Today as I was getting ready for church, the shirt I put on triggered a memory and I began reminiscing about my childhood. I was privileged to have grown up around my grandparents when I was young. We lived just across the road from their farm, and my dad worked with his father in the lumber & construction business, so we saw them almost every day. My grandad was a quiet, stately man who I admired greatly. I spent as much time as I could with him. During the summer he would let me help with the chores around the farm. I helped him feed his hogs during the evenings and sometimes he would let me ride with him to downtown Ramseur to have grain ground into feed and pick up supplies. When we got to the milling company in downtown Ramseur, he would back up the side dock. The owner, Mr. Shoemaker would greet us at the side door and we would shovel our pickup load of corn and wheat into the large abyss that was in the floor of Mr. Shoemakers’ milling company. The hum of the grinding was always mesmerizing to me, and I shuttered to think of what would happen if an animal accidentally were to fall into that pit. It was just an open hole in the floor that was covered by a wooden trap door when not in use. Once you opened the door, a metal shoot would direct anything thrown into the pit to grinders that would turn it into fine feed or flour. Mr. Shoemaker would then wrap a burlap sack around the mouth of the funnel that came down inside the store and with a quick pull of a lever, fills up a 100 lb sack of feed and quickly tie it with his special knot. It was then loaded onto the customer’s truck. My job was to shovel the grain into the pit and then pull the bags to the front of the building where my grandfather would be waiting to load them onto his truck. Most of the time the feed we had milled wound up into hog feed. Each year, Granddad would grow out several hundred hogs to “top hogs” (when they got to around 200 lbs) and then take them to the sale in Siler City. He gave me one of his flock for my efforts every year that I helped him.
My thoughts were directed to those days while I was dressing for church. We have a new pastor, and his preaching has caused me to actually enjoy going to church again. I was up early so to get dressed and be there on time. Now my wardrobe is sort of limited. I have never been one to buy a lot of clothes. In fact, I rarely ever throw away anything. That becomes a problem when you grow in places that you don’t want. For some reason, my neck seems to be (well, it actually is) much larger than it was years ago, so my old shirts just don’t fit anymore. They don’t button like they used to either. When I try to fasten the top button to put on a tie, it feels like I am being choked. I do have a few shirts that have a large enough neck that they are comfortable, but most of these are not what I would call “fashionable.” I had put one of these shirts on this Sunday, and as I looked in the mirror, my mind went back to those days with my Granddad and Mr. Shoemaker. While we would grind our own grain for hog feed, Grandaddy would purchase his chicken feed at the store. After we loaded up the bags of feed we had ground, he would go through the stacks of chicken feed and pick out several with patterned designs on the bags. Back then, access to a clothing store was limited to an occasional trip to town or mail order from the Sears and Roebuck catalog. Companies would pack their feed in patterned cloth bags that rural women could re-use for dresses, aprons, and table cloths, or whatever they chose to make from them. These feed sacks came in a variety of colors and designs, and when we returned from town with our load, my grandmother would come out and inspect what we had brought. “Now that one will make a nice tablecloth (or something)” she would say “You be careful with it and don’t tear it up.” Granddaddy would nod, as to say “don’t worry.” The shirt I had chosen for church was a yellow checkered one, and it reminded me of those feed sacks and the anticipation of my grandmother getting something new.
Simple things, for a much simpler time. People seemed to be much happier back then. Thankful for memories.