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Growing Up On the Farm By: Beverly Nickell Massey Written in 2012 I was four years old in late fall of nineteen

thirty-eight when our parents, Dewey and Hazel (Coon) Nickell told my brothers: Buddy, Bernie and sister, Barbara and me that our Uncles Clyde and Claget would soon be arriving with a truck to help move our belongings to a farm they bought and we would live in a big house. According to my older brother, Buddy, we were living in a two story house north of Milan about seven miles on Highway OO just past the McClanahan Bridge on the west side of the road in Beardstown Community. Buddy said he was pretty sure he and I were born on a farm in Browning but not sure where. Soon Clyde and Claget arrived and joked and laughed with us about the fun we would have at our next home; soon I was more comfortable. The men started carrying furniture out and loading it into the truck. Next were a lot of boxes Mom and Daddy had packed with clothes, dishes, pots and pans plus other necessities. Last to be loaded from the house was heating stove, wood cook stove then linoleum floor coverings from living room and kitchen were rolled, tied and placed into truck. Uncles got into truck and we got into car. Daddy drove several miles before arriving at farm. I was hesitant about getting out of car as the big two-story house looked so bleak and scary with the windows and no curtains. The men rolled linoleums onto kitchen and living room floors then carried furniture inside and Mom told them where to place each item. Last, they brought cook stove into kitchen and attached stove pipe over hole on top of stove and up into chimney so smoke from burning wood could vent up and out chimney on top of roof. A fire was built and Mom was soon busy cooking our lunch. The men carried wood heating stove into living room and set it up. Soon a fire was burning in it; house was becoming cozy and warm. There was no electricity to the house, no running water and our only heat coming from wood burning cook stove in kitchen plus wood heater in living room. We used kerosene lamps for light at night. Wasn’t long before Mom had pan of soup ready to eat along with cornbread muffins and butter. For dessert, she opened jar of peaches served with cake she had baked before moving. After lunch, the men hauled our farm animals consisting of two work horses: Bill and Queen, hogs, cows, chickens and a few cats plus our beloved collie dog we called Tip. Daddy trained tip to help with the cattle, hogs, sheep which was bought several months later at the Milan Livestock Auction. We kids enjoyed running and playing with Tip in the yard. For several days Mom and Dad were busy unpacking boxes and putting things where they belonged. There were a few dozen jars of canned vegetables, fruits and meats they carried to cellar which was located several yards back of house. It had concrete steps covered over with concrete top, a wood door at top of steps plus wood door at bottom of steps. Cellar had concrete floor with drain, sides and oval top were also made of concrete. There was wide wood shelves all along back end of cellar to set jars of canned items on, a wood bench was on each side the length of cellar and was used to sit crocks of our drinking milk on to keep it cool. We set a crate for eggs on it. We kept potatoes, apples and pears in cellar also. Day or night during summer months the cellar provided us safety from storms. During those times in cellar, we only heard wind and thunder faintly as the doors were shut and there was several feet of dirt piled up over cellar. There was a kerosene lantern to provide us light while waiting for storm to pass. During winter months, the lantern was lit twenty-four/seven as it provided just enough heat to keep canned items from freezing as well as kept cellar dry. Then came the day to move cane mill, hay, corn on cob, corn sheller, and farming equipment consisting of wood wagon, hay mower, plow, rake and cultivator all to be pulled by Bill and Queen. They also moved a large wood box with lid used to store bacon slabs and hams Daddy had cured. The box was placed in smoke house in back of farm house a few feet. There were hammers, nails, bolts, hand

saws, post-hole diggers and numerous small tools that were placed in smoke house and the move was finally complete. The house had a large living room, kitchen and bedroom on ground floor. There was a large porch with roof almost length of house on east, we could go out onto it from living room as well as bedroom. To front of house was a porch on north-west corner with roof over it. Off Kitchen to south west of house was a pantry which had window to south with shelves across west and east sides. The shelves were used to set skillets, pots and pans as well as other useful kitchen items onto. Between pantry and bedroom was a screened in porch, concrete floor with pump over a well which supplied us with water to drink, cook and bathe with. In south-east corner of kitchen were steps leading upstairs to three bedrooms with nice hardwood floors. We kids slept upstairs and Mom and Daddy slept downstairs. There was a chicken house out back of yard to south-east which had concrete floor and built-in nests layered with straw for chickens to lay eggs in. We had plenty of eggs to eat, cook with and sell. The chickens were free to leave building during day as they enjoyed scratching in dirt to find worms and various insects to eat; their feed was cracked corn. Nights we closed door too as they slept on pole roosts safe from owls, foxes and other predators. Several yards from chicken house was an outhouse which was a toilet two seater. We got acquainted with some of the neighbors and luckily there were boys and girls our age. Days, weeks and months seemed to pass fast and soon the cold winter arrived with cold windy gusts and sometimes deep snow. Mornings we hurried downstairs and dressed by the big wood heater. All windows would be frosted over and we enjoyed looking at the different patterns on the windows. Was nearing Christmas and Mom was busy making candy, chocolate fudge, burnt sugar and others. She either added hickory nuts or walnuts which were from trees on the farm. Was time for a Christmas tree so Daddy let Buddy and me go to timber with him to choose a nice shaped cedar tree. Upon finding a nice one, Daddy sawed it off near ground and carried it home. Decorating tree was fun as we draped tinsel over limbs and dotted them with small pieces of cotton. Mom used needle and thread and made long strings of popcorn and laid them on branches from top to bottom. She cut a star from cardboard, covered it with aluminum foil and placed on top of tree. Christmas morning we hurried downstairs to find a couple gifts for each of us plus a bag of oranges under tree. We were excited thinking Santa left them. We had a radio in living room sitting on large battery and plugged into battery for power. Daddy listened to news and livestock market during his noon rest. Mom enjoyed listening to Days of Our Lives afternoons during rest. On Saturday nights, we listened to the Grand Old Opry coming from Nashville, Tenn. We all enjoyed the country music. The seasons seemed to pass quickly and soon was spring with arrival of several birds, grass coming up green in yard, leaves coming out on trees but best of all, mild temperatures. Easter morning, we found chocolate covered marshmallow Easter eggs in a decorated carton similar to regular egg cartons on small table in living room. Was a treat for us and we were told the Easter Bunny left them. Our farm was located in Sullivan County with Milan, Mo. the county seat. Courthouse was in center of square, street around square had various store buildings around the four sides. Farm located four miles northwest from small town of Reger, Mo. and nine miles west from Milan. Our mail carrier was John Stokes and he drove a pickup to deliver our mail six days a week. Our mailing address was Milan, Mo. and postage stamps were three cents while postcards were one cent each. Was dirt road by farm and sometimes he had problems during winter because of deep snows and in summer due to rain; during those times, he put chains on tires so he could get mail delivered. Mom and Daddy received Montgomery Ward, Sears Roebuck and Co. as well as Henry Field’s Nursery catalogues each spring and Mom would order a hundred baby chicks from Henry Fields. Daddy would prepare for baby chicks arrival by repairing chicken house for them, stretching chicken wire fence to keep them in small pen while keeping the old hens and rooster out. When they grew large enough, Mom would dress a rooster for lunch, fry it, make gravy, mashed potatoes and green beans; a very delicious meal. Later all roosters were dressed, packaged and placed in rental freezer in Milan. Pullets were kept for eggs that they would lay when grown. At that time, they could eat cracked corn and were

put with old hens to roam free during days and be shut in big chicken house at night. We had several dozen eggs to sell weekly; nice income. Mom ordered vegetable seeds, rhubarb roots, asparagus roots and strawberry plants. Daddy cleaned floor of chicken house and spread over garden for fertilizer. He used horses to plow gardens, disked and then harrowed them. A garden was beside yard to east plus a garden beside yard to west. There was a woven wire fence around yard and both gardens; the fence was to keep chickens and animals out. When seeds, plants and roots arrived by mail, Daddy made east and west rows through garden and Mom placed seeds in trenches and we filled trenches with dirt. Next he made rows of holes for Mom to put piece of Irish potato into each hole and each piece had to have three eyes. We covered them over with dirt. The sweet potatoes were planted along with strawberry plants, rhubarb and asparagus roots. Last were a few hills of watermelon seeds and muskmelon seeds. Cows were having calves, old sows were having pigs and sheep were having lambs. The baby animals were cute and when grown, they would be sold for income. The hogs were kept on acreage across road from house; the woven wire fence surrounding acreage had to be kept tight to ground so hogs couldn’t root under fence and escape. Was soon time for Daddy to use horses and plow a large field, disc and harrow it then use two row corn planter to place corn evenly in rows. We had a hand cranked corn sheller in corner room of barn. Floor was wood and there was an open window. When corn was mature, Daddy would shuck corn and bring by wagon load then shovel corn from wagon into corn crib. Shelled corn was fed to chickens and farm animals. Daddy would take some corn to mill in Milan and have it ground into corn meal which was stored in a ten gallon cream can in pantry. Mom made cornbread and muffins with it; occasionally she used it to cook iron pot full of mush on top of stove. We enjoyed eating bowl of hot mush with butter. Each summer Daddy prepared a field and planted sugar cane which was used to make molasses from juice. In late summer of nineteen thirty-nine, Grandpa Coon bought a farm just up road to west of our farm and then down in field about two miles. Our parents as well as Clyde and Claget helped move his belonging. We were delighted Grandpa lived as close as he would walk to visit us often. He never owned a car so when Daddy went to Milan, Grandpa usually rode along to buy necessities. Grandpa occasionally bought pretty fabric and Mom would make us dresses with matching bloomers using her treadle sewing machine. Other times Grandpa brought us licorice or horehound sticks, sometimes a bag of cookies or oranges. He was kind, thoughtful and we loved him. Aunt Lovetta was Mom, Clyde and Claget’s sister and she visited us some. Her husband, Loren with kids, Larry and Lana lived at Mercer, Mo. Grandma and Grandpa Nickell plus several of Daddy’s brothers and sisters lived farther away, so we didn’t get a visit from them very often. Occasionally we would spend a Sunday at Grandma and Grandpa’s house; we always had fun playing with our cousins there. Summers was a very busy time for us as Daddy had to prepare fields for planting corn and sugar cane, repairing fences and repairing buildings. He was a good help in kitchen mornings helping Mom prepare breakfast, homemade biscuits, sausage, eggs and gravy with milk to drink. Sometimes we had bacon instead of sausage. Mom was a fantastic cook and all meals were delicious. In mid-summer, we would pick peas and green beans and help hull peas and break green beans. Then Mom put them into jars, set them into pressure canner with a little water, cook at ten pounds for thirty-five minutes. The apricots, apples, peaches, pears and plums which Daddy picked from our trees were also canned that way. We grew lots of tomatoes which were canned. Mom made lots of fresh fruit pies. She made preserves from strawberries and pears and put into jars all for winter months. She canned several jars of Concord grape juice from our grape vines. A job Daddy did each Summer was cut trees down and saw them into chunks which was split into sticks for cook stove and wood heater during winter. He would haul wood in wagon and pile back of yard. Each fall, he cut sugar cane and hauled up to cane mill. He used a horse which was fastened to end of long pole extending from cane mill. Horse walked around and around as Daddy pushed cane stalks into three round steel cylinders and cane juice was squeezed from stalks and run down a metal trough into

a fifty-five gallon wood barrel. When full, with help from grandpa, Clyde and Claget; juice was emptied into a ten foot by four and a half foot pan which set on ledge of rock and clay on sides and one end. Other end was open to insert wood for hot fire. The cane juice would boil for several hours and had to have foam skimmed from top and discarded. Finally, it was done; we had molasses. Was fun using a paddle and scraping molasses from pan to eat after it was poured into ten gallon cream cans. The relatives had molasses to take home. We like eating it on biscuits. Mom hade molasses candy, cakes and cookies. We stored molasses in pantry. In late fall was time to butcher a yearling for beef. It was cut into roasts and some ground into hamburger. Our parents sawed ribs into three inch pieces, placed into jars and canned. The liver was sliced and fried, gravy was made from drippings. The beef roasts were packaged and put in freezer at Milan. Following week, a hog was butchered, some was ground and seasoned for sausage which was fried and put into jars for winter eating. Roasts packaged and put into freezer at Milan. Daddy cured sides for bacon and stored in big wood box as well as the hams in smoke house. Remaining garden vegetables such as green tomatoes, Irish potatoes, carrots and sweet potatoes were dug and stored in cellar. The remaining fresh fruits were picked and stored in cellar. On July forth, nineteen forty, Mom gave birth to our sister, Beulah. She was tiny and cute. We enjoyed looking at her and Mom would have me rock her to sleep sometimes during day. Later she taught me how to change her diaper. Each summer, daddy had a man come and shear the sheep in barn. Wool from them was bagged and sold; an income. In nineteen forty-eight, Uncle Clyde moved into house just up road to west of us; he had four kids: Deedie, Evon, Larry and Charles. We were thrilled having our uncle and cousins living close. Sometimes when Daddy went to Milan, he would return with fifty pounds square of ice in gunnysack which he put in cellar. That night Grandpa, Clyde and kids were invited down and Mom would mix eggs, milk, sugar and vanilla then pour into a container and placed into wood tub ice cream freezer. Someone would turn handle as Daddy chipped ice and put around metal container and sides of wood tub. About half hour later, we had delicious ice cream. This was usually done during summer months. In nineteen forty eight, the road by our house and farm was graveled from highway in one direction to highway in other direction; was now convenient. Was year of nineteen forty-nine that REA crew installed large poles with electric wires and transformers on them through the country and by our farm. Daddy soon hired Uncle Leon Nickell to wire barn and house with electricity! We enjoyed the convenience of flipping a switch and having light. Parents bought a refrigerator which was great; no more carrying our milk, butter etc… to cellar. Later they bought electric radio and an iron to iron our clothing. Before we used iron or steel sad irons to press clothes; they were heated on cook stove. In nineteen fifty, Daddy bought a new Allis Chalmers tractor plus the necessary machinery to be pulled behind it. Now farming was faster and more convenient for him. We had a riding horse we called old Beaver. He was a sorrel, pretty and ever so calm and we all enjoyed riding him. Was a creek running through part of farm so sometimes during summer, we were allowed to play in the shallow part of creek. We enjoyed running through the water. Was a pond we could play around and try to catch tad poles and frogs. When we were in our teens, our parents taught us how to play pitch with a deck of cards. Once in a while, a neighbor family would invite us over and card tables were set up and we got to play cards with the adults. During summer months, some of us neighbors would take turns having a lawn party at night. One man played guitar and one played banjo as we teenagers sang and danced. Was a lot of fun. The parents mostly stayed inside and visited. During winter months, we would occasionally go to a neighbor’s at night to sleigh ride down hill; other neighborhood kids were also there. We would sit on a long strip of roofing tin which was curled up on front end and five or six usually set on it each time down the hill. We went to Eggleston grade school; a one room school house with grades one through eight and one teacher. The school house was large with a big coal burning stove in center of room and a metal jacket around it for protection from hot stove as that warmed room during winter months. It had wood floor and lots of windows for light. There were large blackboards across almost all of front wall inside.

A large United States map and a world map were on a side wall near front of room. A large book case was along the other side wall up front and was full of story books. Our desks were made of wood with iron decorated sides and legs and were in rows from front of room to back. The wood benches across the back were what we sat our lunch pails on and put our overshoes under them in the winter and there were hangers on wall to hang our coats, etc… on. We had a half hour recess mid-morning and mid-afternoon with an hour for lunch time. There was outside toilet for boys and separate one for girls. The American flag was always flown on tall pole each morning, weather permitting. Noon’s end recesses were always a lot of fun! My eighteenth birthday was March twenty fourth, nineteen fifty-two. The following May, I graduated from Milan High School and two weeks later packed my few belongings and left the farm. My destination was Biloxi, Mississippi where my finance, Dale DeRyke was stationed in the Air Force. We were soon married and lived in a trailer which was located in a trailer park. We quickly acquainted ourselves with our neighbors who were military men and their wives. It was fun playing cards with them evenings or going to the beach and walking in the sand along water’s edge. Was a drive-in theatre across street from trailer park and sometimes at night we would go over and enjoy a movie. Occasionally after lunch, a friend and I would catch a city bus and ride into Biloxi and for a change, we would ride into Gulfport. Life in Mississippi was a more relaxed pace and less work than the farm life. I enjoyed them both. They were great experiences to be remembered for life.