Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Century or Centuries (02/17/11)
TITLE: On The Way Home
By Virgil Youngblood
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From the beginning of recorded history plowing fields was accomplished using animals, or manual labor. During my grandfathers’ generation that changed. They witnessed the tractor replacing their corn eating power plants. The technology explosion had arrived.
My father’s father was over ninety years old when he plowed his last field behind Jake and Lou, his mules. Fortunately for me, one summer day before that I experienced trying to plow a straight furrow under his guidance. It took only a few long crooked rows for me to have all the fun I needed or that his patience could endure.
My memory is crystal clear: it takes incredible shoulder strength to keep a plow upright and iron-strong leg muscles to trudge in soft plowed loam. Sweat soaked clothes came with no extra charge. I doubt that the mules appreciated my conflicted commands and the mumbling conversation I had with myself beneath the broiling sun.
Coal oil lamps provided light in their home. On some nights a battery operated radio, tuned to XERA inVilla Acuňa, Mexico, delighted listeners of the gospel music broadcast. But, to preserve the battery, the radio was played sparingly. Bed time came soon after sundown.
A hand dug water well in the front yard furnished drinking water. Almost everything put on the table came from the farm’s poultry, livestock, garden and fields. Occasionally Grandfather would hitch up the wagon behind Jake and Lou, load up the candled eggs Grandma had saved, and we would be off to a little mercantile store about ten miles away out on the highway. The eggs would be bartered for a few necessities, usually to include a plug or two of Brown Mule (Dark) Chewing Tobacco.
This grandfather never owned an automobile, or had electricity, running water, or a flush toilet. The outhouse, with a two-hole seat to accommodate the large and small, was located beyond the corral a short distance from the house. I don’t know what girl cousins or my sisters did at night, when copperhead snakes were said to be out and about. I never got off the back porch.
The farm and the fourteen children raised on it by my grandparents did just fine.
My maternal grandfather was a rancher. He and his wife raised ten children on a ranch tucked back in the hills quite removed from any settlement. Water for them had to be lugged from a stream a quarter of a mile away. After most of the children left home, a gasoline powered pump was acquired and installed beside the stream. When it was cranked up, it didn’t have a muffler and made a tremendous racket. The only think louder was the shouts of joy when water came spurting out of the pipe at the house. Thereafter, he started it up whenever a barrel needed filling.
His garden and peach orchard, located on a sunny south slope some distance from the ranch house, was his pride and joy. After much planning, he built a large waterwheel to lift water from the stream and dump it in a wooden flume twenty feet above the watercourse. His precious plants and his back prospered through his ingenuity.
A gasoline powered washing machine was a welcomed replacement for the big black cast iron pot heated over a bed of coals.
The ranch never had an outhouse or indoor bathroom. When necessity called, a ravine just west of the house offered privacy. An abundance of palm-size smooth stones afforded a substitute for toilet paper. In all likelihood, those living in the preceding centuries would not have found this as novel as I did.
Eventually, electricity and a party-line telephone came to the ranch. And so did a Studebaker automobile, courtesy of one of my uncles before he left home for military service. This grandfather welcomed new technology and wanted to be in the forefront of change.
It is mind-boggling in this 21st century to witness the continuing gestation of new technologies and to note the unprecedented changes during the last two centuries.
My grandparents would not recognize the place or the pace.
We’ll have lots of catching-up to do someday when I will follow them home. Until then, each day is a gift from God to be enjoyed and shared.
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