COUNTRY LIFESTYLE INFLUENCES ON MY MIND
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1970 Photo of me in Liberty High School varsity football cheerleader uniform was taken in our front yard in the country,. . . .located close to Rt-122S Sign Rock, just off Dickerson Mill Road.
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I like the white wagon wheels in background,… Used by Mom to support a red rambling rose. Our 0.1-mile drive way off Dickerson Mill Road is behind me …That driveway had a circular drive loop before continuing to the back of our house (where we parked), and to the house next door (where Aunt Nancy & Uncle Joe lived w/cousins Ginger & Joey), & on to end at the barn gate & yard. Guests parked in that circular drive behind me. Back behind the barn, as the crow flies about 0.5-miles just off Fiddler’s Creek Road is Mrs. Royalty’s home place,…where I once saw a telegraph for water (as described in my sksskh story “H2O x Change” on Sound Cloud).

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The front yard entrance was flanked by dual red maple trees and twin lamp posts covered in ivy. Mother said the lanterns were from a carriage of horse & buggy days. The walkway, consisting of large, flat river rocks embedded flush with the ground, started at the twin lamp posts and lead to our front door, I’m sitting on, or very nearly on, on our country sidewalk in this photo. Speaking of horse & buggy rides, Dad his mother packed biscuits in her purse for long rides… Which reminded me of my self packing pockets/backpacks with nabs (packs of peanut butter crackers) for trips into NYC. She must’ve had low blood sugar aka fast metabolism issues too. Mine were borderline hypoglycemic (tested negative for hypoglycemia though). My NJ & NY friends teased me saying “don’t yous guys know we’ve got food in the city”… & I’d say “yeah, but not always where you need it, & when you need it…if I pack it, it’s guaranteed.”🙂
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Visitors were greeted at the screened front porch entrance of a >200-yo 2-story tin roofed farmhouse , complete with a floppy screen door. The kind secured with a small metal hook & eye closure. Inside the front door was the coolest living room with hardwood floor covered with a green oval braided rug, hardwood open beam ceiling, & a gorgeous rock fireplace & chunky dark wood mantel. Those ceiling beams looked like walnut and were/are at least 15-feet long & 3-inches wide. A huge tree(s) supplied those beams. The unique rock fireplace was constructed of field stone by Walker Leftwich (the grandfather of Jennings Leftwich LHS ’72 Class.).
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Our approx. 40-acre “hobby” farm was/is referred to as the “Walker Leftwich home place” since it belonged to that family for many years. It had a spring, creek, pond, barn, dog kennel, grey wood shed garage, small 4-room house used for storage, garden, pastures, hayfield, garden & honey bee stands. Our “Smith home place” for many years… approx. 1966 to 1983.
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Dad raised black angus & put one in the freezer every year…. Ugh, involved the dreaded task of wrapping the cuts of meat in freezer paper & labeling for storage. Dad also kept a milk cow many years. So, we never bought milk at the store when I was a kid. Instead we drank unprocessed, filtered whole-milk, homemade buttermilk & churned our butter too (made those 3″tall x 4″diameter butter rounds with a metal mold)…. The home made, hand cranked peach custard-style ice cream was the best ice cream anywhere…better than any store bought stuff. Dad kept an old industrial milk chiller in the coal shed. the fresh milk from that chiller was the very best tasting milk ever. Dad worked at the Sealtest Dairy processing plant until it closed. His brother Benuce worked there as well as a man named Buster and their boss Fred. Dad, Buster & Benuce did everything from butter fat testing to mowing the lawn. They wore white uniforms. I used to love hanging out at this plant watching the farmers load their milk cans on a conveyor belt that took them through swinging doors into the plant. I’d go inside to watch Dad et al dump the milk into a large tank, run tests & process it… Tracing lines of process flow and quizzing them all as to what each step /tank was for… I now realize that this was my first encounter with an industrial process & traced pipe & understood that process as if I was already a chemical engineer. Dad went to work at Rubatex when the Sealtest plant closed. I heard much about Rubatex operations from Dad, but never toured that plant.My ‘job’ at home was to make ‘scratch’ buttermilk biscuits daily for supper (dinner = lunch in the country). As a teenager I sewed most of my own clothes since most suited me better than off-the rack commercial pieces… Plus it was a bargain… More clothes for the money, yeah! Nowadays it’s the opposite cost-wise.

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We had hogs & chickens (fryers & laying)..even a mule used to plough the garden… Before Dad got a tiller & tractor. We canned vegetables & beef, made 14-day pickles, etc too. Hence, we didn’t buy much from the grocery store. He also kept a kennel full of beagles & foxhounds… Probably 30-40 max. I believe his kennel license limit was 60. I was his “surgeon” for ” doctoring on the dogs while he held them steady. . . During minor removal procedures to address splinters, thorns, & fishhooks.
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At which time the farmhouse & out-buildings & ~15-acres were sold & my parents built a brick ranch style home on the remaining 25-acres with pond, vegetable & rose garden, spring, creek, pasture, woods & honeybee strands…also with new barn & new metal sky-lighted garage, designed & constructed by Dad. Garaged his tractor, workbench, & tools since his truck & car were parked on the carport.
BTW, I often helped with those smokin’ beekeeping tasks off-bee-veil… I got the rag smoking in the smoker… While Dad wore the coveralls & bee hat with veil netting… He brought the wood hive section to the back porch or picnic table… Where I’d put the new strip of honeycomb in each rack.. Filing each rack a third of the way with new “starter” honeycomb. Not sure if he wanted it that way to save money on honeycomb or if it’s a best for the bees technique … He only said “it’s all the bees need to get started”. Personally, I would have preferred to fill each rack with and entire sheet of honeycomb starter cause it was a pain to cut the stuff in those smaller strips & secure in the wooden rack.
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Thus, our present day Smith hobby farm (approx. 30-yo) still sports angus cattle grazing the pasture… Courtesy of cousin Nathan, & Ronnie/Pete too… I forget which.
So when I say… I grew up in a different era… I truly did. At least it seems that way to me. As did my Dad. He used to think longingly back to the days of his youth. . . & described it as a time when a guy could walk for many miles though woods & fields and not have to cross a fence… Let alone see a house. There were no cars or emissions from vehicles.. . . Only horses & buggies. So whenever I feel like we had a country frontier ‘ Mother Earth News’ lifestyle, I think about how it must have been for him, ..,back in the day of “open land” unbounded by many fences or developments…feeling truly free. No wonder Dad, & I loathe crowds, traffic & manmade plastic fake garbage…
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I feel re my hand made clothes, paintings, baskets, pillows, art, etc just as Dad did…. as he once said about a gate he’d made:
“It ain’t pretty, but it serves the purpose. Its better built than store-bought, & will last longer too. I’m happy with it & that’s all that matters.” Much like me, he didn’t care about appearances, only functionality.
It’s no wonder people nowadays are ” out of touch ” with the earth, self-sufficiency, environmental sustainability & themselves. Seems to me the so called “civilized man” has much to learn. . . .as he has failed to understand the wisdom of Native American words in regard to respecting & taking proper care of our earth.
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