Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Edmisten Farm ~ A Thanks Given Story ~ Part 2

The stories and photos in this series of posts were given to me by Joe Edmisten. The writing is his own storytelling. I hope you enjoy this visit with the family that lived and worked on our campus before it was our campus. In appreciation of that which came before us, our shared community heritage. Thanks is Given to all~~~~~~~~~

Joe Allen Edmisten

I was born in 1933. My first memories of the farm are those of a five-year-old boy. At the time, my family consisted of Momma, Daddy, David, Paul, Betty, and me. Rufus and Baker were born later.

Things were simpler then. We lived in Perkinsville, in a house without plumbing or electricity. There was also no electricity or plumbing in the old log farmhouse where Grandpa Rufus Farthing and Grandma Nan Edmisten lived. My grandparents cared for a raw-boned, bed-ridden woman, but I never learned about her background. They also had a live-in woman helper named "Aunt" Stella. She was a spinster from Aho who doted on my siblings and me, giving us big sugar cookies when we came to visit. Aunt Stella took on an even more important role when Grandma Nan was alone, after Grandpa Rufus died.

Along about then, we remodeled our Perkinsville home by digging a basement under it and installing an indoor bath. By that time, we also had electricity. During the summers, momma and daddy would rent that house to Mrs. Champion, a "rich" Florida woman and her female companion. So every summer we had to move into our grandparent's farmhouse. We looked like gypsies, moving out of our Perkinsville house in early summer and moving back in fall, when the Florida women left.

Upon grandpa's death, the farm was divided into as many plots as were children, and one extra for grandma. To keep the farm together, our dad, Walter Edmisten, worked and saved hard to buy those plots from his siblings. Once daddy pulled the land together, we moved to our grandparent's farmhouse for good, even though it had no electricity or plumbing. Daddy installed both in the farmhouse about five years after we moved in.


In those early years, we heated the entire farmhouse with a wood-burning "Warm Morning" stove, located in the living room portion of the house. The kitchen cook stove added more heat during the winter since it had a fire going all day, every day, because momma Nelle cooked three big meals a day for our family of nine, which included Grandma Nan. Often we had company and/or hired hands so that there could be as many as twelve to fifteen people for dinner, the noon-day meal.

We kept two milk cows "fresh" so that we always had enough milk to drink and make into butter and cheese. These cows had to be milked by hand twice a day. We raised extra cattle for sale and for our own meat supply. We kept hogs for meat, too. Daddy used to pick up the "slop" from the Daniel Boone Hotel for pig feed. We found many spoons, forks, and even cups in that slop.

We had wild game and fish to supplement our meat. We ate deer, rabbit, squirrel, groundhog, grouse, quail, and turkey. In the fish category, we often had brook, brown, and rainbow trout, red eye, bass, and sucker. Two or three times a summer, we would go frog gigging. I loved frog legs. We could easily gig thirty to forty frogs in two hours.
As we grew older, my two older brothers, David, Paul, and I were on the Appalachian High School football team. Betty started high school a few years later. The chores of milking, feeding the pigs, horses, and cattle had to be carefully choreographed before and after school.

We grew enough corn for our two draft horses and twenty-some cattle. We took corn to a gristmill where it was ground for corn bread and also used to make our own mix for cow "chop." We bartered some of the corn meal for the grinding.

We raised cabbage as a money crop. "Early Copenhagen" was the choice variety for the early crop. A compact, almost blue variety called "Danish," was planted for the later crop. We felt lucky if we got two cents a pound or about $1.00 for each fifty-pound bag. We made a special one-horse cart that straddled two rows. We usually cut six rows at a time, with three people taking two rows each. The boy on the cart caught cabbages tossed by the three cutters, packing them carefully on the cart. The cart held about twenty, fifty-pound bags. "Old Bill," one of the draft horses, pulled the full cart to the side of the field for bagging and weighing.

We hauled the bags of cabbage to the Goodnight Brothers Produce Company in Boone. In the early years, we hauled the cabbages to market on a large wagon pulled by our two horses, Old Bill and Dina. I once hauled a payload of one hundred bags to town. At fifty pounds a bag, that made a load of five thousand pounds! Driving the horses toward "Greasy Corner," I slid through the intersection with the back wheels locked and the steel rims of the wheels spurting sparks. The horses just couldn't hold back that load. I was lucky that no cars were coming.
I always feel good when I remember how the older men at Goodnight's, there to sell their cabbage from trucks, admired me for having backed my horse-drawn load into the chute. It is likely that I was the last person to drive a legitimate draft wagon through Boone.
We grew enough potatoes for our own consumption through the winter and spring, up into the next summer. In the old days, we dug a large hole in the ground, lined it with straw, and then stored the potatoes and cabbages in the hole before covering them with straw and two feet of dirt. In this cool dark place, the potatoes and cabbage kept remarkably well for up to six months. Later, we dug a small cellar under the farmhouse for the storage of canned goods, cabbage, potatoes, and certain apple varieties known for "keeping."

We always had an apple orchard, cherry trees, and a raspberry patch. We picked wild blue- berries and strawberries in season. Momma converted these fruits into preserves, jams, and jellies to get us through the winter. She also canned a grape juice drink in half-gallon Mason jars.

Picking blackberries and raspberries with Grandma is one of my favorite memories. She and I would pick every second or third day when the raspberries were in season. We would gather about eight to ten gallons which she processed into preserves. Blackberries were more scarce because Daddy was fastidious about keeping the pasture mowed for grazing. We often picked blackberries on the lands of our neighbors' who were not as industrious.

We kept chickens for eggs and meat. My brothers and I had to catch a young hen, chop her head off, dip the body in hot, scalding water to loosen the feathers, and then pluck them. At young ages, we learned to butcher the chicken after removing the entrails, always saving the liver, crop, and heart. It was fascinating to see eggs forming in the chicken's urogenital tract.

We also raised rabbits for meat. We could kill, skin, gut, and dissect a rabbit for a meal within thirty minutes. We fed the rabbits various greens during the summer and home-grown grain during the winter.

We harvested chestnuts, even though most of the large chestnut trees that had been abundant had already been killed by the blight. Every hillside had many large, white, dead chestnut trees, but there were sprouts up to five inches in diameter around the base of the dead ones. These ten-fifteen-foot-high sprouts would have a good crop of sweet chestnuts.

The chestnut had a relative known as the chinquapin. This small shrub was abundant, and we picked gallons of them in the fall. The "chinkeypin" nuts were sweet and nutritious. We would load our pockets with the nuts and play a game with them called "Hulley Gulley, Hand-Full How Many?" If you guessed the exact number of chinquapin nuts in your opponent's hand, you could keep them, but if you guessed twenty, and the correct number was ten, you had to give him ten nuts.

The newly installed electricity in our grandparent's farmhouse was wonderful. I no longer had to fill kerosene lamps, clean the globes, and trim the wicks. We could play a radio any time, except when doing chores or working in the fields and forest, doing homework, or going to bed early. In other words, we seldom listened to it.

There was only a single, bare, bright bulb with a pull chain hanging in the middle of the boy's bedroom, where my four brothers and I slept. We became adept at locating the pull chain in the dark. In many ways, the old oil lamps were superior to the electric light. At least, you could get close to an oil lamp at a table when you had to read or write. The living room had the luxury of a wall switch, and there was one wall outlet in the thick log wall. Boards covered the insides of the logs; the outside was covered with a siding of fake, brown bricks.

We lived in that old farmhouse while we attended high school. At one time, David, Paul and I were on the same football team at Appalachian High School. David was a senior and played quarterback; Paul, a junior, playing end, and I was a 110-lb- freshman, playing varsity football. (There were only thirteen to fourteen boys on the team.) David wore a "Jim Thorpe"- style, leather helmet. We played larger high schools from Winston Salem and often got beat 65-0.
So far, I've concentrated on what life was like for my brothers and me. I want to devote some time to my beloved sister Betty, who had a unique role in the rich, complex life on the farm.
Being the only girl with five brothers (Our daddy used to say he had five sons, and each of them had a sister.), she was overworked and overprotected. We three older brothers felt like we had to screen and approve her suitors, and she had many because she was, and is, a real beauty. While we worked the fields and forests, Betty was expected to do all the things that momma and grandma did to support the field hands. I've always believed that Betty was, and is, smarter and more capable than any of us five boys.
Part 3 to be posted soon.
Shelton says ~ I hope you enjoy these heritage posts. . Let me know if you do
If you have stories or photos of the heritage of our campus please send them to me.


Carey said...

I'm thoroughly entertained at hearing accounts from the last man to drive a horse-drawn draft wagon through Greasy Corners and Boone.
Furthermore...I'll bet ten chestnuts that Hully Gully was more fun (maybe even more educational) than most of today's video games.
Carey Rowland, Hardin Park TA

Anonymous said...

I've tried pickin a bucket of chinqapins. I stopped at a cup! Hully gully, bully wooly, lots of our games were full of laughter and fun and we actually shared experience in real time. sw