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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

From my Front Porch

Thursday, May 15, 2003

City gone to the country

City gone to the country

I'll be the first to admit that I am as sissified a city gal as there is. The fact is, I prefer my neighbors close and my green peas courtesy the jolly green giant. It's not that I don't have a good bit of sensible country blood running through my veins. I do. It's just that the city blood seems to reign supreme most of the time.

For generations, my daddy's people scratched a living out of the red dirt of Scott County, Mississippi. But when it came daddy's turn to decide how to support his family, he moved to what he considered the greener pastures of the suburbs.

Only about an hour from the gravel road that made its way to grandma and grandpa's house, the country was never far away. For most of my growing up, we city cousins spent almost every Saturday on the family farm visiting with our country cousins. If we weren't helping plant some sort of incredibly healthy vegetable, then we were passing the day by picking and shelling either black eyed peas or purple hull peas, which, except for ruining a perfectly good manicure, wasn't all that bad.

It was the butterbeans or lima beans, as some folks insist on calling them, that made for incredibly hard work. Every year, until someone brought in an electric butterbean sheller, my thumbs and I dreaded butterbean season. On the other hand, pulling and cleaning peanuts, or digging potatoes was loads of fun.

Even this sissified city cousin enjoyed the fact that I could get as dirty as possible without getting into trouble, or at least not much. But overall my favorite chore was tending to the strawberry patch. For every bucket of strawberries brought in to be preserved, there was at least a bucket of strawberries secretly eaten fresh out of the garden. No matter how much you preferred them, you just can't do that with peas or potatoes.

For several years while growing up, I would spend a week of my summer vacation on the farm with my paternal grandparents. Those memories are filled with gathering eggs and feeding chickens, iron-rich well water and baking soda.

Every morning I would wake up early to gather eggs and feed the chickens, and every evening I would bathe in a tub filled with the iron-rich well water and would willingly forfeit using the modern day mint-flavored toothpaste my momma sent me with and insist on participating in an annual rite-of-passage by brushing my teeth with my grandma's old-fashioned and awful tasting baking soda concoction. (An idea that predated the newfangled and, thankfully, better tasting baking soda toothpaste brought to city folks everywhere, courtesy of Arm and Hammer, Colgate and Crest.)

One would think that despite being a self-proclaimed sissified city gal, that someone growing up routinely experiencing sensible country living at its best would have a better appreciation of all things wild and wonderful, but the practical nature of such an attitude is just not in me or in those I hold dearest.

When Mother Nature recently gave the Ozarks a respite from the incessant thunderstorms, our family decided to spend the day enjoying the blue skies while visiting a riverside park. Upon arrival we found markers indicating walking trails of various lengths. As we eagerly began our trek, I looked down and realized that most of the feet of my clueless clan were clad in, of all things, sandals. Hardly the hiker's footwear of choice. I pointed out we really were not prepared for a hike of any length, but determined to spend a memorable day together in the fresh air, we continued. While carefully making our way along the rocky zigzagging trail we laughingly agreed that this was just one more indication that our family, despite all of its positive aspects, is indeed city gone to the country.