Days Gone By - stories from the past

Spring in the Country – I learned my lesson the hard way

SPRING IN THE COUNTRY

by

Becki McAnnally

Being raised in the country in Helena, Alabama during the forties was in many ways an idyllic kind of upbringing. It wasn’t that we were wealthy , or that we didn’t have to be frugal, like most country folks, and we didn’t have the luxury of throwing away perfectly good food. There was one day that stands out in my memory like it happened yesterday.


You would think that the last thing a 4 year old child in the country would want to do in the spring would be to have a chore of gathering eggs or having to do anything in the garden, except of course, to run barefoot through freshly plowed earth.  The yellowbells and daffodils were blooming, the tulips were coming up, and it was a beautiful , warm day.03daffodils

I actually had chores to do when I was that young, and I really liked feeding the chickens, but I was scared to death of gathering eggs, because the hens didn’t take too kindly to being  rousted when they were on the nest. And you just never knew when the hen would still be on the nest. Of course, my Mama didn’t make me gather eggs  anyway, I just had seen the hens peck her sometimes when she was gathering and thought they would do that to me, too…and it sure looked like it hurt!

So when the little neighbor boy down the road came to play that day, the last thing we were thinking about was gathering eggs.  It was one of those warm spring days when you didn’t have to wear a jacket, but Mama had put my little overalls on with a little blouse underneath that had little puff sleeves and a collar. She had brushed my long curly hair and put a ribbon in it.  So I thought I really looked pretty, and I was glad to get outside !  My friend and I played awhile and then pretty soon we got bored.

Remember, this was a time when no one locked doors, and we didn’t ever hear anything about child molesters, but I knew I wasn’t supposed to go out of the yard. But we decided we would go across the road to my neighbor’s house anyway,  where  a family lived that I thought was my own until I was grown.  My friend didn’t have any animals and didn’t know anything about chickens or eggs, so I decided we would look at the henhouse to see if there were any eggs. Lo and behold, there were no hens around , and six eggs in those nests! We went back home, and I retrieved my old Easter basket ( my Mama was busy sewing and didn’t see me), and we went back across the road . We gathered the eggs very carefully and took them back to my house. We then decided we had had so much success, that we would go look in our henhouse for eggs. We found another four or five , and then decided to take our stash and  go sit out in the newly broken garden plot so we could decide what we were going to do with them.gathering eggs

 The rest of the story

Well, there wasn’t much else we could do with them , except to break them and squish our hands in them in the dirt ! We made a pile of mud cakes, and were having a great time ! We were doing fine until my Mama showed up . As you can surmise, she also had a switch in her hand. I knew I was in big trouble then. She sent my friend home and she switched me all the way back into the house. Then, horrors of horrors , she marched me across the street to tell my neighbor what we had done, and to apologize.

I was mortified, even at four years of age, to have to tell my beloved Effie that I had stolen her eggs and then broken every one of them. Needless to say, there was a lot of crying and when it was all said and done, she wasn’t mad at me. But I was thoroughly ashamed and  figured I got off light not getting another switching.

Mama and Effie both have been gone now for many years, but  I have often thought about that day and realized that my mother was teaching me a very valuable lesson about taking things that don’t belong to you, and destroying something that belonged to someone else for no good reason. People today would probably say she hurt my phyche with the spanking and the humiliation that she made me go through, but I don’t think so.  I went on to become the valedictorian of my graduating class, a wife and mother of two great kids, and a very successful administrative Nurse manager at a Children’s Hospital for 40 years.  And I wonder if there were more parents today who would care enough about their children’s understanding of right and wrong, and use some of that old country way of righting a wrong , if we would have the crime rates we see today.  At any rate, I learned my lesson!!

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9 comments

  1. John H. Allen

    I’ve heard these beautiful spring flowers call butter cups, daffodils, and jonquils.

    1. Oh how I miss those butter cups. We moved from Tennessee to Florida, buttercups won’t grow here for some reason. I pay the price each spring for a little pot of them with blooms, that came from elsewhere, so that I can remember the good old days when mom hid our candy Easter eggs in the butter cups in the front yard in Tennessee. Butter cups is the correct name so why bother with the other more difficult spellings.

  2. Sandra Day

    I well remember doing the same thing when I was about that age and I got a switching as well and I deserved that switching. LOL

    1. Those switching’s set me on the right track. Mom would send me to the peach tree to pick my own when I needed a good one but one day, to be funny, I picked a tiny one with a bloom. Did not work as she went and got her own. Never tried that one again. I thank my parents, long in heaven, each day for my simple upbringing and every switching I received & deserved. Set me on the correct path to paying a price for my errors and not blaming anyone else. Wish more parents would try that today. Worked for me and my family.

  3. I got my share of switching and it was a good thing. I knew my parents and grandparents loved me. They lead me on the straight and narrow by the switching and by the example they set everyday for us. We turned the TV of at dinner and we all ate at the same time. We really talked to each other! Today everyone seems addicted to the idiot box and their cell phones. I teach elementary children and I am amazed by the lack of supervision and and the guidance they have. Most do not have chores, they are treated like royalty and bribed with stuff. Parents need to read about the “old ways’ and realize they were a little strange but the work habits and ethics we have is a whole lot better than later generations.

  4. I am waiting for you to discover the coal mining town of Piper where I was born and raised. The one mile
    shoals is a sight for sore eyes. Piper was closed in the 1950’s and in now a animal preserve.

    1. Maybe, we’ll find enough information soon. You can always put the name Piper in the search box to see if something shows up in another story.

  5. Growing up in Orange City, Fl. we had a town Constable (thats right -one lawman 24/7 always on call) If he caught a child messing up, he was prone to issue him a spanking right then and there. Always took you home afterwards and told the parrents what happened. You can believe that Mr. Haymans spanking was no where near what you had gotten when he took you to the house. I know, I was a quick learner, it only took one time. I remember as we got to the front porch, my Dad was taking off his belt. He started wearing me out with it. Mr. Hayman said “This is why I brought him here…….” My dad replyed, “If the law had to bring him home, then he deserves this, I don’t need to know what he did” . Alvin Hayman R.I.P. 1968, I will always remember you and how you helped all of us keep on the straight and narrow.

  6. I learned that same lesson when I took some gum from a dime store at the age of 5. My mom took me back to the store (after a good whopping) to return the gum and apologize to the manager, who was very “tough” on me. I never took another thing that didn’t belong to me. Great story and great lesson.

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