Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Muck life was good

Those who lived here in the 1930s and 1940s remember well the mucklands, the fertile swamp land that was drained around Canastota. Even now there is still muckland worked, but very little.

Some residents who own muck have vegetable gardens there now. I have written about the days when my dad had two huge vegetable gardens on the muckland after he retired because he said, “I like to see the things grow” and grow they did. There is no better soil to grow almost anything in, but there would be nurserymen and farmers who would perhaps disagree.

When my dad had his gardens we traveled those roads almost every night, after supper to go and help harvest what was ready so I knew those roads like the back of my hand. Today I almost got lost. It has been too many years since I have driven along those roads and while my memory helped it didn’t help enough. I got mixed up on one crossroad and as I sat at the four corners trying to figure out where I was, fortunately an old friend pulled up behind me and wondering what my hesitation was, got out and came to my window to ask.

He told me where I was and where I would go if I turned left; then I knew exactly where I was.

Why didn’t I recognize it? You can hardly recognize the houses or shacks. Buildings have fallen down and are hidden by weeds, grasses and all growing matter. It’s sad. As I mentioned the earth is good soil there.

Such happy days they were, even though at the time we thought it was hot, dry, tedious work. But, even though we didn’t realize it at the time, they were fun days when we kids would spend our time weeding in the springtime or topping onions in the summer. The trucks would come into town and pick up all the kids waiting in front of their homes early in the morning and with our cutting knives or shears, our brown bags for lunch and our work clothes together with brimmed hat for shade we would be off for a day on the “black beach” as we called it because that was our summer beach. The going and coming was fun as we talked and sang along the roads and even as we worked on the fields trying to outdo each other as to how many crates of onions you could top that day.

Some romances did begin those summer days and eventually they would be married and soon have a muck farm of their own, perhaps small, but a start.

Some onions are still grown on the large farms as well as other crops such as soybeans and lettuce. In the days when onions were fading, there were carrots, corn, beans and potatoes, but along the years they, too, have passed and the fields have grown up to weeds.

Sunday afternoon was the time for the families to enjoy leisure time. In the evenings the kids who lived in the houses would gather together to play games and have fun time and the adults would finish up chores that needed to be done once they were out of the fields. Women would get their wash done and hung out, they would set bread to be baked in the morning before they went to the fields and it was work until dark but they would sometimes have a neighbor or two come over for a visit and catch up on the day’s happenings.

It was a wonderful way of life, but just memories now.

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