I grew up in a time somewhere between wagons and rockets. As children, my parents rode in wagons. My grandpa remembered the first car he had even seen, scooting down the muddy main street of Pickens. It got stuck in the mud too and some mules had to pull it out. Speaking of mules, my parents also plowed the gardens and the cotton fields with mules. Tractors were a rarity back then and they were very expensive. Fast forward a few years to my generation. We saw men walk on the moon and wireless smartphones that made almost all the equipment in Radio Shack obsolete. What will the next generation (our kids) witness? Men on Mars? Unlimited clean power from fusion? Cures for cancer? It boggles the mind how fast things progress. To put it in perspective, think about this. Laura Ingles Wilder, the author of the Little House on the Prairie books, crossed this country in a covered wagon as a child and she crossed it in an airplane as an adult.
I am very excited about all the possibilities the future holds, but I have one foot firmly rooted in the history and lifestyle of my parents generation and I will be forever grateful for that. We may have self-driving electric cars now, but I remember a time when there was leaded gasoline and you had to spin a handle on the pump to clear the previous purchase. I remember driving old trucks with dimmer switches on the floorboard and triangular shaped vent windows that you could open for airflow in the summer months. There was no air conditioner in our vehicles, our house, or our schools. I cannot imagine a summer without AC now, but back then we had an attic fan that would suck the sheets right off your bed. We slept with all the windows open and that attic fan whirring away all night long. It was good sleep too, wrapped up in fresh, sun-dried sheets with a hand-stitched patch-work quilt. My grandma used to have quilting bees at her house. She would set the frame up in the living room and her friends would come over and sit around the frame, stitching, sipping coffee, and sharing the latest gossip. I have several of those quilts now and would not part with them for anything.
I also grew up in a time when men smelled of sweat, plowed earth, wood shavings, fresh cut hay, oiled leather, Red Man chewing tobacco, and Old Spice. Back then their faces and forearms were tanned and leathery from long days in the sun and their hands were calloused from hard work. Suits were worn to church on Sundays and overalls, work boots, and trucker hats were worn the other six days of the week. Back then, Sunday was a day of rest too. My dad would not even take me fishing on Sunday because it was a day that God gave us to rest, and he believed that was exactly what we were supposed to do.
I remember many nights when mom and dad sat in the living room, the attic fan whirring away, and a Billy Graham crusade playing on TV. There, in the soft glow of the television set, mom and dad would listen to Billy Graham’s service while stringing and breaking beans. I remember sitting in the shade beneath a plum tree in the back yard on a hot summer day with my mom. In front of us lay a huge pile of corn dad had picked the previous evening. We would shuck the corn, break the ends off, and take off as much silk as possible. It was hard, slow work, but oh such fond memories of sitting there, passing time with my mother. I could go on and on about the work. Kids these days gripe and complain about simple chores like cutting grass. We did not have weed eaters when I was a child and every time my dad cut the grass, when he was finished, he gave me his pocketknife to do the trimming. All round the house, around the porches, around the flower beds, around the shrubs and trees, I had to trim the grass the lawn mower could not reach with a pocketknife. How many kids today have ever had to get up at the crack of dawn on Saturday and pick corn? We would be in the fields as soon as it was light enough to see and we would pick corn until lunch time. Then, we would go eat lunch and come back with the tractor and a wagon to get the corn we had picked out of the field. Our day did not end there either. We would take the corn to the barn and load it into the bin, then dad would hook the tractor up to the grinder and we would spend the rest of the day grinding the corn into 50lb sacks of feed. In the summertime, if there were no chores to be done, I would have to pick up rocks in the pastures. In the wintertime, even though our woodshed was full of split and seasoned firewood, if there were no chores to be done, we would cut more firewood. That was an all-day job too. We would cut a full load and then I would have to split it and stack it in the woodshed when we got home.
Anyhow, you get the picture. Unlike millennials, I do know how to use a phone book and a rotary dial phone, and even though that technology is forever gone and now useless, I am thankful for being a part of that era. It was a time when men were men, women were women, and no one had a gender identity problem. It was a time when chivalry, patriotism, good manners, kindness, respect for the law, and love of God was very much alive and well. It was the best of times.
“Growing up happens in a heartbeat. One day you’re in diapers, the next day you’re gone. But the memories of childhood stay with you for the long haul. I remember a place, a town, a house, like a lot of houses. A yard like a lot of other yards. A street like a lot of other streets. And the thing is, after all these years, I still look back… with wonder.” ~The Wonder Years