Thursday, September 27, 2012

Speaking Neff Roadian

Last night, totally exhausted, I took my sleepy self to bed. Snuggling under the covers........ Covers? Not until that moment, did I realize that not many people today would understand the term. Covers are blankets. Most nights my mother would say, "I'll tuck the covers in." We on Neff Road understood the language of our part of the country.

I became more aware of the different speech patterns we Neff Roadians have when reading "The Country Doctor" by Patrick Taylor. In the back of his novel is a glossary of terms. In reading the terms, I found that our Neffness had strong ties to Ireland as well as Scotland. In fact, my Johnson side of the family has origins in Scotland.

I thought you might enjoy seeing what words and phrases are common between Neff Road and the Irish heritage. Bound and determined (determined). Bun in the oven (pregnant). Cow's lick (tuft of hair standing up). Cuppa (cup of). Dead on (strong affirmative). Dibs (first claim on). Dote on (worship). Eejit (idiot). Finagle (get by devious means). Guttersnipe (ruffian). Having none of it (not allowing). I'm your man (agree to follow plan). Malarky (nonsense). Mind (remember). Muffler (long woolen scarf). Mortified (embarrassed). Not put it past (would not be surprised). On the mend (getting better). Out of kilter (out of alignment). Hold your peace (remain silent). Rightly (well enough). Rubbernecking (prying into someone business). Saying no more (final decision). Read up or ready up (clean, put into order). Take a gander (look at). Take leave of your senses (do something incredibly stupid). Tickled (very pleased). Don't give a tinker's damn (couldn't care less). Donnybrook (fight).  Take a gander (look at). Have your cake and eat it, too (trying to enjoy two exclusive options).  Hide nor hair (no trace). Long drink of water (tall and skinny).

Just a few Scottish phrases: How's it guan? (How are you?). Yer Welcome (you're welcome). Whit's this? (what's this). Heft (lift up). Speak o' the devil (talk of someone when they appear), Pure done in (tired). Yes, both languages have infiltrated other parts of the country, but a friend once told me that she was told that a good linguistics person can pinpoint a Darke Countian. For many years I was asked where I lived. Evidently, my speech patterns gave me away. When I moved to Wisconsin, I felt like a foreigner. It was truly Dutch country. We all came over on a boat somewhere along the line.

I love my roots. I love returning to a language I understand.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Shed was Full

It hung in the old shed like a blanket over the floor below. Rows and layers of green tobacco started to darken since cut in the field. It hung there waiting for us. It waited as while the rest of us walked away from the field for another year.

"Why do we raise tobacco?" I asked my parents each year for as long as I can remember. "We don't believe in smoking. So why do we raise it?" It puts food on the table was always the reply. I had a tough time reconciling the action with the belief. Maybe I still do. But after raising tobacco, I knew I would never lift a cigar or cigarette to my lips. Often I wondered if we were encouraging the sin of others. And, if we were, would we be accountable for our actions when we came to Heaven's door. Well, what did I know?! I was just a kid.

Dad behind horses. Uncle Keith on wagon
We had speared the tobacco doing the backbreaking work of bending over to pick up the tobacco stalks then pushing them down on the spear at the end of the tobacco lath. Dad and Gene would later load the tobacco onto the wagon. They loaded it as tightly as possible, then in the shed, one stood on the beam and one on the wagon, filling the rows where the tobacco would age. The old shed was airy with spaces between the boards allowing fresh air to reach around the leaves and dry them.

June, Sarah Lee, Esther and Peggy
I remember Dad leaving the shed doors open so more air could get into the barn. The barn looked near to bursting with the bulk it held. The smell of tobacco became a fall scent that ripened as the days went on. I wasn't part of the days of loading the wagon pulled by horses. I'm a little jealous that I didn't have the chance to walk next to a big Belgian talking my way across the field as my parents worked. I'm sure I would have enjoyed my field time in a whole new way. So, instead I rode on the tractor yelling to Dad when Gene called "stop!".

The old shed is gone. The days of raising tobacco are just a memory. The time spent with family and friends over this time consuming crop was a gift, a lifetime of sweet remembrances of the people now gone and of days of handling this crop that was going off to those who did smoke.....from those who did not.

The shed was full.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Old Pump

The old pump sat outside of the brick school house. Kids vied to pump the handle, women carried water-filled buckets into the house for cooking and cleaning. Water was no longer drawn from a bucket dipped into a well. Now the pump handle was pumped, drawing the water to the spout. A little more work than turning on a faucet….and a lot more fun for children.  

I did a little research on Wikipedia to find out when tap water came into the house. Indoor plumbing developed in the last quarter of the 19th century and was common by the middle of the 20th century. I think I remember the pump on our porch. I was very little at the time. Mom actually fell through the boards over the well. It was a little hole. She didn't go far.

I grew up with pumps as much a part of the landscape as were the barns that dotted the farms. Old pumps seldom used but still a standing reminder of the days when my parents attended a one-room school house and when hot water was achieved over a fire. Pumps stood outside of homes, next to barns and even outside of Painter Creek Church.

The pump stood sentry over a cement trough. I don’t know if the trough had any drainage. I do recall our trough at the old barn occasionally wore a blanket of moss. Brenda and I would ask Dad to put water in the trough, so we could wear our flowered bathing suits enjoying our little outdoor pool. Rain that fell filled the wells and the troughs. Via the birds small tadpoles would sometimes find a new home in our little pool. The pump and trough were so much a part of our daily living that we forgot to notice.

On a trip long ago back to Neff Road, I took my camera to capture these remnants from the past. Some of the one-room school houses were now residences while some remained empty. Wells sat in school yards unnoticed. My grandmother had taught in a one-room school house. I could envision her standing on the stoop of the old brick school sending her students out to play. A child would pump the old pump handle and small hands would cup gathering water for a cold, fresh drink.

The old pump is a reminder of simpler time, a time when children fought for the right to pump the handle, a time when women appreciated the handiness of a pump on the back porch, a time when small girls sat in the cool trough giggling not realizing that they were sitting in a piece of history.

The old pump.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

A Litany of Puppy, Tales

Bubbles was the puppy of our collie. Her litter lived in the old barn. Having only vague memories of my early childhood, Bubbles was just a blurry memory of fur. The blurry memory became much more when the puppy was hit by a car on Neff Road. I never knew how the puppy got all the way down the lane to the road, but one less puppy resided in the barn. I always loved the old barn. Perhaps because it held so many memories, especially one of a puppy named Bubbles.

We had other dogs on the farm. Sometimes Mom and Dad took care of someone's dog. They stayed in residence for a bit then moved on. Sometimes a puppy just seemed to disappear. I learned not to ask questions. We never seemed to have long dry spells where a dog was not in residence. When one wasn't, often another animal stepped in to fill the 'pet' gap. We treasured them all.

We went to the Bright's house to see the new puppies. I got to pick  the puppy I wanted. Eyes still closed and nursing, the puppy would not come home to live with me for several weeks. Aunt Alma was staying with the Loxley girls when Whitey came to stay. Uncle Sam had his first heart attack. Mom and Dad were in Michigan with Aunt Bess. I remember sitting with Aunt Alma on the porch swing with the little, white puppy in my lap. She had come to stay with her grand nieces. Whitey was hit by a car the day we buried Uncle Sam who had died from his last heart attack. Our family mourned.

Dad never had a dog after we lost the sweet cocker. We had lost a member of our family and knew that he couldn't be replaced.

I have had a dogs in my life since then. On the farm, I learned compassion for animals and gave my heart to them all. We were blessed to have pets in our lives. Animals that gave their love to little girls who needed it. I miss you, sweet puppies. Thank you for your love, from a little girl from Neff Road.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Putting Away Summer

The windows were open and buckets of soapy water and rags were ready for the crew to pick up their weapon of choice. The dust of summer was about to disappear. Feather beds were hung on the clothesline along with pillows and comforters. The smell of the closet was replaced with the perfume of nature. We were putting away summer, getting ready for winter.

The smell of fall always reminds me of the farm. That scent so fresh that you'd swear it was newly made. Every window was opened so the house could air out. Mom washed curtains that had hung loosely in the humid summer months. Rugs were shaken, and floors were scrubbed. Fall came knocking on the door.

Mom loved sheer curtains. The silken panels hung at window blowing over us when the wind blew at night, bringing with it the sounds of the evening. In the living room, a renegade sheer was often tucked back out of the way, allowing a guest to sit by the window without wearing a silken shroud. When the sheers wore out, Brenda and I took them as our part of our dress up wardrobe. A sheer was a lovely bridal veil or stunning stole. When Mom passed, so to did the sheers. They passed on to her oldest granddaughter.

After the corn was picked, there was a lull in farm activity. Dad made sure there was plenty of wood for winter hot dog roasts over the fire in the fireplace. Mom had seen to a full pantry with summer produce canned or frozen. The meat locker in town was full of beef. The barn was full of tobacco curing until the winter task of stripping it began. Summer was going to sleep for another year. The crispness of fall was waiting.

Some of those old summer-putting-away habits are still in place. I discovered it yesterday as I took the broom to my son's porches and dusted away cobwebs of spiders' summer homes. I shook out the rugs and opened a window. Their sheer curtains waited for a breeze.

It is that time of the year. A time full of memory. A time of tucking in for the cooler months and storing summer past. Ah, putting away summer.