----An excerpt from the journal of Mrs. Jonathon Whittington circa 1851---
You know I was betrothed against my will to a man I really didn’t know or love. Being from one of the most proper families in Pennsylvania had no affect on my expected servitude to Mr. Winthrop H. Williams, and neither had my distain for him or his family. Apparently this prison cell was arranged at my birth in order to merge two family businesses into one major conglomerate. I was to have none of it you see.
But, that wasn’t because our school Headmaster had been sweet on me and I had like feelings. No you see, but rather that he had taught me well, the yearning and desire to be adventurous and independent through the mountain of books required of our studies. Much to his avail I’m afraid. Old Headmaster Thomas would shower me with his little drawings of reward when I excelled in my studies. There were numerous frakturs of hearts, vines, urns, and such, but my favorite was a special bird. What an inspiration, though he never knew, and reminder that I had wings too if I wanted.
So, in secret, I answered an advertisement in The Philadelphia Inquirer for a mail order bride, posted by a farmer from the Northwest wilderness. Yes indeed I did! Tansy, my sister, argued for a week over my wild notions of running away to the wilds of Oregon, but she was afraid herself of the same plight I was facing, and so we sat by lamplight one night, and she carefully drew my silhouette, to be sent to this woodsmen, along with my answer to his advertisement.
Old Headmaster Thomas had taught our small class well in the rendering of likenesses, and so little did he know that his instruction would be used to help make my escape from him and Mr. Winthrop H. Williams. If I had to be a prisoner, best to spend it somewhere adventurous and far away from Philadelphia.
Tansy and I worked out all the secret details and managed to avoid being exposed or caught. Then silently we made our way to the train station early one morn before the household was awakened some months later. You see back then mail was a very slow process! With small valise in hand, Tansy helped me onto the train car. With tears of joy and sadness we parted, and she slipped my wings into my hand, the small bird fraktur, as the train pulled away.
Shade tobacco was one of the 3 most money making crops of the South when I was a small child. There were fields and fields of that sweet smelling large leaf plant, all covered in white fabric shades. Gadsden County had white boxed fields everywhere. Shade tobacco was used to wrap cigars. My home county was part of 1 of only 2 districts that grew 95% of the American grown wrapper leaf. If you wanted a job as a youth, you went to the tobacco barns, or the fields.
Our local movie theater was called, The Leaf , and actually made it into a movie scene starring Melanie Griffith in the 1980’s.
My mother, the infamous “Miss Odene”, now 81 years of age, had a tobacco leaf in gold embedded into the gemstone on top of her high school class ring, smooth and worn with age now. Tobacco was king then.
But, by the time I was working age, about 13, the shade tobacco work was dwindling, and my parents didn’t want me to work in the tobacco barns, but considered other field work. Yes, 13…! When you became a teenager, you went to work. Now I’ve written before about my ventures around the courthouse square selling boiled peanuts, but one summer that I will never forget, my parents insisted that I take a job picking squash for Old Man Spooner.
I was scared, but they reassured me that my cousin “Fuzzy” would be there and picking too. So, that morning I got dropped off at Spooner’s Squash Field, and there was Fuzzy. We were both given our wood chip hampers, 3 ft tall, complete with wire bail for carrying on our shoulders, as we worked our way down each row.
There I found myself, just outside the door of a tobacco barn, only to be given that hamper that was just about as tall as I was, and Mr. Spooner showing Fuzzy and I several of the yellow gems and being lectured briefly about exactly what to pick and what not to pick. And so we went. Yes, two small kids age 13. I cannot even begin to tell you how large that field was, or if we picked an acre or more. I just remember that by the time I hauled 3 hampers to the barn, my shoulder was sore and possibly bleeding. I was told to dump all my pickins’ into a huge 55 gallon metal drum full of water, and go back for more. It was hot, it was painful, but I did it, and so did Fuzzy.
So after a full morning of bending over and grasping the most choice golden crooked neck squash, and hauling that hamper with the rusty wire bail digging, and my heat exhaustion, with NO WATER, I was looking forward to being paid my day’s wages.
But Old Man Spooner was not finished with us yet. And mind you, it was only two 13 year old kids that picked the field that day. No one else was in sight, and just when we thought we were done, Mr. Spooner comes out of the barn with scrub brushes. Yes, the squash had to be washed and prepared for the Farmers Market on Hwy 90, west of town.
So as the 55 gallon drum was filled with water, and squash very gently lowered into their bath, the scrub brushes began their up and down motion, like 2 kids churning butter. Then we dried them off, placed them in clean hampers, wired the lids down, and stacked them into the back of Mr. Spooner’s baby blue El Camino. Yep, this farmer had an El Camino instead of an old farm truck. I was told to sit in the back and hold the hampers down as we made our way through the town of Quincy, Florida, and out the west end to the farmers market, which was at least 10 miles distance from the fields.
I sat on the side of the bed in back of the car, holding down the hampers, while Fuzzy drove, maneuvering through Hwy 90, stop lights, and railroad tracks. Yep, that’s right. I was in the back and Fuzzy at age 13 drove. You see Mr. Spooner was legally blind, and not able to drive. So off this farmer went, with a 13 year old kid driving, and 13 year old kid in the back holding down the hampers full of beautiful yellow squash to be sold that day.
And as dusk began to set in, and as my cousin and I waited for our parents to pick us up, we winked at each other, just waiting for our pay for the day. Anticipation getting the best of us, we began to pick at each other and stuck our tongues at each other, having the maturity to work the fields, pack, and drive, but still the innocence to tease and wait.
And as the sun was setting, and after calculating his profits for the day, Old Man Spooner came back to the barn as our parents drove up to load us up and take us home after a hard days work. In each of our hands, he placed a five dollar bill.
Now I don’t recall ever going back to work for Old Man Spooner, and I don’t know why he could only find 2 kids to do his work, but I do look at my grandchildren and wonder what they would think if I hauled their tails out to a farm field and dropped them off for the day with a strange farmer, and to be paid only $5.00. Times sure have changed………..
Each year, here in the small town of Smithville, Tennessee, thousands of people gather for the annual Smithville Fiddlers Jamboree, http://www.smithvillejamboree.com/ The streets are filled with vendors, muscians gather under the trees around the square, and practice their art before their scheduled performances. Cloggers tap and twirl across the stage during their competition, and everyone seems to tolerate the heat of summer during this festive time. At night, you'll hear bluegrass music, banjos and fiddles in each campsite, as old friends and competitors once again are able to hang out with each other. It is always fun to stroll around the courthouse square, and check out all the artists and crafters that come to sell their wares. Several city blocks are roped off, and filled with white tents, full of fun things. This year, I'll have my grandkids here, and we'll share ice cream and funnel cakes, and I'll try to keep up with them as they run from booth to booth, looking for something of interest to them. Then later the night of the 4th, the fireworks begin and another 4th of July will come to a close. With that, the tents will come down, the stage broken down and stored again until next year. Sweet freedom, something that all Americans should not take for granted, for these little peaceful celebrations all over the country would not be possible if it were not for our freedom, and so I thank our servicemen for their contribution, the most precious thing they can be giving, their lives. As a military Mom, I'm very proud of my son, and I'm proud of his wife and kids. Families that have to go for long periods of time and not see their spouses and parents. This year, I hope everyone will remember what the cost of freedom was and still is.
There is nothing like sweet amber honey, especially when you use the honey collected from the area where you live. One of the purest foods known to mankind with so many medicinal benefits, including boosting our immunities and more. Instead of an energy drink, why not eat honey. There is such a wonderful recipes out there in internet land. I now use honey in my coffee and tea instead of sugar. It is delicious. When I acquired these beautiful faceted glass beads, and held them to the light, the warm honey glow color was so beautiful, and of course, I decided these earrings had to include a reminder of the source, tiny little bees. Our gardens and flower are buzzing with the little critters and we give them their headway, and do not interfere with their daily chores of collecting the precious pollen and nectar. The glass is accented with antiqued brass findings, and give these earrings a vintage victorian look. I'm very pleased with how these turned out. One day I hope to have a big grand straw beeskep in my garden, but for now, will just watch them work.
It has been way too long since my last post. But with an early Spring, came a very busy and early summer. Gardening, trips, family and more. Things are calming down somewhat, and I have time to upgrade my blog appearance, and post this weekend. Right now, I'm still trying to tweek the blog design, then will post all about our busy season.
Hope you will check back, and please note, all the little problems with the appearance will get ironed out.
Just takes me time, because I'm not that computer savvy.