I’m not the only one around who remembers the cotton picking days of October and the corn shucking evenings of November.
These times are not among my best childhood memories, but they linger and when someone brings them to mind I can offer as many tales as the rest.
On a recent evening with our front porch friends we took turns talking about long ago work and food.
Picking cotton was hard work. We remembered when the first bale was ready for the neighborhood gin. Some families had a truck and others had mule-driven wagons that lined up waiting their turn under the giant suction pipe that gobbled up the load.
Sometimes that bale of cotton meant new shoes and clothes for school that was out until the fall crops were gathered. For some farmers, it was their only money crop.
Fall cotton picking time also meant time for the Cleveland County Fair. The loud music of the merry-go-round, Ferris wheel, food smells and circus-type performers trying to lure people inside for a show were the main attractions.
I also remember the rides, cotton candy and hot dogs that were available to a lot of us only on fair day. Sometimes students would get free tickets to the fair.
I fear that the recent outbreak of E-coli may have put a damper on family fun at county fairs.
The boll weevil stopped most of the county farmers from planting cotton. I say its arrival was a blessing to those of us who dragged that sack across cotton rows.
Times were changing and there were better jobs to be had.
Cotton fields are rare these days but sometimes when we do pass one we recall the back-breaking work and give thanks for the giant machinery moving along the rows.
Then most farmers planted a couple of acres in corn. Much corn was needed to feed farm animals and provide bushels to take to the water grist mill for grinding. Corn bread was a supper staple for most families. I still love it.
When the corn matured and dried each fall it was pulled from the stalk and taken by wagon loads to the barnyard. Piled high in a long row it was time to let the neighbors know when your shucking would be.
Most farms had a tall building with slatted sides for the shucked corn. It was called the corn crib and a few can still be seen today on older farms.
Some farmers handed out small bags of candy, peanuts and apples as a treat to those who showed up for shucking. The best place to go for shuckings were the farms where the women made a washpot full of chicken pie.
Steaming plates of chicken pie were ready when the work was done. I remember my grandmother doing this and I never gave a thought to where all those plates came from. If disposal plates and cups were on the market then, they would not have been available to farm wives.
Well, I was told that the women borrowed dishes from neighbors. It was the usual thing to do as they were willing to help each other with the big shucking event.
I remember lots of talk and laughter around the corn pile. Finding a red ear was worth a yell or two and a lucky youth could get a kiss from his girlfriend before tossing it on the wagon.
After a days work of their own, these neighbors arrived in good humor to help someone with their fall corn crop.
No money changed hands. A plate of hot chicken pie and knowing that when your corn was ready for shucking this farmer would be there to help.
Cash wasn’t the reason for helping your neighbor.
Kathryn Yarbro is former managing editor of the Lincoln Times-News