SPRING IN THE COUNTRY
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.
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.
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!!