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Courting and Commitment... in the “Good Ole Days”

During "the good ole days," when Grandpa and Grandma were raising their "young'uns" on the farm, there were only two books in the whole house, The Holy Bible and The Farmers Almanac. Both were read with fervor and passion.

When folks refer to "the good ole days" perhaps they are talking about the times when people lived by the Good Book and followed its guidance in the spirit and letter of the law. Some people may think these times were good because they demanded a high level of integrity and a lot of generosity -- folks honored the Golden Rule and neighbors shared with neighbors. Everyone's garden was open to the community. When someone killed a hog others were welcome to stop by for chitlin's, ham and sausage. Just as the Good Book offered stories inspiring Christians to obey God the Father and observe the Golden Rule, the Almanac encouraged farmers and gardeners to honor Mother Nature and Her wisdom. While the Bible was the sacred primer on religion and spirituality, the Almanac was the ultimate te xtbook on the art and science of sowing seeds and growing plants in tune with the cycles of the moon. Like generations before them the country folks in Buckhorn community watched carefully the moon's monthly rotation in the heavens and considered this celestial companion a divine indicator of the seasons for growth. Grandpa believed in the power of the Moon, planted and cultivated his crops in line with the position of the moon, and was rewarded with many healthy and bountiful harvests. Grandpa explained it this way: All crops that produce their yield above the ground should be planted from the New Moon to the Full Moon. This is called the waxing phase. The first week is especially good for crops that have their seeds on the outside, such as cabbage, broccoli, celery, and spinach. The second week after the New Moon is best for crops that produce seeds on the inside, like peppers, tomatoes, peaches, cucumbers, and melons. Since the moon is growing in size and brightness this time is known as "the light of the moon." During the waning phase of the moon -- from the Full Moon to the New Moon -- families in the country planted root crops such as potatoes, beets, peanuts, carrots, rutabagas, and onions. When the moon starts getting smaller it is known as "the dark of the moon." According to Grandpa, this dark time is also right for perennials, biannuals, and other plants that produce from the same roots every year, including trees and shrubs. The waxing and waning phases last approximately 14 days since the lunar cycle is a little longer than 28 days. The moon travels through each of the Zodiac signs about once a month and stays in a sign about 2 1/2 days. Grandpa turned to his Almanac to see when the moon was in Pisces, Cancer or Scorpio, because these feminine water signs were best for planting. Grandpa called them "womanly" signs and said they were more fertile. He sometimes planted root crops when the moon was in the "womanly" earth signs Taurus or Capricorn but said Virgo was "barren like an old maid" so only suitable for setting out flowers and vines. When the moon was in the masculine fire signs Aries, Leo and Sagittarius, these were considered barren times or "manly" signs so Grandpa would get rid of weeds, kill insects, cultivate the soil, or burn out old growth in the fields. According to the Almanac, the other masculine members of the Zodiac were the air signs Gemini, Libra and Aquarius. Gemini and Aquarius moons were not good for planting, but Grandpa said the moon in Libra was "pert-near" fertile and not bad for some root crops, vines and flowers. While the intention behind following the moon was to grow more garden produce and increase crop yields the objective was to feed young'uns and help take care of neighbors too. Come to think of it the same steps involved in sowing seeds and preparing for the harvest are similar to the principles of achieving goals. The lessons learned on the farm are practiced by many successful people in today's society -- hard work, soft hearts and steady faith always win out in the end. Back then Grandpa and Grandma knew the secrets of a successful life: Focus on doing day-by-day what it takes to guarantee a harvest -- sow healthy seeds, nourish them, fertilize the plants, get rid of the weeds, reap the rewards, and allow "the spent" to go to seed. Whether it's a plant or a child or a mate or a job, life's rules are about the same: give a lot, forgive a lot, love a lot, laugh a lot, and expect the best from yourself and others. Grandpa treasured the Almanac as well as he loved his Bible. He lived in harmony with his environment and believed God put the moon in the heavens to guide us during harvest times and in other earthly ventures. Easter in the Country Just as the cycle of the moon influenced planting it marked the arrival of Spring. After the Equinox came the full moon and then a sacred event, Easter. In the Age of Grandpa, Easter did not bring new clothes but created another tradition -- all the boiled eggs the "young'uns" could eat. Usually eggs were traded for sugar, salt, and black pepper so eating one's fill was a special treat. "Sometimes the young'uns would have a contest about who could eat the most eggs," Grandpa told me. After a hearty breakfast Grandpa, Grandma, their children and the many fine folks of Buckhorn community headed for church. While there wasn't enough money for fancy frocks and new suits, everyone put on their finest clothes, their Sunday go-to-meeting outfits, and attended Sunday School and preachin'. They heard the same story about Christ who died on the cross for their sins but each year they loved it more. Following a long service focused on accepting Jesus and saving souls, all the kinfolks gathered at Grandpa and Grandma's house where the cook stove was fired up for frying and baking. The wood heater often brought warmth to the chill. Everyone stuffed themselves with the best chicken and dumplings, fried chicken, and biscuits they'd ever eaten. The "young'uns" couldn't sit still...after all, they were excited about the Easter egg hunt. The day before, Grandma and the girls had spent hours in the kitchen brewing up dye from berries, leaves and flowers, and then using the rainbow shades to color the boiled eggs. Now Grandma and Grandpa would hide them, and everyone got to eat what they found, and that was prize enough! Usually family and neighbors headed for the Cape Fear River where they fished and later cooked their catch for supper. On Easter Monday the group often returned to the river until a new attraction kept them a little closer to home -- Puzie's Pond, which was made from the creek that ran through the Lett farm. They relished swimming with old car tires as well as fishing. Eventually, another tradition evolved on the farm -- the children would create nests in a secluded place in the house, barn or garden. Boys would use their caps and girls their bonnets to make the nests and on Easter morning there would be treats, such as fruit and hard candy. The use of elaborate baskets would come later as the tradition of the notorious Easter bunny spread throughout the country. Why a bunny? Grandpa consulted The Farmers Almanac, which stated the bunny was an ancient symbol of the moon. According to the Almanac, Eostre or Eastre, the mythical goddess of fertility, changed a bird into a rabbit, which explains why the Easter bunny started building nests and filling them with colored eggs. As my sister Carolyn and I grew up in the 1960s we spent weeks planning our Easter outfits. Mom made our dresses from carefully selected patterns and fabrics, and we went shopping for hats, gloves, and shoes, usually snow white or black patent leather. My brother Jimmy was treated to store-bought pants, shirt and tie. On Easter Sunday our whole family looked like an ad in the Sears & Roebuck catalog as we headed for church like our ancestors before us. We honored the House of the Lord by looking fine and carrying the Good Book in our hands. The Moon was right, our spirits were light, and our futures bright as we felt the tomb of winter fade away. We relished the joy of the Easter season and the carefree days of Spring.

© copyright 2002  AlexSandra Lett, All Rights Reserved

AlexSandra "Sandy Lynn" Lett
Southern Books & Talks
1996 Buckhorn Road
Sanford, NC 27330-9782 USA

Telephone: 919-258-9299
Email: LettsSetaSpell@aol.com
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© 2008 AlexSandra Lett, All Rights Reserved