Milton Fields

Milton Fields

Birthday rekindles winter memories

By Milton Fields
Life Columnist

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I had a birthday recently that resulted in a number of cards that I enjoyed reading. The central gist of the messages was a young man has energy while an old man has memories. My memories flooded in as I sat by a window and watched the winter weather smother the landscape. I was back on the farm again, as a small boy, recalling experiences of long ago.

In describing a farm, a lot of people omit a vital part, that is the woods. Most farms had several acres of woodsland. This is not a forest but a woods. It furnished many very necessary things. We never bought a Christmas tree. We just went to the woods and got one along with holly, mistletoe and galax leaves – all used for decorating. It was a place for children to play when playgrounds were miles away. The woods also produced an occasional squirrel or rabbit for the dinner table.

Central heat was unheard of back then and farm houses were heated by a fireplace or a heater, most using fuel from the woods. This was firewood, but back in the kitchen where meals were cooked on a range it was called sto wood. Sto wood was sized to fit in the burn area of the cook stove, and like firewood had to be constantly hauled into the house. A child’s job!

Out in the back yard, away from the trees, was a large, black cast iron pot. This was used for many things, such as boiling water, rendering lard from the fat meat of hogs during hog killings.

Nearby was a small building which was vented at the top. This was the smokehouse where the hog meat was cured using, of course, special wood from the woods.

The farmer’s cash crop was tobacco, which, after much time, labor and money got its golden touch in a tobacco curing barn. These barns were frequently made of logs from the woods and used wood from there as its fuel for heat.

There was another building out back which served a very useful purpose. The woodshed protected the family’s wood from the elements and was particularly appreciated during a snow storm. We kids did not like it much. Many spankings were rendered behind the woodshed!