Along The Trail 12-24-15

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Editor’s Note: ‘Along the Trail’ is a weekly column written by David Hewitt of Switzerland County; and covers all things dealing with the outdoors, from hunting and fishing to woodsmanship.

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This past weekend, my family celebrated Christmas.

It was a typical get together with lots of laughter, fun and food. But after everyone left my folks’ house, a couple of us stayed behind and just talked. The conversation flowed, but after a few minutes, the talking, at least on my part, turned more into listening. Listening to my mom and dad tell stories of their youth and how they got by in the post-depression, World War II era.

They told tales that I’m sure were common place to youngsters growing up in rural America or small towns across the Midwest. I listened and thought how difficult a kid’s life would have been in the late 30s and 40s compared to my upbringing and especially our pampered children’s lives today! How they earned their keep, even as kids and nothing was taken for granted.

I listened as dad told how he and other neighborhood kids would hit the edges of the cornfields in search of milkweed plants and how they’d collect the seed pods that contained the silky sting material in them. How they would gather them by the “gunny” sack and then haul their take to the local ice house and sell them to the manager there for $.25 a bag, the silk going towards the war effort. He told of how growing up next to a dairy creamery, he’d collect any cardboard they would discard and how he’d keep it for weeks along with piles of old Cincinnati Enquirers and eventually sell them back to “junker” from Lawrenceburg. Who would have thought that my nearly 80 year old father was into recycling and “green” before the terms were even thought of?

Dad talked about how he and his family would go fishing several times a week, but not for sport. Rather, they ate everything they caught from a few of the local farm ponds between Rising Sun and Aberdeen. He figured that they had fish at least four nights a week for dinner. I’m surprised that he still enjoys fishing as much as he does given the fact that it used to be more of a necessity rather than a pass time - but I guess that helps explain my love for fishing.

We listened as mom told about growing up in rural Dearborn County and living in a farm house with no water, no electricity in her younger years as a child. How they lived with grandparents and aunts and uncles and no one seemed cramped or uncomfortable. She talked about their outhouse and being chased by a mean rooster to and from as nature called! She talked about how everyone in the country raised gardens and always had a beef cow or a hog to slaughter. She told us about her mom raising over 1,000 chickens and hanging them from their feet on the clothes line and well - you get the rest. In order to eat chickens, you have to kill chickens. She said until the day her older brother died, he would never eat another chicken.

She talked about raising and picking strawberries and selling them door to door to make some change as a kid. How farmers and families would raise tomatoes and sell their crop to the canning factories each year for extra money.

They went on for several more minutes remembering their pasts. Riding bikes with no rubber on the wheels because it was scarce during the war. Working in tobacco, pulling plants, riding the setter and talking into the late hours of a warm stripping room hand tying bundles of burley. I could’ve listened for hours, but it was time to get home and for them to head to bed.

When I left my parents house and drove home, I thought to myself how life is so different today than the hardships my folks faced as kids. But, it’s that kind of upbringing that created so many people from their generation that have integrity and character, something that seems to be lacking in today’s world. I’m grateful for my parents’ hard scrabble childhood and the small town, rural values that they’ve passed on.

Merry Christmas Mom and Dad.

- David Hewitt