Friday, February 28, 2014

Plowing for the first time!

Well it's about that time of the year so I thought I would throw a yarn your way about when I lived on the farm in south Georgia and how as a little fellow my Great grandfather instructed me for the first time on how to properly plow the field using a mule.

We always broke the ground beginning in the middle of February up into March so that we could plant seeds on March 20th. This planting time was a family tradition that had been going on for more years than I could count. It didn't matter if there was still snow on the ground, raining like cats and dogs or so hot you would scorch your tongue if you yawned. Them seeds was agoing into the ground and that was final.

Let me give you fine folks a little background of my childhood so you can get an idea of how we did things on our farm. I lived with 11 elders and 9 other children. We had a huge two story house that my great grandfather, great uncles and grandfather hand built. We were poor and proud to be so. We ate what we grew.

So back to this learning how to break ground with a plow and a mule. I could write an entire novel on the temperament of mules, but ain't got that much room now. But, I'm telling you, mules have their own ways about them and there ain't one that is the same. Well I take that back, all of them have a few things in common, they are lazy if you allow them to do so and they love to either kick the stuffing's out of you or take a bite where ever they can clamp onto you.

It was my day to first learn the art of plowing this early morning of mid February and Papa had harnessed one of our mules named Pete. Folks what ever you might do in life from this moment forward, never name nutton Pete. If you do, you are surely gonna regret it. Well Pete was about 17 hands high, which was large for a mule and as black as a lump of coal. He had one eye that would just wonder around when he was looking, I never did figure if he was doing that on purpose or not. All us kids use to sit in the barn watching Pete and trying to make one of our own eyes wonder around, but none of us was ever able to master that fine eye workmanship like Pete. I tell you, the things us kids use to do before the video games were invented.

Sorry about that, getting off track of the learning how to plow. Well Papa instructed me on how to hold the plow upright by the handles and how to hold the reins in one hand. Then he taught me mule language. You heard correctly, there is a certain way you must speak to a mule to get him to do your biddings. Depending on who raised the mule will depend on the language he knows. In fact, when buying a mule, one of the last things you must learn is what language the mule understands.

Well Pete language for move forward was "Get Up yar." If you wanted him to stop it was "Whoa Yer." Well I was mighty pleased with myself, I had learned a whole new language in just a few minutes. Papa went on to instruct me on how never to allow the plow dig to deep into the ground or you could break the blade. This teaching went on until daybreak which once there was the gray of dawn upon us, it was time to start breaking ground.

By the order of Papa I for the first time used my new found language and proudly stated, "Get Up yar!" Proud couldn't even start to explain how I was feeling. I was gonna do what the elders did and that was plow the field. Only us grown up did that kind of chore. Well my pride and anticipation was shattered right after I ordered Pete to move out. Reason is because he looked back at me with that wondering eye and didn't move a inch.

Well what's a fellow to do in a situation like this? I did the only thing a body can do and that was, "Get Up yar" again and nutton. Papa chewed a bit on his chaw of Day's Work plug tobacco and after spitting said, "Sha boy, y'all just stand right there until I get back. don't try to get Pete amoving, he ain't gonna do nutton no-how." With that Papa left the field and headed for the barn.

I'm reckoning it was 5 or so minutes when Papa returned. He was aholding a long pole that to me looked like a fishing cane pole. I watched as he threaded the end of the long pole into a loop in the right side of the shoulder strap on Pete that I had just noticed being there for the first time and he kept feeding the end of the pole toward me where there was another leather loop located on the right side of the hip strap on Pete. I couldn't figure out what in this world Papa was about with that pole. In fact, I had never even noticed the leather loops, much less aknowing what their purpose was for. After he had finished feeding the pole into the two loops he took a strand of rawhide and tied the pole firmly to the shoulder strap. Still scratching my head, I could now see that the other end of the pole was asticking out the front of the mules head about 2 or so feet.

Still not aknowing what all this was about, Papa turned his back toward me and said, "Now boy, when I finish up here, that mule is gonna plow as hard as he can and all day long. So, you be about getting yourself ready to hang on to the end of that plow!"

Why I couldn't have imagined what Papa was about and no way did I have a clue what was about to come. As I watched, Papa was humming quietly and was fumbling with something in his right coat pocket. I then watched as he removed a piece of rawhide from his coat pocket and tie the end to the end of the pole that was asticking out in front of Pete. He then turned toward me and said, "Alright boy, I'm about to take something out of my pocket and when I do, Old Pete is gonna start plowing his heart out. So you get ready!"

Folks I have watched scarey movies at the picture show and I wasn't as horrified as I was when I saw what Papa removed from his coat pocket. It was a fat juicy yellow ear of corn that now was a dangling in mid air by a piece of rawhide at the very end of that pole. Pete hadn't noticed no corn yet, he was still looking back at me with his wondering eye. But I'm here to tell all y'all that I knew it wouldn't be no time atall before Pete saw that ear of corn and then we would be quickly getting about business. Papa had moved back out of the way and wasn't saying a word, just watching to see what was about to come. Well folks it came!

Yes sir it surely came. When Pete turned to look at Papa who was now making clicking noises he spotted that big fat juicy yellow ear of corn. Now how in this world do I put what happen next into understanible words? One minute I was watching Papa and the mule and the next I watched Pete not just move forward for the ear of corn, he actually dove for it while dragging me and the plow along with him. There was no way I could keep that plow upright, I was holding on for dear life and was being drug behind it as Pete kept on diving and running for the ear of corn he couldn't catch!

I then heard Papa a yelling out, "Sha boy, get that plow upright, you can now get about plowing, Pete is moving right smartly now!" The only thing I could do was let go of the plow handle, get up and then run for the plow while yelling out, "Whoa yer, I said whoa yer!" This I did and after trying to keep up with Pete's lunging forward after the corn I finally got the plow upright and we were really braking ground! I can't rightly state that all was in a orderly fashion and in a straight line, but we were sorley tearing up some ground.

I reckon it took that poor mule 5 minutes to figure out that lunging, diving and running after that ear of corn wouldn't gonna work. So, Old Pete changed his stratady, he decided that he was now gonna sneek up on the corn. He would sloly move forward as if he didn't care if that lushous corn was abobbing up and down in front of him and then blam, he'd dive for it again dragging me and the plow with him. I swear folks, i do believe that within a half hour, Pete was able to drag me for over 5 acres of land!

I noticed from the corner of my eye that we had drawed somewhat a crowd on the dirt road beside the pasture. I didn't know who half the people were, but they sorely were getting their eyes full of my new way of plowing. Yes sir, I showed them how all you gotta do is hang on the plow handle, let the mule drag you all over the field and you were breaking ground for sure. This went on for about an hour and I finally just dropped. I heard Papa yelling for me to get up and grab the plow but there wasn't no way I could even move. The last I saw of Pete was he was still lunging and running and trying to sneek up on that corn at the other end of the land. My great aunt's came to the pasture and with their help got me back to the big hous. I was so tore up and dirty that they just poured a washtub of water over me. My pants and shirt were only shreds. Then I noticed that my skin was scraped up from head to toe. That's when Aunt Coreene came out with the house oil lamp and dabbed kerosine on all my scrapes. I remember Papa atelling 3 of my great uncles to go and fetch Pete and make sure he got that ear of corn on the end of that pole. He told them that if Pete didn't get that particular ear of corn, he would never try for another. Then Papa said to me, "Sha boy, we didn't do so good at the plowing today, but there's morning acoming and we gonna get her done then, yes sir, morning is acoming!"

I believe that is when I may have passed out and morning surely did come and that is another story.

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