When I was a kid growing up we would all go to church on Sunday and then head straight over to my Grandma Smiths house and spend all afternoon eating lunch, playing outside, watching football and fellowshipping with family and friends. When I say family and friends, I mean the entire extended family of at least 20-30 people. My grandparents were not rich so I do not know how they fed all of us every week like that. We did have some great fresh garden veggies, potatoes and corn that was grown on the property. It was the coolest place to go and spend time growing up. We had all the outdoor activity a child or teenager needed.
Summertime Fun And Sports-
Summer time was my favorite season as the grass was nice and green and much softer to land on when your cousins and brothers piled on top of you playing tackle football. Of course, we played with no pads and you got busted up good on most Sundays. We played every sport you can think of, football, soccer, softball, baseball, basketball. It wasn’t just the kids playing, the adults played also and I remember some collisions with my aunts and uncles while chasing a ball or going for a goal. We would help each other up, laugh, and keep playing.
We had a basketball goal that was about 8 feet high and you could run and jump off the little hill behind it and try to dunk the ball when you got older. But, you had best watch out because someone older was going to try and stuff it back in your face and likely knock you down doing it. My brother Jerry loved to put it back in your face and did so to his son and daughter many times.
Cowboys vs. Redskins-
We watched football on the three main channels on that old box shaped television and if you were the closest to it, you became the remote control turning that little clicker button to change the channel. After changing the channel you had to adjust the rabbit ears to get the signal just right. Sometimes you had to freeze and not move so everyone could see the game or the Disney movie of the week. The family was divided between Cowboy and Redskin fans mostly. Might have been a few Falcon fans here and there and we didn’t have the Panthers to root for back then. The best seat was at the table near the television and nobody sat in grandpa’s chair. That corner chair was his, as I type I can see him sitting in that chair eating and watching football. It got loud at times and you couldn’t hardly hear from all the smack talking going on, and sometimes we had to go outside and settle it on Grandma’s football field.
My Grandma made the best biscuits ever. She did not make them real big, but they were just right and tasted so good. She wasted no batter, mix or dough and would cook every piece of that bread, even the little pieces that were left from cutting the round biscuits out of the dough. Those little ends were fabulous and hit the spot, especially with some good gravy, home made jelly or honey on top. You better not be the last few people through the line or you didn’t get any biscuits. We had a a saying around the house, “last one to the trough, don’t get fed” and that was the truth.
With all those children and teenagers the food got gone quick. The stove would be full of food and it was a treat to look in and see what that weeks surprise was. After lunch, we would have some nice cool watermelon that had been floating in the creek spinning as the water flowed cooling it off. My grandpa would put the watermelon on top of the old well house and cut it and you better get it and run or it was gone just like the food.
Hair Cutting Time-
My Aunt Shirley would cut hair on the back porch on Sundays. We would go one a time to get trimmed up and stay high and tight as young boys did back in those days. She would talk to us, tell us stories and cut our hair. Getting your hair cut was something you looked forward to because it meant something to the family and was an expectation. We all got our hair cut by mom or dad with the trimmers back then. You sat down and about a minute later you had some short hair like an army or marine. The girls had it a little better and Aunt Shirley kept them cut nice and neat like Marsha Brady. Shoulder length and cut straight across and beautiful. She could have made a fortune if she had spent all that time working in a salon cutting, but it was her way of giving back and taking care of us.
Playing in the Creek-
We had a small creek on the property that always flowed well and had some minnows, small fish and crawdads in it to catch. We would build up a damn on the creek so the water would get a few feet deep and then swing on the rope and fall into the water or see if we could swing all the way across the creek and land on the other side without getting wet, especially in the winter when the water was freezing. We would slide around on the ice in the creek during the winter playing hockey and laughing at each other for busting our tails.
When it rained real hard the creek would flood and the yard pitched in so all the water would lay there and I remember it being 2-3 inches deep and man we had a good time in that flood water. It seemed like a lake when you are a child, even though it was just a few inches deep. Either way, it was nice and cool, dirty, sloppy and fun to roll around in. I miss those days and the flooded yard on rainy days and Sundays.
We took our wrestling serious and you better not tell my grandpa it was fake. We would watch wrestling on television and then go outside and bust each other up with the moves. I have been body slammed, back dropped, closed lined and every now and then caught a kick off a tree limb or a running drop kick. Yes, it was rough and we didn’t know how to fake it very good so some of us ended up bruised, battered and occasionally broke an arm or got a few stitches. Of course, when someone got hurt nobody would tell how it happened, even though the adults knew it was the result of kids being stupid.
We were invincible back then, well at least we thought we were anyways. My brothers, cousins and myself did some high school wrestling so there were a few of those matches in the yard also. I remember my uncle Robert challenging my brother Dale to a match and I don’t think it worked out too good for him.
There was a pecking order back then. The way it worked was by generation and age. We ranged in age from toddler to twenty five and if you were the little brother, little cousin or youngest you got busted up, beat on, picked on, knocked down, dragged around the yard, buried in the garden head deep and other stuff I better not mention. If you got hurt, you better not go cry to mom, dad or grandma or else. It would be worse for you once they found out who snitched and the older ones got in trouble.
When we ran over into the neighbors garden to grab a watermelon, it was always the young ones that got sent into enemy lines. The older ones were the commanders and the younger ones were the grunts. We all knew our place in that pecking order until we got old enough to fight back or be promoted from grunt status. This continued for many years as we were all close in age and typically there were 3-4 of us about the same age all the time. My cousin Russel (I hope we did not scar you for life) got it bad when he was little. I apologize to you on behalf of Scott and I for carrying on the family traditions on you. I know you pushed it on down the line as well.
GI Joe, Hot Wheels and Tonka Trucks-
Man we had a good time with GI Joes, the old 12 inch kind that I wish I had to this day. We setup camps and everything to play with GI Joe, Big Jim and other action figures. Once they started making the smaller ones, I remember my cousin Shane and Nephew Jeremy playing with those toys on Sundays. Us older ones would throw firecrackers into their GI Joe camp and blow up the Joes and vehicles. You could sit in the creek or dirt pile and play for hours with hot wheels, GI Joe, Tonka trucks and other toys.
Junk Yard Finds and Dirt Clods-
Right across the street from Grandma Smiths house was a junk yard. Actually it was a trash dump and you would be surprised the cool toys, finds and contraptions we found raiding the junk yard every weekend. We were young and knew there was some cool stuff over there and the owner, even though he had a sign up saying to “keep out” was a family friend and distant kin so he knew we were going to be in there.
There was lots of dirt piles from his construction company and we would hide behind them and play war. Some reading this may remember being hit by a dirt clod in the face, neck or back a few times. If you stood up to throw and a cousin timed it right, you were going to get hit and hit hard. You shook the pain off, rubbed the dirt off your face and attacked back. Man I miss those dirt clod wars!
I could go on and on about those good old days and probably make it a book. My friends, family and neighbors made so many memories on that property and in those woods. The main thing it taught me was that God gave us nature to explore, enjoy and experience. My parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles taught us to work hard, play hard, have good moral values and how to take care of one another.
I still to this day want a property with an awesome stream that flows so sweetly. So I can Oneday watch the next generation play in the water, the mud, the woods and have the awesome life experience my family did. I wrote this one in honor of all my family, friends and those that grew up playing outdoors, in the creek, in the woods making all those wonderful memories you now can share with your kids.
God Bless! KB