Life on the Lynch Farm During the Winter of 1939
(written for the First Saturday Writers)
Thanksgiving was over. The barnyard was minus one bronze turkey. In the fields, the corn had been shucked by hand and thrown into heaps to start drying. A week later the corn was picked up in bushel baskets and dumped on to the truck. The corn then was tossed into the corn crib to dry over the winter.
We had cut the tops off of the corn from a few acres. We had also stripped blades from corn stalks on another acre. These were allowed to dry and then put in the barn loft as fodder for the mules and the cow. Enough wood had been cut during the summer to last the winter.
The Monday after Thanksgiving, Dad went into the woods with the truck. He cut small limbs and twigs of holly. He made an special effort to find female holly trees with red berries. A few boughs from pine trees were cut. These were all stuffed into old burlap bags. From the ditch banks he cut flexible switches from mostly willow trees.
That evening after supper, the table was cleared completely except for the Aladdin lamp. Dad was busy making hoops. He would wrap a switch around a round object he had made. He would trim for size and wire the two ends together. He also wound wire around small round pieces of wood. This wire was used to hold the holly onto the hoop.
Everyone came into the kitchen and began to sit. Dad at one end, mom at the other. On the sides of the table were Marvin, the oldest at twenty four, then Etta, Irving, Frank, Dale and Lois. I was too young at seven years of age.
Marvin emptied a bag of holly on the table. Everyone put on pinkish rubber gloves and began tying holly to their hoop. The gloves stopped most of the punctures from the needle-like spines of the holly leaf. After tying five or six inches of holly to the hoop, they would tie in two artificial berries. Sometimes they would tie in ribbons and pine cones. Any holly that was too small, ugly, full of holes or just didn’t fit properly was thrown on the floor.
There was a lot of talking and laughing at the table. Mostly gossip about the neighborhood and all our relatives. Periodically Marvin would spread another bag of holly on the table.
They tied until all the holly was used, probably around nine o’clock. Dale, Lois and I had school the next day. I was in the second grade, Mrs. Farlow was my teacher. Lois was in the fifth grade, Mrs. Boston was her teacher. We went to school in two wooden building near downtown Berlin. The Ford agency and Dr. Mason, a dentist, were across the street. The Presbyterian Church was on the south side. Shenton’s garage and the Treasure Chest were on the north side. School buses picked us up on Jefferson Street. Then the buses went to Buckingham High to pick up those students. Dale was probably in the seventh grade with Mrs. Post and Mrs. Coffin as his teachers.
Sometime during that season someone gave us two lovely rabbit hound puppies. We named them King and Queen. They turned out to be great rabbit dogs. They were with us until the early fifties.
The floor was hurriedly swept and the kitchen made ready for breakfast. The four oldest children would light another kerosene lamp in the sitting room and play a few games of pinochle on a round oak table with lion claws.
About every third day someone one would drive up in an old pickup and buy the holly wreaths, cash on the barrel head. We had them ready in bunches of twenty-five. Everyone in the neighborhood also made holly wreaths.
The next day was the same. Plus while dad was cutting holly, the five thousand Rhode Island Red chickens had to be fed and watered in the chicken house. No electricity, so all water had to be pumped by hand. The hogs had to be fed and watered. The two mules and usually one cow also needed food and water. The cow had to be milked morning and night.
Walking around the yard and roosting in the barn were six to eight turkeys, same number of gray geese, a dozen pearl guineas, a dozen muscovy ducks,, two dozen old hens and a few roosters for eggs and chicken and dumplings. Sometimes we also had wild geese and ducks and pigeons.
Wood had to be stacked on the porch. Enough to keep two stove burning all day and part of the night. This was one of my jobs. At night, wood would be put into the stoves and their dampers closed. The dampers prevented too much oxygen from entering the stoves. The wood smouldered and burned lightly all night. In the morning dad would open the dampers and the stoves would begin putting out heat.
He would prime the water pump and pump water to fill the coffee pot. The night before he had dumped the pump. What he did was take the top off the pump. This caused the water to fall back down the pipe and be impossible to freeze.
1940 was the last year we tied holly wreaths. In 1941 Marvin was drafted into the Air Force and sent to Texas. Irving was drafted into the infantry and sent to Georgia . Farrell was already in the Coast Guard. Norman was a hard-hat diver working with the Corps of Engineers mostly in the Delaware River. He was teaching underwater welding on the old Normandie. The ocean liner was lying on her side in a New York harbor.
We had a little red, white and blue flag with three stars in the window showing that this home had three members in the military. 982 12/6/14