Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Work (07/27/06)
TITLE: TATER WILLIAMS
By Patricia Williams
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In spite of the Oklahoma winds blowing it was still very hot. Acres and acres of sweet
potatoes were ready to harvest. The weather was on our side, no rains threatened.
It was my first time as a sixteen year old and a new family member, to take part in the Williams family harvest time. The family was called and everyone made the trip to the old homestead where twenty-seven children had once sat around the kitchen table.
The excitement mounted as they arrived one by one. It would take three days to harvest the
crop of sweet potatoes. Everyone brought their sleeping bags. They were spread out in the eight bedrooms where everyone would sleep for the night. The kitchen had a large wood stove and the longest table I have ever seen. The outhouses took a little getting used to.
The big barn housed the four horses that would be hitched to the long flat wagons that would be used to transport the sweet potatoes from the fields to the large underground root cellar.
The 4:00 a.m. wake-up call prompted everyone to head to bed early. The work day would be long and hard. Everyone joined hands as evening prayers were said, the spirit of love and peace
permeated the old home place. The old house held cherished memories for all of the twenty-seven children that could come and help with the harvest.
Calli was the matriarch and honored by all. She had maintained the homestead as long as her age and health would permit. She would master mind the last kitchen detail from her kitchen that
offered her memories that would long be cherished.
My father-in-law was Grand-Daddy to all that were present. He was one of the oldest of the twenty-seven. When his father died he stayed home and helped raise the last thirteen siblings while starting his own family. The sweet potatoes had been the cash crop that met the needs of all. He was known as "Tater Williams."
The ladies were woke at 3:00 a.m. to start breakfast. I was so proud to be considered one of
the women. Calli already had the large wood stove fired up. Each lady took her place, one was breaking a bushel of eggs into large skillets for scrambled eggs, one prepared a huge kettle of oatmeal, one sliced fresh peaches, and I was in charge of making enough biscuits to feed an army. It was like being at camp meeting all over. I was thrilled with the whole process. Then large pitchers of milk with cream and homemade butter were placed on the table.
The large bell at the barn was rang loud enough to wake the dead and the men came out from all directions. To my amazement everyone was headed to the tater patch by 5:30 a.m. The older women stayed behind to clean up and prepare lunch.
It was absolutely awesome to watch the horse drawn plow lead the parade to the field. They
plowed up the huge tubers (taters). They were tossed up on the flatbed where we carefully placed them and covered them with hay. When the bed was full we headed for the underground root cellar. There was a manual conveyor belt that helped us unload our harvest. In between each load we were rewarded by being allowed to go over into the watermelon patch and pick enough to allow each one to eat their fill. The leftovers were tossed over the fence to the cattle. The melons quenched our thirst and stayed off our hunger until lunch was prepared. "For the scripture saith, thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, the laborer is worthy of his reward. (I Timothy 5:18-KJV).
The first day involved twelve hours in the field but the next two only tied up eight hours. The
evenings were spent reminiscing and singing hymns. I sat mesmerized by the stories of past adventures, some sad and some filled with loving tenderness. Everyone lingered when it came time to go back to their homes. Each had shared in the last harvest and reaped new memories that would last a lifetime. Life had been tough at times, the work never ending but the one thing they were never short of was love for each other. "And having food and raiment let us be therefore be content." I Timothy 6:8 (KJV)
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