A Californian recalls Sunday dinner in her youth at her grandparents' family farm
Spending a Sunday at Grandmother and Grandfather's large house with a spacious porch was memorable. After a long church service, my brothers and sister and nearby cousins, all of us dressed in our Sunday best, flocked to the table along with the grownups. Sometimes an extra table would have to be set to accommodate the brood.
There was chicken and dumplings, mashed potatoes, yams, green beans and platters of corn from the field. And always, there was Grandmother's fruit cake. Made with sorghum molasses, it consisted of eight to 10 thin layers held together, then covered with a brown paste made of evaporated apples from their orchard and flavored with various spices.
After dinner my grandparents and the elders sat on the long porch watching the bees droning over the vast clover field. Finally, Grandmother would don her crisp bonnet that matched her Sunday apron, Grandfather would loosen his tie and adjust his gold watch fob and hand in hand they would stroll through the fields of growing and ripening vegetables. Often Grandmother came in with cucumbers or cantaloupes snuggled in the folds of her apron.
After borrowing paring knives and scissors from the kitchen, the children headed for the cornfield to gather old stalks, which they cut, slit and made into boats and rafts in the shade of the apple tree. Ah, the age of innocence and of inventiveness.
When our ships were ready, we raced barefoot down to the waterway that trickled around the skirt of the hill. The hill rose up from the edge of the water. At some points there were cliffs hanging out over the water, where small wrens nested. Once the boat captains set their crafts afloat, they followed along the stream with long sticks to dislodge their boats from rocks or debris. Along the voyage the children paused to peer inside wrens' nests at blue speckled eggs or naked baby birds with closed eyes and open mouths. Farther and farther downstream the older children guided their fleet, while the younger ones paused to catch polliwogs and put them in jars of water.
These activities continued until the sun set over the western hills and deep shadows darkened the water. Then the boats were anchored in the reeds.
Grandmother's voice sent us scampering back to the house, where we indulged in another meal. This time it was leftovers and hot biscuits with honey or jam, take your choice, and tall glasses of milk. Several of the young boat captains are no longer with us, but how treasured are their memory.
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.
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