At our place we had animals, and having animals meant work. Seems to me that animals were always needing something. My dad would send me to feed and water. There was always a fence that needed repairing or some thing or other.
I had to go to the barn and climb up into the loft and wrestle down a bit of the hay separating the bats and tossing them down so that the horses and cows could get to it. When I did this I just naturally tended to be very careful because of a bad experience I had already had not too long before. You see just below where I had to cross some beams without flooring, in order to drop the hay down in the right spot, there was the big brown mushy swamp of cow pies. I slipped out of the loft while trying to tote too much hay one time. I reckon a person falls faster than hay because I wound up buried up in wet cow patties and sprinkled with hay. I’m sure that dad wasn’t happy about all that hay getting muddy. Luckily he was too busy laughing at the kid covered in cow pies to get mad about the hay.
After the hay was put down it was off to the well to draw up water. The well was just up the path a ways and still in the pasture. There was a long narrow cylindrical bucket on a chain and a simple, uncovered well about 8 inches or so in diameter. Man, that chain got cold in the winter! Next to the well there was an old claw foot bathtub. I dumped bucket after bucket of water in that tub for the horses, ponies and cows – as well as raccoons, opossums and others I am sure.
There was a few times when I had to go do the hay and water before going to school. I would be way up there on the hillside pasture drawing that water bucket and it would still be dark out! It was a really spooky place to be at that time of the morning and I often saw, or at least heard, terrible creatures hanging out just inside the tree line.
When I was done with the water and was walking back toward the house I could sometimes feel those creatures breathing on my neck. I picked up the pace as I went along, knowing that I would be lucky if I barely made it back down to where the lights and people were. Many was the time that I would arrive out of breath and feeling like my hair was standing on end. I had heard the stories. There were strange things in those hills. I was sure of it.
We had chickens, geese, ducks, guineas, pigeons and even a pair of peacocks. You are talking about a lot of feed there! We had a few pigs too. I would scoop out four big scoops of the pig feed, which looked like pellets, into a 5 gallon bucket. Then I would fill the measuring jug up twice with water and pour that onto the feed. You stir that up real good and by the time you carry it up the hill to the pig lot your arm is about to fall off and the slop is nice and mushy. Those pigs also loved corn and I toted many a bucket filled with corn up that hill too. I once saw a hog eating on a chunk of coal. The thing acted like it was good!
Speakin’ of hogs, I remember when I killed my first one. I was about 12 I reckon. My dad handed me the .22 rifle and told me it was my turn. At the time I felt so proud and like one of the men. I shot the hog between the eyes from about 6 inches away. I was looking right at his eyes when I done it and after the bang it was looking right into mine. It was dead. Its head smashed in the slop bucket and its eyes were open and looking right at me. I felt so sorry for that pig. When mom brought up the fried cracklin’s I was thankful for that hog. Not much better than fresh fried pork skins… and fried in lard to boot!
After all of that was done it was time to head out to meet the school bus. It was a bit of a walk down to the wooden bridge at the mouth of the hollow (“holler”) but at least it was mostly down hill.
Guest writer Lloyd B.