Prompt For Ronovan’s Friday Fiction Challenge #6

Challenge This Week: Write about a family gathering. No Word Count limit this week, just no book lengths please.

Sunday Papers Spread Across Saturday’s Floor

Sundays are special!  We considered them a day of rest from the normal farm chores, other than milking and tending the animals. Sundays included driving to Fingal for the parish service and returning home to sit down to a meal. Mom and my sister worked long hours preparing the best meal of the week. Next Sunday was going to be extra special. Our parish priest, Father Koehler, would be coming to our farm to spend the day.

Father Koehler’s house keeper told us that he was coming. That simple statement ignited frenzy in my family’s world. There was no greater honor, than hosting the priest for a meal. A Sunday Dinner was more than mom could have imagined.

Everything would have to be perfect. We would be eating in the dining room, with the table fully extended. We brought Great Grandma’s white linen table-cloth out of the cedar chest and ironed it to perfection. The family polished the silver along with a laundry list of chores given to every member. No detail of the preparation was left to chance.

The boys washed windows, dusted lights, and polished wooden furniture. Dad caught, dispatched, plucked, and butchered three spring chickens. We dug fresh potatoes, snapped string beans, and brought canned red beets out of the cellar. Everything had to be perfect!

Saturday arrived with one last major project to be completed. The linoleum covered kitchen floor. For those not familiar with that old floor covering, it was a hard brittle surface that showed scuffs and always needed a fresh coat of wax to avoid looking dull. It was a three-hour chore that no self-respecting woman would omit. So just after lunch mom put water on the stove to heat (We had no indoor plumbing) and moved the kitchen table and chairs to the hall.

With hot water, lye based soap, and back-breaking strokes mom scrubbed and waxed the floor. To protect her work she spread newspapers all over the linoleum to keep dirty foot prints at bay. God help the man who would accidentally blunder off the newspapers and leave a track.

The day of Father Koehler’s visit had arrived. Mom’s day of rest began at sun up, with fresh pies in the oven and white bread rising on the mantle. Dad and the older boys went to milk the cows and feed the animals. An hour before mass, we did our final clean up and put on our Sunday Go-to-Meeting clothing. With the meal set to low, all eight of us loaded into Buick. We drove the five miles to church where we march down the aisle to our pew. We stood taller knowing that so many in the church knew that Father Koehler was coming to our farm after church today.

After church we hurried home to set the table and make sure the meal was ready.  Eager to be out-of-the-way, we boys waited outside for Father Koehler arrival. Our mouths watered just thinking of the food inside. We also knew that after the meal, we would clear the table to make room for the Royal Rummy Game and the piles of pennies we would bet.

Father Koehler spent the entire afternoon and most of the night laughing, talking and playing cards. By the end of the evening he had successfully cleaned out our penny supply and deposited them into his coin bag. He laughed as he thanked us for the donation to his cause that he stuffed in his jacket. It was his standard joke; everyone knew he used the money to fund the summer bible school.

Our family waved goodbye as father’s car drove down the prairie road back to Fingal.

Life on the farm was hard, but pleasant recollections stand out the best. Good food and good times are always the best memories.

-Clarence Holm


Those Dumb Old Clucks

Farm Girl Feeding Chickens by Julien Dupre (1851-1910)

Farm Girl Feeding Chickens by Julien Dupre (1851-1910) (Fowls seem so innocent in this picture!)

Life on the farm was pretty good for a small boy and his brothers. Too young to really run any large machinery like the combines or big tractors, we were relegated to barnyard and farm chores. We actually enjoyed doing them and appreciated having jobs that had a beginning, an end and generated a feeling of accomplishment.

Want us to pull weeds in the garden – no problem! Rocks need picking in the back 80, let us drive the small tractor and we were on it. Cleaning manure out of the barn in the spring – not a favorite, but we understood the need.

However, ask us to collect eggs from the old clucks in the hen-house on the farm and we found places we’d rather be.

Gathering eggs from the young chickens wasn’t the problem. These were sociable hens that understood the pecking order. You could easily reach into their nest while they were on it and collect the egg(s). These birds understood the order imposed by the old rooster and played their role. On the other hand, approaching a cluck required nerves of steel, a steady hand, and a willingness to take one for the team. Those squat fowls knew as soon as you entered the coop that you were in their to take their most treasured possession.

As soon as you opened the hen-house door, those “old bitties” would start a low-pitched moan that would grow in intensity as you got closer. Those she devils would stare you in the eye with a cocked head as if daring you to “Bring it on”. As you got closer, the wings would rise a bit and their shoulders would straighten as they leaned forward in a pecking stance.

Just as you worked up the courage to grab the eggs, the wings would start flapping and a gawd awful clucking scream would be issued. A grown man would cover his eyes for protection; a young boy just turned and ran. Once you were on the run, the chicken had you. Its beak found every uncovered piece of skin on your ankle and you paid the price for your insolence in blood. We would dash for the house praying that mom was coming with her broom and her commanding yell of “Shoo you old hens!”

A soothing voice, a glass of milk and my mom at our side, we settled down and awaited the next chore my folks required.