Thursday, July 4, 2013

July 4th In The Days Of Old

The 4th of July always makes me think of Kentucky. 

When we were kids, we always went to my grandparents’ farm in Kentucky for the 4th.

It was like something out of the movies: the glory of Americana and the beauty of childhood. 

The farm was my grandfather’s family’s for generations.  His siblings' families were all very nearby.  Some right across the road or just down the road a piece. 

(You know how someone can live in America for years and their accent goes away until they speak to someone back home?  That is kind of how my mind works.  I just have to think of Kentucky and I think that lingo.)

I am not even sure if it was just the day of the 4th or the whole week of the 4th.  In my memories it seemed to last forever.  It was the best of times.

My papa (what my sister and I called our grandpa) raised a field of corn and a massive watermelon patch so we always had as much fresh corn and watermelon as we could eat.  This post came about because I just ate a piece of watermelon and I cannot do that without going back to 1980something eating watermelon fresh from the field.  And I cannot eat watermelon without wishing I had a pig to toss the rind to when I am done.  Did I mention my papa raised pigs too? 

My papa was one of 6 (8 if you count the twins that died at birth), so you can imagine all of his siblings, nieces, nephews and great or even great-great nieces and nephews that were around.  It was a giant party. 

Imagine a huge open field on a hill with a small home at the top of the hill.  A cornfield to your left (if you are looking at the home from the road).  A red smokehouse next to the home, a red barn to the right of the smokehouse and back a bit.  A wire-fenced area of dirt under which a crop of potatoes grew that was just in front of the barn.  You might see a few horses in that area.  A dog might run down to greet you.  Several cats would be around the smokehouse.  Hopefully the pigs were in their area behind the barn, but they probably were figuring out how to escape.  And trees all behind the property.  The property was lined by woods.  There were a few trees near the home too. 

One of the trees on the opposite side of the gravel driveway that led from the road to the smokehouse was the tree on which my papa had placed a large nail.  On that nail we would put these fireworks that, once lit, would spin like a pinwheel and shoot out colorful sparks and squeal.  It was awesome. 

Most veterans of war hate fireworks.  Not my papa.  He fought 36 months on the front lines during WWII and brought home a purple heart for his efforts.  He LOVED the 4th of July, I think, more than the kids. 

We always had BAGS and BAGS of fireworks.  Bottle rockets, fountains and anything else you can imagine.  My papa, though, loved plain old firecrackers the most and would laugh with delight when he set them off.  One year he broke off my step-dad’s cigar to use to light them.  He called it a pucy-puter.  Not really sure where he got that term, but it stuck. 

The fourth was filled with all the fireworks you could dream, grilled meats, fresh corn, kidney bean salad, macaroni salad and probably any other salad you could imagine.  And pie.  The best pie was my Aunt Sue’s Pecan Pie.  My papa’s brother J.D.’s wife and she made the absolute best pecan pie ever.  I dream about that pie sometimes.  I’ve made pecan pie and bought many a pecan pie, but none could ever hold a candle to hers. 

All of the food was covered in those little mesh net canopies everyone had back then to keep the flies off.  I loved those covers.  They don’t make them like that anymore. Those covers were just one of the visuals in the camera lens of my memory that makes the 4th perfect.

It’s been many years since we had a 4th like that.  My papa died before I was a teenager.  His death started a trend of change.  People moved away, older family members passed away, life evolved. 

Now the 4th is more subdued and I always long for the good old days.

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