Long before I was the Superintendent's Wife, I was the farmer's daughter. I was raised in a small rural community in southeast Arkansas. My dad was an only child and my family never lived far from my paternal grandparents. My grandfather was also a farmer, and I believe that I got my love of land and nature at an early age from the influence of my grandpa. Grandpa retired early from farming because of a heart condition, so he and I spent a lot of quality time together. Every fall, we visited our special tree which was a persimmon tree. You never want to bite into a persimmon too early; it will leave the most bitter taste in your mouth! Persimmons aren't ready until a heavy frost has fallen.
The fall season is my favorite time on the farm, especially the month of October. Fall is the harvest time of the year. The farmers are always the busiest in the spring and fall. Back in the day before everyone used cotton-pickers, the cotton was picked manually. Yes, I can remember that far back. I remember the sea of white cotton, the smell of dew upon the cotton bolls, and the hot sun shining down. I also remember the chore of chopping cotton. But my folks were just like everybody else and finally gave into technology and started using the cotton-picker to harvest their crops. I was about six or seven and would go to the fields to play in the cotton-trailer. It was great fun to dig tunnels and climb the mounds of white cotton, but my favorite thing of all was to stand beneath the shower of cotton as the cotton bin dumped the freshly picked cotton into the trailer. I would literally have to dig my way out from underneath the weight of the dumped cotton.
But no matter how busy my dad was harvesting, he always managed to find time to take me to the county fair. I so looked forward to that night! I would sit in the back of the car and anticipate seeing that tall ferris-wheel with its many, multi-colored lights rotating round and round high against the dark autumn sky. Daddy also took me coon-hunting with him. I could not believe that he was actually letting me go with him. I only went once, but that one time is a favorite memory of mine.
After the harvest, the land lays dormant until the spring, my second favorite season of the farm. I love the smell of freshly turned earth and the way it feels on barefeet. It has been years since I have walked in the fields at planting time, but that sense is etched deeply in my memories. There's also another memory that echoes in the hollow of my brain...I remember my grandmother sending me out at dusk to get one of the farm-hands to tell them to come to the house because my grandfather had suffered a heart-attack. I sensed the urgency of that errand. I remember running through the fields and screaming above the tractor's hum to get the worker's attention to hurry and come to the house. Grandpa didn't go with that one. He survived two heart-attacks, but as they say, the third one is charm. He died late in the fall down in the woods. My daddy found him alone. I have always thought that was so sad that he was alone.
Daddy has retired from farming, but he still likes to play in the dirt. He plants and tends to a garden every year now. He has learned to wear his straw hat whenever he goes out to play. Years of sun exposure has left him battling skin cancers. Except for a short time in Texas and Lake Village, Arkansas, Daddy has always lived close to where he lives now. Daddy has become the 'old man' of his community. Everyone else has died. Although, there are no sons to pass the spade to, I feel connected to that land as much as anyone. I like to compare myself to the scene from Gone With the Wind when Scarlett is kneeling down and grabs a handful of earth and proclaims her determination to survive.
A few years ago, for Father's Day, I wrote and framed a poem for my daddy entitled,"The Farmer's Daughter". It has since set out on display in the family room at my daddy's home, a gesture that makes me proud. Every girl wants their daddy to be proud of them. I know that the Farmer's Daughter's time is most likely limited with the farmer, but as all farmers' daughters know...Old farmers never die, they just spade away.