Tales of Mom (3): The Farm, the Chores, and Ma

By Trudy A. Martinez

When the rooster crows: “Cock-k-doodle-do Cock-k-doodle-do”. It is time to get up; it is time to dress; it is time for work. On the farm, the rooster is the alarm clock; it crows every morning at the crack of dawn just as the sun peeps over the horizon. Nellie normally doesn’t get up at this time, but now she is helping Ma; things are changing.

“Nellie, Nellie, get ya up. We gots’ work to do.” Ma calls out. She reaches over to Nellie lying in bed and shakes her slightly. “Nellie, Nellie, the cows are a waiting for us to milk ‘em.” Holding her finger to her lips Ma, whispers, “Sh-h, be quiet. Don’t want to wake everyone else.”

There is no time to dawdle. There is a lot to do around a farm, especially when there are so many children. Ma plans to teach Nellie to perform her new duties just as she taught her to do the chore of feeding the chickens and gathering their eggs when she was younger. She feels Nellie will learn quickly; her duties will be rewarding and challenging for her. It will be like going to school to be a homemaker. When you like what you do, it doesn’t seem like work, Ma feels learning to care for the farm animals will be fun for her.

“Ok, Ma. I’s comin’.” Nellie quickly rises from her bed, slips on her dress, and follows Ma to the barn.

The barn is behind the house. It isn’t a huge barn. It’s just big enough for one horse, and two cows, and Pa’s workshop. It never had a lick of paint. Its color can only be described as a weathered grey.

The pig’s pen is just to the left of the barn. There are two hogs (one male and one female) plus a dozen little, baby piglets in the pen. To the right of the barn, next to two huge pecan trees, is the chicken pen. Normally, the first thing Nellie does when she gets up is head to the chicken pen to feed the chickens. While they peck at the ground for the feed, she takes her basket and gathers the eggs for the breakfast meal. If there is an abundance of eggs, she puts them in another basket for sale.

This morning the chickens wait; they are no longer first on Nellie’s schedule. The cows come first now. Milking the cows is the reason Ma and Nellie rise early. The cows come first. And they come last.

Ma explains, “it is important Bitsy and Gertie get relieved of their milk first before we do the other chores ‘cause they get irritable if they has to wait.” Ma smiles and says, “Bout the same time every mornin’ and every evenin’ be milkin’ time. There is a special way to milk the cows.” She says as they open the barn door.

Ma walks over and grabs her milking stool and sits down next to Bitsy. She pats Bitsy gently and speaks softly to her, “It’s Okay, girl. It’s Okay”. She repeats calming her, and introducing her to Nellie.

“Come on, Nellie, you touch her. Her hide is soft; the hair part is a little prickly, not so much like humans.“ She tells, Nellie.

Ma talks to that cow just like she is talking to a person. “Okay, Bitsy, here we go. You be nice to Nellie when it’s her turn to try. ” She lays her head forward against the side of Bitsy’s body, reaches down and grabs the teats and milks her.

And the cow answers, “Moo, moo.”

“Pa be makin’ ya a stool just like mine. That way we both can milk at the same time. He be getting another pail too when he be in town, Nellie. Won’t that be nice?”

Nellie replies, “Um.”

It is exciting for Nellie learning to make things; it gives her a sense of accomplishment. Ma let her make butter this morning after milking the cows. She helps mom skim the cream from the top of the bucket. Then they put the skim cream in the churn,  “Just use quick up and down motions with the churning stick; it be thicken into butter in no time.”

A quick lesson on how to operate the hand churn and Nellie is making butter.

The cows give milk twice a day, once at the break of dawn and then again at early evening. Filling the bottles with milk after two pitchers full are set aside for the family for breakfast is Nellie’s job now. She makes ready for delivery to neighbors in need the milk in the bottles. Not everyone has a cow. Nor do they have laying chickens for that matter. Eggs are also put in baskets for delivery.

Immediately after breakfast, Nellie delivers milk, eggs, and butter to the neighbors who are in need. And she retrieves the empties (bottles and baskets) from the customer. She will wash and sterilize the bottles before they are used again.

Nellie ran out while Ma was fixing breakfast and fed the chickens and collected the eggs. She enjoys the labor at the farm. After breakfast will be time to slop the pigs. The pigs get all the meal scraps mixed in with their feed; they eat just about anything. Then it will be time to care for the garden. Ma has the garden set up right next to the water well, making it easier to care for the plants and watering.

There is never a dull day on the farm, especially this one. There is always some project in progress depending on the time of year or another baby on the way.

When Ma has the baby boy, there is no keeping Nellie away from him. She cares for him as if he is her own. After Ma feeds him, she cradles him in her arms, burps him, swaying back and forth, as she hums a lullaby until he falls asleep.

Nellie harvests the Pecans in the fall; the twins are her little helpers by then and Nellie uses them to help pick up the pecans on the ground and she enlists their help in other projects too. In early spring (after the fear of frost), they assist Nellie in planting the new garden. To a child everything is wonderful; they enjoy learning and exploring, and digging.

In late summer, it is planting time again for some cool weather plants. Time passes quickly when you are busy and enjoying what you do.

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Nellie is growing into a good looking little lady. Pa snaps this picture of her before church one Sunday. School doesn’t teach you how to sew and do the things that you do on a family farm. Nellie makes the dress she is wearing all by herself. Ma is proud of her; and it pleases her to see Nellie doing things for herself and it pleases her to see such good results of her sewing adventure.

Yes, sewing can be an adventure. There are so many things you can make at only a fraction of the cost of purchasing an already complete item. If you make a mistake, you have to rip it out and re-sew it. Sounds dull, but that’s not necessarily so. It is less expensive than purchasing an item from the store already finished; usually, you can only afford one finished item a year (if you are fortunate enough to have money for that purpose). If you save enough flour, sugar, or grain sacks, there is no cost, except your time.  On the farm, nothing goes to waste.

And taking care of the twins is rewarding. They grow fast. Nellie makes the twins dresses too. Sometimes it is difficult finding enough flour sacks with the same pattern on them. When she can, the twins get new matching dresses and Nellie sews them. And Nellie gets rewards of kisses and hugs for all her efforts.

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Nellie relinquished the chore of feeding the chickens and gathering the eggs to the twins. They enjoy the adventure each morning. They love playing with the little chickens when they hatch from the fertile eggs. Dog keeps his eyes open and watches them play with the baby chickens. I think he is jealous of the attention they give to the other animals at the farm. Dog thinks he should be the one getting all the attention.

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You may say, “A Nellie needs friends”. But she has the best friends possible because her friends are family too. Nellie’s friends (in addition to her siblings) are her cousins. Besides, the other type of friend comes and goes. Family is forever her own and she can rely on them for help when she needs it.

When Ma has the other two boys, she happily takes over the caring for them too.

As years pass by, both Ma and Pa agree she does her duty by them, and now that the children have aged, it is time for Nellie to seek a life of her own.

 

 

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Tales from Mom (1), The Chicken Feathers

By Trudy A. Martinez

As darkness dissipates the rooster crows, Nellie Mae awakes. She raises her head from an overstuffed pillow, one she personally fills with chicken feathers in her earlier years. Ma said when she is only four, “Nellie, you is old enough to do the chores. Get the basket yonder and come with your mama.”

Tagging after Ma, she watches and learns to gather the eggs for the morning meal. Next to an egg, she discovers her first feather. It is different, not a typical chicken feather, consisting of a hard tube like quill; instead, the quill is underdeveloped and soft; and the feathery portion is white, light, and airy. Holding the feathery fluff up to admire its beauty, its shimmer and shine, it dances out of her hand into the cool morning breeze. Quickly, she seizes the airy fluff from its flight and stuffs it in her pinafore pocket, placing it later in her secret place.

Each day’s journey to the chicken pen produces more. Although her chores involve plucking feathers from the dinner chickens, per-snicker- y as she is, she expresses no interest in them; only the little ones she unveils with the eggs catch her fancy. Perhaps the disinterest in the plucked feathers is why it surprises Ma to learn of her collection.

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(Nellie Mae is the light hair little girl standing next to Pa. Pa is sitting holding her younger brother (at that time). Behind Pa is Grandma Ida. Next are Nellie’s older sister and two other brothers. That is Ma sitting in the chair)

Ma is not snooping in Nellie Mae’s things as you might think; she is cleaning when, knocking over a box, feathers suddenly fly all over the room.

Watching Ma reaching to capture the tiny feathers as they take flight above her head and then float downward like snowflakes on a frosty winter morn is quite a sight. The thrust of her hand, like a burst of wind, sends the tiny feathers scurrying in the opposite direction as she attempts to snatch them from midair.

Catching a few, she vies to put them back; unfortunately, each time she raises the lid as many feathers leave as are put in. Ma, growing weary of the process, leaves the room, snatches an empty flour sack, and yells for Nellie’s help; and they both stuff all the feathers into the flower print sack. A piece of that sack survives in a quilt Nellie later makes.

You’re No Hero!

Posted on June 21, 2006

The Negative Messages Conveyed Through Advertising

By Trudy A. Martinez

“I’ll never buy another package of Doritos again!”  That is my thinking back in 1994 when I watch attentively as heavy machinery mows down an elderly woman.  In the scene, a group of people look on as a young man (Chubby Chase) comes running toward a gray-hair woman, appearing as if he is about to be her hero.  But instead, he grabs her Doritos!  He leaves her to be knocked down face forward in the muddy dirt and then acts as if he is a hero for saving her Doritos for himself.

The man (Cubby Chase) depicts is not a hero; he is a thief!  An audience watches and this member of the audience is very displeased with the negative message it communicates.  Knowing the same theme goes into millions of Americans homes, angers me.  The effect is not positive like the greedy man tries to convey by saving the Doritos.  The Doritos are not saved!  They are stolen!

In the process of the crime, the victim suffers humiliation.  It doesn’t matter the machinery knocks her down, not the man.  The message transmitted to society is the same as if he had: “It’s all right to steal, if the theft perpetrated is against an elderly woman.”

The Boy Scout assisting the woman after the fact does not make the crime any less of a crime.  This action only persuades the viewers the chore of the next generation will be to pick the elderly out of the gutter that the current generation pushes them into.

Abandoned and Home Alone

Posted on December 4, 2006

By Trudy A. Martinez

She did it again. She left, leaving me here alone again. Why? I do not understand. I’ve been good. Why does she leave me?  When she leaves, she’s missing for days. She locks me in. I can’t get out. I’m left alone. I can’t leave; I can’t reach the door knob; I can’t open it.  I can only sit. I can only look. I can only watch. I can only watch everyone outside living life to the fullest. But what is someone to do when you’re left alone for days on end.

When I am feeling sorry for myself, like I am right now, I mope. I mope around. I sleep. I sleep some more, more than I should.   I guess you might say I’m depressed.  I get lonely.  I tend to get in mischief when I’m lonely and alone.  I think I do it just to get back at her for leaving me.  After all, turn around is fair play.  Isn’t it?

It’s fun to do things you’re not supposed to.  I am feeling down, a little possessive too. I go upstairs to sit and look out the window at everyone playing on the green grass. Then I look for trouble because I can’t play on the green grass. I roam the room instead. When I get to my favorite chair, I find it occupied. Nope, I’m still alone. But to my surprise I am now alone with her stack of papers.

“That’s my chair!” I exclaim.  I quickly throw all the papers on the floor.  But I didn’t stop there.  I am still upset because she left me.  So, I tear the papers into little bits; I shred them!  I even make sure, if she is able to glue them back together, she will never be able to read them.

I poke all the papers full of holes before I shred and tear them.  The ink runs on some of the pieces because I put them in my mouth and get them wet.

Oh is she going to steam when she sees what I did.  I’ll surely get her attention.  She will yell, “My papers!”

Well, they were her papers and she can have them now.  I had my fun.  I’ll bet she’ll think twice before she puts anything on my chair again. I bet she will think again about leaving me alone. It will serve her right. She deserves torment.

What is that noise? I look out the window. The car is home. That means she is home. I turn. There she stood, frozen in time.

  Are those tears in her eyes? She stood glaring at me; she didn’t even blink.  “Hasn’t she learned by now I can out stare her?” I think.  I think, “She’s getting ready. She’s attacking me. No, wait. It’s the look at me when I talk to you time. Just before she attacks, she does this. That’s okay. This time I will not back down.” I keep telling myself, “I will not back down. I will stare back.”

She reaches for me.

I want to run. I just stare. I freeze. I stare. I am frozen in place. I can’t move. “Oh no! Oh, no!”

She scares me. She is so intense.

She is grabs me. I didn’t yell out; I didn’t fight back.  I wasn’t scared.  I did get my motor running though–you know–I start– “Purr, purr, purr, purring.” That always gets her to smile again.  Then, she starts petting me.

She loves me no matter how mischievous I am or what I’ve been into.  I love her too.  But I hate it when she leaves me here alone.

The Winners

By Trudy A. Martinez

As I approach the Junior High, a hum catches my ear like a swarm of bees.  Occasionally, a high squeal pitch punctures the air, following a towering roar, commanding, “Get over here–leave that girl alone!”

Crowds of mother’s litter the doorway with an occasional father here and there. And of course, there are a lot of small children trying to squeeze through small openings in the crowd.

A long metal table blocks the wide entrance, except for a small passage way leading to the activity floor.  Behind the table, volunteers sit on tan metal folding chairs frantically handing out fliers, signing up enrollees, or answering questions.  It is difficult for early enrollees to push past the eager new participants.  A harsh voice rings out, “Just a minute, Jimmy.”

“Come back here,” says another.

Anxious children who manage to escape their parent’s side pepper the passage way in black outfits that look like over-sized pajamas tied in the middle with a white belt.  The belt wraps around their small frames twice before being tied in the front.  On their backs, contrasting the black color of the pajama, are bold white letters forming in a semi-circle, spelling out “Young Olympians,” an artistic illustration of a block kick in action, and stars, U.S.A., and more stars.

An air-borne white sock flies high above the heads of the crowd, as if propelled by a rocket–tailing behind a voice commands:  “Go get that sock!”

The activity floor with its waxed and shining hardwood takes on the appearance of a gym. An instructor, giving directions to children from an earlier session, is about to break up.  He says, “Remember now,” taking in a deep breath as he raises his finger to his puckered lips, “Sh-h-h!”  Then he continues, “What you learn here tonight you only use as self-defense to protect yourself from anyone who tries to grab you or hurt you–NOT your friends,” he adds.  Taking another deep breath he says, “Your participation in learning and mastering the techniques I show you can earn you this bright yellow belt.”  Then he asks, “Do you want one?”

A loud sharp, “Ya,” rings out as all the children reply to his question in unison.

Although the educational activity program is sponsored by the Y.M.C.A., a men’s organization, encouragement is given for both boy and girl participants.

Chandra, my granddaughter, eagerly awaits her class to begin.  Her big brown eyes glisten and beam with excitement.  It is difficult for her to remain still.  Her muscles tense and her fists clinch in anticipation.  When her mother says, “Chandra, you need to get your shoes and socks off.”  Chandra immediately drops to the floor as if she is a puppet and the words pull her string; her mother does not need to repeat the words.  She moves quickly, untying her shoes, pulling them off, and then removing her socks; when she finishes with one foot, she instantly repeats the process with the other.

On the activity floor, the instructor tells the early group, “Good-night,” as he bows to them with both hands at his side.  All the students reciprocate and then leave the floor, scampering with excitement back to their parents.

Chandra’s eyes grow in size, taking on a pleading look as if to ask, “May I go?”  Her lips form a smile and she turns her head upward toward her mother, anxiously waiting her mother’s approval.  “Okay, go on.”

The turnout for self-defense and safety awareness programs highlights a growing problem that faces America: helpless children falling prey to unknown assailants and turning into victims.  A concern for the safety of children prompts the offering of the classes.  An overwhelming response indicates parents worry.  Because of the size of the class, some parents participate by holding the block pads and block sticks (foam padded) for the children to practice on, thus freeing more instructors to assist kids who have difficulty mastering the techniques. The Children form lines in a row.  Chandra makes sure she is right up front so she doesn’t miss a move.   Chandra’s mom said the first night of class, “Chandra needs encouragement and reassurance. She doesn’t want to be the only one who dosen’t know anything.” But out there on the floor during her first lesson her shyness disappears.  She certainly did not act like a novice.

“Horse stance,” says the instructor.

Immediately, all the children assume the position:  they spread their legs apart, assume a semi-squat position, double their fists tightly until their little knuckles appear white and hard, and position their little arms in preparation to block and punch.  Their bodies are rigid.  “Punch,” yells the instructor.

The children throw one arm forward sharply with force–”Ya.” they reply in unison.

The instructor has them sit on the floor in a squatting position as he demonstrates the next move.  “When I say, ‘get up.’  I want you to get up as fast as you can–but don’t start until I tell you.”  All the little bodies tense and lean forward slightly. 

One over-anxious little bottom leaves the grown, protruding upward–it is Chandra.  “Down,” the instructor repeats.  “Don’t get up until I say.” 

He went on giving detail instructions on how to block a hit and then immediately follows through with a kick forward.  “Up,” he says.

Little bodies pop up like they are spring-loaded.

“Horse stance,” he yells.  They instantly assume the position.  “Block–Kick.”

“Ke–.” they yell as one arm goes up to block.  “Ya,” they continue as their leg goes up close to their body and instantly shoots forward.

Judging from the height of their kicks, I imagine an assailant dropping to his knees.  “These kids can turn out winners,” I think as my mind envisions an encounter and then their little legs carrying them speedily away from the danger.

The Life of a Rose

by Trudy A. Martinez

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The Life of a Rose

The beauty of a rose is seen at its’ fullest.

The beauty of a life is seen at its’ end.

The pedal sings of its’ beauty

Through the touch of a hand,

Through the sniff of a nose,

A unique softness,

A sweet smell,

With a mere glimpse a haven unveils,

The beauty of a life is seen at its’ end.

Tales spring forth at the close,

Though a memory deposed,

Bringing forth an inter-beauty, Touching,

And caressing our soul,

Revealing a purpose,

As a departed lives on,

Conveying an ultimate plan,

The beauty of life begins again.

For a life at its’ fullest

Lives on in our hearts at the end.

Trudy A. Martinez

 

 

 

“I Guarantee My Work”

The following is an edited  re-posting of a true story I Posted on April 10, 2008 I am left with guaranteed memories because of it.

 By Trudy A. Martinez

“I am here,” a young woman announces as she taps lightly on the counter to gain my attention. Then she leans over the counter, smiles, and whispers, “You can tell everyone else to go home–the job is mine.”

“Do you have an appointment?” I ask abruptly while pretending to have not heard her last remark.

“Most definitely,” she answers smiling in anticipation to my next question. She begins to introduce herself: “My name is Margo–.” Before she finishes speaking her finger is on my clipboard, pointing to her name. “There’s my name right at the top of your list–,” she hesitates and then adds, “–where it belongs.”

I think to myself, “This young lady is certainly self-confident (a main requirement for the position of New Accounts clerk I am interviewing for). But, she appears almost too sure of herself.” I call her into the conference room, request that she take a seat, and then ask her point-blank, “Why do you think you are the best choice for the open position here at the bank?”

She smiles and quickly exclaims, “I guarantee my work!”

“You what?”

“I guarantee my work,” she repeats.

I can hardly believe my ears she says she guarantees her work. I sit in silence, not knowing what to say next. Never had I been at a loss for words before; this is usually a fault of the interviewees. I only ask her one question; but yet from the very moment she makes her presence known to me, she begins to demonstrate all the qualities I am looking for. “Margo, you stir my curiosity. What do you mean by your statement: ‘I guarantee my work’”?

“Curiosity killed the cat,” she replies. “But you need not be curious, my work is accurate; I don’t make errors. But if you find one and prove me wrong, I guarantee I will fix it.”

I hire her. But because she is so overly confident that her work is error free, I begin to scrutinize it, looking for one fatal error. A year passes; no errors surface. I become lax. I stop looking. “Perhaps it is possible for someone to do their work error free,” I think.

I feel confident can trust and rely on Margo to follow procedures without my looking over her shoulders.

Then I went on a business trip for the bank for a few days. When I return, the vault teller requests I enter the vault with her to prepare and fill an order of cash for a merchant. I did. While there in the vault, I notice there is a stack of $100 dollar bills segregated from the others. I ask, “Why are these bills here separate from the other bills?”

The vault teller replies, “Margo asked that they be kept in the vault, separate from the other bills, until you return. She says: ‘ They are counterfeit.’”

I ask, “Does she know who passed them?”

“Oh yes, a new account customer opened a time certificate with them.”

I inspect the bills. They are definitely counterfeit. But since an employee of the bank accepts them as legal tender, I fear we are now faced with an operating loss. This is a first. I had never suffered an operating loss for accepting counterfeit bills. I think to myself, “When Margo makes an error, she does it good. Why didn’t she notify the police or the F.B.I.?” Only Margo can answer my questions. She knows procedures. Ignorance is definitely not the reason. “Why didn’t she follow procedures?” This whole thing didn’t make sense.

I approach Margo and ask, “Why?” “Why?” “Why?”

She knew immediately what the one word question meant.

“The manager told me to wait until you return.”

“How did the manager get involved with it to begin with?”

“He brought the customer to my desk. I thought he knew him.”

I excuse myself saying, “I have to make a few calls before 5:00 P.M., I’ll get back to you later concerning this matter.”

Immediately, I call the “Feds,” explain what happened, beg their forgiveness, and make plans to entrap this mystery man if by chance he attempts to do it again.

Margo had shared with me his statement: “ I will be back to open another account when my certificate at another bank matures. That’s a promise.”

The F.B.I. gave me instructions. I had to fill Margo in. But because of the frantic hassle and the circumstances, precious time slips away and so did Margo–she left the bank for the day. “Oh well,” I tell myself, “Tomorrow is another day.”

The next morning disaster hit. A family emergency occurs delaying my arrival at the bank.

When I did arrive, Margo met me at the door. “It’s fixed,” she exclaims!

“What’s fixed?” I inquire.

“My error,” she stammers with excitement, “I told you: ‘I guarantee my work.’”

What had she done? My mind cannot conceive how she can correct such an error.

“Margo,” I say in a calm reassuring voice, “Face it, your error is not fixable. It cannot be erased as if it is chalk on a chalkboard.”

“But it is,” she replies, “In just that way too–like chalk on a chalkboard.” “You see,” she continues, “The man who gave me the counterfeit came back.”

He said: “I have an emergency. I need my money back.”

“So, I give him–I give him just what he asks for. I give him his money back — his counterfeit bills.”