I never seemed to tire from sitting on an old worn-out porch, listening to someone much older than I telling me stories of the good old days. I’ve been known to sit and listen from early morning till the sun slipped below the horizon. There was just something magical about absorbing story after story of a time that was before mine.
Many times over I have wished that I had been born years before I was. I’m not sure exactly when I would have picked if given the chance to live in another time or dimension. The late 1800s to the early 1900s probably would have been my first choice. Imagine how much happened from around 1910 till sometime in the late 60s. In the beginning, I could have traveled by horseback or even by way of a buggy to get from place to place. A mile traveled back then would have seemed much longer than it does these days. Our great grandparents probably didn’t venture very many miles away from where they were born, unless Grandpa had been sent to fight a war in some distant land.
Over a hundred years ago, many of the small sleepy burgs that we rush through nowadays were once vibrant, bustling towns that furnished nearly everything that a family needed. The local merchant could carry dry goods, groceries, and even plows to bust the prairie sod so that families could plant crops. The farmer of the olden days depended on whatever he planted to help keep his family alive during the long cold Indiana winters that were sure to come.
Recycling is not something that has just come about in the past few years. Pioneer families would reuse things over and over again till they just completely wore out. Clothes and shoes were passed from the oldest child down to the youngest. Catalogs weren’t discarded after being read, they became toilet paper (as did with corncobs!). Scraps weren’t thrown down the garbage disposal; they became food for chickens and hogs, or fertilizer for the family’s garden. Enough food was grown to eat fresh during the summer, and much was canned or preserved for the long winter months ahead to keep the family alive well past the garden’s life expectancy.
What did our distant relatives think when they first saw a machine driving down the road that would’ve frightened their horses? The car, or what about the flying machines that soared like metal birds overhead, and the rocket ships that traveled to distant planets and stars? Talking machines, music boxes, televisions, adding machines and computers, who needed them at that time? Listening to the radio on Saturday nights was good enough for Grandpa and Grandma. They got all of the information that was ever needed just by simply turning a dial and waiting for the radio to warm up. Once the telephone was invented, people like my grandmother eavesdropped on other folks’ phone calls to keep up on the latest happenings. Before that, there was the Farmers’ Almanac, with the weather recorded in advance for the entire year. Also tips on planting such things as potatoes by the light or the dark of the moon, and other interesting tidbits, were given to hopefully make life easier.
I remember a neighbor as I was growing up who told me stories of his life as a boy living in a log cabin. Life for his family was much rougher than for some, as they faced much in the way of discrimination. He was an African American, even though he looked as white as I am. He told me how hard it was to fend for the family, since much of what they ate depended on what could be grown in the fields and hunted in the woods. He told me one story of a game warden trying to stop him from hunting out of season. My neighbor sent that gentleman running with a load of buckshot ricocheting past his legs. He told me that you just had to do whatever it took to put food on the table.
What all of my story is leading up to is that now I am the old timer retelling tales from the old days. Not only am I reciting what life was like for me, I’m also passing on the many accounts of life before I was alive as it was told to me. I learned over the years to have great respect for the many elders that have since passed on.
One of the most avid listeners to my ramblings is a sweet young lady who is only eight years old. Kadi not only sits and listens to me talk, but she also has many interesting stories to tell about life as a Marine’s daughter. She also expresses her great love of all animals, whether domesticated or wild. I would like to think that she is the one receiving most of the benefit of my life’s experiences, but it seems that I am the one who is getting the most out of our conversations. I only hope that one day, Kadi will pass along a few of the tales that I shared with her, along with the ones she experiences while growing up.
Let me tell you children just one thing, please absorb and save any stories told to you by the older generation and pass them on to people younger than yourself. Have a happy and safe summer ahead.
Email Raymond L. Snoke at firstname.lastname@example.org.