June Bug

buzzing June bug
of iridescent green
whispers softly
“come fly with me”
over rolling hills
and deep valleys
over canting barns
and garden patches
over grazing cattle
and pecking chickens
to a time and place
that slumbers gently
in my mind
of
endless summer days
and long dusty roads
cool shaded woods
and gurgling rocky streams
possum-grape vines
and blackberry thickets
an old weathered house
perched on the hill
of my distant childhood
so fondly remembered
viewed through
rose-colored lenses
of kindly Time

©️2019 KT Workman

Photo via Pixabay

The Barn

The barn was a big part of my childhood. It had always been there, and it had always been old. But long before I entered the world, the barn had once stood new and proud on a ranch/farm that would one day belong to my parents.

According to what Daddy said before he passed away, Mama bought the barn and house, and the land both occupied, while he was away working as a lumberjack in far-off California. They’d been living in a little three-room house on land owned by Daddy’s parents when the place went up for sale. Mama called Daddy and he told her to buy it. And if memory serves me correctly (Bear in mind that I am going on what others have told me; I wasn’t even born yet.), Mama moved my older siblings in, lock, stock, and barrel, all on her own. No indoor plumbing, no electricity, but to my parents and brothers and sisters, that place became home. And after I was born, it became my home as well.

I have often wondered about the family who lived there before us. And I wondered what that old barn had seen in its heyday. All I know is what it saw when it came into my family’s possession, and maybe a little of what it heard and felt.

Laughing kids playing in its rafters, building hidey-holes in the bales of hay stored there for feeding the cattle in winter. Daredevil kids scaling its gray, splintered walls to stand on top of its rusty, sheet-iron roof to look out upon the field, barn lot, and small calf-pasture surrounded by woods that stretched out as far as the eye could see.

Mama standing by the gate that led out into the field, calling the milk cow in her own unique way. I didn’t understand the soo-wees and other noises that went into it, but the milk cow did. She trotted or meandered, depending on her mood, to the wide gate made out of crossed boards and cedar poles, and Mama let her into the barn lot, then inside the barn. There, Mama had a big pan of cotton-seed hulls ready, and while the cow ate, she milked. On the ground nearby, an old pie plate awaited a few well-aimed squirts of fresh milk for the barn cats. I remember that at least on one occasion, a contrary milk cow kicked off Mama’s glasses, and she called a couple of us kids out there to help her find them.

And I remember the calves born inside that barn. In cold weather, my daddy kept a close eye on the pregnant cows, and when their times came, he herded them inside and out of the elements for the birth, and for protection the first few crucial days afterward. Sometimes the birth was difficult, and Daddy had to help by reaching inside and turning the calf so the front hooves came out first. He couldn’t save every calf in distress, and it was sad when he couldn’t. But we all rejoiced—and maybe the barn did too—when a little, wet calf took its first wobbling steps and suckled.

The barn served as protection for our food as well. In a shed separated from the main part of the barn, we laid out freshly dug potatoes on clean hay and sprinkled them with lime to keep them from absorbing moisture and rotting. One year, we had drying peanut plants hanging from the rafters. I remember sitting up amongst the hay bales cracking the hulls open and popping nuts into my mouth.

Near the barn, an old oak spread its shading limbs over the feedlot. My brother nailed a few boards to form a platform high in the oak’s sturdy branches, and we christened it “The Tree House”. I bet that old barn heard me sitting up there singing or talking to myself—two things I still do to this day—after my older siblings pushed and pulled me up into The Tree House and left me there while they went off to play. Maybe it enjoyed my singing. Maybe it laughed when I carried on conversations with imaginary friends. I’d like to think it did.

The barn is no longer there. Quite a few years ago, it was torn down before it completely collapsed, and a new one took its place. But that old barn, the smell of it—hay and manure—will stay with me for the rest of my life. Those two combined odors symbolize home to me. Security and warmth. Love and family.

A lot of people might shake their heads, and think, “Poor girl, poor children, to grow up so deprived.” But we were never deprived. We had plenty to eat, a fireplace to warm us—one side at a time—and a mother and father who put their children first in every aspect of their lives.

And we had a barn.

And it had us.

© 2019 KT Workman

Shelter From The Storm

Here in the South, spring ushers in our first tornado season.

“First?” you say.

“Yes,” says I. “First.”

Unlike Tornado Alley that lies in the Midwest and has one tornado season, we here in Dixie Alley are blessed with two. We have the traditional spring tornado season of March, April, and May; then in fall, November, and December. In Tornado Alley, it’s usually too cold in the fall for tornadoes to form, but owing to the South’s lower latitude, we have more low pressure systems that breed tornado-producing storms.

The majority of our twisters are mindful of the two seasons in Dixie Alley, but there are renegades out there that can strike any month, any week, any day of the year.

Aren’t we blessed?

Earlier today as thunderstorms rumbled over my house in the city, my mind slipped back in time, way back, to my childhood country home and a stormy night that stands out in my memory…

When I was small, my daddy worked far from home in California as a lumberjack. He was gone a good portion of the year, returning in the winter for a few months before going back to make the money he couldn’t make here. That left my mama to take care of a bunch of kids, livestock, and everything else on our farm/ranch. At the time, Mama’s aged mother and uncle lived with us. She had her hands full.

I was such a wee thing, I don’t remember many details of the turbulent night Mama took us all to The Bluff. I do remember being scared, though, and I suppose Mama was too or she wouldn’t have attempted to herd a bunch of kids, and her mother and uncle up the steep, wooded hillside behind our house to the only place she thought might shelter us: The Bluff.

That’s how my siblings and I refer to it—The Bluff, a proper noun. That rocky crag holds a prominent place in my childhood, a place where we all played, and later on our children played, and some great grandchildren as well.

But I digress…

There’s an area of The Bluff where it forms an overhang, and as added protection, a half-buried, humongous rock lies in front of the overhang with just enough room between the rock and bluff for a handful of bodies. That’s where Mama took us.

I remember an upward trek, a dark night and flashes of lightning, bobbing beams from a flashlight(s), labored breathing. And yes, I remember being scared. But I also remember feeling that I would be okay because I was with Mama.

And isn’t that what we all want, to feel safe? Not just from tornadoes but from everything in life that can harm us.

Mama was my shelter from the storm. Long ago, I learned to deal with standing outside in the wind and rain with not even a flimsy umbrella to protect me. But I still miss the security, the feeling of safety, the knowledge that everything would be all right, my mother’s mere presence provided.



©️2019 KT Workman

Mama’s Garden

I have a lot of good memories of my mama, some of them, surprisingly, from the time she was dying.

A little back history for clarification—

By the time she was in her late 80s, Mama’s heart was failing from simply being “worn out,” as her doctor put it. Knowing her time was limited, she asked not to be taken to the hospital under any circumstances, to be allowed to die at home. My siblings and I honored her wishes. We arranged our schedules so two of us could be there around the clock to care for her, supplemented with visits from hospice. During this four-month period, a lot of Mama-memories were added to my considerable store, some heart wrenching, some bittersweet, and all priceless.

One day in early fall, I was with Mama when she wanted to see her garden. I’m sure she missed it. She had always enjoyed “digging in the dirt,” whether it was working in her flower beds or tending the large vegetable patch behind the house. Over the years, when I dropped by to visit, if the weather was passable, many times that’s where I’d find her. I think for her the inside of the house was of secondary importance—except for cooking, but that’s another story.

That day, my sister, brother and his wife were there as well, and the four of us got Mama into a wheelchair and rolled her outside into the warm, sunny day.

We started across the bumpy yard, brother pushing the chair, and were doing fine until he hit a chughole in the thick Bermuda grass. The wheelchair stopped abruptly and Mama almost shot out of it. Of all things, she burst out laughing, and with a smidgen of relief that she had stayed put in the chair, the four of us laughed along with her.

Then we were off again, a bit more slowly this time.

When we reached the edge of the garden, brother parked the chair and set the brake. Mama looked out over plants that were still mostly green and growing, saying nothing. I couldn’t help but wonder what was going through her mind, how she felt about not being able to do what she had always done, how she couldn’t just get out of that chair, walk out in the rows and start weeding.

I don’t remember if sister, brother, sister-in-law, or I talked to fill the silence; all I remember is feeling sad as I stood there staring at Mama’s garden. And I remember wishing, as I had many times after Mama’s health started deteriorating, that I could give her some of my healthy years. But life doesn’t work that way, and she wouldn’t have taken them if such a thing had been possible. Mamas aren’t like that.

After a time, Mama closed her eyes and turned her pale face to the sun. And smiled.

That beautiful smile took away a little of my sadness, and lives on in my memory, warming my heart until the day I can see it again.

©️2019 KT Workman