The Growing Up Country Series is in collaboration with Tatum Evans of Woodsy Wife. To see more from her, be sure to subscribe to her website and follow her on Facebook. Catch up on the previous posts here: Part One and Part Two and Part Three.
Take some time to enjoy reading about what life was like "growing up country".
The Bobcat on the Pole
Story by Helen (retold by Sadie)
One day, Helen and Jim were walking home from school. They were happy to be going home after a day at the one room schoolhouse a mile away from their home and excited for the rest of their day. The two walked along the dirt road, listening to the sound of the happy birds and the singing frogs when all of a sudden Jim looked up. His face had turned white and his eyes were like saucers as he stared up towards the sky.
Curious as to what it was had scared Jim so, Helen followed Jim’s gaze up the telephone pole. There, hissing and snarling at the top of the pole was an angry animal who was not happy to have company along his road. The animal was huge with sharp glinting teeth and angry fluttering eyes. On the top of his head stood two tall ears with little tufts of hair sticking out, he had a short stubby tail, and his brown checkered fur glistened in the sunlight.
It was the biggest bobcat Helen and Jim had ever seen, and both were paralyzed with fear as the angry bobcat peered down the pole at them. Jim, being young and letting his fear take over, whispered to Helen, “Oh my God, it’s a cougar!”
Helen trembled with fear, but she knew she had to run and keep Jim safe. “Let’s get out of here!” she whispered and she grabbed Jim’s arm and they began to run as fast as they could back towards the schoolhouse.
They could think of nothing more but getting away from that giant and terrifying cat. They ran as fast as they could, too afraid to look back to see if that cat was following. All of a sudden, a sound from behind them forced them to turn around. There, coming down the road, was the dust from a car. Relieved to see another person, Helen and Jim began to slow to a walk. The car pulled up beside them. It was Ma and Pa! They were on their way into town get some supplies they had needed when they had seen Helen and Jim running the opposite way from home. Helen and Jim rushed into the car and told their parents everything. They had never been so happy to see their parents and to be safe once again. Every time they walked to and from school after that, their eyes always looked up into those telephone poles for that big cat who might be lurking and waiting.
The Manure Fiasco
Story by Sadie
We spent a lot of time playing and making memories at Grandma's and Grandpa's farm growing up, but one of my favorite memories looking back is the manure fiasco.
My cousins, Taylor and Jessie, and brother Jake were all playing in the barn. We weren't supposed to go outside to the little opening behind the old barn and connected to the "new"one, mostly because there was an electric fence and a large manure pile. But on this day, that exact spot was calling our names, and we all decided it would be fun to go out and explore there.
We started to walk around at this forbidden place, when all of a sudden the door behind us slammed shut. I could hear laughing on the other side and I knew that my loving little brother had locked us out there. We were trapped on an peninsula in a manure pond.
As we looked out onto the pond of manure, I noticed that along the fence line was a small patch of grass. This patch of grass was just big enough to walk upon, and it led all the way back to the front of the barn. I summoned my courage and I boldly declared that to outsmart Jake and not let him win, we had to get out of this predicament ourselves. We would walk along that patch of grass, come out to the front of the barn, and emerge victorious!
Taylor decided to stay behind- she didn't like the idea of it and thought it would be best to wait until someone let us out. But I was ready for adventure now, and my stubborn spirit didn't want to let Jake win, so it was up to me now to free us all. So Jessie and I began our journey slowly sliding under the electric fence and walking carefully along the grass line. All was going very well...until the grass started to run out. Our path was narrowing, and soon there would be no path at all. I noticed an old trough in the manure pond, and made a quick decision that walking on it would help us advance on our journey. We began to balance, taking step by step and hand-in-hand. Around the trough we went, slowly- when Jessie started to slip.
Something hit my back hard. Really hard. I swung around in anger to scream at my little brother who I was sure had thrown a rock at me, but he wasn't there. It was just Taylor.
"Did you throw a rock at me?" I demanded.
"No!" she yelled back.
I looked around for answers. If it wasn't a rock that hit me, what was it? Jessie began to teeter again....with her hand still in mine she reached for something to balance and grabbed the fence.
That was it! When Jessie grabbed the fence, the electricity went through her into me. I was getting shocked by the fence!
All at once my bravery was gone and I no longer wanted to do this adventure. My new goal was to escape as fast as I could, and that meant getting Grandma to save us.
Meanwhile, Jake had gone back into the house and had unlocked the door. We could have just used it if we hadn't been so set on looking smart and winning over him! I screamed to Taylor to get help as we started going into panic mode. Taylor ran up to the house.
Thump! Thump! The fence was merciless as it struck us again and again. I was in tears, but I knew we had to get off of this trough! I stepped into the manure pond, up to my waist, and began to wade through it. Jessie followed, and soon we were at the front of the barn, but in no way were we emerging victorious like we had hoped. Our heads hung, we were sore, and we were full of cow manure.
Grandma and Taylor were running from the house towards us. Taylor had told Grandma that Jessie and I had been electrocuted, and when Grandma found out we had just touched the fence and weren't dead, her fear turned to anger. She grabbed us and drug us to the front of the house, bringing the hose around front and spraying us off with it. Jessie and I were in tears, sobbing from the experience that was supposed to bring us to victory but only led to defeat.
Then, Grandma cracked a smile and started laughing. Her laugh put me back at ease and all was right in the world again. We laughed too, and today I still laugh, as I remember back to that manure fiasco.
The Sugar Sack
Story by Helen (retold by Sadie)
Though it seemed like it might, the winter didn’t last forever and soon the snow began to melt. Songbirds returned to the leafless trees and began to sing songs to tell spring that it was time to come back home to Kennan. There was a new smell of freshness in the air, and yellow cowslips bloomed in the ditches and purple violets began to cover the forest floor.
Helen and Jim were happy to be able to see the green grass beginning to show and they liked walking on on the muddy earth and feeling the cold brown mud squish between their toes. There was always something fun to play when spring came back to town.
One morning, as Jim and Helen finished their morning chores and were ready to start on their walk to school, Ma told them that they’d have to bring a lunch to school today. Usually, Mrs. ____ cooked the lunches at her home a half mile from school, but today she couldn’t get the lunches into the school, for the mud had prevented her from getting her car out of her driveway.
“Jim, be sure to grab the lunch,” Ma said. “I’ve put it in the sugar sack on the counter.”
“Ok, Ma.” Jim answered, grabbing the sack off the counter.
Helen and Jim started off on their mile long walk to school. It was a lovely day. The sun was just starting to rise in the east, coloring the bright blue sky with dashes of soft pinks. Jim whistled happily as he swung the sugar sack lunch. “I can’t wait to eat this lunch today!” he said to Helen. “It’s so heavy, Ma must have packed a lot!”
All day Jim’s mind was on that lunch. “What could Ma have packed for them?” He wondered. His mouth watered as he daydreamed of the freshly baked bread and venison meat that might be in that sugar sack.
When it was time for lunch, all of the students went outside. Jim and Helen sat together under a tree. “Finally,” Jim said, “we get to eat this feast!” Helen was excited too. Their ma was a great baker and cook and she knew whatever she had packed would be a good meal.
When Jim opened up the sack, his smile turned to instant disappointment.
“What is it, Jim? Is it liverwurst?” Helen asked. She wasn’t particularly fond of liverwurst.
“It’s sugar!” Jim yelled. “I grabbed the sugar sack with the sugar! No wonder it was so heavy...It was sugar!”
Both Jim and Helen looked at each other. They were both very hungry and couldn’t imagine having to wait until dinner to eat again. After all, they’d both been thinking about that wonderful heavy lunch in the sugar sack all day. Plus, Ma would be missing the sugar and would probably be looking for it.
Helen asked Mrs. Sotabeer if it would be alright for her to run home and grab the lunch. She’d be late to get back to class, but she promised she’d hurry. Mrs. Sotabeer agreed and said Jim and Helen could eat once she got back and after class had begun.
So Helen began the trek back home. Normally, the trip was a mile and would take a good 20 minutes there and another 20 minutes back, but there was a shortcut that could take an extra 10 minutes off of the trip. The only problem was that the shortcut was through Kenny Harrelson’s field, and in that field lived a mean old bull who was always looking for trouble. Helen was in a hurry and she figured the bull would probably be over by the barn getting water at this time of day, so she decided to take the shortcut.
Helen ducked under the fence and started walking through the field. It was a big open field, full of bright green grass. Little spots of yellow dandelions were sprinkled throughout the open field and the killdeer ran around shouting at Helen for being there. Suddenly all of the killdeer flew up and away as if they had been startled. Helen stopped and listened. Behind her she heard a noise. It was fairly far away yet, but it sounded like it was getting closer. It sounded like someone shouting; maybe Jim had found the lunch and was trying to catch her. She turned around to hear who it was shouting, but her heart started to flutter when she saw what was really making that noise. Helen felt her blood turn cold as she watched that mean old bull paw at the dirt behind her. It was clear that Helen was not welcome here in this pasture and that mean old bull was going to make sure she knew it. He tossed his big black head, showing off his sharp and pointed horns. He grunted and snorted, pawing at the dirt heavily. The sound was terrifying, and it made Helen regret her choice to take the field shortcut.
Helen started backing away, keeping her eyes on that mean old bull. The bull stayed put, snorting and bellering, tossing his head back and forth. Helen had built a little cushion between her and the bull and she could see the fence wasn’t too far away. She kept backing slowly, when all of a sudden that mean bull started into a trot and then a full run right towards her.
Helen turned around and started running. Her long skinny legs made her a fast runner and she ran as fast as she could towards the fence. Behind her and gaining quickly chased that bull, fully ready to teach Helen not to come back to his field. Helen reached the fence and dove under it. She quickly stood up and got back on her feet to keep running towards her house. Fearful that the bull had broken through the fence and was right behind her, she glanced back towards the fence. She could hardly believe her luck as she saw that bull still behind the fence, pawing and bellering at her again. She’d made it and the bull hadn’t thought she was worth the trouble of breaking through the fence.
When she made it back home, Ma was startled to see her. “What on earth are you home for at this time of day?” she asked Helen.
Helen told Ma how Jim had accidentally grabbed the sugar sack full of sugar and how she had taken the shortcut through Harrelson’s field only to be chased by the bull. Ma scolded Helen for taking that shortcut; being a big girl at 9 years old, she should’ve known better than to risk that danger of being hurt by the bull. Ma told Helen not to go back to school that way, and Helen agreed. She didn’t want to go on that shortcut again, no matter how much time she saved!
When she got back to school, Jim and Helen got to eat their lunch while Mrs. Sotabeer and the rest of the kids had class. Helen was still so flustered about the bull, that she had lost her appetite. She sat and looked out the window, feeling very lucky she’d made it away from that mean old bull.
Looking for More?
Enjoy even more stories from Tatum and her readers over at Woodsy Wife! Don't forget to subscribe and follow along with her while you're over there!
Be sure to check out some more posts like this one with the story of The Pig Tree and Raising Wild and Free Children!
Read the past posts here: Part One and Part Two and Part Three.
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