A week in the country

Monday, February 12, 2018

My maternal grandparents were Sid and Roxie Yokeley. They were married May 10, 1905, and owned and lived on a small farm in Pettis County, near Houstonia. In later years, when their health began to fail, they moved to Marshall.

Sid and Roxie were parents of one boy, six girls and had 13 grandchildren. We visited often, but in a family of that size, there wasn’t much one-on-one time between a grandchild and grandparents. When I was about 7 years old, I asked my mom if I could spend a week on the farm. She talked it over with my grandmother and so an adventure began.

My parents took me to the country on Sunday after church and had lunch. That evening, my grandparents and I had supper and went to bed early. It was so dark and quiet.

I thought grandma and grandpa’s house was very unusual. They had four large rooms downstairs and two huge bedrooms and a bath upstairs. There were two front doors and two back doors that opened onto porches. In the dining room were stairs to the second floor and stairs to the basement. In the basement was a mammoth wood burning furnace. One very unique thing to me was there was a sink in the kitchen and a tub, sink and toilet in the bathroom, but no running water in the house.

My grandparents’ house and out buildings sat on approximately one acre of ground. There was a big red barn for two cows, two mules and a horse. A small house on the property had been turned into a hog house. There was a garage, outhouse, chicken house, cellar, smokehouse and second chicken house built within a fenced area for baby chicks.

Every morning there was breakfast to fix on a wood burning stove in the kitchen or the coal oil stove that had to be pumped before lighting in the pantry. Chickens needed to be fed and watered and the eggs had to be gathered. As you slipped your hand in the nest under the chicken, you hoped you didn’t get pecked. The cows had to be milked and the milk strained, let set and then separated. I’m not too sure about the milk process as grandma was still laughing about my question years later, “how did she turn on the faucets of the cow?”

The first winter after building the house they presently lived in, the water pipe from the well to the house had frozen and broke. Grandpa, being a very frugal man, decided if they were going to freeze he wouldn’t have them fixed. They lived there for many, many years without running water. There also was no electricity. At night, they used coal oil lamps and grandpa listened to his battery operated radio. Added to the daily chores was pumping water and carrying it to the house for cooking and washing.

Grandma surely let some things go so she had time to entertain me. She had a large vegetable garden with lots of flowers around the perimeter. She canned all of the vegetables or stored them in the cellar, but while I was there, we didn’t do any work in the garden.

Grandpa kept busy. He never owned a tractor, but still did some farming with two mules. He had hogs, but I don’t remember how many. He fed them in the mornings and let them out to pasture. In the late afternoon, he would stand by their pen and holler “sue eee, sue eee” and they would come.

Grandma was a good cook. She made the best sugar cookie I’ve ever eaten. The cookie jar was on a high shelf in the kitchen. Well, high enough kids couldn’t reach it. One afternoon, she saddled Flossie, her horse, and let me ride her around in the yard by myself. Another afternoon, grandma rode Flossie side saddle and let me ride behind her. We took a long ride, as she wanted to show me the house where she grew up. It was located on the backside of the farm.

You can’t take a town kid to the country for a week without some excitement. Grandma and grandpa had a crank phone that hung on the wall in the living room. It was a party line and their ring was something like two long and two short rings. I couldn’t understand why they didn’t always answer the phone when it rang. Grandma finally said I could pick it up and listen, but not say anything. Every time it rang after that, I had to listen in to the conversation.

The afternoon I was riding Flossie in the yard, something spooked her and she took off in a trot. She went under the clothesline, but forgot to tell me to duck and the clothes line drug me off the rear of the horse.

One day, grandma put a cow and her calf in the side yard near the chicken house and pen where she had baby chicks. She warned me not to go near the cow and her calf. Well, I wasn’t going to bother the calf, I just wanted to see the baby chicks. The cow chased me all the way to the house and half way up the back steps to the porch. I don’t know who it scared the most.

At the end of the week, the adventure came to an end. Almost 70 years later, I still have wonderful memories of that time spent with my grandparents.