Things I Remember as a Child at Grandma and Grandpaís House
Written by: Ora Lee Adams Fannin in about 1981
I am an Alabamian. So were my parents and their parents. I got my schooling at Amos School, known as "Polecat." I have lived in other states, but being born in the "Free State of Winston" and spending my childhood here entitles me to the name Alabamian. My parents have lived in Alabama all their lives.
My fatherís parents, Elias Elcaney Adams and Jamima (Robins) Adams, known as Uncle Caney and Aunt Mima entered some land in about a mile of the court house in Double Springs in or about the middle 1880ís. In order to enter land one had to live on it. There were no buildings so grandpa put up a small one (which was later used as a stable) and they moved in with three small children, Elias 6, Andrew 4, and Loucretia 2. In November 1888 a 4th child was born, another little girl, in that stable. Her name was Lougaina. She used to say, "I was born in a stable like Christ was." Two years later on October 1, 1890, Jessie (my father) was born in the new house which consisted of one large log room. It is still standing, and now has more rooms and two porches which grandpa added later, and a second chimney.
The family grew to ten children, Joseph and Louvicie Ė then three others, but they died very young. Back then people didnít know how to feed them or had no way of knowing if the motherís milk had adequate strength for the baby. My aunt, later on in life, told me that she believed that her three little brothers starved to death. Some experience she had made her think so.
My grandfather never saw his father; he was in the Civil War and died with complications with measles before grandfather was born. He was buried in Shilo Battle Grounds in Tennessee. Grandpa never saw his fatherís grave. His mother (my great-grandmother) died the year I was born.
Grandpa had two brothers and a sister. He grew up with a step-father. Iíve never heard how old he was when he lost his step-father, but they say he was a fine man.
After grandpa built the new house his mother came to live with them. Her sister was there some also. I heard them say that at one time there was twelve people living there.
One of grandpaís brothers owned the first store in Adamsville. Thatís where it got its name.
The family grew up doing a lot of hard work as everyone could see. They cleared the land and put up more buildings: a big barn with stables for the mules and cows, a crib for corn and feed for the animals. The smoke house was behind the dwelling house. There was always meat: hams and middlings hanging that had been smoked to a toast brown. A hen house, one thing grandma did because when she had company she wanted a table full of food. She would get up in the morning and go out to the chicken house or coop, grab a big fat fryer or two and kill and dress them for breakfast. That kind of fried chicken makes what we get now from the store taste like Ė well, not so good. Not near so good. Grandma had coops with a hen and her chicks. A whole bunch of coops. Each hen knew where to go at night with her brood. Then grandma went out and closed the doors to keep the wild animals out and the chicks in until the dew dried off in the morning.
There was a split rail fence around the place and pailing fence around the yard and garden.
The yard around the house was rough but that helped make a more picturesque beauty with all the work they put there. They picked up rocks and built walls to hold the soil (Iím sure my father had a lot to do with that for he was one of the best rock masons anywhere around), and did a lot of that work for the public. He worked on the court house and the school house that burned.
They planted buttercups and violets on those walls and moss hanging down on the sides. About Easter time that all looked like a picture.
Rock steps led from the front of the house to the road. Climbing rose bushes made an arbor over the yard gates of which there were three. One out front led to the road and the trail to the spring. One led to the barn and blacksmith shop and where we parked the wagon (that was our transportation). Grandma would holler out loud and clear, "You all get out!," our welcome from her. The third gate led to the smoke house, apple orchard, grape vines, and the big bottom land where the corn grew. A crepe myrtle tree stood in front of the back door Ė a beauty in the summer. Grandma loved her sweet williams that grew to be waist high or more to her. She planted little pinks in the garden.
A cellar under the house had bins full of sand to put potatoes in to keep them from rotting. I can remember getting potatoes out of that sand to bake in the winter. When spring came, grandpa would dig some out to bed and make slips for a new crop.
They set out an apple orchard in the bottom land. They kept a barrel of apples a long time in the winter, each one wrapped in a page from a Sears catalog. The aroma of apples all over the house in the fall of the year was a very pleasant perfume. They kept them picked up and dried (and canned after it got to where they could get cans). I remember they used tin cans before they could get glass ones.
Dried pumpkin rings hanging on a little pole behind the stove was another nice aroma. If you have never eaten any Ė you have missed a treat. Cook until tender Ė then awhile longer.
One thing that stands out in my memory as much or more than most is grandpaís blacksmith shop. The bellows was as large across as our dining table. I liked to watch him heat the iron until it was red hot; then with his big hammer, beat it out to the desired shape. He was a good blacksmith. He built a big two horse wagon with two spring seats. I felt like a queen sitting up so high on those seats. I remember once when I was five and a half years old, grandpa came to our house in that wagon. My sister and I went home with him, sitting up so high. I felt like that was the highest I had ever been. We stayed two weeks and when we got home a little brother had moved in. Our first brother after three sisters. Grandpa made his plows and the other tools that he needed to work with. He went to Birmingham when there was only one store there. I believe he got his supplies there for making his tools and things.
Grandma always milked her cow. That was a job she never expected any one else to do. She would put a rope on the calf and tie it nearby. When she got all the milk she could get (except maybe a quarter left for the calf) she would let it to its mama for its share. Then she could get more from her side. (Cows have a way of holding back for baby). They kept their milk in the spring to keep it cool and it was as good as a refrigerator. Grandma churned her butter Ė made the best buttermilk and butter. That was fine with honey from the bees in the stands under the walnut tree, but I wasnít too fond of the bees after getting stung one evening when grandpa was robbing them. They grew cane for molasses and good molasses takes the front seat to honey with me anytime.
The wheat and cotton were grown on the upper land. There were peanuts, walnuts, chestnuts Ė well, it seemed there was always something to nibble on.
They raised geese, picked off their feathers to make big feather beds that I sank up in so snug on cold winter nights (and cold is the word). Two fire places could not keep a big house warm, especially late at night when the fire had gone out. They had big gourds that they put the feathers in Ė the biggest gourds I ever saw. I believe they would hold ten gallons. As a child I spent quite a lot of time at my grandfatherís. I had two aunts who didnít marry young and my two sisters and I would spend a week or two with them each summer. There was always a lot of work going on there (I know, for I helped do it). It seemed they never sat down and I felt like I should keep going too.
There was a creek running through the place and a lot of bottom land. Stuff grew real good (grass and weeds too). I helped hoe the grass out many summers. My sisters and I would go and help our aunts get their crops cleaned out (after we finished at home), then we would pick blackberries on the creek bank. They grew so big and LUSCIOUS.
The spring where they carried all their water from was under a little bluff. Iím sure that is why this place was chosen to enter Ė that and the nice creek. The spring was across from the creek from the house. A big foot-log (with hand pole to hold to keep from falling in) was our way to bring in the water. I always stopped on the log to see the pretty clear water running over the pebbles. They did their washing over at the spring where they had a big iron pot to heat the water and big wooden tubs to wash in. The soap they used was made from scraps of meat and grease and lye dripped from a big barrel of ashes from the fireplace.
Broom corn was another crop they raised Ė made nice brooms. It sure beat the sage straw ones used before.
Grandma made a turkey wing fan and kept it hanging by the fireplace to use to kindle the fire. It came from one of the big turkeys they raised and had for a Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. For the fire place there was a nice little shovel and tongs to pick up coals or arrange the hot chunks. Those grandpa made in his shop. They did all their cooking on the fireplace until they could buy a stove, but that was before I can remember.
Grandma and the girls made a lot of pretty quilts. Every scrap they could get went in to a quilt top. A cute little saying of hers was, "If the pieces donít exactly fit, just stretch one and pucker the other." They cut their own patterns. I have a quilt that she made (it is not puckered). I would not sell it for money.
Other animals they raised were sheep. They sheared them and made thread out of the wool. They had a spinning wheel and a loom to make cloth. They knit and crocheted a lot of things. They dyed some of the thread with walnuts and other things. When I as about eight years old, they gave my mother wool to crochet sweaters for two of my sisters and a brother. She knit the baby a little coat. I remember how it looked. I thought it was so pretty. In the spring we would go to the sheep pasture to see the little lambs. I wanted to hold them in my arms. They looked so soft and white and had such pretty little faces.
They made cotton thread also and wove cotton cloth. My aunt still has a bed-spread that they wove. I think her son has it now. Heavy ribbed material and very pretty. She also crocheted a bedspread.
My grandfather had a vat where he tanned the hides (skins) of the animals that they used for their meat. He used the leather to make their shoes. He had an iron shoe-last with several sizes so he could make shoes for all the family.
We lived about four or five miles from grandpaís and when the uncles and aunts and cousins came in from another state, grandma wanted us all to visit there with them. We were always happy to see our cousins. There was so much to enjoy. The big glade rock with moss growing all over, beautiful spruce pine trees, big bay leaves Ė we would make hats out of those. The creek to wade in and there was pretty blooming vines growing on the banks.
There was just no end to the interesting things that I can remember around there. The neighborís children enjoyed visiting and always left with some kind of goodies.
My grandfather was a hard working little man. He was sick a lot in his last years. I can remember him getting up from the table and taking some kind of medicine from the little cabinet that he had built in the wall by the back door.
My aunts baked dozens and dozens of spicy tea-cakes that were always a treat.
There is only one aunt left now and no uncles. She is the one that was born in the stable. She was the middle one that lived to be grown. She had one sister older and one younger, two brothers older and two younger. She used to say, "I wonder which of us will be the last to leave here."
Too many of us take for granted the things around us. We donít stop to think of how it got that way. Somebody has put an awful lot of hard work and thought in every accomplishment and itís too bad that more of us wonít stop and think.
I can think of more things at my grandfatherís. I can close my eyes and see how it was. Sometimes at night I just lie there and see the old place as it was when it was so beautiful. Thatís how I was inspired to write this about it.
I loved being there. They were all so good to me. I donít remember them ever being one bit cross with me. I have the sweetest memories of them. Grandpa would hold me on his knee. I felt like I was too heavy. I couldnít remember sitting on anyone elseís knee. I understand now how they felt about us grandchildren for I have some and I just hope they are able to say the same about me always.
Since I wrote this my dear little aunt passed away at the age of 92 years, ten months and eighteen days.