Growing Up On A Farm
A Short Story by D.B. Mauldin
Marge had grown up on a farm during the 1940’s. Life had been tough; long days working in the fields, long nights of sweaty, tossing. Marge was the baby of the family and the only girl. Her two older brothers worked hard too, but Marge usually got stuck helping her mother beat and hand wash their clothing on wash day, cooking, canning, churning butter, and general house cleaning.
There were times, though, that all five of the family would have to be in the fields. There was no school for the three children during planting and harvesting times. They were in the fields with their father and mother from first morning dawn until late night dusk.
Marge’s father, Thomas, rented the land the family lived on and farmed. Thomas farmed cotton, bell peppers, and corn. He plowed with an old mule because the family could not afford a tractor. When Marge looked back on her childhood, she supposed her father worked the hardest of them all, but she couldn’t see it then. Marge didn’t know how many acres her father had farmed, but she knew it was a lot.
Marge and her mother, Ethel, worked and maintained a large family garden near the house. There were also several fruit trees in the yard that they would pick from; apple trees, peach trees, pear trees, and persimmon trees. They had blue berry bushes, grape vines, and once or twice a year, the whole family would go black berry picking.
They had a mule, a milk cow, chickens, and raised several hogs. Her father and mother both had tried to teach Marge to milk the cow, but she could never get the hang of it, so the job was given to one of the boys. The other boy was responsible for feeding the mule and slopping the hogs. Marge gathered eggs, but when it came to killing a chicken for Sunday Dinner, she shied away, so her mother took care of that job.
It took a lot of work just to sustain the family. There was very little left over for clothing, shoes, etc… Marge wore dresses made from burlap sacks; seed sacks, grain sacks, and any other sack big enough to make something from. Even the family’s underwear were made from sacks. She went barefoot in the summer and wore a pair of her mother’s shoes in the winter. The boys wore hand-me-down clothes and shoes from their father.
When Marge was working in the fields all day, she would day dream about marrying a rich man and living in the city. She did eventually marry and lived in the city, but they were far from rich. Marge and her husband, Paul, scrimped and scraped to save a penny here and there. They had two children, one boy and one girl. Once the children were old enough to go to school, Marge got a job working in a candy factory near their home. Soon the family was living a middle class lifestyle.
Marge’s children, and grandchildren, were grown now with lives of their own. Her husband, Paul, had passed away a couple of years ago. Marge was left living on her own, although her children and grandchildren visited and kept an eye an her regularly. Marge’s daughter lived the closest to her and was the one that took her to office visits with her doctor.
Today, was such a day. Cynthia, her daughter, was driving her to the doctor to have another skin cancer cut out. Marge had been having them for the past five years. The first one was melanoma, but they got it all. Cynthia tended to ‘freak out’ every time one was found.
Marge supposed it was from all the years she spent working out in the sun at the farm. She had Xerosis earlier than most of her friends. She knew Xerosis came due to the aging process, but her skin had been unusually dry for a long time. Marge had slathered lotion upon lotion on her skin, trying to make it look light and smooth like her friends’.
Then the melanoma’s started. This would be her seventh or eighth, she couldn’t remember anymore, to be removed. Luckily, only the first had been malignant.
Marge was very careful to avoid the sun and kept herself covered with sunblock and clothing, when she did have to go out. She still lathered on the lotion, but it was too late now. Age had taken over. Her young, silky skin was lost forever.
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