Thanksgiving on the farm
by Ruth Baker
Dec 04, 2011 | 1480 views | 0 0 comments | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Ruth Baker
Ruth Baker
Thanks-giving on the farm usually meant hog-killing time. The boys filled the wash pots with water and built fires under them early in the morning. A big barrels was placed into a slanted hole in the ground to be used for scalding the hogs after killing them.

The neighbors for several miles around came to help. It was a custom for the families to help each other in these hard tasks. The children accompanied the parents and it turned into a festive occasion.

The grownups did the dirty job and the kids waited for the bladder. It was rinsed and a hollow cane was inserted in the top and it was blown up for the proverbial “pig skin” football. We had the real “McCoy.” Then the games began.

Other games were enjoyed while the grownups worked. Anty over was played by throwing a ball over the tall, two-storied house with a team on each side. When the ball was thrown, the side throwing called out, “ANTY OVER!” Many times, the one throwing could not get it over the tall building. That side lost their turn if this happened.

A favorite place to play was in the loft of the barn nearby. Swinging on the rafters and dropping into the sweet smelling hay was such fun. No place was too high for this boisterous group to try.

Riding “truck wagons” down hill along curving trails, dodging trees all the way, was daring fun! The front axel swiveled and the feet were placed one on each side near the wheel to guide the wagon. Needless to say, there many bumps, bruises, and scratches – but, what great fun!

Walking the barrels was akin to walking logs in water. The game was to see how long you could stay on top of the barrel by walking and keeping it rolling. Shrieks of laughter would go up when someone took a tumble.

When everyone tired of these antics, the gang went into the woods and “swung out” in the trees. A tall, slender sapling was chosen and the object was to climb to the top, hold on with the hands, and swing out with the body hanging free. If one chose the size of tree wisely, the body’s weight would carry the top close to the ground where the rider would hop off.

Once, I chose a tree too large for my body weight. The swing downward left me dangling about eight feet above the ground. I tried my best to get my legs back around the tree to pull myself up, but no such luck! I had to turn loose when my arms would not hold any longer. I fell to the ground, spraining my feet, and lay there crying. One of the group was my nephew, Herman, and he tried to shush me up because, “Grandma will make us come to the house if you don’t stop crying.” I managed to get to my feet and hobble back to the house.

Mother, the girls, and neighbor women were busy preparing a big meal for the group of workers and the family. When the men finished the meat cutting, the women cut up fat to make lard and trimmed out meat for sausage. They always got the first of the ribs to fry for the crowd, and sometimes the liver.

At lunch time (dinner to country folk), Mother would have the long table full of food. The table was always covered with a colorful oilcloth. There was a long bench down one side of the table with chairs on the other sides.

There would be bowls of home-canned vegetables, pickled beets, cucumbers and peaches. Whipped potatoes, green beans, peas, and always a pile of baked sweet potatoes were staple vegetables. Mama’s good sage dressing and baked hens filled a large dishpan. A cobbler pie baked in a dishpan was out of one of the many fruits which had been canned in the summer. (People have laughed at my description of the large dishpans used. How else could you cook enough for 12 children plus?) This was Thanksgiving Dinner. As strange as it sounds, we ate like this every day.

During the Depression, our table remained the same. The only way we knew there was trouble in the land was that our city “kissing cousins” came to visit more often and when they left, they carried corn meal, canned food, cured meat, potatoes, and often chickens and eggs.

Even though I was too young to realize it at the time, we had much for which to be thankful. I never knew I was “deprived” until I was in college and read James Agee’s and Walker Evan’s account of the South. We never had extra money, but we did not miss it. How can you miss something you never had? We were near self-sufficient on the farm. We had things money could not buy – family love (and loyalty), friends, and the strength to work for what we needed. We each received training in “making do, improvising, and helping others” which carried us throughout our lives.