pecans with a lever cracker built for that purpose, one by one. And after supper we would all gather around the dinning table and pile the cracked pecans in the center. We each had two containers, one for the halves and one for the pieces. The object was to get as many halves as possible because they brought a better price.
The meats were put into separate bags and carried back to the shed where Miss Dora would grade them. She had a container with a screen bottom that would let the pieces that got into the halves fall through. The fewer pieces you had, the more they paid. That got us through the winter but I don't think any body got rich doing that.
We had some rough times but
didn't realize it then, and I wouldn't trade a minute of it.