My mother, Ruby was a fiery redhead. She was generous of heart but also had a quick temper. One thing few knew about Mom was that she could shoot. In the front yard of our first farm there was a row of pine trees that grew close together and had low hung branches that brushed the ground. Often, especially on cold winter mornings, we would find the lower branches lined with pheasants huddled out of the wind. If Mom were in the mood for fresh bird she would just stick the gun out of the door and fire away. Us boys were then directed to clean the birds for dinner.
I was born on that farm and lived there until I was twelve years old. The most memorable feature was the lack of indoor plumbing. One tends to remember this especially in the winter when I am very happy for the five bathrooms I have in my current home. I remember every speck of black dirt and every dusty cobweb in the corners of the buildings. I remember the shrieking of the old windmill that pumped the water up for the cattle. And the house-lot sized garden we kept in the summer. Oh, there is so much I remember.
For several years we had a Hereford bull we named Sammy. Sammy was as gentle as he was massive. When Sammy would lay down in the pasture in his majestic repose, my brother and I would clamber all over him, petting his ears and perching on his tabletop sized back. He would never move a muscle until we were off his back and safely away. Sammy became a character in another of my stories.
Several years ago, 1999 if I remember correctly, I drove out to the old place and was pleased to see the old barn was still standing. The first barn burnt under mysterious circumstances, in 1948 before I was born and my father and grandfather rebuilt the one that still stands today. I spent the afternoon recording it in my sketchbook.
I remember milking cows in that old barn and sometimes squirting the milk into the mewing cat’s mouths. I remember Old Joe Probasco lining a steer up against the side of the barn where Joe would shoot it from about five feet away with a single shot from a .22 rifle. In my youthful exuberance I would always shout, “Good shot, Joe!” The steer was then butchered into steaks, hamburger, and roasts in the nearby shed. We had no money but we ate well.