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Down on the farm

Down on the farm
Out of the woods.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

HIDE & SHRIEK

When hot summer evenings closed in the game of choice was hide and seek, the dusk making it more fun to hide beneath the old willow or behind the pillars or in the chimney ell. But playing at the funeral home was the best.
Although it was forbidden, we would slip one at a time into the house..."I need a drink"..."I have to use the bathroom" or any other excuse. And of course the grown ups aren't paying any attention, right? Right.
The rooms were full of shadows lit only from a front hall light left burning all the time. We hid beneath tables, behind sofas, in back of half open doors and jumped out to scare one another in lieu of being discovered. But when we discovered the best, most wonderful hidey place of all, we could hardly believe our good fortune. THE CASKET ROOM!
I suppose it was a normal, though good sized room, but in my memory it stretches on and on into forever, darkening into nothingness as it goes. Casket after casket stands on display, some open, some closed. Satiny wood finishes, gleaming metal handles cold to touch, the silky fabrics on the interiors. It took a dare to get me into the room and a friend's hand guiding mine to touch the objects....then it was game ON, and we ran, hooted, hollered, jumped, and laughed between, around, under and across the caskets.
Bobby was drumming on one of the caskets, when a moaning sound ululated from inside. We froze.
A pale hand lifted the casket lid. A moon face rose washed in the dim hall light and a maniacal laugh issued from the open mouth.
Screaming ourselves breathless, tangling feet and arms at the door, squirting out into the hallway we made a mad dash for the safety of our parents' presence.
Behind us, the shrill laughter lowered to a familiar tenor cackle as Uncle Harvey, short and round as a beach ball, levered himself up and out of Uncle Bill's very best casket.
Do you suppose it had to be sold as 'used'?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

I scream for ice cream 1

In the years following WWII the hearse was the only ambulance the tiny town of Aurora, Missouri had. This meant the funeral director or an assistant was on call around the clock every day of the year. Now, calls were not necessarily coming in around the clock every day of the year, but if they did....well, you get the picture.
This meant that when we had a picnic or a gathering of any kind the huge concrete apron of the enormous garage housing the hearse became party central.
I don't mean partying. The hardest beverage available was iced tea. If we were lucky the kids got Kool Aid and home made cookies. If we weren't so lucky we got to share the iced tea.
But sometimes, just sometimes, there was home made ice cream in an old fashioned churn. 60 years later I can feel shivers of anticipation and the chill of sitting on the churn. The flavor might be whatever fresh local fruit was in season, but plain old vanilla was just as welcome. And I don't remember chocolate ever being an option.
At first we kids would turn the handle, but later the men would take turns as the mixture got thicker and harder. Eventually the paddles would begin rising as the bottom of the pail froze and pushed up. The smaller boys and girls would then take turns sitting on the churn while the men sweated the last crankings a few turns at a time as it got harder and harder.
Whoever was sitting on the crank when it was ready got the first lick of the extracted paddles. As hard as it was to sit still while your friends ran and played this was a glory moment. You usually only got one or two licks in before every kid gathered to share, but OH to be that first one!
Making ice cream was a long and arduous and expensive job that only happened once or twice a year, and was treasured for it's rarity. The ice cream from the drug store came in your choice of flavors, but the stuff we made on the apron of the funeral home garage tasted of summer and freedom, friends and reward. And in my memory my mom's curls catch fire as she turns in her lawn chair to smile at me, sitting in glory on the top of the churn.