Summertime in the ’60s

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When the school year ended in June, we “young’uns” on the Lett farm had only a few days’ break before the 12-hour tobacco marathons began.

“Rise and Shine” and get-your-butt-out-of-bed Daddy (Bud Lett) let us curl our toes between the covers like a bear still resting in the cave.

Even let’s-cook-biscuits-and-fix-enough-breakfast-for-an-Army Mama (Ruby) allowed us “young’uns” that rare but sweet opportunity to sleep late.

Sleeping late was the most precious of gifts on the family farm whether living in Buckhorn community or anywhere in rural America.

Arising from our slumber after 10 a.m. we felt relief and then quickly remembered that the biggest garden in four counties was bursting forth beyond the backyard. Every day we worked ... after all, there were green beans to be picked and snapped ... squash to be chopped and later fried with fresh onions ... cucumbers to be peeled and diced for supper and later made into pickles ... tomatoes to be christened with salt, eaten with eagerness, and some put up for winter enjoyment.

My Daddy, brother Jimmy Doyle, sister Mary Carolyn, and I ... Sandy Lynn ... eagerly ate Mama’s made-from-scratch biscuits laced with homemade blackberry jelly. We dived into sausage rolled into patties and links stuffed in a grinder months ago on hog-killing day, fresh eggs lifted only yesterday from the chicken house, and grits covered with newly churned butter from Aunt Gladys’ cow.

‘Citified’ friends
visit country folks

Friends from the city, Paula Gayle Patterson and Debbie Mansfield, arrived for the summer to stay with grandparents on nearby farms. They showed up in their “citified” clothes, and I relished my reunion with these girls from another planet. Boys and television did not excite us — we had better things to do. We talked endlessly about school and what we were going to be when we grew up — one day it was a nurse, another a teacher; for me it was never a farm wife.

As animal lovers we noticed the big ticks on dozens of dogs and knew our work was cut out for us — we formed a tick company and got out the tweezers, plucking the bulging bloodsuckers from thick manes. In the yard we played Hop-Scotch, Hide-and-Seek, Ring around the Roses, Simon Says, or Red Light-Green Light, and climbed trees.

We especially enjoyed our walks to the Puzie’s Pond down below our house where I showed them how the fish would come up and eat right out of my hand. We fed the ducks and watched the turtles peep out of the water and then we three would-be stars created a dance routine on the dam.

Meanwhile, the boring boys on the farm and in the community kept their distance while they enjoyed Kick the Can and rolling old car tires everywhere and using them for inner tubes for swimming at Puzie’s Pond.

Often Paula Gayle, Debbie and I looked for four-leaf clovers — lucky charms, you know — and always tied the stems with white flowers into long chains for necklaces. Sometimes we laughed so hard our stomachs hurt ... and other times we lay quietly on our backs in the grass and watched the clouds. Someone would say “that cloud looks like a ...” or at night one of us would comment, “that star is where the goddess Helena lives” and the cosmic explorations began. We were “Sisters of the Sky!”

Debbie and Paula Gayle came several times throughout the summer. Either Debbie’s grandfather, Carl Dickens, or Paula’s uncle, Clayton Lawrence, who lives 2 miles up the road towards Broadway, bought them to visit. The grown-ups enjoyed setting a spell at Grandpa’s country store.

My “citified” friends told me of living in houses in a row on paved streets — so unlike the farm where Lett land stretched for 400 acres around us and other large neighbor settlements nearby. Debbie and Paula Gayle brought the city to me each summer, and I shared life in the country with them.

Demands of the farm consumed my youthful summers but not so much that I couldn’t find time for kinship with these kissin’ cousins and soul sisters. We connected each year through a common language, play and laughter, and bonded through expectations of long friendships and dreams of bright futures.

AlexSandra “Sandy Lynn” Lett has moved back to Buckhorn community. She is a professional speaker and the author of several books. Reach her at 919-499-8880 or LettsSetaSpell@aol.com

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