December 15, 2013

Childhood Remembrances of Flora Crawford Eschenburg, Part 2

The following transcript is from the childhood remembrances of Flora Kathryn Crawford Eschenburg who was the daughter of Samuel Cooke Crawford and Rachel Victoria Seal.

Part Two - Chores
Our childhood was spent in a day before electricity had reached farm homes, so there were no time saving or work saving devices.  There were no radios or televisions.  We were kept busy working at the necessary chores.  
We were required to keep the water buckets filled from the well, and much later from a hand pump.  We drew the water from the well using a windlass, or sometimes a rope and pulley.  The windlass was usually made from a round block of wood fitted with an iron handle.  A rope or chain was fastened to the long slender well bucket at one end and the windlass at the other.  To let the bucket down into the water and pull it up again, the handle was turned.  Sometimes one might lose his handhold on the windlass, and the handle would fly around.
Once my brother, Bud, accidentally let go of the handle and it came round and hit him with such force that he was knocked unconscious.  The rope and pulley were harder to pull.  The rope threaded over the pulley so that instead of pulling up on the rope to raise the bucket, we could pull down, adding the force of our own weight to make the chore easier.
Drinking water was kept in a bucket on the water shelf on the porch.  This was a cedar bucket with brass rings.  Our job was to keep the brass shined.  Once a week, using ashes as a scrubbing compound and a corn cob as a scrub brush, we shined the brass to a high polish.  Water was drunk from a common dipper and in most homes this dipper was made from a dried gourd.
Another chore assigned to the children was to keep an ample supply of wood for the wood stove in the kitchen and for the eleven fireplaces.  In the fall of the year, Papa and our brothers cut trees and split enough wood for the year.  This had to be racked so that it was ready for us to bring in as needed.
Baths were taken from a wash tub.  We were able to take a full bath about once a week, but we took daily baths from a wash pan which was kept on the water shelf.  Everyone was expected to wash their face and hands three times a day before coming to the dining table.  Hands and faces were dried with a common towel.  In summer, we went barefoot until we were eleven or twelve years old, or old enough to be ashamed to show our feet.  Each night, before going to bed, we had to wash our feet in a foot tub.
To prepare for wash day, we had to draw up barrels of water.  The clothes were scrubbed on a corrugated rub-board.  They then were boiled in a big black iron pot with water and lye soap.  The really heavy, dirty work clothes were beat with a stick on a block of wood called the battling block.  
Starch was made by boiling flour and water.  Almost everything had to be starched, including dresses, petticoats, shirts, pants and pillowcases.  Then came the ironing day.  The ironing was done with black flatirons heated from a fire in the fireplace.  Sometimes in the summer, when it was so very hot, the fire used to heat the irons was built outside.  
As you can imagine, ironing days in summer were quite unpleasant.  An iron was usually kept on the cook stove for a quick pressing job.  The cook stove had a reservoir which held water and had to be kept full at all times.  This gave us a ready supply of warm water for washing dishes, and even for a quick "sponge" bath.
The wooden floors of our home were kept clean using a scrubbing block.  This block was made from a piece of 2x8 board and was about fifteen inches long.  Holes were made in the block and stuffed with corn shucks.  The shucks were first made pliable by soaking them in warm water and were then stuffed into the holes.  When they were dry, the fit was quite tight.  There was a handle much like a mop handle and the brush was pushed across the floors.  We usually cleaned the floors on wash day so that we could used the hot soapy water left from boiling the clothes and the rinse water left from the last of the three rinses.
Brooms for sweeping the house were usually made from broom sage.  In the fall, when the broom sage was at just the right stage, a year's supply of this straw was gathered, tied in bundles and stored.  Brooms were also used to sweep clean the yard around the house.  There were no lawn mowers, so brooms made of brushy limbs were used to scrape the yard area.  This acted to keep fire from coming too close to the house in the event a grass fire broke out. Dogwood limbs and switch cane made good brooms to use for this.
If you were a farmer in Catahoula Parish in those days it was understood that you raised cotton and corn.  Every member of the family who was big enough was expected to join the farm work which included hoeing weeds from the rows and picking cotton.  Young boys had the job of pulling corn from the plants when it was time for harvest.
Papa rived boards to roof the house and barns.  For this, he used a fro and mallet.  The children helped by bringing the blocks of wood and stacking the riven boards.  He also whittled the axe handles from hickory wood.  This was mostly done at night as he sat around the fireplace, or on rainy days when he couldn't do outside work.  After the handles were whittled, they were polished to a smooth finish.
Other chores assigned to children included milking cows, feeding the pigs, feeding the chickens, gathering eggs, and churning cream into butter.  What a chore churning could be, especially at times when one wanted to be up and away.  It seemed terrible to have to sit and lift that dasher endlessly.  Splash, splash, splash.  We would devise many ways of making the time go faster.
One rhyme that comes to mind was:
Come butter come,
Come butter come,
Peter's waiting at the gate,
Waiting for a hot butter cake,
Come butter come.
We made our own cottage cheese.  We let milk clabber, or sour, then we broke up the curds, pouring warm water over them and placing them in a thin cloth to drip until only the curds were left.  This cottage cheese was eaten with sugar and cream and was quite tasty.
 To Be Continued...


Special thanks to Joan McLemore for allowing me to share her Aunt Flora's childhood remembrances.  Joan is the daughter of Flora's older sister, Dell Crawford Meadows.

Note:  Part 1 of 'Childhood Remembrances of Flora Crawford Eschenburg' can be found in the Tags List on the right side of the blog, under the tag titled Crawford Family.

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