Monday, November 26, 2007


In June, 1943, WWII was raging, both in the Pacific and in Europe and there were no men available to help farmers. Adin, at age 54, was left high and dry. Scraping the bottom of the barrel, he came up with Harold Taylor (13), Gladys Howland Wood (16), and an old pal of his, Ed Underwood (80 or so!). Ed and his wife were homeless in an age when no one lived in the streets, so Adin made an apartment of sorts in a corner of his farm implement barn and put Ed to work.

Gladys and Harold were hired also, wages one dollar a day and room and board. Harold caught the 8 a.m. bus from Geneva, to travel to Ithaca and then, on Rt. # 79, to Center Lisle where the bus driver would stop right by Aunt Lil’s store, when the cord was pulled. This day, however, the bus was crowded with sailors on their way to the newly built Sampson Naval base on Seneca Lake. Fair of skin and slight of frame, Harold was no candidate to stand in an aisle for miles. Thus, when the bus pulled into Sampson to disgorge a line of sailors, Harold stepped off too, and fainted!

The medics were alerted and he got a good going over. Been sick? Ate breakfast? As all were positive, they watched him in sick bay and took him to the mess hall with them when noon came. Presently they placed him on the 4 p.m. bus, thus he arrived later in the day then planned. Being Harold, he kept mum about this, but word got back to Mom, and he eventually had to explain why he was late in arriving.

However, having left the day after school closed in June, Harold was propelled right into “haying”, the cutting, drying and storing of fields of timothy grass, to feed and bed cattle. The first cutting was the easiest, and after being cut by Adin driving the horses, Reba and Pet pulling the cutter, and drying for a day or so of sunny ( hopefully) weather, Adin would rake the field up into windrows, the horses now pulling the rake.

Gladys and Ed would pitch sheaves on, and Harold or Adin would build a load. There was an art to building the load. All involved had to cooperate and synchronize their pitches, the top loader calling the tune. As the horses slowly pulled the wagon along the windrow, Gladys would pitch a fork full from the left side, Ed do another from the right side, and Adin threw up one to the middle. They should all overlap and tie in together. That’s what made their first cutting the easiest, the grass was the longest and more easily woven together.

A month or six weeks later, (if the weather allowed good growth) a second cutting usually produced shorter stems (or fartgrass and tickle cunt, as Adin called it!) which would not intermesh so well. The job of the top loader was to poke and prod all these pitches into an interwoven mesh, or to “build” a load. That done, the horses then pulled the wagon to the barn, old blind Pet farting all the way at every exertion while Reba, the older horse, but the one who could see, leading the way.

Here, too, there was a trick, for the wagon had to be drawn in and positioned so that there was room between the mows on each side to lead a horse, after being unhitched, to the back of the wagon, where the two were then hitched to the hay fork. If the load was well tied together, four forks would empty the wagon and all would be deposited high above in the mow by the traveling hay fork. If there was loose hay left, this had to be pitched up high into the mows and this was hard. Then out came the horses, then the wagon and all began again for the next load.

Haying was tough but necessary work. After harvesting the first cutting of hay from Adin’s farm the quartet was not yet done. Next they traveled a mile down the hill towards Center Lisle to do Great Aunt Florence’s haying. She had a small farm, 20-25 acres, right near the center of town, but while Adin’s was comparatively flat land on top of the Caldwell Hill Rd., her’s was mostly up and down the side of the hill, making it a real challenge to cut.

Harold usually walked the team down right after chores were done at Adin’s, and that was a job in itself! The two horses, knowing they were going to have to work, balked, dragged their feet and nickered, necessitating a few slaps with the loose ends of the reins. Arriving at Aunt Florence’s, Harold would hitch them to the cutter. Adin would take over and they all would cut, rake and pitch into the wagon, using a course sideways to the hill.

However, to get to the top of the hill to start was hard on the team and when they finished it was a straight shot down to the barn in a flurry of action! Scary! (No brakes on that wagon!)

There were compensations though. Florence was a marvelous cook! Noon dinner was a medley of roast pork, ham, chicken and beef, dripping with gravy, mashed potatoes and vegetables, tomatoes, all topped off with luscious pie slathered with whipped cream! She kept three to four Jersey cows, which are high in butter fat, churned her own butter and even made her own cheese, and provided buttermilk to drink.

After the meal, as at Adin’s house, it was obligatory to find a shady spot to lie down and rest for 30-40 minutes to “aid digestion.” The end of the day found Adin, Gladys and Ed traveling back up the hill in Adin’s car, while Harold dragged his weary self along, desperately trying to keep pace with two scampering horses who knew they were going home to extra portions of oats and a night’s rest.

Each day at the farm began the same. 5 a.m. Adin whooped up the stairway and Harold and Gladys rolled out, Gladys to help Grandma prepare breakfast and Harold to go to the night pasture, which was back of the barn, let the cows into their stanchions, having placed , after milking the night before, the proper amount of feed for each in front of her place. Locking each in place, if any were missing, Harold went looking while Adin applied the milking machine to two at a time.

After each couple of cows were milked, they were released and each knew the way out of the barn. As Adin began on the next duo Harold guided the cows across the road to the day pasture and closed the gate. As the cows meandered down the hilly side of this second pasture, now came a welcome breakfast break, after which mucking out was done. This meant that the “drops” that step down channel behind where each cow stood to be milked, were cleaned of animal waste and the floor leading into the area also. As Adin repeatedly told us, “Gotta be clean enough to eat your breakfast in”–sanitation laws say so and inspectors check periodically to be sure. If your dairy doesn’t pass, your milk is not accepted at the creamery.

It was only when chores were done that the day’s “haying” was begun. Haying was not only hard on the workers, it was hard on the cooks. Big meals were the norm, starting with breakfast, which was served around 7 a.m., between 1st milking and the mucking out. It was substantial because it HAD to be! Eggs, salt pork or ham, fried potatoes, biscuits and gravy or pancakes, it was no non cholesterol meal.

Dinner came about noon, and was another hearty repast. Beef, pork chops, mashed potatoes, big slabs of ham, baked beans, squash or whatever vegetable was ripe, plenty of tomatoes and cucumbers in season, all helped down with large glasses of milk, iced tea or coffee. Grandma, at this time, was 79 years old, very deaf and almost blind, and Ed’s wife was older than she was. This put poor Gladys on the firing line. Hired as a field hand, and expected to put in the same time as the rest, according to Grandma’s rules, women’s place was in the kitchen, cooking. It was alright for her to “help” in the field, but meals took time to prepare and clean up was necessary. So blessed Gladys was caught on both ends and she came through, dragging many days, but always there!

Supper, thank the Lord, was a lighter meal, and served after 5 p.m. milking and mucking out was over, so all could creep out to the front porch, drop into a rocker and rest. For the women, though, that time began after dishes were done and bread was set for the next day. Usually the baking was done after breakfast and before dinner. One day Harold came in to the noon meal, and noticed a stick of stove wood holding the cast iron wood fired oven door shut. “What happened to the door, Grandma?”, he shouted. “Door’s broken,”she crabbed, “won’t stay shut, so I jam it shut with a stick.”

They all sat down to the usual bounteous meal, followed by Grandma’s cookies. Now Grandma Baker’s cookies were not just cookies, they were manna from heaven! Large as a saucer and almost an inch thick, they were moist and chewy and Harold was making the most of his second one, an unheard of feat, when his left molar chomped down on a stone! It had to be darn hard, he thought as he sorted through the crumbs in his mouth, because he had felt his brain rattle!

Pulling out the offending object, he took a look and chuckled! There was a good size screw, and if he wasn’t wrong, the very one missing from the oven door. Walking over to it, he inserted it, closed the door properly and stood there, grinning as Grandma said, “Well I never!” He shone in her eyes ever after!

Harold slept in the front room upstairs at Grandma’s, Gladys had the back one. No inside bathroom in those days, so “vessels” were to be used. Gladys always complained loudly about having to empty the pot each morning–while Harold never seemed to have to do so. She must have realized that he just peed out the window, which was not an option for her, but Grandma never caught on!

Once the first hayings were done at both farms, work didn’t slacken, it just changed pace. Now was the time to clear the woods of the toppings of trees that Adin felled year round whenever he had time. He had need for many board feet of lumber, and he had mature trees in the woods to cut. As he could fit it in, he’d chop down one or two, trim the upper branches off and leave the trunks lying until he had a load. When the ground was dry enough to drive a truck down into the day pasture, past the small stream, he’d do so, then have to get the horses to pull each tree trunk out to the truck and help load it.

This done, he’d return Pet and Reba to their pasture and drive the truck thru Center Lisle and beyond near Lisle to the sawmill where they’d saw them into planks. Returning home he’d store them in a small side barn available for use in repairing any of the out buildings, the house or the barn. Eventually, in the years after the war, he used this lumber to build Grandma a new house, down the road aways, but that’s a whole other story. For now, this summer of 1943, 44 and 45, the job in the woods meant clearing the areas of the toppings left behind from these trunks. These were snaked out from between trees using the horses, piled as high as possible on a wagon left in the nearest clearing, and transported to the house where they were chopped up and placed in piles to be buzzed into firewood.

The buzzing was done with a saw mounted on an engine and placed in the drive way next to the woodshed door. They had only to buzz the limbs into firewood size chunks and then toss them in thru the window of the adjacent woodshed.

So you can see that this band of hearty warriors fought WWII in their own way. And each night as fireflies came out along with the mosquitos, and moths flew about the single porch light and darkness fell, the rockers on the front porch moved more and more slowly. Talk became more and more sporadic, until finally, giving up, each said, “Good night.” Morning came very early!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Thanksgiving Tales By Aunt CB

Thanks-giving day is coming up and these days that gets us thinking of turkeys. It wasn’t always so!

Back in the 1930's, Depression days, turkeys weren’t on everyone's table. Jack’s father raised them so he knew them well, but I don’t ever remember having a turkey dinner until I was eleven years old and this was at Uncle Floyd Taylor’s for Thanksgiving.

He ran a grocery store and what a feast we had that year at his house! Besides turkey, dressing, gravy , we had mashed potatoes, squash, cabbage salad, celery, olives, radishes and cranberry conserve. All this was topped off with cake, sherbet, candy and nuts!

We paid a price for it though, snow had fallen all day and as we drove home to Geneva, by Rt. 5 and 20 (no thruway then) we inched our way along, Daddy driving and Ruth hanging out the passenger window, trying to see the side of the road and clear the windshield simultaneously. Those were cold drives!

Our usual Thanksgiving dinner was venison and maybe a chicken with it. We kept chickens at our house and while we had a pet rooster, Tommy, who came in the kitchen every Sunday morning before we went to Sunday School, (and yes, he usually pooped on the floor in his excitement!) we made sure we never made a pet of a hen. One doesn’t make friends with what may end up in one's pot..

We usually had Thanksgiving with the Taylor side of the family. Late November was too chancy for the roads in the hill country of Center Lisle and the beloved Bakers. I remember Mom usually brought pies, she was a grand pie maker!

And one year at Aunt Emily’s (she married B.W. and therefore was our step grandmother) she introduced us to the novelty of radish roses! (radishes slit so that ice water forms rose-like petals) She was a very caring person.

But the Thanksgiving I remember best was one at her house, 40 Porter Avenue, Batavia.. As we all crowded around the oval dining room table, laden with all sorts of succulent dishes, we bowed our heads for the usual grace before meals. “Bless this food to our use, O Lord, and us to thy service,” Grandpa B.W. intoned, and then added, “and let us each tell what we are thankful for?” My blood ran cold, for what WAS I thankful for?

Each thought that occurred to me seemed to be spirited away by someone before me. Uncle Leon was thankful for family, Aunt Clara spoke of the full table (on which dishes I knew were getting cold!). Harold, two seats from me squeaked out being thankful for new sneakers, and I knew he was, for his toes had stuck out of his others all fall! I thought to say thanks for the sunny day, but Doris, beside me, grabbed that thought so there I was, my turn and speechless!

What on earth WAS I thankful for–and then it popped into my head! Of course, I was thankful for those lovely radish roses, the very ones that Aunt Emily had spent an hour specially making for us. Doris smirked at my choice, but I didn’t care, for Aunt Emily had given me a big smile, so big that I could see her gold tooth in her mouth. I knew I’d pleased someone and God knew how thankful I was to have thought of a subject!

The above picture is of ( left to right) Arnon, Leon Taylor, B.W. Taylor, Harold, Doris, Ruth, Clara T.Burt (wearing hat), Lucille, Esther, Emily Taylor, Ethel Taylor, Mary A. Taylor.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Grandpa and Grandma Taylor with Flag, By Diana

Here is a picture that Aunt CB and I were just talking about - it's Grandpa and Grandma Taylor and a unique flag standing in front of the lower level of our Taylor house in Warners, New York.
My remembering is that my dad, Arnon - sent this flag off to his aunt because she was going to 'show' someone - and it never came back.

I always thought that the white stripe first was always interesting or significant but then I discussed it with a historian and they said that there was not a standard way to create flags when this one was made so folks would likely start with whatever color they wanted.

CB remembers it a little differently but the end result is the same - it's in a museum on Long Island.

The Taylors always accumulated interesting things. On that note I found a box of old tiebars that I believe, based on what was around them and what they were in - belonged to Grandpa Lloyd Taylor. I see no reason to have all these tie bars here and so many of you without so.........I am happy to share if you would like on - please contact me with your address and you can have one at least until I run out.