Sunday, July 15, 2007
After Sunday Dinner
After Sunday Dinner 8.5" x 11 " Pencil
Miles Farm Navarro County, Texas
The unpainted farmhouse, with two front doors, in the middle of fields of black dirt that turned sticky when it rained, was the home of my mother, Ellen's, parents, Emma and J.D. Miles. The farm had belonged to his father before him, but, as a child, that wasn't so important or interesting to me.
J.D. Miles Sr. was a Captain in the Confederate Infantry during the Civil War. He and his wife, Ellen Day, came to East Texas from Alabama prior to the Civil War.
I would have preferred to be at my house in Calvert, or with the grandparents, great-aunts and great-uncles, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends and my parents back there, who I was around every day. I didn't get to see my Miles grandparents that often, so they were not that familar to me. They did come for extended visits, but only one came at a time. I missed life in town with the drugstore, the movies, the swimming pool, church, playground at school, and being very spoiled. I couldn't find a lot to do on the farm. Just sit and look out the window, sometimes sing, or chase cats or chickens outside. Not much fun by myself.
Grandma Miles was tall and thin. She had hair so long that she could sit on it, but wore it in braids crossed over her head. Her dresses were always long sleeved and high necked. She was a bit stern and a strong disciplinarian. As a child, I didn't see that she also had a sense of humor, but, as I look back, she was probably full of fun and mischief, as well as being a lady. Now, I can see in photos of her when she was young, that she was really beuatiful. She had come to Navarro county from Tennessee with her mother, Rhoda, after her father, Dr. Arnett, died in Tennessee. Rhoda died a little over a year after moving to Texas.
J.D. was a big man, and nice looking too, with clear blue eyes, and light brown hair. He walked with his knees bent as a result of a boyhood accident with an axe while he was chopping wood. He was kind and soft spoken, was a good cook, and was constantly working on something. He had lost his wife and two little daughters before he married Emma. He and Emma had two daughters, my mother and her older sister, Emma Dee.
Both girls were started in piano lessons at age 3 and Emma steered them into music as a career. Ellen got married before she graduated from high school, Emma Dee became a teacher and musician. Ellen, too, continued her music as a private teacher, and in her church. She also excelled at art, and most anything she tried.
Sometimes Daddy would drive us to the Miles farm for a visit, especially on a Sunday, when he was off work from my great-uncle's grocery store in Calvert. Sometimes we went in the little Ford coupe with the rumble seat, with you-know-who in the back-me! Other times, he would take the '30 something Ford sedan. I remember the road that approached the farm, and the smaller winding road that became almost impossible to drive on once the rains made everything so sticky. Grandpa had to meet us at the main road with his wagon when they thought the car might get stuck.
Sunday dinner with my Calvert family was a big affair after church, with all the family and friends they could bring in. I'll write about that another time. But, on the farm, there would only be my grandparents, my mother, my father, my aunt, and, possibly a visitor or someone helping on the farm.
There was a long room across the back of the house, with a door that was not far from the well. I remember that this room was like a screened porch, with screen all along the west side. I don't know what they did in bad weather. I think there may have been large wooden flaps that they closed when it was cold or if it rained. The north wall and the south wall by the door were made of wood. The east wall had windows in it, behind the table. There was a door that led to a room that had a bed in it, but also was used for storage. Sometimes, when we stayed longer, we slept in that room by the windows to the kitchen/porch.
There was a fairly long table with benches on one side, old fashioned chairs with what I called beadwork and carved flowers on the other side and at one end. An oil cloth tablecloth, with its pungent smell, covered the table.
On the wall behind the table, there was a cabinet covered with cloth curtains, where there were dishes, canned goods, and pots and pans at the bottom.
I don't remember a sink in the room, but, rather, a dishpan on a shelf or table under a window on the north wall. After washing dishes, the water was thrown out in the dirt in the yard, where chickens rushed to peck in it.
Beside the back door, there was a small shelf or table with a dishpan and a bucket of water for drinking. A ladle hung on a nail on the wall beside the door. There was a small towel for hand and face washing. Of course, there was the well near that door, where a wooden bucket hung. As I walked with my grandparents to get water, we would sing " The Old Oaken Bucket".
I'm sure that there was electricity, as they had a radio. It seems that there were electric lights, with bare bulbs hanging from the ceiling by a wire. But, I remember them using kerosene lamps, more.
There was a stove between the "sink" (dishpan) and the table. I don't recall a lot of details about it, but I believe they had a wood stove. Grandma and Grandpa, and Daddy, too, said that food was so much better cooked on a wood stove. I know they had wood stoves for heating in the sitting room toward the front of the house.
Emma Dee would usually come from where ever she might be working at the time, and join my parents for a visit with my grandparents. Sometimes, Daddy would leave us there for a week or a few days, but most often, we just went for a few hours on Sunday, came back home after supper.
In Texas, we have breakfast, dinner, afternoon lunch about 4 o'clock, (or a teaparty if there is something fancy going on, otherwise, they go for coffee), supper, and refreshments in the evening.
In this drawing, I remembered one visit when, after Sunday dinner, Grandpa and Daddy had gone out to look at the crops or something in the barn. The women lingered at the table, while trying to get me to eat. I had to be 3 years old, or younger, as my sister had not been born. I was a picky eater and only would eat cereal, fruit, and milk. And, I didn't want to eat strange things at houses that I wasn't familiar with, either.
Grandma Miles is sitting, facing us, at the table. The cabinet behind her.
Emma Dee is at the far side, on the bench, back to us, toying with a biscuit on her plate.
Ellen, is closest to us, seated on the bench, talking with my grandmother.
I have left the bench again, wanting to go outside, rather than have to eat. My little plate is empty, on the corner of the table, and my glass of fresh milk is still full. They would coax me and I would finally just drink my milk. But, I wasn't so sure about this milk that didn't come from a bottle, with cream floating on the top, from the grocery store.
Grandma had wrung a chicken's neck and fixed fried chicken for us. Maybe she used two or more chickens because the plate was piled high with chicken, with some left over. They also had canned corn and canned tomatoes, mashed potatoes, cream gravy, biscuits, syrup, and a pie. The grownups had iced tea and Daddy had "skyjuice", as he called it, or water to the rest of us. (That came from his days as an Aggie. ) The coffee pot was on the stove so that Daddy could have coffee to keep him awake as he drove us home at night.
In this picture, it was probably a time before the crops came in since we didn't have a lot of fresh things. Canned goods were even running sort of low. When the crops came in, there would be all sorts of fresh food to eat, with cornbread, or fried cornbread.
Daddy was a big eater. But, he didn't really like chicken. When he was a child and had Rheumatic Fever, his mother kept him in bed for the year that the doctor ordered, by bringing in chickens! He was terrified of them, as were the other children, so he wouldn't get out of bed. He didn't know why he was scared of them. He thought it had something to do with them flapping their feathers around, or their sharp beaks and claws. But, at any rate, there was seldom ever chicken in that house for those children, even when they were grown.
He did love Grandpa Miles' baking, especially the bisbuits.
As we sat at the table during this visit, I don't know what the grownups talked about. But I do remember that the bowl of canned tomatoes was getting low. Both Emma Dee and Ellen wanted the last of the tomatoes, the part with the little seeds in it. So, Grandma reached behind her, behind the curtains, and pulled out another can of tomatoes. She grinned as she placed it on the table. Emma Dee got a can opener and they ate the rest of the tomatoes, relishing the part with the little seeds in a small saucer.
I still think of that every time I open a can of tomatoes.
This drawing was done with a Sanford #314 draughting pencil.
I thought that, since it is Sunday, I would add something about Sunday, and memories, and take a little break from my vision experiences.