Now, to the yard again. Following the fence to the left (as you faced the house) around the curve was another gate, this one small and fancier with iron curlicue top. A brick walk led to the front porch. Going on around the corner of the house you came to more grassy area, tall trees and the beautiful, two-story, L-shaped porch that was such fun to play on with its long stairs at each end. A little farther on, the vegetable garden provided an endless variety of lettuce, beans, peas, squash, tomatoes, cabbage - just about any vegetable youd want, and some that I definitely didnt. Potatoes, of course, were planted in a field and dug by plowing (or was it harrowing?) in the fall and sacking them by hand. There are snapshots of Daddy and Uncle Ollie holding potato sacks with Buddy and me each in a sack. There were some flowers, too- a fence covered with sweat peas was the most memorable.
Beyond these gardens to the east were fields extending to a woods of Arthur Gundlachs. A lane led down to it and on to the left, through woods to "B" Street road across the Southern railway tracks. To the right it led to the Gundlach house. This little, very narrow lane was all that separated the Gundlach woods from ours. In summer sometimes the nuns from St. Johns Orphanage would bring all the children marching two-by-two in an orderly line down our lane past the house to the Gundlach woods for a picnic. I remember so vividly that once a there was a storm with booming thunder and lightening flashes and we worried about those children getting soaked. And then the little parade came slowly back. And one of the nuns was carrying the limp body of a little boy who had been struck by lightening. It was the saddest sight.
So back to our woods. It was fairly large with a variety of trees. Many oaks of course but also walnut, a grove of persimmons, hickory, a thicket of wild crab apple ( one of the most enticing smells on earth) and sassafras which also ranks high on the fragrance charts.
Wire fencing enclosed the woods and ran the entire length along the railroad tracks. Just inside the fence Daddy showed me where you could still see ruts made by the wagon trains going west. This land was rather hilly - I guess that is what saved it from cultivation. Anyway it was a paradise to me with its little clear stream where crawfish could be caught, taken home and then taken back again. Sometimes Daddy made tiny sailboats from a chip of wood and a twig and wed watch them careen downstream, or hed construct a waterwheel from whatever was at hand. He was the greatest! Years later when we lived in the little house on a corner of the farm, he dammed the creek so it would be waist high for me and taught me to swim dog-paddle style and to float. Not elegant, but enough to avoid drowning.
The big octagonal barn was unique. Upstairs straw and sweet timothy hay was stored and through a square opening in the floor, was pitch-forked down to the horses and cattle in their stalls. Hens made their nests here and there so that gathering eggs was like an Easter hunt.
How did the hay get way up there? Well, on the south side of the barn, convenient to wagons coming from the fields, was a ramp leading up to a huge sliding door. The lower section of the ramp was solid dirt, the upper part was a trestle allowing traffic to move beneath. A team of work-horses drew the wagons, piled high with hay, up to the door where tongs on a pulley just outside lifted a big bunch at a time and swung it inside.
The lower floor of the barn held farm equipment such as plows, harrows, harvesters and the harnesses. And several buggies. That was on the south side. Running east to west through the middle was a raised wooden hallway with stalls for horses on the south side and for cattle on the other. All were equipped with wooden troughs for feed; the cows also had stanchions which kept them in place for milking. A silo stood alongside the barn to the east.
An older barn was located farther north and east. At the time that I remember, it was used mostly as a granary for wheat. Its real purpose was to provide a fine place for me to slide down the pile of grain. My dad discouraged this - he was sure Id sink in and be buried. Where I was concerned, he saw danger everywhere, especially after Buddy was killed. Roller skates and bicycles were lethal, horses were not.
A heavy board fence enclosed a large lot for horses and cattle. It needed to be mighty sturdy to deter some of the bulls. I was warned sternly and quite unnecessarily never to go in there alone - I well remember one bull that seemed to regard me as a red flag. Sometimes even when I was in the front yard hed race over, bellowing, and hurl himself against the fence.
In the far part of the lot was a raised wooden trough which was filled by pumping water for the livestock from a nearby well ( I think it used a gasoline engine). The pasture was just beyond and then the woods.
Did I mention the persimmon grove there? When I was quite small we had a wonderful Negro hired hand who used to "cahy" me (meaning to hold my hand and walk with me) down to the "psimmon" trees for a feast. He had come up from the south where his mother had been a slave, walking along the railroad tracks and stopped off at the farm where Grampa gave him a job. He never left. Well, not until we left the farm. He could not read or write, but could he tell a story!!! He could have my dad laughing so hard that tears ran down his face and the more he laughed the more "Challie" embellished it.
His full name was Charles Williams but when he arrived they had understood him to say that his name was "William" so thats what he was called for years. With no concept of spelling, he pronounced some words in original ways. Once my mother searched all over town for some Lavender soap only to find it was Lava he wanted. He had asked for "Lavendy". And he couldnt be convinced that Meckfessels Tire shop was not Mike Fessels.
After he had worked on the farm for some years, Grampa gave him about an acre at the northwest corner near Little Oak Mine which Gramps and the Southern railway had sunk. He also gave or sold a plot to Carl Klein and to George Meyer who turned his into a true garden spot. He was extremely proud of having new and rare varieties of fruit trees (a cherry-plum afforded the best pies you ever tasted!). One more plot of about three and a half acres was sold to a man, Fred (Fritz) Peck and his wife. He and their four sons built the house where my dad, mother and I moved when I was in junior high.But back to Challie. Close to the tracks, he built a little frame house and married Mary who was twice his size and quite a character. She drank a bit too much, had a big voice and we all thought was far below Challie in every way. He probably thought so too. The joy of his life was Teddy, an English bull dog that, when I was little, would charge out ferociously and send me scrambling up Daddys leg. Mary had been cautioned never to let Teddy out on the tracks but one fateful day she may have had a drink or so and took him across to the mailbox. He was hit by a train and was Mary scared! She came back crying-moaning-screaming over and over, "OH LAWD! TAKE ME TOO!" When Challie heard the story he shot back, "Been a commodation to me if hed taken huh fust"!
It is sad that the house at Little Oak is gone now, and the windmill, and the yard with the tall trees. Everything but the great octagonal barn. And memories.
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