Summer on Philley Lane

Plowing the garden
Memories are funny things. Some memories cross over events. Some of this story I have written in other memories, but the memories cross over and support this story as well. I hope it recalls some of your memories for you.
It was August 1956. I was 10 and brother Wayne was 7. Sister Kellye hadn’t come along yet. Wayne and I spent our days out on Philley Lane at our grandparents home. Mom and Dad were working and school was out for the summer so this was our childcare facility.
Granddaddy and Grandmam, these were the terms of endearment we used for our Huff grandparents, lived on a working farm. The house was white with the old white asbestos shingles. There was a large front porch covering the width of the house. It had been an old Army barracks at Camp Monticello, Arkansas during the war and the story I heard is that it housed Italian POWs. At any rate, my grandfather and a couple of my uncles went to Camp Monticello, bought the barracks and dismantled it there. They hauled it in pieces back to Philley Lane and re-assembled it there. It had water piped in from a well behind the house into the kitchen, but no running water anywhere else in the house. Yep, no bathroom. The outhouse was about a hundred yards south of the main house and near the chicken house. Not too bad really except in the dead of winter. The last time I used that outhouse, I saw a chicken snake up in the rafters and left the job unfinished. I found other places to relieve myself after that.
From the end of school in May until the beginning of school in September, Wayne and I never wore a shirt or shoes. We also never wore shorts, always blue jeans. We became quite adept at entertaining ourselves out on Philley Lane. We were too young yet to be “good hands,” but Grandmam Huff always had some useful chores for us to accomplish. The worst was crawling under the house to gather eggs from nests under there. Chickens are not particular where they relieve themselves either and crawling under the house was like crawling through a minefield. You never knew when your hand or knee would find a chicken landmine.
One of the things Wayne and I loved to do was play Tarzan. Granddaddy Huff had a peach orchard and we would pretend it was a jungle where we could climb up the trees and eat the wonderful fruits that grew up there.
Philley Lane was a gravel road, but in July and August it was covered by a fine powdery dust. People driving past were mostly respectful and slowed down when passing the houses otherwise we’d be bathed in this fine powder. I remember walking up the lane to Harlene Philley’s house. I never knew for sure, but I am pretty sure the lane was named after her family. The dust on the road was soft and warm on my bare feet and it is a memory that lingers yet. Harlene was a couple years older than me and I would pretty much do whatever she told me to. She loved to play house under the brush arbor that was next to her house. I wasn’t quite old enough to appreciate playing house with an older woman and besides it was usually more like playing school and she was always the teacher and I was the student. She taught me how to tie my shoes under that arbor.
As I said, Wayne and I were not big enough yet to be “good hands,” but Grandmam would make us cotton sacks out of old flour sacks. We’d go out to the field with the real hands that were dragging six foot long sacks and filling them faster than we could fill our flour sacks. A good hand could pick several hundred pounds of cotton a day. Seems to me I heard that the best ones could pick a bale a day and I believe a bale of cotton was 500 pounds. When a cotton sack was filled they would drag it over to the cotton trailer and Granddaddy would hang their sack on the cotton scales to weigh the sack. He would dutifully record the worker’s name and number of pounds in his tally book. When Wayne and I would get our sacks filled Granddaddy would take our little sacks of cotton and hang them on the cotton scales and write the weight and our names in his little tally book too. At the end of the day we’d get a quarter for our efforts, but we had fun doing it. Later on when we were old enough to be “good hands” the farm work ceased to be fun, at least for me.
Granddaddy had a mule named Mike. For some reason we always called the mule “Old Mike.” Not sure why, I had no idea how old Mike was. I loved to ride Old Mike. Usually it was when Granddaddy was plowing the garden with him (see the attached photo). There was other livestock too. Granddaddy had cattle, just a few head, and he had pigs. I remember being sent to the pasture to herd the few head of cattle back to the feed lot. They had been eating grass in the pasture all day, but Granddaddy would bring them back to the lot in the evening. There were usually a couple of milk cows in the herd and they would go into stalls where Granddaddy would milk them. He let us try a couple of times, and I finally got the hang of it, but I was not a very good milkmaid. If he had any other livestock, I don’t remember it.
Summers on Philley Lane were pretty special and I remember them fondly. One day, I suppose those days will be all I will remember and I guess there are worse things to recall than warm, soft dust on bare feet.

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