Dreams of being a farmer died on the vine
When I was about horns high to a short-legged cow, my grandmother and I would talk about buying ourselves a farm and raising milk cows.
I'd get up in the morning and milk while she made eggs and biscuits and gravy. We'd eat breakfast, and then both of us would go out into the garden and hoe around our tomatoes, squash and corn.
At least that's what we talked about. But pushing keys on a computer - at first it was a typewriter - is a far cry from pulling teats of a cow. There is, however, a certain amount of manure involved in both.
We never bought that farm. In the first place, this grandmother, Mama Stevens, lived in town, and my grandfather, Papa Charlie, wouldn't hear of moving. In the second place, we didn't have any money.
But my other grandparents, Mama and Papa Hudgins, actually did live on a farm. They got their milk straight from the cow, churned their own butter, and cooked on a wood stove. Both grandmothers had iceboxes, kept cool by deliveries from City Ice Company.
But I don't think it was necessary to keep food cool back in those days. On Sundays, when we visited the farm, Mama Hudgins would serve a big dinner -huge chicken breasts and thighs pushed down into pan of cornbread dressing and baked in her wood stove, along with fresh vegetables from the garden and the best apple pie ever made.
But none of it was refrigerated between meals. All of that food just sat out on the table until supper time, and we ate it again. No one ever got sick.
My brother and I actually did do a little farming. We helped Papa pick cotton, and Papa was being generous when he paid us a quarter at the day's end. One day I tried to plow Bill the Mule, but I didn't know my "Gees" from my "Haws," so the mule was as confused as I was.
I was even less adept at milking. Mama could make that milk bucket sing as she pulled rhythmically on that cow's teats, never wasting a drop. But the cow wouldn't cooperate when I tried it. I think she knew I didn't know how.
Mama and Papa Hudgins lived mostly off the land, as they say. They killed their own hogs and gathered their own eggs. In his old age, Papa ran a tiny country store, and Daddy always bought something from him when he visited, even though he knew the corn flakes would be stale. Papa didn't sell much.
But he was a great farmer, and I've always admired farmers. The closest I came to being a dairyman was rooming with a fellow named Bill Moore in college. Bill became executive director of a state milk producers association. I became a newspaper guy.
No doubt I chose the better option. But it was a nice dream, and I still wonder sometimes if I could've made it on the farm.
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