I met my great-grandfather Curtis and my great-uncle Wes. It was at one of the family reunions held at my great-grandfather’s farm. His farm had a large two story clapboard frame house that had a full basement beneath it. Across a country lane was his barn, shed, and several other outbuildings.
Great-granddad kept the farm and the buildings in immaculate condition. Fields were mowed, crops were weeded, and fences were repaired and kept clear of brush. The farm returned the favor by returning its bounty to granddad. The farm’s yield was given away in bushels; apples, pears, and ears of corn. He was generous and often shared with family and friends.
From what I can remember of my great-granddad and my great-uncle they were sitting in a swing on the front porch. Curtis was a tall, stick-thin with a tiny moustache and a balding head. Great-uncle Wes was completely the opposite. He was round and wore a dark suit with a tweed vest covering the broad expanse of his belly. He had a full white beard that reached halfway down his chest. He had a deep laugh that made him jiggle all over.
At the reunion, I can remember the long tables of boards and saw horses were set out under several large trees at the edge of the field nearest to his house. They were covered with table cloths and food. Chairs lined the one table for the older people to sit. Everyone else found places to sit in the thick grass to eat their meal.
Bees would buzz around, lured from nearby hives by the food and the sweetness of the desserts and lemonade. Even the apples under the close by trees in the orchard drew the bees to sip the juices from the damaged fruit. The bees were the special project of Curtis’ daughter-in-law Ruth. She was a bee charmer and could handle her honey bees with her bare hands. She had to chase the older boys away when they started to throw apples at the hives.
At one end of the table sat a huge crock. It must have held twenty gallons and it was filled with ice-cold lemonade. A tin dipper hung on the side to lift out the refreshingly sweet drink from the hunks of ice. The outside of the crock was glistening with condensation.
In the back yard of the farm house was a hand pump. By moving the handle up and down, water could be drawn up from the well below. The water was icy, sweet, and tasted slightly of the rust from the iron pump. Great-granddad kept a tin cup hanging on the side of the pump for people who wanted a drink. If you didn’t hold the cup tightly enough, the gushing torrent of water would tear it out of your hand.
Farther behind the house was the chicken yard. It was surrounded by a wire fence. There were a flock of chickens and one lone turkey. The turkey was huge and when the Tom fluffed his feathers, he seemed twice as large. Even the cocky roosters steered clear of him. The chicken yard was bare of any grass from years of chickens living there and eating the blades of grass.
I was too young to cross the road and see his cows and pigs, but I did see them in the fields. They looked sleek and fat and well fed like everything else on the farm.
There was a rope swing with a wood, plank seat. It hung from a massive limb in a huge maple tree at the side of the house and if we weren’t swinging, we were throwing stones into a small stream flowed at the end of the side yard. Sometimes if the adults weren’t watching, we would pull off socks and shoes to wade and search for crayfish, careful to avoid their dangerous pinchers.
The gathering of people would stay and last through two meals, talking and eating before goodbyes were said and people made their ways home.