Summertime in the South isn’t always easy!Published 7:22am Tuesday, June 18, 2013
“Summertime, and the livin’ is easy” — so goes the Gershwin song from the opera Porgy and Bess. It is quite obvious to this country boy that the Gerswhins did not grow up on a farm in the southeastern part of the great state of Georgia. Don’t get me wrong. I liked the summertime, but easy ain’t the word I would use to describe the living.
Summertime, back in the old days when I was growing up, really highlighted the difference between country folks and those who grew up in “town.” I am not all that sure that there is as much difference these days. With all the access we have to everything, one place is as good as the other, I suppose. A youngster in the country can get all the goodies of those living in town. That was not always the case.
Summertime on the farm was much different back in the days when tobacco was grown and there were no chemicals to keep the weeds down. It might seem like the Stone Age to modern-day farm kids, but we actually had to use instruments like hoes.
I’m sure that if I went to a modern-day farm shed I would have to look hard for a hoe, but back in the Neanderthal days, there would be a corner of the shed that had four or five hoes just a-standing all by themselves waiting to see whose hands they might fit. Unfortunately, one had my name on it.
Come this time of the year, there was always something to do. Most of the work centered on the main crop of tobacco. It wasn’t the crop with the largest acreage, but it sure was a labor-intensive crop. Once it was transplanted into the ground in the spring, there was always a job beckoning.
By the time summer arrived, there was the actual harvesting. That wasn’t too bad because it took a crew of ten or twelve people so there were always others around. Our family worked with kinfolks or neighbors mostly. My aunt and uncle had their farm and family. We had ours, so we helped each other. To fill in the gaps, we’d pick up a “hand” here or there. A “hand” was a complete person and not an appendage.
Up early. We would be working in the fields by 6:30 in the morning. It didn’t get all that hot until our first break of the day; what everybody called “RC Time.” That came about 9:30 and lasted about 15 minutes.
After that, it was hot and we worked until noon and went home for a lunch that might have consisted of a can of Vienna sausages and a tomato sandwich. I liked it the quicker the better because after a fast lunch we would lie down on the front porch in the breeze and take whatever nap we could. That breeze was the only “air” conditioning there was.
We were tired, but back in the fields by 1 p.m. and worked until about 5 p.m., or until we got the barn filled. The afternoons were the hottest and I know I couldn’t do it now, and sometimes wonder just how we did it then.
I guess there just wasn’t a choice. We were country folks.