Sunday, August 23, 2009

Center Lisle, Part Three: By Aunt CB

Top of the hill and Grandma's!
Grandma's farm or Adin's farm was the best place in the world to us. We loved it and both of them! It had originally belonged to Byron and Kate who probably bought it about 1886 or so. All of their children were born here, one was buried from here, and at least Ethel was married here. Byron died before I was born, but after Adin returned from WWI and the Spanish Flu and recuperated, he slowly bought the farm from his parents (1921).

Byron was not well for several years before his death, but it was Adin who brought the farm up to par. Byron was no farmer but he loved people. Adin was a quiet, shy fellow who never married, but everyone in the area came to him when they were short of cash. They'd knock on the door, ask for him and he'd take them in his bedroom where he kept a bottle of whisky in his drawer to seal any bargains he might make. There were few other notes to keep track of debts, when he died, no will was found, and only a very few i.o.u.'s. Some people volunteered their debts, but more were silent. I am sure he never begrudged the thousands of dollars that he'd given.

It was in his barn one morning when I'd crept out to see the animals and heard a strange noise in the side pens that I saw a strange sight, a cow lying down and bellowing. Thinking it funny for her to be inside rather than out with the others in the pasture, I squatted on my haunches to watch and saw a miracle born—a little red and white calf! As the mother stood licking her baby, I realized that Adin was also squatting beside me. 'Wow', I exclaimed. He just looked at me and said, 'Don't tell your grandmother.' That was the birth of the calf named Lucille.

Adin was wonderful to us. He took us with him as he worked at his farm chores, we 'helped' cut hay, clean out springs in the pasture, buzz wood, clean the 'drops'--in my mind's eye, I can still see him hunkered down, cigarette held between two fingers, as he told us stories about his 'wife with the traveling wart' or some such. Once, across the road and down in the woods, he'd taken Harold, Doris, Gladys and me with him to clear old broken branches. We were relaxing around a small spring fed gully pond while he smoked a cigarette. It was a hot day and cool in the woods by the ice cold water. He noticed we all had on ankle socks and were fiddling with them so he rolled down his socks and suggested a club. Thus the 'Roll Down Stocking Club' was born, five members only! The password? A whispered 'Bullshit'.

Another act he was noted for, finding money under cows' tails! We all knew that when we entered the barn during milking, we had to be very quiet and move slowly. Cows are skittish creatures and won't 'let down' their milk if disturbed. But towards the end of the job—twice daily—before he'd release certain cows from their stations, he'd walk by their tails, look, do a double take, and exclaim “Well, whaddya know!” and reach out and pluck a dollar bill from the cavity just at the base of the tail. We thought this was a wonderful way to get money and joined him in searching the cows' posteriors. One time, he found a $100 bill and I ran in and told Grandma. I was in bad odor for a while!

Grandma was a wonderful cook! She made delicious chicken and canned beef dinners with all sorts of homemade pickles, jams and preserves. If we'd been berrying and gotten enough wild strawberries or blackberries for a pie or shortcake, she'd whip it up, but her real culinary gem by our estimation were her cookies! Large, puffy and rather square shaped, she made all kinds and piled them up on a cake stand in the center of the dining table under a cloth placed over all to keep the flies away. Wherever there are animals, flies abound so there was always a long sticky fly tape hanging over the table.

She loved to have her daughter, Ethel, come. I know she loved us children dearly, but am also sure our commotion bothered her sometimes. When I was young, she was partially deaf, and we had to speak up. In later years, she became very deaf and blind. Still, she kept house for Adin until her death, cooking and cleaning by feel. She was a very hard working woman, always took care of the milk separation, cheese and butter making, which she sold at Lil's store to provide her with spending money. She was a product of her times. One day, as I started off down to the store to see Gladys, wearing a short sunsuit that Mom made for me, she came chasing after me, exclaiming “You're not going dressed like that, they'll think you're a chippie”. I didn't even know what a chippie was, but she made me change into a dress ( I was eleven at the time!).

One time, during our visit there occurred a tremendous summer storm, hard rain, lightening, the whole bit. Grandma had one of the first wall phones, a large oak box that you had to wind the handle to ring the operator (Central). It hung on the kitchen wall. When the storm began, Grandma ran, got one of her rubbers, and hung it over the mouthpiece. There were sound reasons for this ( in the early phones, electric 'streaks' did erupt from the mouthpiece occasionally), but it sure seemed funny to us!

Continue on past this farmhouse and you'll see the house that Adin built for Kate, (Grandma). He ordered it from the Sears, Roebuck Catalog and she moved in February of 1947, reluctantly, missing her old place always. It was here, on a visit we made after Sue, Dan, Tim and Pat were born that he asked the kids if they wanted to see him mow the lawn. Adin went outside, pulled open a section of fence dividing the pasture from the lawn and sat down on the front steps, kids in a row beside him, as they watched the cows come through and wander about, eating the grass!

Further on, down Caldwell Road, is the Caldwell Hill Schoolhouse, where Mom ( Ethel) once taught.

Turn there, through 'Squeedunk', and you get to Bardwell Hill Road, where Nancy and Leonard owned a farm of 210 acres. Wendell told us the soil there was rocky and 'sour', not good. Sometime afterwards, they bought the small farm and house in Center Lisle that we knew as Aunt Florence’s place.

Further still, on Caldwell Road, just before you get to Nanticoke ( Lamb's Corners), on the right side of the road, lies the William/Diadamia Youngs farm ( bought in 1864) where Kate grew up. She was born across the road, down in the bottom land in a log cabin. There is no evidence of its site now, but as he prospered, 1868, William built a good size farm house which cousins still live in. I do not know this house so well, but the one to its right that their son, Ed, ( Kate's brother) built is where we would visit Uncle Ed and Aunt Lida. Their son, Jim Youngs, lived there until he was 98 years old! Uncle Ed was older than Kate and I can still remember him, sitting in the car at the cemetery as we buried 91 year old Kate. We went over to talk with him—it is hard to be the last of a family.

Picture One: Lil,Gladys, Esther, Sylva, CB, Leona, Philly, Ethel, August 1960
Picture Two: Sue, Christine, Dan, July 1957
Picture Three: Grandma, Adin, Jun 1952


Pat said...

Have a terrific Baker Reunion today!!

Take lots of pictures and send reports so that we can post them here for all of us who could not make it to the farm.


Kathryn said...

I love the picture of Uncle Freddy squirting milk on the cat! I remember many reunions at his and Aunt Sylva's house! I am totally delighted with the picture of Sue, Chris, and Dan looking down on the Emhof house! I loved visiting there. Aunt Sylva let me help her bake.
Hope everyone has a great time at the reunion! I hope that Beth takes loads of pictures for me to see!
I love you all!