Sowing and reaping the harvest is a rite of passage
by Chris Collett
June 21, 2013 10:07 PM | 1303 views | 0 0 comments | 44 44 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Chris Collett<br>Columnist
Chris Collett
It’s the time of year when in many rural parts of Cherokee County you can ride the roads and see beautiful vegetable gardens planted by your neighbors.

I guess some are growing the food to sell to stores or at a roadside market. But I remember a time when all of this work was done for a different reason.

I grew up in a time when there were probably more people with gardens than without. I can remember my parents had a garden, both sets of my grandparents had a garden and the two sets of my great-grandparents that I knew had a garden. I am told that my great-grandfather Grady Fitts actually plowed with a mule, although I never saw it firsthand.

In many cases, families would plant a garden together and work it together. This actually happened at least once in my childhood that I can remember.

During this period of time there was no Publix or Kroger around the corner. Yes, we had grocery stores like Blair’s Thrift Town, Dunn’s Supermarket, Broom’s Grocery and Tippen’s Grocery in the Keithsburg community. And I guess there were some families even then that were rolling in dough, but ours wasn’t one of them.

So my family planted and sowed the seeds. They worked the fields. And when the crops came in, they gathered the harvest.

I don’t remember my grandparents or great-grandparents being too busy with golf, tennis, hunting or fishing to get the job done.

They finished what they started because that is who they were. That is who their generation was. And a fine generation it is and was. It was a time when a man’s word was his bond.

But it was after the food was harvested that the real work began. Corn had to be shucked. Green beans had to be strung. Because no one sat down at the harvest and had a big feast. No, there was canning to be done.

I won’t sit here and write this and pretend that I know the first thing about canning. But the elders in my family knew a lot about it. For it is something they did pretty much annually.

What was the purpose? The purpose was to have food for days, weeks, months and years to come.

I want to share with you a couple of small facts that I do know about canning. First off, it involves cooking some of the food that was harvested. This was done in the heat of the summer in homes with no air conditioning.

I have no idea why this is one of the things I remember about my childhood, but it is. Sweat would pour from those doing the work. And most of the time it was the women folk that got stuck with this task.

Before you say it, I know that there are probably groups out there today that would protest the fact that the women did most — if not all — of the canning. But this was a different place and time. I’m not saying it was better or worse. I am just saying it was different.

After the food was canned in mason jars, the date was written on top of the jar. I guess that helped them figure out which one to use first. And the canned goods needed to be kept in a cool environment. At Granny Collett’s that was in the basement. At Granny Free’s it was in the storm cellar, or some may say root cellar.

I may have used terms in this column some of you don’t understand. Yet there are others that have similar memories to mine from their own childhoods. And there may be still a few that are in the process of canning this year.

But my most fond memory of the entire process was stringing beans with Granny Collett and Granny Free. They would both have on aprons that were used as makeshift pans until they had strung a mess. And by mess I mean a certain amount although I don’t know how much a mess is.

During the stringing of the beans Granny Free would talk to me about the Lord. She was guiding me and did until the day she died. Sometimes it was heavy.

But Granny Collett always balanced it out when I sat with her. For she believed if you didn’t talk about serious stuff, it would just go away.

I miss them both.

Chris Collett is a lifelong resident of Cherokee County.
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