Archived Story

Last days of summer

Published 12:03pm Thursday, September 26, 2013

If you’re like me and enjoy puttering around outdoors cutting grass, weeding flowerbeds, trimming shrubbery and working in the vegetable garden, you’ve probably noticed that the days are getting cooler and shorter. Fall is here and the cold days of winter can’t be far behind.

When I look around my little space, I’m reminded of how little time I have left to do the things I wanted to get done when summer began.

Farm families of three-quarters of a century ago experienced the same urgency to make the most of the last days of summer. Harvest time brought on a bundle of jobs that had to be done in a hurry. Cotton had to be picked and ginned, corn had to be pulled and stored in the crib, hay had to be cut and stored in the barn loft, sorghum cane had to be stripped, cut, squeezed and cooked, peanuts had to be ploughed up, shook and shocked and sweet potatoes had to be removed from the ground and stored under a hill of pine straw and dirt.

By necessity, farm kids shared a big part of the workload. Shortly after returning to school the day after Labor Day, they were let out for cotton picking vacation. For two long weeks they were busy in cotton fields from sunup to sundown every day except Sunday. The grind of harvest work didn’t end there.

On school days, me and my brothers and sisters had instructions to report for work when we got home.

We’d jump into our work clothes, grab a baked sweet potato, buttered biscuit or teacake and head to the field. When we could no longer see to work, we’d hurry home and continue with our assigned everyday chores, which included feeding and watering the chickens and livestock, milking two cows and fetching wood for the cook stove.

We also found many fun things to do in our free time. We roamed the woods and filled our stomachs with ripe Muscadines, wild grapes and persimmons, hunted squirrels, rabbits and quail and played hide-and-seek in the hayloft on rainy days. We even got a kick out of doing crazy things like squashing maypops with our bare feet, skipping rocks on the surface of a pond or hiding out and smoking rabbit tobacco.

What we dreaded the most about the last days of summer was having to trade in our thick-soled bare feet for a pair of shoes. We refused to accept the inevitable until our bare feet began sticking to the metal floorboard while boarding the school bus.

Clif Knight is a staff writer for the Hartselle Enquirer

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