My Farm Family
My Farm Family
When I became a Boy scout I was at first a tenderfoot and never went much farther than that. The reality was, by the standards of my Farm Family, I was a city slicker through and through. Being from the city up north, I always had difficulty walking barefoot when down on the farm. I tried many times but always came up short. Walking on gravely paths, or in the hot sand where the watermelons and tomatoes grew, making my way through the chicken yard to the orchard, was just downright painful. To my Farm Family I would always be known as the Yankee tenderfoot city slicker.
My Farm Family, as I refer to them, mostly cousins and cousins of cousins, neighbors and neighbors of neighbors, were all related to settlers of the Indiana Territory in the early 1800’s. The Jett’s show up in early Knox County records and so do the Colbert’s from Daviess County. The Jett family of the 20th century lived to the east of my Grandpa Amann’s farm, in Maysville, Indiana, on the far side of a very large tomato field. Their house sat next to the B&O Railroad track. Marshall Presley Jett, born in 1909, had married my mother’s older sister Edna during the early stages of the great depression. They had three children, Donald (b.1931), Richard (b.1933), and my dear cousin Nancy (b. 1938). Nancy could get bossy and was also a bit of a tattle tale. Danny and I could have gotten away with so much more had she not intervened into our pranks, like when she caught us throwing toads into the cistern. But, when it came to having fun, the three of them were the core of my Farm Family. They teased us relentlessly and we loved it.
There were some good stories told about the early Indiana settlers prior to the civil war. One involved a man that had a pet bear. He invited about a dozen or so of his neighbors with their dogs to come fight his bear. He posed his bear against their dogs. About twenty or so dogs showed up to do battle and some wagering was said to have happened. After an hour or two of skirmishing there were no dogs left in the fight. The bears owner, very proud of his pets performance, decided it was time for a barbeque. It was said that besides being a good fighter the bear was also a good taster. I was never very happy with that stories ending.
My big cousin Don, always an easy laugher, loved to tell us tall tales. He was responsible for our lifelong nicknames, Egghead and MuleEars. I was egghead and Dan was MuleEars. Don asked if we like to hunt coons, a leading question for sure. He promised to take us one day and one day he did. I had no idea what a coon was, but it sounded like it would be fun. The hunt went like this: Don, with his 22 rifle and a handful of shells, along with Dan and I, headed south down the B&O railroad track towards Petersburg. We had walked several miles and then several miles again. There were no coons to be seen. We ran into several trains, but no coons. What we did run into was a girl named Ginny Gray, who lived not far off the railroad track down near Petersburg. Don and the little Gray girl, we found out later, were married not long after. I don’t think it was the first time they had ever met. Dan and I have yet to see a coon on that railroad track.
The next summer we spent on the farm, Dan and I would take off every morning running across the field of tomatoes or melon, whatever crop they had in, to run and visit the Jetts. We would roust Don and Gin out of bed by jumping up and down on them. We would giggle later and wonder why in the world they slept without their clothes on? We’d never seen anyone do that, sleep without their pajamas. We reasoned we northerners wore pajamas because it’s colder where we live and people just needed them to stay warm. It would take me another ten years before realizing why some people sleep without their clothes on.
Cousin Don’s new wife Gin was a very pretty girl, and not only was she pretty, she was a nice. Gin was nice and pretty. Dan and I, at our ages, weren’t aware that girls could be nice. Nobody ever told us that was a possibility. She wasn’t bossy and she wasn’t a tattle tale, so Dan and I got along with Gin very well. It became obvious to me that the Gray family had a way of producing pretty girls. There were younger sisters named Mary and Laura and a brother named Bill. It’s for certain, by my way of thinking, if Bill Gray were a girl, he would have been pretty too. There was only one problem… I had a fancy for Laura and Cousin Nancy knew it.
Nancy’s Dad, my Uncle Herchel, even though his given name was Marshall, my family always referred to him as Hershel. This oddity has never been explained to me? Anyhow, Uncle Herchel was the Daviess County Justice of the Peace, it was an elected position. He was also the night janitor at the County Courthouse… this also seems odd? The fun part was, we would on occasion, be invited to go along with him to the Courthouse while he performed his janitorial tasks. We had the run of the place for hours. The building was like a castle to us, with its marble floors and stairways leading to darkened hallways, the office windows with gold lettering, some really cool drinking fountains and of course, we had to drink out of each and every one. It was a totally unfamiliar environment for a city slicker. Outside was a large fountain surrounded by huge statues of local civil war heroes.
One night in late summer we were invited again to come along with Uncle. This time however, Laura Gray, Gin’s younger sister, came along with us. I was still in the girls aren’t fun mode but softening a bit and I have to admit… feeling very shy being around her. My feeling shy, a sure sign of discomfort at something, and the something, I thought, was Laura in attendance during our usual free for all in the courthouse… Not so! After running around for a while with Nancy and Laura, we finally settled, sitting in the shadows of statues out by the fountain. Nancy, my dearest cousin Nancy, then says…“Why don’t you kiss her Ronnie?” OMG, “Darn you Nancy”… I thought to myself, “You didn’t have to say that..” Needless to say, I was totally dumbfounded and couldn’t speak, total shy had kicked in. Well, in good time… I kissed Laura. I had crossed the threshold, cute was no longer for babies and I saw a new light, opposition to all things “tattle tale and bossy” went out the window when I kissed Laura Gray. I was no longer a tenderfoot.
To my Dear cousin Nancy, wherever you are, Thank you.