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Fourth of July
Every family like every vicinity has its own way of celebrating holidays. While growing up in Buckhorn community in the 1950s and 1960s there "weren't" any discharging of cannons, ringing of bells, or drinking of toasts (perhaps some nipping behind closed doors) on Fourth of July.
Our parade consisted of Grandpa, Aunt Gladys, Mom, Dad and we three "young'uns" walking a beeline to a favorite fishing spot. There "weren't" any fireworks unless it was Grandpa or Dad raising Cain about us acting like wild alley cats. Now, country folks didn't have much use for what the "givernment" called holidays, 'cause Grandpa said such events were for "citified” people who had easy jobs with too much time on their hands. Day my family usually avoided putting tobacco in the barn and would cut back on farm chores so we could do something special.
However, on Independence One of my favorite Fourth of July outings was a trip through the woods to a popular fishing hole about a mile from Grandpa's country store -- especially since we could pick and eat blackberries all along the way. Mom insisted we wear long shirts and britches to avoid the attack of mosquitoes and chiggers (or redbugs) and to protect us from briars and brush on the long walk. With our cane fishing poles and tin buckets in hand we headed off through the woods, blazing new trails and beating the bushes for fresh blackberries. Yum!
When we arrived at the fishing site we sat on the banks and ate black- berries while casting our poles into the water. What I hated most was baiting the hooks with live crickets and worms with the same fingers used for eating blackberries. I didn't mind the stained hands from natural blackberry dye but I felt guilty about killing those cute little worms and chirping crickets. When I asked my Dad, real nicelike, to "please, purty please" bait the hooks he would usually do so without much hassle but my brother Jimmy would taunt me -- "Are your hands broke?" or "Prissy little girl, can't even bait a hook!"
Dad, Jimmy and my sister Carolyn ate almost as many blackberries as we picked, despite Mom's protests, pigging out non-stop until we were bloated. Just as well our stomachs were full because by the time we got home we could hold back a little bit while Mom prepared a batch for a cobbler. Back at the farm the menfolk would clean the fish (thank God), and we prissy girls would wash and cap the blackberries for dessert as well as get them ready for and Gladys to can a dozen jars of blackberry jelly. All of us practically dried up the well while hosing down our bodies in hopes of destroying Poison Ivy and Poison Oak just waiting to make our lives unbearable with itchy rashes.
We'd sat down to a "mighty fine" supper -- fried fish, fried cornbread, homemade slaw, and of course, blackberry cobbler. Dad would get out the ice cream freezer and get it cranking while we took turns churning the milk, sugar and vanilla flavoring into homemade ice cream.
Meanwhile, Carolyn and I painted our chigger bites all over with fingernail polish, hoping to suffocate the bugs that were eating us for supper. Come to think of it, the redbugs that burrowed in our skin were probably better for us than the dyes and chemicals in the polish, but it sure was fun polka dotting our whole body with the likes of Pink Passion and Red Rage!
The next morning Mom made pancakes, and while some folks preferred Karo syrup (the one that said on the label "gives your pancake a college education"), our favorite topping was blackberry jelly. You have not really tasted mouth-watering pancakes until you have eaten them with fresh blackberry jelly, a house specialty from mother's kitchen, fondly referred to as "Ruby's Restaurant."
As we "young'uns" turned into teenagers Mom and Dad would drive us to Sanford 12 miles away on Fourth of July so we could see the sky light up with fireworks. We watched in awe as someone somewhere stirred up a bunch of colorful explosions in the pitch black sky to lighten our spirits and brighten our lives.
One time my brother and some local yokels rode over to Conway, S.C. to buy the high-powered fireworks -- the kind that could blow your arm off -- and Jimmy and the Howard cousins and the Kelly brothers had their own hellfire and brimestone party. Oh, I forgot, I won't supposed to "tattle-tale" lest my brother tell Mama and Daddy that once I sat around smoking cigarettes with Patricia, Wanda and Barbara until I "pert-near" coughed myself to death.
Looking back I realize our celebration of Fourth of July reflected a greater reality -- the American dream -- and we experienced our freedom by roaming the woods, fetching a mess of food, and running wild. Yes, on the Lett farm in Buckhorn community life was ripe for the pickin' everyday even though at the time we didn't know we had it so good. We lived in a land of plenty -- lots of "mighty fine" folks, an abundance of good eating, and plenty of mosquite bites. Looking back we had "pert-near" anything country folks could ever "want for"!>
Now, every Independence Day Grandpa is looking down from Heaven and Gladys is kicking up her heels 'cause she ain't canning and freezing. We still miss them, especially on holidays, when we're cooking and eating and talking a mile a minute at my parents' farmhouse where life is ripe for the pickin' every day...with or without blackberries!
© copyright 2002 AlexSandra Lett, All Rights Reserved
AlexSandra "Sandy Lynn" Lett
© 2008 AlexSandra Lett, All Rights Reserved