It’s Good to Remember

Published 11:30 am Sunday, May 5, 2024

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The late Fred Rogers, also known as Mister Rogers, used to open his kid’s program with “It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood.” And it is. Today, there’ll be freshly-cut, green grass, colorful and blooming Gerbera Daisies, and the pleasant fragrance of Confederate Jasmin. All of that is within a few feet of my backdoor. I thank God for these simple pleasures. He’s doing His part.

            I attended a family reunion this past weekend and it was good to see so many I had not seen since the last time we gathered. The lunch table was full and the food delicious.

            It was also a pleasure to sit with a group of fellows and remember. We were all about the same age…old! But we also acknowledged that in our growing up years, we experienced the best this nation has to offer. All of us around the table grew up in the “country.”

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            Growing up in the “country” wasn’t a reference to the United States of America, but was the same as saying we grew up on farms. At the same time, growing up in the USA was the icing on top of the cake. The nation was much slower and simpler back then and the foolishness that goes on today could never have been imagined.

            There was hard work and little pay. When I think about the minimum wages of these days, like $20 dollars an hour in California, I wonder what those folks would think about our $4 dollars a day! That’s what we were paid for a work day that began before the sun came up and didn’t end until the sun went down. And the work? Tobacco.

            Most of the time, that crop was from April when it was transplanted to the end of July when it was finally gathered. We set it out, re-set it if need be, hoed it, topped and suckered it, then cropped it, strung it on sticks and hung it in a barn. That wasn’t the end of it. Then we had to take it out of the barn, unstring what we had strung, and then carefully arrange it in a sheet.

            We piled the sheets in a pack house until we loaded it on a truck and carried it to market. Then it was over and, hopefully, we made enough to pay the banker. But, as I have mentioned, it was work, but we never said a “mumbling word.”

            One of my friends said something at lunch that is hard to believe in these crazy days. He said his family never locked their doors even when they went on vacation for a week or two. These days, I lock my doors even when I’m in the house!

            We all had gardens and tomatoes were a favorite vegetable (or fruit?). Nowadays, tomatoes grow on plastic next to sticks and are tied to the sticks. Back in the days I am talking about they were planted in the ground and grew more like vines along the ground. But the tomatoes had much more acid in them and were good for cleaning those tobacco-stained hands.

            After working all day, we’d jump off the tailgate of the truck when it passed the tomato patch. We’d find a soft, almost rotten tomato and use it to wash our hands. Then we’d grab another tomato and, simply, take a big bite. A cousin said he always carried a salt shaker in his back pocket just so when he picked a tomato, he’d have the salt with him to eat it just like he was home.

            I probably have confused many today with this column about growing up in the “country.” I could tell you about it all day, but you sorta had to be there!