Taffy Pull: Winter Celebration on the Family Farm

The taffy pull was a neighborhood event on the family farm with music and dancing, held during the more leisurely winter months

| Good Old Days

When I was a child, farm people had less work in the winter months than during the growing season. We had a little more time for parties! The Saturday evening before Valentine's Day grew to become a neighborhood taffy pull. Everybody planned on it for weeks ahead. In our family it was an important event. We did all the little things that could be done in advance. For example: every one of us had his new pair of hand-knit, long, black woolen stockings finished and ready for the party. This was an activity that the whole family participated in after the evening dishes were done. Santa brought Virginia knitting needles when she was 2 years old!

The day of the party found all of us up and busy. The weather was very cold and the sky was clear. That evening we milked the 13 cows early. Agnes, my eldest sister, had the food ready to put on the table when we brought the cream in. We sat right down and ate. Agnes washed the dishes; I put them away. Mother got Virginia ready. Father went out to the barn, lifted the harnesses off their pegs and put them on the horses. He got down the strings of bells, placed them over the horses' shoulders, and secured them safely with a girth just behind their forelegs. He hitched the team to the sled. The last thing he did was to fill the sled box full of nice, fresh yellow straw and cover it with a big, dry blanket.

While Father was getting the horses and the sled ready we put on our clean long underwear, the black knitted socks, our petti-coats and our very best dresses. I had button shoes; Agnes had slippers! I wished I had slippers, too. Mother called, "Girls, don't forget your muffs, scarves and stocking caps." She walked over to the organ, picked up Father's violin and placed it on the table beside the picnic basket. She said, "We must not forget the violin."

The faint tinkle of bells grew louder and louder. Mother called, "Father is ready!" We hastily put on our coats. Mother handed each of us a huge, hot block of wood that she had been heating in the oven. She wrapped them and the only hot soapstone we owned in old blankets. She cautioned us saying, "These are extremely hot! Don't burn yourselves! Agnes, will you carry the soapstone for Virginia? Lucille, can you help Virginia get into the sleigh? I have our passing dishes in the picnic basket. I want to check the fireplace. I will bring the basket and the violin."

Father laughed when he looked at us. He said, "You girls look like miniature ladies carrying newborn babies wrapped in receiving blankets!" We sat down on the blanket. It was fun to feel the soft, fluffy straw settle down beneath us. We placed the warm sticks and soapstone under our feet and wrapped the long scarves over our heads and necks. We poked our hands into our woolly muffs. Father threw another big blanket over all of us. He asked, "Everybody cozy and snug?" Holding the reins in one hand he slapped them gently across the horses' rumps and sang out, "Giddy up, Fred! Giddy up, Bill!" We were off.

The stars blinked at us. We looked for the Big Dipper and the Little Dipper. We imagined the Big Bear and the Little Bear. Before we knew it we could see the twinkle of the farmhouse lights where we were headed. The kerosene lights in all the windows got brighter and brighter. Father drove right up to the back door. He called out, "Whoa! Whoa!"

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