Monday, June 15, 2009

Redneck Roots

In this weeks reader mail Amanda asks, "I am interested to know what makes you call yourself a redneck. Will u tell me?"

Well sure I will tell you! I call myself a redneck because I grew up on a farm 10 miles outside of a town of 480 people. So in many ways I am a very simple man of very simple pleasures from a very simple way of life. From a place where everybody knew everybody (damn it, you *can't* hide anything) and the best place to pick up girls was family reunions. (kidding) :)

Our phone book was about 20 pages total including ads. I remember being a kid and seeing a commercial on TV for a variety show (who remembers those?) where they said, "See the worlds strongest man tear a phone book in half!" I remember being quite confused and thinking, "I am only 10 years old and I can tear a phone book in half. Why would they make a bid deal about that?

In spite of 8 years of higher education, outside of formal settings I still say "aint" quite a bit. In fact, "thatanna" is a word in my personal lexicon, as in "thatanna gonna work!". :)

My mother was not ready to be a mother yet so as a child I spent a lot of time with her parents and her aunts and uncles. So the people I thought of as my aunts and uncles were really my great aunts and uncles. So in many ways I was a generation behind as well being a hick! :) Then to top it off those folks were NOT into the latest and greatest. Case in point, my (great) uncle Frank used horse drawn farm equipment until after World War II. Then he used the hand crank to start his tractor until 1972. "A starter is just one more thing to break" he often told people

I was little but I remember that winter day when he could not get the tractor started. He cranked and cranked that little hand crank and that tractor would not start. It was bitterly cold that morning but I stayed warm just from the endless streak of cussing that burst forth between every bought of cranking. That after noon we went to town and ordered a battery, starter and generator for the tractor.(in a town of 450 people, other than groceries and general supplies you don't just go buy something, you order it)

Can you imagine? Three years after man landed on the moon we still hand started tractors.

Oh, you want to hear "Old School"? The first thing I had to do in the morning when I woke up was to start the fire in the kitchen stove. (that big cast iron stove took time to heat up to cooking temps!) Corn cobs and a little kerosene make good kindling then start feeding in the larger pieces of wood. For regular cooking I only had to stoke the firebox on one end of the stove but if my Aunt(s) were baking then I had to stoke the fireboxes on both end of the stove. The BIGGEST part of being a good baker is fire control!

So where did the fire wood come from you ask? Well, you see they had this long wooden handle with a wedge shaped piece of steel attached to one end. By swinging the steel wedge against a piece of wood enough times you could cut it. No, no! I *am* serious!

Now that the wood is cut to one foot lengths, think you are done? Heh, nope! After you cut it to length then you have to split it. The best firewood for cook stoves is about the same diameter as your wrist. So if you start with a piece of Sycamore one foot in diameter, that is a lot of splitting. I liked splitting better than chopping because with some practice you can split a piece of wood with one blow where as chopping took a while and I am totally into instant gratification!

Now in the summer it did not take long to chop and split enough wood to keep the kitchen stove going. The winter though was a different story. Besides the cook stove there were three other "pot belly" stoves in the house to feed wood to as well. Then I had heaters in three stock tanks as well. You have to keep the stock tanks thawed so the live stock can drink. An adult cow consumes 15 gallons of water per day. You can't have them licking ice! :) So with six fires burning 24 hours and a seventh at mealtimes firewood became a full time job.

No wonder I was such a skinny kid!

It's also no wonder I grew up dreaming of space travel. There is no wood to chop in space!

Is that enough Amanda or shall I go on? :)


Amanda said...

Thanks Rob! That was great.

Astrogirl426 said...

Please do share more! I love hearing about other people's childhoods, especially when they differ so much from my own (I was born and raised in NYC, nuff said).

Tanya said...

Wow, how old are you? ;)Although I think it would be great to be that self-sufficient and know how to split logs.

Callsign Echo said...

LOL I thought Dad was funny for always jump starting the tractor. Of course it makes sense not to keep a battery in something you only run every few months or so. But that's how knowledge of electrical systems snuck into my little country bumkin head.

Now I ought to tell him install a crank. He's such a luddite he'd love it.

Melek said...

love this recollection. you may have hated it as a kid, but it sure makes a great story now :)