"Do we have all the gifts?"
"They're in the trunk."
"In the suitcases in the trunk."
"how about something to keep Rickey occupied on the trip? His constant 'Are we there yets?' can rankle."
"Smitty bought him a stack of funny books. They ought to keep him occupied til we get there."
"Alright then let's go."
Dad cranked up the new '52 Ford, put her in gear and started to back up.
"Wait! Where's the boy?" Dad noticed, as he reversed the car, that I wasn't in the back seat.
"Oh dear. In the rush I forgot he had to visit the lavatory one more time," said my mother. "I'll go get him."
A few minutes later she lead me out the front door. I climbed into the back seat over the stack of comics. I was oblivious to the fact I had almost been left behind.
"Alright. It's off to your grandmother's then," said dad as he faced backward lining up the car to back into the road.
Five minutes into the journey to Clio, Georgia, I was lost in a brand new Bugs Bunny funny book. Gone was the excitement of Christmas gifts. I was lost in the cartoon world for the next hour or so. On tap were the adventures of Baby Huey, Heckel and Jeckel, Mighty Mouse, Super Mouse, The Little People, Little Iodine, Little Lulu, Uncle Scrooge, and Mutt and Jeff. My ride was over before I knew it. We had arrived at the farm.
When dad came to a stop I jumped out of the car to be greeted by the dogs that lay about the yard. Clucks and feathers filled the air as they bounded over to me. I was showered with licks and thumping tails in their eagerness to greet me. It was easy for them since I was at their level They weren't big dogs so much as I was was a little child.
Clyde had already arrived the day before. The front door slammed as he came out eating a sandwich.
"Hey, nef! Come on in. Lunch is on the table."
I looked to see if my parents were coming. They were gathering packages from the trunk. Dad waved me on.
In through the front porch past the fire place, home to a crackling log dropping from the grate, beyond the pot bellied stove in the big room and into the kitchen we ran. The long table sat in the middle of the room bedecked with white line. The length of it was covered in ham, turkey, chicken, vegetables from the garden, potatoes, sweet potatoes, casseroles and pitchers of tea along with the aroma of perking coffee on the stove behind me.
"Grab a dish, Honey, but first give your old gramma a kiss."
I tiptoed up to her and gave her a kiss on the cheek as she bent down to recieve it. She smiled at me turning to my folks as they in, "My that chile has grown since last."
Everyone agreed while I turned my attention back to the steaming dishes on the table. It stretched practically from wall to wall and for a little guy. The turkey near the end was the largest I had ever seen. I stared into it's butt end from my vantage point. Clyde was about a head taller and could view the entire table content with a single look. I saw only what was on the outer edge as I walked around it.
"Here you go, Rickey," said my mother handing me a plate. "What would you like on it?"
"Just a turkey sandwich, please." Clyde and I had things to do. I didn't want to be slowed down with a heavy meal nor take the time to eat it.
Mom handed me the sandwich which smelled of home made bread. I ran out the back door following Clyde.
Our walk around the farm took us past several outter buildings. The smoke house wasn't far from the house. We never went in there. We passed one small building which, for me, was the gourd house. Inside hung the shells of gourds drying out. Granddad used to bore a hole in them along with a smaller hole in the stem through which he placed a leather thong for hanging on a pole. He used them for the Martin Houses he would replace every spring on the pole in the back yard.
"They eat up the mosquitoes," he'd answer when I asked why he gave houses to the Martins.
To the right,as we made our way to the pasture, was the sugar cane press. It was two heavy cylinders placed side by side with gear interlocks at the top. These cylinders were placed within a frame and a long arm of wood with a yoke at the farther end. It was attached to one of those thick metal cylinders. At the far end a mule was yoked so that he could walk in a circle which set the cylinders into motion. They would rotate in opposite directions due to the gear teeth at top. While they turned sugar cane was placed between them and with the mules forward motion the cane was crushed on it's way through the big round blocks. The juice was collected at the bottom into which the sugary water would drain. This juice was later boiled down into the syrup that sat on the breakfast table each morning to be poured on pancakes. It was the best cane syrup I have ever tasted.
Beyond that was a pen which held pigs that would usually be asleep in the mud as we continued past. Behind that was the gate to the pasture which was our destination. There were cows in the field as we unlatched the gate. We'd both enter and relatch it and walk on to the timber line at the far end of the field. There was no bull to hamper our journey. After reaching the pines we'd look for squirrels' nests for future hunting trips, future meaning the next day early in the morning.
When we sighted several we would head back to the house with a stop off in the barn. At the corn crib we'd take several ears of the dried cobs and run them through the corn stripper. It would twirl the cob down into the pitcher like opening and shear off the kernels of corn producing a rough cob at the bottom.
"Grab the corn," Clyde would say as he gathered up the naked cobs. I'd put the dried niblets in a handy sack and follow him up into the loft. It was strewn with mountains of hay which we'd kick aside on our way to the open door above the main doors below.
"OK, give me some of that corn and watch."
We would lay on the loft floor and inch our heads over the side. Clyde dribbled the dried kernels over the side. The chickens in the yard would find the patch of corn and with happy clucks commence eating it. We watched for a while. After a small herd of cluckers bobbed for corn Clyde would reach back for one of the cobs. He'd slowly slide the cob out the window displacing hay which drifted down onto chicken heads. If they'd heeded that warning from the sky and run like Chicken Little the next few moments wouldn't have bothered them at all. But they continued to cluck and peck at the ground.
The next moment would explode with the words "BOMB AWAY!" Down would rain a cluster of corn cobs into the middle of the pond of pullets. Bup, bup, bup was the sound of cobs bouncing on the ground amid squawks and feathers flying from scattering chickens. The dogs would join in the fun barking and chasing the cackling fowl as they ran for cover. When things settled down Clyde would pour more corn from the window. The chickens would eventually return and the sequence would begin again. It was a ritual after a while.
Of course when the grownups realized we were the cause of the cacophony we were hauled in and dealt with. It was usually a "Don't do that again." to which we answered "Yes'm." Until we did it again.
Those were the most joyous Christmases of our lives I believe. Christmas was piling in the car, driving to Georgia, and meeting with all the rest of the family at my Great Grandmother's house.