Life…Ripe for the Pickin’
Each family and every community have their own way of celebrating holidays. While growing up in Buckhorn vicinity near Broadway, North Carolina in the 1950’s and 1960’s there “weren’t” any discharging of cannons, ringing of bells, or drinking of toasts (perhaps some nipping of white lightning behind closed doors) on Fourth of July.
Our holiday parade consisted of Grandpa, Aunt Gladys, Mama, Daddy, and us three “young’uns” walking a beeline to a favorite fishing spot. There were no fireworks unless it was Grandpa (Puzie Lett) or Daddy (Bud Lett) raising Cain about us kids acting like wild alley cats.
Now, country folks didn’t have much use for what the “givernment” called holidays ’cause Grandpa said such events were for “citified” people who had easy jobs with too much time on their hands. However, on Independence Day my family usually avoided putting tobacco in the barn and would cut back on farm chores so we could do something special.
One of my favorite Fourth of July outings was a trip through the woods to a popular fishing place called the Kelly Hole located about a mile from the Lett farm. There was an extra treat: all along the way we could pick and eat blackberries. Mama (Ruby) insisted we wear long shirts and britches to avoid the attack of mosquitoes and chiggers (or redbugs) and to protect us from briars and brush on the long walk.
With our cane fishing poles and tin buckets in hand we headed off through the woods, blazing new trails and beating the bushes for fresh blackberries. Yum!
When we arrived at the fishing hole we sat on the banks and ate blackberries while casting our lines into the water. What I hated most was baiting the hooks with live crickets and worms with the same fingers used for eating blackberries. I didn’t mind the stained hands from natural blackberry dye but I felt guilty about killing those cute little worms and chirping crickets. When I asked my Daddy real nicelike to “please, purr-ty please” bait the hooks he would usually do so without much hassle. However, my brother Jimmy would taunt me — “Are your hands broke?” or “Prissy little girl, can’t even bait a hook!”
Despite Mama’s protests Daddy, Jimmy, my sister Carolyn, and I ate almost as many blackberries as we picked, pigging out non-stop until we were bloated. Just as well our stomachs were full because by the time we got home…we could hold back a little bit while Mama prepared berries for a cobbler.
Back at the farm the menfolk would clean the fish (thank God), and we prissy girls would wash and cap the blackberries for dessert as well as get them ready for Mama and Aunt Gladys to can a dozen jars of blackberry jelly. All of us practically dried up the well while hosing down our bodies in hopes of destroying Poison Ivy and Poison Oak juice just waiting to make our lives unbearable with itchy rashes.
Carolyn and I painted our chigger bites all over with fingernail polish, hoping to suffocate the redbugs that burrowed in our skin. Actually the bugs were probably better for us than the dyes and chemicals in the polish, but it sure was fun polka dotting our whole body with the likes of Pink Passion and Red Rage!
Meanwhile, Daddy would get out the ice cream freezer and start cranking while we took turns churning the milk, sugar and vanilla into homemade ice cream. Then we would sit down to a mighty fine supper — fried fish, fried cornbread, homemade slaw, sweet tea, and of course, blackberry cobbler covered with vanilla ice cream.
The next morning Mama made pancakes. While some folks preferred molasses mixed with butter or Karo syrup (the one that said on the label “gives your pancake a college education”), our favorite topping was blackberry jelly. You have not really tasted the best mouth-watering pancakes until you have eaten them with fresh blackberry jelly, a house specialty from mother’s kitchen, fondly referred to as “Ruby’s Restaurant.”
As we young’uns turned into teenagers, Mama and Daddy would drive us to Sanford 12 miles away on Fourth of July so we could see the sky light up with fireworks. We watched in awe as someone somewhere mysteriously stirred up a bunch of colorful explosions in the pitch black sky to lighten our spirits and brighten our lives.
Looking back I realize our celebration of Fourth of July reflected a greater reality – the American dream – and we experienced our freedom by roaming the woods, fetching a mess of food, running wild, and celebrating life.
On the Lett farm in Buckhorn community life was ripe for the pickin’ every day even though at the time we didn’t know we had it so good. We lived in a land of bounty — lots of mighty fine folks, an abundance of good eating, and plenty of mosquito bites. Yes, we had pert-near anything country folks could ever “want for”!
Now, every Independence Day Grandpa is looking down from Heaven and Gladys is kicking up her heels ’cause she ain’t canning and freezing. Daddy and Mama are relaxing on the bank of a river called Paradise.
We still miss them, especially on holidays, when we’re cooking and eating and talking a mile a minute at kinfolks’ house where life is ripe for the pickin’ every day…with or without blackberries!
Copyright © 2012, AlexSandra Lett
AlexSandra Lett is writing a new book,“Going Crazy…Getting Sane.” She is a professional speaker and the author of “Natural Living, From Stress to Rest;” “A Timeless Place, Lett’s Set a Spell at the Country Store;” “Timeless Moons, Seasons of the Fields and Matters of the Heart;” “Timeless Recipes and Remedies, Country Cooking, Customs, and Cures;” and “Coming Home to my Country Heart, Timeless Reflections about Work, Family, Health, and Spirit.” Lett can be reached at 919-258-9299 or LettsSetaSpell@aol.com.
Powered by Facebook Comments