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Hartselle Enquirer

Old-fashioned Fourth of July

Lay-by time on the farm occurred when the cotton and corn crops were cultivated for the last time before harvest. It was an event that preceded closely the Fourth of July and left us farm kids jumping for joy. 

Gone were the days when we would be required to spend our time in the fields, using hoes to dig weeds and grass from the rows and tilling the soil with mule-drawn plow stocks. 

Aside from our everyday chores, such as feeding and watering the livestock, milking the cows and hand-carrying water from a spring to our flock of laying hens, we looked forward to having more free time while the school doors were closed for the summer.

Our bucket list of fun-time activities was topped with the Fourth of July holiday. Like most farm families, we took the day off.

A trip to town was made the day before to buy a 100-pound block of ice. My brothers and me were given permission by the iceman to pick up any loose slivers of ice lying on the wooden dock and eat them while the purchase was being made. We also took turns sitting on the block of ice to stay cool on the return trip home.

The ice was then removed from its heavy cover of burlap bags and placed deep into a cottonseed bin in the barn to prevent it from melting overnight. The next morning, half of it was removed and placed in a No. 2 wash tub and mixed with squeezed lemons, sugar and water to make ice-cold lemonade. Each of us kids was given a cup and free access to the tub of lemonade for the remainder of the day.

The remainder of the ice, crushed and mixed with salt from the meat box, was used to make hand-turned vanilla ice cream. It was served after a lunch that consisted of fried chicken, fresh creamed field corn, fried okra and a dessert of blackberry cobbler pie.

A 50-pound homegrown watermelon was served as an afternoon snack under the shade of two huge oak trees in the front yard.

The front yard also provided space for games of tree climbing and swinging on a swing made from a discarded automobile tire, horseshoes, washers, marbles and hopscotch.

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