I daresay that the memories of those of us who were actually raised on a family farm-especially those who labored on rice farms in the deep South-will not sound as romantic as those who were only occasional visitors of one. I was the eldest of three brothers and when we weren't in school or church, we were more than likely engaged in some sort of farm activity. Such was the case for most all of the farm boys in our neck of the woods. We worked hard from "can see to can't see" as they say, raising rice, soybeans and cattle.
All of this is not to say there aren't an abundance of fond and pleasant memories mingled with those of sweat and toil. A cool dip in our pond at the end of a dusty summer's day of work, feeling the wind in my face as I galloped across a green pasture on my favorite horse, gazing upon the "north 40" and watching a sea of golden rice waving at the setting sun, knowing that I'd had a hand in bringing that field to life, those are the farm memories that dwell in my heart.
A good laugh can be a real godsend in those times on a farm when the days of hard work seem to roll by like an endless train. I remember one such occasion quite vividly.
It occurred during mid-August of my 16th year. My brothers, Junior and Runt, who were 14 and 11 respectfully, and I were herding cattle from one pasture to another, each of us mounted on our favorite horse. As is often the case, Junior and I were easily annoyed by the presence of our younger sibling. That morning, being seared by the blazing sun overhead while horse flies buzzed all around, Runt's ability to aggravate Junior and I was doubly effective. Throughout the morning he had constantly jabbered about his horse being prettier and faster than ours-statements that were true but nonetheless annoying-amidst complaints of being thirsty, hungry or hot and sometimes all three at once. Needless to say, Junior and I were near the breaking point.
Just about the time I was ready to ask the good Lord, "Why me?" I spotted an old mossy-horned cow on the edge of a narrow thicket of pines and brush that skirted the field. I was reining my horse in old mossy-horn's direction, when all of a sudden Runt went flying at her on his galloping mount, shouting confidently, “I’ll git 'er.”
Junior, staying close to our bunched herd, asked casually,
"Ain't that the one Daddy calls the 'She-Devil'?" I nodded my head as a smile began spreading on my lips.
Taking heed of Runt's charging advance, old She-Devil slipped into the thicket, disappearing from our view. "This I gotta' see,"
Junior remarked with a shake of his head, as Runt and his trusty steed became enveloped by the dense undergrowth. For about 10 or 15 seconds we heard a lot of shouting, mooing and wood being trampled under hoof. Suddenly, Runt emerged from the far side of the thicket, his lathered horse running to beat the band and a hint of childish shock highlighting his freckled face. Two beats behind them came the hard-charging She-Devil, bellowing angrily at her would-be assailants as they rapidly left her behind. She quickly gave up the chase and commenced to wander over in the direction of our herd, her appetite for excitement apparently satisfied.
Junior and I exchanged an amused glance that rapidly evolved into full-blown laughter. For a good two minutes we chuckled and slapped our knees as our eyes followed the shrinking forms of Runt and his horse.
Finally, I managed to stop laughing long enough to remark, "Yep. He sure enough had the fastest horse." Then our laughter rang out again, and so it rings to this day.
New Iberia, Louisiana
Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then Capper’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from Capper’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.