Up on the Farm
I was young and growing up on the farm, things were different.
We worked hard and long in the fields. Our bus ride to school
was an hour one way, giving us plenty of time to do homework.
Playtime for us was wading in the creek or playing with our toy
cars in the rocks near the ditch. We had an old bike, its banana
seat long since had lost its padding. Its chain popped off at
random. No chain meant no brakes. We'd push it up the hill next
to the hog lot and ride it down, seeing who remained upright the
I was young and growing up on the farm, cow shit was no big deal.
Our first dance learned was the 'barnyard shuffle'. Dried piles
were the best place to find worms, and we knew it. Baiting our
hooks, we held the cane poles out over the water and watched our
bobbers. Little blue-gills and sunnies were about all we caught.
Sometimes we would catch a catfish, thinking we'd snagged a log,
but it would keep coming, heavy on the line. If no adult was around,
we'd toss them back 'cause we didn't want the catfish heads to
be nailed to the tree so they could be skinned.
I was young and growing up on the farm, we had tobacco fields
and potato fields and gardens full of beans and tomatoes and okra
and peas. Hillsides covered in wild blackberry bushes. Once I
went huckleberry picking along the top ridge of a mountain, the
ground so steep we were standing on the sides of the trees to
remain upright. Every few years we'd grow sugar cane down at the
bottom where the creek turned and the ground was sandy. Most likely
it was sorghum, but we called it sugar cane nevertheless. Tall
straight plants were coated in ice as we cut them early in the
mornings. Then out to some church that had a molasses business,
and we'd wait while they cooked it. Out'd come thick black sweet
molasses, better than anything I'd ever tasted. We'd haul metal
cans and glass jars of the stuff to the truck, the church keeping
their share to sell later.
I was young and growing up on the farm, treats were different.
Sometimes after working hard in the fields, our reward was a bottle
of coke from the store. Nectar to the gods it was, especially
to us kids. Sometimes we could get a candy bar, sometimes a handful
of Bazooka bubble gum. We got maybe one coke a week, most of the
time less than that. Getting one meant a job well done. We'd ride
over in the back of the truck or on the wagon behind the tractor,
the fresh breeze cooling us off on the way and bringing us to
earth on the way back. Hit a bump and we'd bounce a foot or more
up and over, but that was half the fun.
I was young and growing up on the farm, weather was different.
We had to know what it was going to do next. The breeze would
tell us, the smell in the air, and the direction of the clouds
told us, too. We'd be out in the fields, the wide valley all around.
We would smell the rain long before we saw it. A wall of water
would be coming down the valley floor, a curtain of rain. We had
to decide whether to wait it out or to head for the house, depending
on how hot we were or how long we'd think it'd last. Soaked to
the skin, we'd stand in Mamaw's kitchen, smelling like wet dogs
and drinking milk with our biscuits. One time the birds were nervous
all day, flitting from one tree to another. A storm was coming.
As it approached they disappeared altogether, just as the air
turned green. Heavy rain, loud thunder and wind strong enough
to be from God himself lasted for several hours. Then the birds
were back, as if they had merely gone to a church business meeting.
I was young and growing up on the farm, food was different. We
knew where our meals came from. We had store-bought goods, and
we had homemade goods. We had fresh canned beans all winter long
and the potato bin never seemed to go empty. We'd have pork or
beef and try to not think of who it might be. We'd drink milk
that just a few hours ago had been inside a cow. But the beans
were soggy and the potatoes wrinkled and the meat was greasy even
before being fried.
I am older and not much wiser and I have a twelve-pack of cokes
in the fridge. My dinner is from the freezer, one of those one
bowl meals, meat included. I haven't a clue where it came from
before that. I know the weather by turning on the television.
Things are different now.
Offutt lives in western North Carolina with six dogs, four
cats, and her partner of 15 years. She is a regular contributor
to "EDSToday", a printed newsletter for, by and about
people with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. She has also been published
in "Vision: A Resource for Writers".