For Ma Dovah and Pa Raleigh
And the memory of Ol’ Joe
When I was just a small girl growing up in Creech Holler
I sat on the porch on a Sunday evening content to sit with Ma and Pa while they rested; just listening to the frogs bellar out different frog noises some from the pond sounded the longest croaking sound. The tree frogs went bee-beep and the others just went rib-it.
Pa whittled while Ma read from the Almanac when she said, “The
signs are right the moon is waning its tater planting time. Pa grunted um-hum in
On Monday morning Pa used his last bite of biscuit to sop up the egg yolk
at breakfast. Then he washed it down with stout creamy coffee. He left the
kitchen whistling as he headed out to Joe’s stall in the barn. Joe’s was
finished eating his breakfast oats.
Pa took the bridle from the nail as he went about getting Joe ready for tater planting time. He walked over and wrapped one arm over Joe’s big old long silvery white mule neck.
With his other hand Pa squeezed Joe’s big old gray mule mouth
open. Then he slid the bit pass Joe’s big old yellow mule teeth, right over his
big old pink mule tongue.
Joe’s big hairy white mule ears twitched while Pa slipped the leather bridle directly over his large square-ish mule face; to rest just above his big old mule nostrils. Pa threw the collar over Joe’s big old mule neck and buckled it. Pa tied the two hames together with a small rope. Then he threw the harness over Joe’s back. The britching Pa pulled down over Joe’s rear in. Pa lifted up Joe’s big old mule tail from under the leather hind strap. Next Pa tightened the leather belly band he yanked it tighter underneath Joe’s big old mule belly.
The check lines that ran from the bridle Pa snapped. The trace line on each side of Joe’s big mule sides Pa angled. With the check lines in Pa’s hand he clicked his tongue making a loud clacking sound and said to Joe, gidd-up and they went out to the barn yard to where Pa hitched the swingle tree to the turning plow.
Now that they both were ready to work Pa told Joe to “Haw” that meant for Joe to go left. If he wanted him to go to the right he would say, “Gee.”
Purplish pink earth worms wiggled in the fresh turned over sod that smelt all musky.
On Tuesday Pa checked the soil for moisture. He ’de take a clump of dirt in his hand then give it a squeeze, if it formed a clot then he threw it back down.
On Wednesday Pa done the soil test again, this time the dirt fell through each of his spread out fingers, like sifted cornmeal. It was finally dry enough to disk.
Pa got Joe ready like he did before when they were plowing, the day before accept this time he hooked the disk instead of the turning plow to Joe as they went back to the bottom. They went up and down each row until Joe sat down in the field and he would not budge.
Pa understood Joe’s need for a break. Pa lead Joe down to the water hole, when Joe was not thirsty any more Pa tied him up to the Walnut tree.
Pa went back to the house for his lunch. He stopped to wash his hands and
face on the back porch.
Ma had hot cornbread, a bowl of beans and greens ready with a
glass of cold buttermilk waiting for Pa.
Pa and Joe worked until the whole tater patch was disk.
Then Pa led Joe back to the barn where Pa undone the disk and attached
the wooded harrow to drag over the over the entire bottom un-clotting the dirt
making the dust fly until the tater patch was rid of most of the bigger clods
that had gotten broken up by the harrow.
On Thursday I watched Ma make sure that each tater piece she cut had three sprouted eyes. The tater chunks made a klur-plunk when they hit the
bottom of the bucket.
On Good Friday Man and Pa were ready to plant taters.
Pa laid the rows off with a hoe. Ma dropped handfuls of beaded fertilizer into the row. At last Ma and I were ready to drop the cut tater pieces into the furrows. I did not think that the rows would never end but they did. Pa covered the taters up with the loose tilled soil.
For the next couple of weeks Ma and Pa kept their eyes on the tater patch looking for the first site of emerald green tater sprouts.
Finally Ma pointed out a bunch of new sprouts.
She said, “La just look at all that dirt those little taters had to push out of their
way just to rise above the clay dirt .I could see that Ma was going look out for those taters.
Later I saw Ma wager war on those black and white stripped tater bugs that kept eating the young tender green tater leaves. She sprinkled wood ashes on each tater hill. I do not think that it helped much, because the tater bugs kept showing up again and again.
All summer Pa kept plowing in between the tater rows while Ma chopped out the weeds from the balk. Late in September Pa said to Ma; it’s time to dig taters before the frost comes. Ma muffled um hum. The next morning Pa prepared a tater hole to store the taters during the winter months to keep them from freezing. He dug a four-sided hole in the ground that was just half up to his knees.
Pa made a straw bed to lay the taters on the bottom of the ground. I picked up a tater that looked like a person’s face; Ma laughed and said it looked like Pa; as we continued to load the taters unto the sled behind Joe. When all of the taters
were dug Pa hauled the taters over to the big old rectangle hole in the ground.
Pa stepped down into the hole, Ma handed him bushels after bushels of taters where he kept layering straw and then taters.
That night for supper and all through the fall and winter Ma fried taters in an iron skillet for us to eat and they were scrumptious and crisp
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