Country Living

James L. Cowles

Copyright 2021 by James L. Cowles


Photo by of a lamp and book.  Courtesy of Dreamstime.
Photo by of a lamp and book.  Courtesy of Dreamstime.

When a young boy, I remember the shock of seeing my Aunt Annie's house lit only by coal oil lamps.  I had never seen such a thing and as I recall, there were only two lamps, requiring a person to carry a lamp from room to room where light was needed.  How could this be, I wondered?  We were from The City of Louisville, where everyone had electricity, but less than one hundred miles from home, my country relatives were not as privileged.

The day began well before daylight, with my Aunt Annie drawing water from the well for the wash pans, allowing us to wash our faces and prepare for the day. Nothing wakes you up like cold well water on your face. My Uncle Richard and cousins Gary and Danny milked the cows, after the boys got them ready by washing their utters. After milking, my cousins and I took the small herd to the back pasture where the grass was more abundant.  They didn't need much leading and were anxious to cross the creek and head into the pasture. In fact, the latter part of the trek ended with the cows actually running toward the pasture.

There was milk to be delivered to a few customers and of course, there was a large pitcher for all to have a drink at breakfast. I was used to drinking cold, homogenized milk, not warm milk just out of the cow. Another shock, for me for sure.
Perhaps the toughest thing to endure was the outhouse, which was strategically located a good distance from the house.  My cousins and I just ducked  behind a bush or tree most of the time, at least for the lesser requirement of nature. There was no toilet paper in the old outhouse, but plenty of newspaper and catalogs for reading and other uses.

Breakfast was fresh fried eggs, just gathered from the hen house, bacon, brought up from cold storage and biscuits with honey, or molasses and fresh butter. Grits? Of course, although I didn't care for them when I was young. My taste has sure changed and I now love them.  The same was true of country ham, which is a salty, cured version of the oven baked type. The adults seemed to have a greater taste for that, but not me. Sometimes Aunt Annie would actually prepare several fried chickens for breakfast, just because we were visiting and that was always a big treat as well as the largest meal of the day. However, seeing a chicken get its neck ringed was a  little more than startling, but perhaps not as bad as watching it flop all over the yard in it's headless dance. It had a bearing on my desire to eat it, at least until I watched the others enjoying the southern fried treat. I always wanted a leg and a gizzard and usually got a least one or the other, if not both.

Dad was a railroad man with free rides for the entire family, anywhere the line went.  I cherish the memory of those days in Rhoda, Kentucky, the times when dad and I would take an L&N train down to Edmonson County for what was always an adventure for a young boy with his country cousins.

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