This is a repeat of a story, or memory I've written about before. I'm feeling a bit nostalgic today and these memories feed my soul. Enjoy.
The coldness crept under the covers as Greatgranny quietly and deliberately moved to extricate herself from the small featherbed so as not to arouse me. I lay comfortable and warm under the down blankets looking up at the tiny window close to the ceiling. A faint hint of dawn daylight was creeping through the plastic that covered the window to keep the cold out. Gradually I mustered up the courage to climb from the warm cocoon and pull a empty five pound coffee can from under the bed. This can was what was considered the toilet. It was definitely a challenge to see if you could perch yourself on the small rimmed coffee can to do your business. If you wanted to brave the snakes at night you could walk down to the two-seater outhouse with its bright red door. During the day you would have to contend with the wasps that nested in the small wooden building.
Looking through the curtain that pretended to be the door to the freezer room, I could see Greatgranny sitting at the dining room table sliding her shoes on. Aunt Marie called Greatgranny's bedroom the freezer room, I guess because along with the featherbed was a long slender freezer that contained a wide array of meats and vegetables. The vegetables came from Great-grandaddy’s garden and the meats came from Big Dan and his hunting escapades.
I went into the dining room that overwhelmed the large dining room table with four chairs of which none matched. The table was pushed up against a long wall, which they called the picture‑wall. The picture wall contained a multitude of pictures, some old and some new. In the middle of the wall was an old photograph of a man and a woman that as I was told were my great-great grandparents.
The man in the picture had dark chin-length hair and a clean shaven face, but under his chin was a white curly beard that circled the bottom half of his face. The woman was gaunt and stern looking or maybe just tired. Pictures that surrounded the wall were various cousins at any stage of their lives, from infancy to adulthood. There were some photos that I didn't know and Aunt Marie always explained that they were some kids from a friend that she knew or were friends of a friend of a friend that had come to visit. On any given day it was not unusual to see a car turn in the gravel driveway to unload carfuls of visitors to Rattlesnake Hollow. There were never strangers.
The dining room table this early in the morning was covered with a large cotton cloth that protected whatever was left from the night before. Bread, jelly, sugar, salt and pepper and some things you didn't want to know.
The dark pitted wood floor was smooth from years of treading feet. We made our way through the wishbone doorway into the living room. The wishbone doorway was Greatgranny's collection of every bird she had either cooked, eaten, cleaned or disposed of in some way. There were wild turkey wishbones to robin wishbones. She even had people from other parts of the country and world that knew she collected that would send her new specimens for her wishbone collection, We tiptoed through the living room so as not to disturb Big Dan sleeping in his bedroom and walked out onto the front porch into the crisp spring morning air. Sandy, the Collie was sleeping on the top step and he slowly stretched and arouse to greet us. Greatgranny patted his head and cooed sweet words to him to make his tail wag.
We made our way down the three steps to the path to begin our journey to the barn. I still wore my long flannel gown as we walked through the dew covered grass, my hem becoming damp with the dew. Walking down the yard towards the gate Fatso, Greatgranny's long-haired white cat greeted us with his tail standing at attention. The path took us across a sturdy wooden slat bridge which groaned as we trudged our feet along the way. The bridge covered a small creek that rarely ever had water in it. As we crossed the dried up creek bed, Sandy pressed against my legs to protect me from the edge, stepping on my toes as we went.
As we grew closer to the barn we could hear Pet, the Jersey cow mooing from her stall, anxious for our arrival. Upon entering the double doorway of the ramshackle barn we were overwhelmed by the smells of the sweet hay. Pet had plenty of fresh hay, but while Greatgranny prepared to milk Pet I was to mix Pet's feed. The feed smelled of sweet molasses and caused my stomach to grumble and growl. I measured and poured the brown-colored meal according to Greatgranny's instructions into Pet's trough.
Greatgranny had a little three-legged stool to sit on while she snuggled her head into Pet's right side, and with each hand firmly grasped around a teat she would begin the steady downward squeezing motion that resulted in the milk flow into the metal bucket below, ringing as the first few squirts hit bottom. Pet's tail began to swish into Greatgranny's face and the cow shifted on her feet causing Greatgranny to give her a smart swat on her rump with a scolding to be still. As the bucket continued to fill, Fatso came out of his corner where he sat patiently waiting for the first tinkling sounds of milk in the bucket. Greatgranny noticed him sitting near, waiting for his daily reward of milk for his mousing quarry. He reared back on his haunches as she talked sweet talk to him as she aimed a teat in his direction. The warm milk squirted his fuzzy face as his mouth opened wide. The milk filled his gaping mouth, his pink tongue lapping constantly the warm liquid he loved so much. When the flow subsided he still sat up licking the milk off of his face, his tongue rounding his mouth to get all that was on his face and whiskers.
Greatgranny finished her task of milking and now came the walk back to the house with our escorts. The sun was beginning to break as Greatgranny carried the pail, sloshing the foamy white warm milk over the brim, back to the house to begin separating the milk from the cream.
When we returned to the dark brown painted house there were sounds of people moving about inside. Opening the door you could hear Aunt Marie in the kitchen grumbling and talking to herself, not quite awake. She was making coffee, and the smell of fresh brewing coffee urged my stomach to gurgle with anticipation of breakfast. Big Dan was still sleeping because he had come in late from fishing so we had to try to be quite although Aunt Marie, his wife, apparently did not agree with this arrangement with all the racket she was making, clanging skillets and silverware around in the kitchen.
Greatgranny carried the fresh milk into the kitchen and put it on the cabinet. She had some gallon glass jars already set up on the counter ready to have the milk poured into them. She placed what looked like white handkerchiefs across the mouths of the jars with rubber bands holding the handkerchiefs in place, with a little well in each of them. Slowly she poured the milk through the handkerchiefs catching the foam and thick cream. When through she would twist up the handkerchiefs and squeeze out the excess milk. Then she would put the milk into the refrigerator to cool.
The refrigerator was sometimes a little scary at Greatgranny's because you never knew what kind of creature would be waiting for cleaning. Opening the door you could find anything from a stringer of fresh caught crappie or catfish to squirrels, snapping turtles and even live bull frogs that would jump out sometimes if still alive.
...to be continued someday.