Granny's Farm 1 and 2

PatsyJoReed Sircy
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"GRANNY's FARM"
by- Patsy Jo Reed Sircy

It was three weeks until my school vacation started, and my mind
raced and soared, as my seat became the perch from which a ten year old
tomboy could glimpse the future! I knew the summer would be an exciting
adventure with cousins and friends on the river bottom farm of my
Grandparents, now to avoid the teacher's wrath reserved only for
daydreamers. Too late! Miss Vera had seen me looking out the window
again, and I longed for recess to come so I could escape to the playground
to think.
Each day dragged more slowly than the one before as I endured the
Spring days of Fourth Grade, finally arriving at "report card day" to deliver
the word PASSED to my mother with pride. I waited at the grocery store,
impatient for the customers to leave, but knowing not to interrupt when
Mother was busy. Through the open door, I could hear the other children
laughing, and a song (in an unknown key) "School's out, school's out,
teacher wore her paddle out!........"
The sidewalks were filled with signs of Summer such as the dusty
seed rack filled with bright packs. They tempted the farmers' wives to
spend their egg money, in the hope of growing food to can for Winter. I
gazed at the pictures on the packs, wondering if Granny had her seeds yet.
Suddenly the impossible happened! My mother's soft voice broke my
concentration, "Your daddy called today, and he will be after you on
Sunday to take you to Granny's house." I held out my report card, with a
big grin, covering the word PASSED with my hand. "Why, Patty Jo, you
passed to Fifth Grade!" my mother remarked, with fake surprise. A white-
haired lady smiled as Mother turned to her, basket in hand, to pay her for
the eggs she'd sold, and point at a sack of flour. "I found the flour sack you
wanted with yellow print," I heard my mother's fading voice say as I ran out
the door.
I had to get home to add my gold fish hooks my uncle had sent to my
page 2. "Granny's Farm" by- Patsy Jo Reed Sircy FEB.1999
other neatly packed things in my cardboard suitcase. My heart pounded as I
heard the echo of my mother's voice, "Granny's house, Granny's house."
Finally Summer vacation was so near I could smell biscuits, taste honey,
and feel cold plowed earth under my bare feet!
I always thought of "Granny's house" and "Granny's farm", although
Pa would also be there. My grandfather Reed was a farmer, and he kept
farmer's hours, early to bed and early to rise. But my Granny was different!
At night it seemed so very peaceful in the big house, always well lit with
the yellow glow of special "bug light" bulbs. As a special treat, Granny let
me read or play by the soft flicker of her coal oil lamp. (That very lamp is
on my hall bookcase now, and I give it a fond glance as I pass it every day.)
Granny had boxes, and boxes, of little treasures to share, and our nights
were a private rebellion against the myth that a "generation gap" could
exist. We shared hours of time alone just making happy memories together.
Granny's farm was everything good I could have imagined in my
wildest daydreams! My cousins, Rodger and Ronnie, lived on the same
farm in a smaller house across the road with their parents, Uncle "Mann"
and Aunt Dot. Granny's house was huge, and she had a permanent "Open
House" which was frequented by family and friends in great numbers.
When you went to sleep, you never knew who all would be there when you
woke up, and there was never a dull day! It is hard now to decide which
memory to savor first!
In Trousdale County, the smallest county in the state, the rolling hills
and valleys of Middle Tennessee stayed post card clear in my mind from
one Summer till the next, helped by shorter visits at Holiday times in the
Winter and Spring. The farm was over two hundred acres, and varied in
terrain. From a steep hill with a fantastic view of the Cumberland River
and the whole area, my eyelids were shutters for the memory imprints
which can never fade. The grass on Granny's farm was the greenest grass
on Earth, and the vivid wildflowers dotting the pastures exploded each day
as the dew gave way to the Summer sun. There were creeks and ponds for
page 3. "Granny's Farm" by- Patsy Jo Reed Sircy FEB.1999
fishing, as well as the river. There were caves and rocks at places, mixed
among the fertile fields used for crops and gardens. Granny had all sorts of
domestic animals, and the wildlife was plentiful, and of much interest to
me! Along with the animals of specifically assigned living places by
fences, there were chickens, geese, ducks, and guineas wanderng the farm,
and sometimes Granny had Peafowl. Quail and pheasant were hunted by
my uncles and cousins, as well as rabbits, squirrels, and other small game
animals, but I always thought of them as my friends and loved to watch
them. The animals, and even the songbirds seemed to sense that they had
nothing to fear from me, often coming daringly close as I sat motionless
and spellbound. Any little fish I caught might just end up as my pet in a
fruit jar or bowl. I used an old bird cage as a rehab hospital for injured
birds, and was very ceremonious on the release days. Doll bottles were
used to feed abandoned or orphaned baby rabbits,(and mice when Pa didn't
find out about them). I was a nurse, and my life's path was chartered in
those days of love. As a Registered Nurse after I grew up, I still wanted the
best recovery possible for each patient, as with my little patients of
childhood days. My Granny loved the animals, and I guess she taught me
her tenderness by example. We were close companions for countless hours
of fun, both day and night.
My grandfather had horses, and his mare was his mode of
transportation on the farm, and on visits with neighbors, even across the
Cumberland River Bridge to the town of Hartsville. Hartsville was small,
but a busy place in the middle of the tobacco growing country. Sales
warehouses helped make it a social gathering place for farmers and their
families. Pa would dress very nicely with a crisp clean shirt when he rode
to town on his horse. Also Mr. Hubert Ward, Pa's best friend rode his horse
and often visited Granny's farm, which had been in his family in years gone
by. I loved Mr. Ward dearly and he always treated me to a horseback ride
about the yard when he visited. He told me stories of his family, and the
farm, and so many interesting things, and we were friends for life. My life
page 4. "Granny's Farm" by- Patsy Jo Reed Sircy FEB.1999
has a dimension it might not have included if I had not made friends of all
ages, instead of just in my own age group. My school was out earlier than at
Hartsville, so I had the full attention of the adults for the first few weeks of
my vacation, while my cousins and the other kids were still in school. I
enjoyed that attention! My times alone in the woods watching my animal
friends were spent in elaborate imaginary adventures based on books I read,
and Granny's stories about my Native American ancestors, the "Indians"
she called them. An elderly man came to the farm sometimes, the home of
his ancestors. A very good hunting ground of his people, and burial ground
were on the farm. I still have many arrow heads I found there as a child.
My home with my mother was in Gainesboro, Tennessee, safely
tucked between the beautiful hills in Jackson County. We lived in town, so
the fresh air and exercise I got on the farm made for a healthy and happy
vacation. Mother always remarked how much I grew during the Summer. I
was very active, an athletic tomboy type, and every day was a whole new
beginning! Ronnie and I learned that redworms stayed where the ground is
wet, so we created our own worm farm by watering the ground. In later
years, we spent a lot of hours in an apparent fruitless search for redworms
when we were really searching for a fruit jar we saw Pa bury with some
money inside. We never found it, but we never officially gave up either. It
was just weeks before his death when we saw him bury it. Our sense of
adventure kept us from telling anyone else, so . . . .the farm had "buried
treasure," along with all the treasures that make hearts sing. One of the
farm ponds had minnows in it, but I seldom used the minnows for bait,
finding it easier to murder a redworm.
Rodger was afraid of his dad (and his belt), so it was often Ronnie
and I who got into real trouble. We managed to steal the tractor of Harold
West one morning, though we just thought we borrowed it. Harold was a
family friend, and his tractor was parked in our barn lot. The tractor had a
cab on it, the first one we had seen. The morning seemed chilly as Ronnie
and I set out for the Willow Spring Creek that ran into the River. We got
page 5. Granny's Farm" by- Patsy Jo Reed Sircy FEB.1999
up before good daylight to "beat the fish getting up", and decided it was
pretty silly to walk that mile or so with Harold's "Cadillac Tractor" (as we
called it) sitting idle. we drove the tractor down the dirt road, feeling very
smart and warm, to our fishing spot. We had a great morning, completely
unaware that a search for the tractor was going on in several counties!
Needless to say, Uncle Mann was not happy at all! Another time, a similar
thing happened when we took Uncle Mann's boat fishing. We had asked his
permission, and he said okay to it, but thought it was a joke because we
couldn't physically do it. He was wrong! He was so mad at us he was
yelling threats, and I never started for shore until I saw him laugh. We had
one broken paddle and one pole, so we had kept a large carp Ronnie hooked
on the line, and the fish had pulled our boat along as he swam in the creek.
We had managed to navigate our boat to the place where the creek ran into
the river, then back up the creek safely, staying far enough to avoid the
swift currents of the muddy Cumberland. Uncle Mann probably had visions
of our boat sinking, or us waving as we went out of sight on our way to
Nashville in the wayward boat!
The balcony of the big house was one of my favorite spots on Earth.
Like Granny's upstairs, the balcony held secrets of the bygone days, the
inspiration to set my imagination afire! The old movie magazines were a
trip to Hollywood and New York, and parts unknown. The covers of
Progressive Farmer took me down every dirt road in Middle America on a
tractor, at a pace so slow I had time to take in all the sights in detail. I saw
deer grazing by the road in the mist of early morning, and an Eagle flew
right off the page and landed on my shoulder! I sat calmly in the wagon I
had filled with geodes on a steep and rocky yesterhill, then scrambled
wildly to the ground (and safety) when the rocks rolled suddenly toward me
(as the valley again became a hill, then another valley, and another hill).
A huge cedar tree stood directly in front of Granny's house, and it got
hit by lightning nearly every storm that blew in. Nobody ever suggested
cutting it out of the way, even if it was a hazard, because Mr. Hubert Ward
page 6. "Granny's Farm" by- Patsy Jo Reed Sircy 8 MARCH 1999
had set it out there when he was a little boy, and it was just a twig. And
that was the way it was! Nobody even remotely suggested, or seemed to
think, that sensibility should rule over sentimentality in any instance! That
was the way it was at Granny's Farm.
The search for four-leaf clovers was a regular activity, done almost
daily, which could begin spontaneously at any time. Frequently a baseball
game would get interrupted by an impromptu search for the valued lucky
charm. The search might involve three generations crawling about together
on the lawn, but usually was just us kids with Granny joining in. I found
the four-leafers by the handful, but my Dad was not so lucky. They couldn't
seem to find him, and neither could good luck!
One day we were in the middle of a big clover search which involved
several people when Uncle Amon drove up in Granny's yard in his car, and
parked under the cedar tree. Sticking out the backseat window of the car
was the head of a black Welsh pony. He had taken his back seat out and left
it at home, then led the pony right in and closed the door. The pony was a
wild unbroken pony, of course, and Dwight Terwilliger, the son of Alice
Ward Terwilliger, gave up the clover search and became an instant rodeo
star! By dark that afternoon, that pony was "well broke" and had a new
home. Granny not only had "open house" for people, but for animals. Her
house, yard, barn, and pastures were always available to anybody who
needed shelter, man or beast. She ran a limited adoption service from there,
too. If you saw an animal you liked, for instance, Gran might just say,
"That's Penny's Easter rabbit, but I know she won't mind if you want him
now." And nobody ever minded, and so your pet was really the family's pet,
and everybody helped in caring for the animals. I saw Uncle Mann's coon
hound eat breakfast three times one morning, but he seemed happy with the
situation.
Sometimes the animals needed instructions, and I was always willing
to help out. Unfortunately for a baby duck I was trying to teach how to
swim underwater, the lesson resulted in his untimely death by drowning!
page 7. "Granny's Farm" by- Patsy Jo Reed Sircy 9 MARCH 1999
The Wards were always good with horses, especially Lewis Ward.
He seemed to be able to break and ride, with ease, horses other people just
gave up on! Uncle Mann and Pa had a mare that had been on the farm for
some time, and she just seemed to have a wider "wild streak" than most.
She was labeled an outlaw, and Lewis decided he would ride her one day.
Several of us gathered at the end of a plowed field as Lewis prepared to ride
her there. The thinking was that she couldn't buck as well on the plowed
ground, also the landing would be softer if she managed to throw Lewis,
which we considered unlikely. Uncle Mann and Lewis bridled and saddled
the problem girl, and we all were excited about the ride. I stood with
Ronnie near a thorn tree at the edge of the field, planning to take cover
behind the tree if she headed in my direction. Lewis was ready and he
swiftly straddled her back atop the tightly girted saddle. Uncle Mann
turned the bridle loose, and the ride was on! The mare (who had no name
that I know of, rare for any animal we associated with) bucked as hard as
she could, jumping skyward with Lewis still in place, one jump, two jumps,
three jumps! On the third jump, Lewis continued his journey toward the
sun as the mare returned to Earth! The saddle girt had broken, and Lewis
still was in the saddle, but not attached to the horse! Lewis made a high
dive for the plowed dirt, first leading with the top of his head, but
continuing his flip and landing on his shoulders with the saddle sticking up
toward the sky, still between his legs. The mare headed straight for Ronnie
and I, still bucking and jumping at top speed. I ran behind the thorn tree for
protection, but a bumble bee was back there, and I came back out, waving
my hands wildly at the mare. I trusted my safety more with the wild mare
than the bumble bee, and Ronnie's safety was in his own hands as I had no
ideas except to save myself! The mare continued her rebellion against all
concerned and went down the creek bed through a line of trees, many of
them thorns, cutting herself up until she was a bloody mess! Lewis wasn't
hurt, or didn't admit it if he was, and he handed the saddle to Uncle Mann.
Uncle Mann just said, "You know, I think I'll sell that mare," and that is
page 8. "Granny's Farm" by Patsy Jo Reed Sircy 9 MARCH 1999
exactly what he did after her cuts had time to heal!
Pa had a roan walking mare called "Shaggy" and she was very gentle,
and liked children. When I would ride on the farm away from the area near
the house, I was always afraid I would let "Shaggy" get away from me, so I
would sit near her when I got off, using the shade of her body to shield me
from the hot sun. When she changed the position of her feet, she would feel
very carefully to make sure she was not putting her foot down on me.
"Shaggy" was an important member of the family.
Pa got a white mare once that I thought was my dream come true!
She had "glass" (blue) eyes, and she was about 14« hands (a hand is 4 in.).
I couldn't wait to ride her, because I could be a movie star when I rode her
(in my imagination, of course). It was Sunday afternoon, so I would have a
good audience to see me ride, which was even better! Uncle Tommy and
Bobbie Jean were there, and Uncle Tommy was looking under the hood of
the cars parked in the yard, and he sat down in one of them. Granny was
walking around the side of the house on the path she had worn in the grass
there. Everybody seemed to be looking, so I swung up into the left stirrup,
then put my right leg across and settled into the saddle. About that time,
Uncle Tommy started the engine of the car he was in and revved the motor
loudly about three times. The mare made a lunge through the air with me,
barely missing Granny and her little dog, Randall. Randall ran for cover
when Granny screamed, "Whoa, WHOA!" Granny had on an apron, and she
flapped her apron as she threw up her hands and screamed. Granny kept
jumping in the air, flapping her apron, and screaming "Whoa, WHOA!" over
and over, frightening the already out of control mare more and more. Plus
Uncle Tommy and some others ran in my direction to try to assist, but the
frightened mare started running and bucking in the other direction. I was
laughing so hard I was limber, so miraculously stayed on the mare until she
calmed down. I rode that mare many times after that, but was ever mindful
that she was "car shy". I sure was glad we hadn't met a car crossing a
bridge instead of in the yard!
page 9. "Granny's Farm" by- Patsy Jo Reed Sircy 10 March 1999
Uncle Mann's wife, Aunt Dot (called Red Dot because of her red hair,
since my Dad had three brothers, and all three managed to marry a woman
named Dorothy) was a city girl from Detroit, but everybody wanted her to
"fit in" and be able to do all the things the rest of the family did. Aunt Dot
was fearful of the horses, but she did ride one day. As Usual, Granny's yard
was the scene. Nobody ever seemed to do anything without an audience, so
Aunt Dot got on a pony some kids had trained to run fast when they
dropped the reins. She dropped the reins, off he ran up the highway at top
speed with her red hair flying in the breeze! I still think of Aunt Dot's wild
ride every time I see one of those old Mobil gasoline signs with the picture
of the "Flying Red Horse." Uncle Mann jumped in his car and drove up the
road to try to rescue his "damsel in distress" and met the pony running in
his direction, just as fast, and they passed. The pony ran back into Granny's
yard where he had started out, and slid to a stop. That was the end of Aunt
Dot's riding career, and if she ever even sat on a real horse again, I am not
aware of it!
Ronnie and I both loved to ride, but neither of us really liked to sit
behind the saddle and get all wet with horse sweat, so we would both sit in
the saddle. We would ride on the farm, but loved to venture off on
horseback to visit neighbors, or just ride up and down the highway. We
rode many many miles like that and would sing as we went along, most
often the song, "Does Your Chewing Gum Lose It's Flavor On the Bedpost
Overnight?" I don't recall us having an argument. Once we were walking
down a steep hill and leading the mare. She started jumping around
because there was a horse in a lot we were passing, so we both got on her
because we thought that was a safe place. You see, it never entered our
minds that she might be able to throw us off.
Once Ronnie decided he wanted a Western style horse, and he bought
a Quarter Horse mare, trained for cutting cattle. If I rode her faster than a
walk, I was in danger of getting left sitting on the ground instead of the
saddle! She turned around so fast, she gave me a crick in my neck! She
page 10. "Granny's Farm" by- Patsy Jo Reed Sircy 10 MARCH 1999
also had a bad habit of going back to the barn when she decided to, no
matter how much you tried to rein her in the other direction. Just give me a
good walking horse you can steer in the right direction!
Rodger always seemed to get the bad end of the deal with anything
connected to horses. When he was young, he rode an old clubfooted mule
of Pa's, also "Old One Eye," one of Pa's cows. When he was riding at the
Ward farm once, he got hung by the neck by a grass string that was hanging
down from a tree. His life was possibly saved by the string being rotten,
and breaking. Rodger had a beautiful black and white spotted mare in later
years after I was already a nurse. He was sitting on the mare in his yard
relaxing when a bird flew down, and landed on a nearby electric wire,
startling the mare. She threw Rodger high into the air, and he landed on his
back, knocking the breath out of him. My boyfriend, Jean Marie Leclerc
from Canada, stayed with Granny while Uncle Mann took Aunt Dot and
Rodger and Ronnie to Michigan to visit Aunt Dot's parents, Galon &
Mildred "Minnie" Stephenson. Rodger's mare died while they were gone
and Jean was caring for things. Jean was very upset about the horse dying!
When I was very small I can remember that Pa had a little pony that
could "count". Pa would signal the pony and have him to move his foot in a
pawing motion repetitively to do the "counting." The pony was named
"Cutie Allen."
Prince Allen was a Tennessee Walking Horse stallion that belonged
to Uncle Mann. he was very big, and I was not allowed to ride him he was
so spirited. Sometimes he would play, jumping the fences into other lots, as
if it was a game he enjoyed. He once jumped over me when I saw him
coming and got near the fence so he wouldn't step on me after clearing the
fence. I have a picture of Prince Allen at the barn with Uncle Mann,
Galon, and "Minnie."
Cane poles were kept at the pond, nearby, and beside Granny's house,
always ready for grabbing on short notice. The pond seemed huge when I
was a child! There was a fence in the middle, half on the Jim Stone farm,
page 11. "Granny's Farm" by- Patsy Jo Reed Sircy 11 MARCH 1999
and half on the Reed farm. There was a spring that fed the pond, and the
water at that spot was deep and cold. Aunt Dot's cousin, Carolyn Bell,
almost drowned when I was not there. I never swam in that dirty water in
my life! Besides, it was full of snakes, as I remember! But Jo Ann, my
cousin, and others did swim in it. There were hats you could use to keep
the sun off while fishing kept at Granny's house, too. Two of them were
huge, and the wind always blew them into the pond. Then they floated
patiently, waiting for somebody to hook them with their line, shake the
water off, dry them in the sun, and put them back on their heads.
The creek that ran to the river was essentially the line for dividing the
farm from the old Lyles Place in the direction of town, which I believe was
West. I knew exactly at the time because a compass was part of my
treasured equipment for adventures (of a magnitude to exceed adventures
other kids had, in fact or fiction, I thought). This equipment varied
according to what I was doing and/or what I had on hand. My next
adventure was in fact sometimes dictated simply by what equipment I had
on hand! Anyhow, the creek was as far as we were allowed to go routinely
to play without special permission. Being off our own land was frowned
on, usually denied unless it was a joint adventure with members of our
friends, the Ward family, and always required special permission. The
creek was therefore thought of as top level play, the frontier of the farm, if
you will, big adventure territory. The creek had a personality of it's own. It
could be violent, meandering and peaceful, dried up and angrily thirsty, or a
combination. Deeper pools dotted it's length, and became fishing holes or
play sites during the hot days of Summer. Flash flooding would occur
during a storm, just to be absorbed by the dry snakelike stream that wound
through the fields and woods. Deep pools of water were left as the creek
dried back up, and hordes of fish might be trapped there if they had swam
upstream while the creek was flowing.
One particularly hot July, there were large numbers of fish trapped in
page 12. "Granny's Farm" by- Patsy Jo Reed Sircy 12 MARCH 1999
some pools which were located in the woods, just right for kids looking for
a cool place to play. We discovered that some fish were hiding under the
rocks in the more shallow end of the pool, so we could wade (allowed in
water shallow enough to avoid getting your clothes wet, a loosely defined
and loosely enforced rule which could and did change several times in one
day), and reach under the rocks with our hands to catch the fish. We spent
two or three morning hours taking turns wading and reaching, all managing
to get our clothes wet and get cool. This involved my younger nephew,
Don, my cousins Rodger and Ronnie, and I, and later Granny. We dashed
home at lunch time to grab the fixings for a picnic, and returned to eat on a
small island in the creek. While we were on our picnic lunch break, Granny
joined us, and so did another visitor, a snake. The snake was a Cottonmouth
(poisonous water snake) and he was sticking his head out from under one of
the very rocks we had been reaching under to catch the fish! I guess he was
fishing, too! We spied a fence post which had been left by the receding
water, and that became the weapon to be used to kill the snake. We soon
found out that every time we jumped on the rock, it moved and the angered
snake stuck his head out from under the rock. When we took a swing at him
with the fence post, he pulled his head back under the rock. We each took
turns at batting at the snake as if we were Babe Ruth and he was a baseball.
It was a scary thought that we had been reaching under that rock where we
couldn't see, and he was probably hiding! By nightfall, we were all tired
and excited, and we discussed our day's adventures well into the night over
a game of cards. I guess the snake slept well, nobody ever hit him!

Discuss this story

Write a comment
PatsyJoReed Sircy not nearly the end!!!!!!!!!!!
Mar 30, 2006 5:40 pm · Reply
Kelly Tyler This person is a gifted writer. I think it would make a wonderful book if it was written in the third person.
Mar 31, 2007 11:17 am · Reply
Annmarie Christian Patsy, I loved this story! You're stories remind me of when I was 14 and my sister and brother were 12 and 10 respectfully. I wish I could make myself sit down and put my stories into words like you. Annmarie
Mar 31, 2007 3:03 pm · Reply
Jenny Markham This story is absolutely wonderful!! Your writing transported me to Tennessee--and I thoroughly enjoyed the trip!
Apr 01, 2007 9:56 am · Reply

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