Dear readers, I hope you enjoy this story written by my mom, the McAdoo Marvel. It makes me long for cobbler, pie, preserves, and even black eyed peas. Thank you for reading!
I would have pulled beets all summer, without complaint, if they were intended for pickles. That’s how much I liked beet pickles. On the other hand, I was the only one in the family who didn’t eat okra at all, but I didn’t complain about it either, although I did have a different attitude. I was pretty dumb about okra, overall. Mama didn’t plant it in rows; she let it come up voluntarily. When I found a pod that was too big for eating, I used my knife to cut it to smithereens. I didn’t even think about where the seeds might fall or where they would sprout the next year.
I suppose I liked everything we canned, though I had definite favorites. I liked when we had black-eyed peas, wild plum cobbler, or anything peach. Peaches were my real downfall. I liked them as pickles, peach butter, or just regular peaches. Fresh off the trees or commercially canned were good, too. When Mama wanted me to finish a chore quickly, she would tell me, “We’re having peaches for dessert tonight.” I knew that meant canned, and the chore flew by. Daddy was afraid I’d gain weight from all the peaches, but Mama obviously thought that was ridiculous, and took it in stride. Apparently, we never got tired of peaches, or we ran out quickly. When I was old enough to care, I asked Mama if it was a part of the Great Depression when I got tired of black-eyed peas. It was. I never asked about peaches.
Once I could reason about such things, I wondered why we said “plum hunting.” We didn’t hunt at all. It seemed to me we went to the same trees every year; it was more a “plum picking.” We sometimes celebrated July 4 with our hunting safaris. Maybe trees were added that hadn’t been covered the year before, and I wasn’t aware.
I remember my sixth year well. That was when everyone thought Aunt Grace, Mama’s second-oldest sister, was a hero for saving Theresa. About 5 months old, Theresa was perfectly happy lying in the shade of the tree we were stripping. Aunt Grace was the first to see a snake slithering in Theresa’s direction; she leapt over everything in her way, and grabbed the baby. We were sure she had saved Theresa’s life.
Peaches were the only thing we liked to can. Peas, beans, and corn were gathered by us in #3 washtubs, from the field. There were plenty. Green tomatoes from the garden became chow chow. But peaches were bought by the bushel from someone who traveled through selling them. Knowing the stains from the first day would never wash out, we wore the same clothes every day. We could then peel with abandon. We were sure everyone was fooled by our finding so many too ripe to can and needing to be eaten right away. Who wouldn’t love that job?
It was through canning we acquired a taste for Stella Dallas, a radio soap opera, and another soap opera about a young girl. We listened while we shelled peas or beans; they were no fun! When the canning ended, the soaps ended.
The cellar shelves were built primarily to hold what we would eat through the winter. Of course, we could see what was in the jars, but Mama marked each can with a letter to identify what was inside – “P” for peas, “B” for beans, etc. One cold afternoon Billie, Doris, and I were sent for corn for supper. Doris and I were to hold the door open to save time for Billie. Doris stood shivering in the freezing wind, yelling. “Hurry, Billie, hurry! Corn has an ‘M’ on it.” Took her awhile to live that one down.
One chore involved only Mama and Louise. They would borrow a pressure cooker, then Louise’s job was to watch the cooker, and make certain it didn’t get too hot. I remember once when it hit the red zone, and she had to call Mama. Louise may have assigned herself the cooker chore; that’s what she did regarding the charger battery. When Rural Electrification missed us because we weren’t on the highway, we put in our own system as soon as we could afford it. There was, of necessity, a new radio and a bare light bulb hanging in each room, even the pantry, and a wind-operated charger to provide the juice for everything. Louise named herself the battery inspector. She would check the battery that sat on a high shelf in the pantry. If needed, she added water or turned the charger off. At the same time, we replaced the old davenport with a new-fangled couch that made into a bed. Really uptown, and all from Montgomery Ward.
Uncle Charlie was lucky to live on the highway. When electrification came through, he opted in. Talk about uptownish. They didn’t have bare bulbs; they had electric lamps, Venetian blinds -– the works. Later, they got a Maytag washer that would squeeze the washed clothes, if you were careful how you loaded the squeezer.
I’ve heard that Uncle Rush, Uncle Ralph, Uncle Charlie, and Daddy once had a big, one-day moving so Uncle Charlie could have the land he wanted. Just our family moved once again, house and all, when I was five or early in my sixth year. All the older kids were in school. We went from a short distance west of Uncle Rush’s store to less than half a mile east of the store, where there was a windmill.
There was a time that the favored land of Uncle Charlie gave us a chance for a laugh at Aunt Lessie. Uncle Charlie and Rudolph had gone somewhere, maybe looking for another doctor – they were always going to strange doctors Uncle Charlie heard about. Rudolph died of pneumonia at 19, without their ever knowing that's what was wrong. Mama and Reid were both gone, too. I have no idea where. Mama probably was at Uncle Hube’s when Dorothy was sick with meningitis, and then Dorothy died at only 13 years old.
Sad as the facts are, I think that’s why they weren’t around. Anyway, the stage is set. Aunt Lessie came to our house, asking Daddy to spend the night with them because no man was going to be home. Her excuse was that they lived right on the highway, and someone might try to get in. She knew we girls would be alone, so she demonstrated for us how to put a chair under the door knob to keep intruders out. We, including Daddy, had a good laugh about girls being safe on a dirt road about half a mile off the highway. But Daddy went anyway, and we girls were alone, and okay, all night.