Saturday, October 10, 2009


Left to our own devises my brothers and I, on summer days while mother worked, cut hickory saplings half again as tall as we were and pole vaulted over the clothes line strung from the chicken house to the utility pole at the front fence line. We put an old mattress over a wash tub and jumped onto it from the upstairs window. We staggered across the yard on stilts made from 2X4s and sawed machine guns from "one by" board. My brother pocked the wooded hill behind the house with caves and trenches for games of war and adventure and survival and the smooth dirt beneath the back porch was a marvel of his architecture with carefully sculpted roads, cattle in the form of dried locust shells behind string fences held up by match sticks and "brick" homes with underground garages for tiny cars.

But what we really wanted was a pond. Or even a small lake!!

The creek behind the house, a rather pathetic trickle most of the year, often ran wide and gloriously frightful in the spring. That spring,an unusually dry one, we worked doggedly and with high hearts intent on creating our very own pond. But constantly the porous soil, in its miraculous fecundity, defeated us, absorbing and retaining every drop of moisture.

We had made a most wonderful find of a battered, lead-lined water heater that had been cut in half lengthwise. With visions of sea battle and long, (at least fifteen feet) voyages we sweated and shoved that old vessel, already endowed with seaworthiness in our minds, the quarter of a mile downhill to the gully through which the wondrous trickle of water ran. For three days we dug and shoveled and transported buckets of clay to block the trickle of water to form our great lake. Yes, it had become a Great Lake effort.

At the end of the third day, muddy, exhausted in the glorious exhaustion of an honorable defeat, we left the gully, still inhabited by its patient trickle of water, and after the nightly wash at the pump and a solemn supper at the crowded board of a family so large our solemnity went unnoticed, we wrapped ourselves in our quilts for a nights sleep in the sideyard. (We never slept inside in summer unless it rained.) Before sleep came we spent a few mumbling moments on plans for the next day. We would haul more clay...bring that big stump down closer to the east bank...etc..etc..and so we slept.

But life is often a tangle of miracles and minor tragedies and we were recipients of a miracle in that the rains came, and in the middle of the night we had to jump from our quilts, roll them up and dash to the house where we spent the rest of the night sleeping to the delicious murmur and roar of a Missouri summer rainstorm.

The next morning we knew we had our lake! Naked to the waist, in ragged underwear and knee-high rubber boots we raced to the gully and launched our leaden craft. My brother, Merle, held tight the end with the spigot hole while I jumped in. He, his long spindly white legs shining with mud, slipped over the metal edge of the truncated water heater.. and for at least 45 glorious seconds we floated!!

Navigation is a wonderful thing!!!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Bringing in the Houseplants.

I brought the houseplants in this morning. An annual ritual in our climate. Frost is coming and it is cold and misty.

My brother, Merle's, cactus is waist high again after being broken off twice in the last five years. The Aloe Vera that has lived and died to live again about a zillion times is looking a little pale from the chill and the small Jade in the strawberry shaped jar my friend Grace gave me is perky but still small after three years. But the four geraniums Mary Ann gave me this summer are blooming away and the straggly begonia has a lot of bloom although little leaf. The current descendent of Grampa Farmer's Christmas cactus is very thick and putting on new growth with the season change. I hope it blooms this year. It has for the last two years and is so pretty.

The pears are starting to fall in earnest and I'll pick off the last of the few green tomatoes today.

Well, it's October in North Missouri..what's to be said..

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Good Hands

I gave up on my hands for beauty a long time ago. As a child, in moments of stress, I knawed at them like a fox in a trap, leaving the knuckles skinless and the nails chewed to the painful quick. The habit never completely left me and though I no longer attack the skin of my knuckles, no cuticle of mine can be described as more than ragged and every nail still shows signs of uneven nibbling.

Other things and other activities have taken their toll on a perfectly good pair of hands that, given to another person with gentler habits and treated more kindly, might have passed for “gracious” or “full of character”.

But they weren’t and I have used them hard. I have never thought twice about testing hot griddles, sweeping ice from frosty windshields, snatching children from the jaws of death with the precarious hold of an index-finger crooked in a belt loop, the string of a lifejacket or even once to be sawed almost to the bone by the chain of a fragile ankle bracelet. As a farmer I have stuck my hands down the throats of more creatures than I can remember and have had occasion to address the other end also.

I fear I have slung too many 2X4s and heave-ho'd too many hay bales and bags of grain...

Had them in too much too-hot wash water...Hung too much laundry to freeze dry.. Had them mashed and mangled and steamed and half-frozen on too many low-paying jobs..

My hands have served me well and although never pretty I try not to be too critical of them.

And when I get to heaven..if the Good Lord asks me, "Well, Laura, aren't you grateful that I gave you a prettified face when you were a girl and two husbands?".. I will say, "Not particularly, Lord, but I sure got a lot of good out of those ugly hands."

Sunday, October 4, 2009

October in North Missouri

October in North Missouri

There is an inspiring urgency about October in North apprehension of winter memories..that heightens the senses.

Those first cool days with wind more brisk, that in their grumbling whisper, rattle corn stalks in their fields and shake the dry oak leaves from their bark grip...those strong oak leaves that refused to be coaxed free by the sweet coaxings of September.., the winds of those first October days seize and conquer and send them scattering and dashing across the field and yard and roadway..leaving the trees, at last, barren.

And in this changing season you might see a full grown cow, too old and far too large to act so childish, "hike" her tail and gallop into the wind, tossing her big head, and stop and paw as if she sought some worthy adversary.. some opponent to match such strength as one feels in October in North Missouri.

And luckily, no adversary appears and she will resume her place in the herd with a marvelous face-saving toss of the tail and the peculiar rocking trot of a mature cow.

That's what October in North Missouri does to you.