The sound of the rain took me someplace special today. Taking a few moments to sit and listen to it this afternoon I was immediately moved back in time to my Grandmother’s old log cabin near Rodney when I was a child.
When I was little we visited Grandma Dall’s house any time we were inbetween job locations. We’d get up at the crack of dawn and after a breakfast of eggs, bacon and toast out the door to the creek the kids went to fish, play and explore. It was hard work for a kid. I was always in awe of what my Uncle Butch would eat; 6 fried eggs, half a plate of bacon and a 4-6 slice stack of hot buttered toast. I couldn’t imagine how anyone could eat that much every morning, but he did, every day. Sometimes he would get up before light and go squirrel hunting before that breakfast.
Us, being my brother and me would make our way to the creek and name all the places there. Each spot had it’s own identity and we would skip and jump and wade our way through the day.
Around lunch time Grandma or Mom would call us in for a PBJ and a tall glass of kool-aid lemonade. Grandma drank gallons of that stuff. She’d have me make 2 or 3 pitchers of it each day just for her. She’d take a break and sit at the end of the kitchen table where she ruled the house and she would light up a Lucky Strike and drink a couple tall red aluminum glasses of kool-aid lemonade. She’d say, “now put extra sugar in that Sarah, it doesn’t call for enough, it’s not sweet enough unless you put in extra.” So I would, but I always looked over my shoulder to see if she was watching because I knew better. That much sugar wasn’t really good for you. She watched me like a hawk and I always had to put in an extra 1/2 cup. I added some water to mine.
With any luck we’d all scuttle back out of the house to the creek to plan a camping trip or do a little fishing. We had minnows we caught in an aluminum minnow catcher bait trap thing and we sometimes caught a sunfish but never anything bigger in the part of the creek we were allowed to play. We all knew there were bigger fish, suckers at a certain time of the year and catfish for sure. As luck would have it ofttimes I would get caught before getting back outside with the boys. Being the only girl among many boy cousins I was the most likely candidate for kitchen duty.
She usually assigned me to my “less than favorite” task of chopping okra. I didn’t like to chop okra. It was stickery and slimy and really yucky. And Grandma usually had a 5 gallon bucket of the stuff. There I’d sit at the opposite end of the table as she, the bucket on the floor within reach, a paring knife and a cutting board. A huge colander would be strategically placed to drop the prepared pieces into.
I’d work on it as long as I could and at some point find an excuse to slip out from the kitchen table to a sofa in the big living room next to the kitchen. The ceilings were low as they often are in an older log house. It was always dim, the walls were more than a foot thick and even by the big picture window in the living room the light seldom shined directly in. It was a sanctuary for rest and sleep.
So I would slip onto a sofa and curl up into a ball hoping no one would notice me and gradually nod off.
The really interesting part was slowly waking to the sounds of easy rain falling straight down…tap tap tapping on the tin roof. Droning on and on, making it very difficult to actually wake up. I would gradually become aware of more sounds, the hiss and rattle of the pressure cooker full of chicken, or beans if unexpected company arrived.
Usually a pot of beans was cooked every few days and reheated at each evening meal. You could always count on those pinto beans being perfect and the best you’d ever had. Along with the beans there was usually Spanish rice, utilitarian, filing and delicious. If it was high summer the table would be laden with sliced tomatoes, one or two kinds of cooked squash, okra, corn, pickled beets, pickles, green onions, fried potatoes, and Grandma’s famous hot sauce she bottled up in Dr. Pepper bottles. I would fill my plate with vegetables then wonder where in the world I was going to put a piece of fried chicken. I have vivid memories of my cousin Doug, rest his soul, sitting in a recliner in a corner of the living room, a colander between his knees and five or ten pounds of potatoes to peel at his side. There was always a lot of people for dinner.
So on this lazy dim afternoon, having fallen asleep on the warm quiet sofa I would slowly wake to the gentle house noises… the jiggle of the pressure cooker, grandma shuffling back and forth across the kitchen, a floor fan humming or the swamp cooler chugging away, and dishes being set out on the table by one of the big boys.
Sometimes I would sleep so long or it would be late in the fall and when I woke it would be dark and I would be confused. The house might be unbearably warm and I would have to lay there for a few minutes deciphering all the noise and smells to try and figure out if I had slept all the way through the night and it was morning, or if it was still the same day.
Slowly the house noises would start making sense and I’d hope we weren’t having beans and Spanish rice for breakfast and slowly come to the cloudy understanding it was late evening. It was a lovely lazy way to spend a day but the confusion was confusing. I would play possum as long as possible, listening to the rain fall softly on that tin roof. Sometimes I could hear the creek burbling past just down the driveway and visible from that big picture window in the daytime.
If it was summer the crickets would be getting after it by now and us kids would be eager to gobble our meal and get back out to catch fireflies in glass jars. We’d run screaming around the big grassy back yard catching them while the grownups sat in lawn chairs, smoking and talking about the days events. No one ever got snake bit as far as I know. It’s a wonder. Our parents would let us play and carry on until we were bone tired and it was real late. We would all go to bed lined up in rows on the living room floor with pillows and a cover. I don’t remember anyone staying awake very long.
If it was winter the adults would clear the table and do the dishes and someone would get out the cards and they’d play pitch or canasta till the wee hours of the morning. We kids would just gradually drift off and fall asleep wherever we were.
I need to ask the cousins what they remember about those times, I’m sure their memories are different than mine.
Childhood memories of Arkansas are all pleasant, well except for the time I got trapped by a herd of chickens at the trailer door and couldn’t get out, but that’s another story. Todays rain brought me straight to those times and I’ve been listening to it for hours now. It’s a nice place to be.