Fish ponds and school carnivals

 

Back during my childhood years, I attended a small country school from first through the eighth grade. The school was small enough teachers had two grades per classroom (first and second, third and fourth, fifth and sixth, seven and eighth).

Every year around the end of February or beginning of March, the CSO (Community School Organization – better known as Parent Teacher Association) would host an indoor carnival in the school gymnasium. For the rural families who attended, it was an evening of games, treats, and a chance to get out and visit before the busyness of spring farm work descended.

I haven’t been able to find much history on school carnivals, other than they’ve been around a long time. They most often serve as a fundraiser for the school for something in particular.

A variety of games and booths were included each year, like the cake walk. Music played and you walked around in a circle on the numbers that had been taped to the floor. When the music stopped, you stood on a number, hoping the person pulling numbers out of a glass jar would pick yours. There were some wonderful bakers in our community and a cake made by them was awesome.

There were ring toss games, a ball toss, and several others to keep the youngsters busy.  My husband remembers a dig in the sand game from his school carnival days which entailed digging through a box of sand for poker chips. The color of the chip determined the type of prize. He, admittedly, watched to see which color garnered the best prizes and dug until he found one.

Tickets were sold at the door, just like for a carnival. I think they sold for something like 20 tickets for $5. Each game required a different number of tickets to play. The cakewalk seems like it took five.

My favorite game at the carnival was the fish pond. Sheets were hung on a rope, making an enclosed area. The students lined up on the outside of it with a “fishing pole,” which was usually a dowel or old broom handle with a piece of yarn attached to it. A clothespin dangled from the end of the string. After surrendering the appropriate number of tickets to play, you lifted up the pole and dropped the end behind the curtain, waiting with great anticipation of what treasure you’d “catch.” There were usually three parents helping with the booth. One who took the tickets and helped get the line over the curtain. One who stood at the side of the curtain and whispered which child was in line. And then the person who chose the prize and attached it to the line.

People donated items and funds for the carnival, and the fish pond seemed to have an assortment of treasures and junk.  Unlike the other games, the fish pond guaranteed a prize. And depending on which parent was helping behind the curtain, sometimes the prizes were so perfect for the child. It was fun because you had no idea what you’d get, but you knew you’d have something unexpected when you felt the tug on the string and pulled the line back over the curtain.

The winter I was eleven, my mom helped organize the carnival. I’d buzzed around the gym with my best friend, playing various games and spending way too many tickets at the cake walk (where she won a cake!), before I wandered over to the fish pond.

I should probably explain that anyone who even remotely knew me knew I liked pretty, girly things even though I was a farm girl who loved (and still loves) all things John Deere.

So I handed over the required tickets, lifted the pole and anxiously waited to see what treasure I’d receive. When the line gently tugged, the parent standing beside me carefully lifted it up over the curtain. A wrinkled brown paper sack hung from the clothespin.

“Be careful,” she warned as I unfastened the pin and opened the sack.

Inside was a little porcelain statue.

My childish heart pitter-pattered in excitement. I loved it! It was pretty, and pink, and so, so perfect for me.

Who cared about my friend’s silly cake when I held in my hands something so girly and sweet!

At the time, it didn’t register in my head when I saw my mom step out from behind the fish pond booth a few minutes later. But I know she was the one who chose that special little gift for me, knowing how much it would delight me.

I discovered the statue wasn’t a statue at all, but part of a salt and pepper set produced by Enesco in the 1950s. The pattern is Prayer Lady. There were numerous pieces produced in a variety of styles, from a tea pot and soap dish to a canister set. They also produced them in a blue color scheme.

But none of that mattered to me. What mattered was that someone I loved made sure I received something I loved.

My little prayer lady sits on a shelf by my kitchen sink and every time I look at it, I think of that carnival and my mom, and it warms my heart all over again.

Do you have any fun or special school memories?

Did your school put on a carnival? 

Post your answer for a chance to win a $5 Amazon Gift Card!

REMEMBRANCE: STORIES OF THE PAST by Cheryl Pierson

 

Many years ago, my aunt entered an essay contest at Austin College in Texas. Aunt Jo Anne was my dad’s younger sister. Her essay was about hog-killing time on their small farm in southeastern Oklahoma, but in her rich way of telling a story, she said so much more.

 

Aunt Jo Anne was my dad’s only sister, and she was a strong “influencer” in our family. She had a very dynamic personality, and was full of surprises. Born in 1929, she was seven years younger than my dad and they loved each other dearly. Though she accomplished many things, her family was the most important—the dearest thing—in her life.

 

 

This is her recollection of the yearly ritual of hog-killing. She remembers this particular time when she was nine years old. When she wrote this essay, she was in her late seventies or early eighties, and she passed away 2 years ago at the age of 88. Here she is below, writing a letter to her husband, my Uncle Earl, during the Korean War when he was overseas.

This essay is a treasure to me because it lets me have a glimpse of her as a child, of my grandparents as younger people, and of other family members like my Aunt Grace, who was my grandmother’s sister. Remembering Aunt Jo Anne and the wonderful stories she told about our family (she knew and remembered so many things—I tried to write some of them down!) as I read this essay makes me wish she had written more things like this.

My dad, Fred, with little sis, Jo Anne in front. Behind them are two of their first cousins. This was taken around 1933-1934 or so. Dad would have been about 11 or 12, and Jo Anne would have been 4 or 5.

 

I hope you enjoy this glimpse back in time.

 

REMEMBRANCE
By: Jo Anne Jackson

This was, for sure, hog killing weather—the deep, frigid
cold of late November, 1941. The blue “norther” had
subsided to a deep and bitter cold. Yes, fine weather for the
yearly ritual at our small row-crop farm.

Everything was ready. Only yesterday, Dad filled the
old black wash pot with well-bucket after well-bucket of
water and then staked wood from the ample woodpile to
surround what would become a scalding cauldron. My
mother had stitched long, white tubing that would encase the
pork sausage. Every crock, dish pan, and kettle was
thoroughly scrubbed.

By lamplight, Dad had carefully sharpened every utility
knife, giving close attention to the butcher knives. I watched
closely the rhythm-like back and forth motion of metal on
whet stone.

Aunt Jo Anne (RIGHT) and a cousin–both were 5 years old in this picture, and a few days after this was taken, her little cousin died of a ruptured appendix.

One of the largest shoats had been penned and fed rich
rations of grain and ‘shorts’, a thick, smelly mixture we
called slop. Discards from the kitchen were thrown in, also.

Next morning, Dad was up before sunrise, starting fires
in the wood heater and kitchen stove. He then went to coax
the kindling and larger sticks to a kind of red-hot furnace
around the wash pot.

At light of day, Aunt Grace and Uncle Bill drove up,
sitting high on the spring board seat of their farm wagon.
The horses were led into the barn lot, where they would
spend a day’s rest with plenty of grain and hay spread on the
wagon bed. No occasion—certainly not hog killing—could be
undertaken without the counsel and experience of this wise
old couple. They had seen much of life’s sweetness and
sadness.

My dad, Fred, and my Aunt Jo Anne clowning around by “striking a pose” many years later.

Mom poured the last of the morning coffee; steaming
cups were held close, everyone appreciating the soothing
warmth—and I was not to be left out; my small cup was
filled with cream and milk, a teaspoon of sugar and 2 or 3
teaspoons full of the hot beverage. Oh, the rich goodness of
that caramel concoction!

Talk turned to news of weather, family and community.
I was puzzled when, briefly, there was mention of England,
Germany and France—I surely didn’t comprehend the names
Hitler and Mussolini.

Then the long day’s work began. When Dad reached
for the .22 rifle, I ran back to my bed, lying face down with
eyes squeezed tight, holding my hands over my ears. But
even so, the crack of the rifle and high shrill squeal of that
animal I can recall vividly these decades later.

I watched from the kitchen window as the work
progressed. Boiling water was poured into a metal barrel
and then tilted downward ever so slightly. This became a
seething cauldron; ugly, but necessary, I knew. A make-shift
pulley and hoist would lift the dead animal into that scalding
baptism.

Dad and my uncle worked in close harmony, scraping
clean the hot clinging bristles, exposing the pink-white
coloring of snout, belly and back. Then followed the more
tedious work of quartering, slicing and discarding.
All day they labored, and that labor would provide meat
for our table. Long winter months lay ahead, but our
provisions were more than ample: spare ribs, loin,
backbone, jowls, bacon, sausage, and ham. Come
Christmas, a ham would be served, for our house would
overflow with cousins, second cousins, uncles and aunts,
toddlers and babes in arms (sweet, sweet fellowship, hours
of play and whispered secrets).

The sun was low when my mother called supper. The
coal-oil lamp in the center of the kitchen table provided a
mellow light.


Both men washed up, using wet hands to pat down
their hair, rumpled and tangled from a day that allowed no
time for combing.

Our places were set, four high backed chairs and the
kitchen stool for me, a child of nine years… Oh, that feast:
fried tenderloin, red eye gravy, small red potatoes boiled
with the jackets on… Everyone became seated and quiet as
our heads bowed to repeat The Lord’s Prayer.

 

Mom then brought the first pan of her wonderful buttermilk biscuits to
the table, hot from the oven, Everyone ate heartily, the men
enjoying a “roll your own” cigarette of Prince Albert tobacco
as they relaxed in the warmth of that small, cramped kitchen.
But hog killing was not over just because the hog was
killed. Much remained to be done.


Meat for sausage was ground, seasoned with just the
right amount of salt, pepper, and sage. One must be extra
careful with the sage, for even a little too much would ruin the
whole crock. (Words spoken by that lovable Aunt Grace, an
authority on sausage making. And indeed, she was.) The
white tubing was packed tightly with the sausage, then hung
by long baling wire from rafters in the smokehouse.
Then came the day for rendering fat to make our lard;
and the delicious crunch of the “cracklings” was the by-product.
A cup of crushed cracklings made a skillet of hot
cornbread really, really good.

Pork cracklings–a favorite dish “then and now”–you can buy them in bags to snack on these days!

The old black wash pot was put into service that one
last time for soap making. Mother’s lye soap was a product
she was most proud of. She knew by memory the exact
amount of grease, lye, and whatever else went into this
product. She wielded a long-handled wooden paddle to stir,
being careful to stay clear of the hot coals. When this
mixture reached a consistency that was absolutely, 100
percent right, and ashes covered the coals, she kept stirring,
only more slowly. lt took two or three days for the soap to
set up. LYE SOAP! In those long-ago years it was used to
wash dishes, to scrub our bare wood floors, and to bathe our
bodies when times were especially lean. When our city kin
visited in the summer, my aunt always asked, “Mary, do you
have an extra bar of your soap? The girls so love it for
shampoo.”

The week’s hum of activity gradually wound down.
Uncle Bill added a bit more preservative to the hams, sides
of bacon were wrapped and hung, buckets of pure white lard
were put in the storm cellar—placed on shelves next to
Mom’s prized lye soap.

These were my people: resourceful, honest,
hardworking, humble, and always true to their convictions of
right and wrong.

Only days later, December 7, 1941, our close-knit,
secure world was rocked asunder. WWII was upon us and
our way of life forever changed.

Now, in quiet times, I see them still, seated in lamp light
at our kitchen table, heads bowed in prayers of praise and
thanksgiving. The Lord had provided for another year.

Do you have a memory like this of a special time in your childhood that stands out in your mind? Please share!

THE TREASURE OF FAMILY by MISTY M. BELLER

Hi folks, I’m so excited to join you fillies during this special 4th of July week!

I’m an old-fashioned girl. Always have been. And growing up on the family farm, with grandparents in the old farmhouse next door and cousins living all around us, I can’t imagine my life without family. Now that I’m married with four kids of my own, I treasure my family even more—both immediate and extended!

In my books, I tend to weave the importance of family into each story somewhere, and my newest release, This Healing Journey, is no exception! It’s the story of a father, seeking out the son he gave up as an infant. The story of unconditional love.

I first met these characters in book 1 of this series, This Treacherous Journey, beginning the book with Simeon Grant—a father who was grieving the loss of his wife and feeling as if he has no choice but to give his newborn twins to another family to raise. I wrote this part of the story a week after my third daughter was born, and I cried buckets through the writing!

Now in my newest book, the baby boy is all grown up. And Simeon finally puts action to that longing to know the son he loves more than he can say.

The story has an even stronger emotional connection for me, because my younger brother and sister were both adopted into our family. I can’t imagine their birth parents having the courage to give them up for adoption unless they knew without a doubt it was the best choice for those sweet babies!

As we reach the halfway point of 2019, the year has already brought many changes to our family! We just welcomed a new baby to our family on June 5th—a sweet little boy named Matthew. His three sisters are definitely in love! 

My brother and his wife also added to their family, bringing a new baby girl to snuggle. I never tire of hearing “Aunt Misty” from a sweet toddler voice. On the other hand, my grandparents—my heroes—seem to age a little more each day, reminding me again that time is precious. I must seize every moment I can to enjoy those God has given me a special connection to.

So, as you enter the summer months, it’s my prayer that you’ll take a moment to cherish your own family. Remember all the special moments. Spend extra time with those you love. Relish the treasures God placed in your life!

What about you? Do you have a special family memory to share? Or maybe you’ve seen changes in your family this year! Share in the comments below for a chance to win a signed paperback of This Healing Journey. I can’t wait to hear your stories!

Bio:

Misty M. Beller is a USA Today bestselling author, writing romantic mountain stories set on the 1800s frontier and woven with the truth of God’s love.

She was raised on a farm in South Carolina, so her Southern roots run deep. Growing up, her family was close, and they continue to keep that priority today. Her husband and daughters now add another dimension to her life, keeping her both grounded and crazy.

God has placed a desire in Misty’s heart to combine her love for Christian fiction and the simpler ranch life, writing historical novels that display God’s abundant love through the twists and turns in the lives of her characters. 

Misty loves to connect at her website, FacebookGoodreadsTwitter, Bookbub, and Pinterest

 

 

This Healing Journey: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07PXF6VGR/a/strong/p?tag=pettpist-20

The mountain wilderness of her family’s home in the Canadian Rockies is all Hannah Grant has ever known. Now at the age of twenty-four, she’s on a journey to help her father to find the son he gave up for adoption three decades before. This is Hannah’s chance to discover the life she’s missed out on so far—and hopefully find a husband along the way. But she certainly doesn’t plan to fall for the first man she meets. 

Years in the cavalry provided Nathaniel Peak with more than his share of violence and adventure. That life behind him, he wants nothing more than to settle down in the beautiful Montana mountains and raise his own stock—in peace. The last thing he expects is the savagely wounded child who shows up in his barn. Nor the woman he comes to rely on for the girl’s care. 

Hannah can’t help but fall in love with the brave Indian child who so desperately needs her, but no matter what, she can’t let herself fall for the man whose past choices go against everything she believes in. As the situation grows worse, Hannah and Nathaniel are forced to make a heart-rending decision to save the girl’s life. Little do they imagine, the choice they make could spell disaster for them all.