Sitting around the fire ring this evening, my mind wandered back…45 years ago, to a meadow up the old farm lane. There, once each year in the heat of summer, we had a wiener roast of (in a child’s mind) epic proportions.
I don’t remember everyone who was invited, just that it was the
second most exciting event the whole summer long–the first being when
the local fireman’s carnival came to town.
I think it might have been a celebration of the haymaking season.
Our feet were tough as leather by the time the party neared, after running barefoot since school let out--save for Sunday mornings, and
walking through freshly-mown hay-fields, shoeless. We probably could
have originated the ‘walking on hot coals motivational revolution or,
at the very least, had side jobs in the circus walking on broken glass.
The wiener roast was held in a meadow, as I already wrote, but that
was to draw a picture in your mind of something lovely, like a country
garden beside a stream…daisies blooming…birds singing…but, reality here
<jerking hard> it was more properly known as a cow pasture. And
the stream that flowed through it was the “crick” where we caught
minnows and crayfish. And…when we were getting it ready for the wiener
roast, we had to be careful of the cow patties…but there was that handy
crick in which to wash our leather skin, bare feet.
Dad always referred to it as ‘up the hollow” because it was almost a
third of the way out the half-mile-long, old farm lane. He loved that
piece of ground. It was almost level, which probably made it difficult
for all of us to walk on. You know, having been raised in the “hollow”
on the steep hillside, we all had one leg longer than the other so we
could stand straight. Okay, that was a lie…but I remind you, my first
writing love is fiction <wink>.
So, there I was, a little girl, with the second best event of the
summer approaching, and dreaming of a galvanized washtub full of ice and
ACME brand soda pop. And all would be good as long as that
can-and-bottle-opener did not disappear from its place next to the tub.
For you youngsters, pop top cans had not been invented.
occurred to me that I AM getting old. I have lived long enough to remember pre-poptop cans, AND to be
appreciative of a party that could be attended in bare feet ;-)
The morning of the big day arrived, and dad went out, climbed on his
Farmall H, and went and found a big old tree that had fallen. After
sawing it into what looked like car-sized pieces <--practicing my fish stories, chained it to the
tractor and dragged it to the middle of the pasture field.
Mom was busy making macaroni salad–she put pineapples in hers (I
didn’t really like it but that didn’t matter. ACME pop could wash down
anything and make it taste swell) and baked beans, and cupcakes and a
cake or two. And there were a couple five-pound boxes of wieners from
the local packhouse. Hmmm…what else? Bags (plural) of marshmallows.
Oh, and Hallelujah! There was a reason that I prayed; sometimes the
prayers were answered. Potato chips! There would be a couple of bags
of them…ACME brand too, and I think the pop was designed to wash them
down perfectly. Pretzels… I cannot recall anything else. Just the
important things…all the things that went well with ACME brand pop. Oh,
and bless youthful ignorance…I had NO idea that it was not called “pop”
the world over. All I can say is when I found out that other people
called it soda, I really had to doubt how smart the rest of the world
was. Soda was that stuff that you put in cakes and cookies so they
didn’t bake flat. Anyone knew that!
We younger kids were just busy getting in everyone’s way, trying to
help. Anything we could do to expedite the pop getting into the tub of ice.
The time came to get everything up the lane. Dad pulled the hay
wagon with the “H”, to the lane below the house, and we all started
carrying things down to what would be the transportation and the table.
And I recall excitement that mom had splurged and bought those candles,
red, green, yellow, with the white netting over the outside. She told
us they were to keep away the bugs. There were straw bales on the
wagon–those, with boards laid between them, would act as benches.
So we went, the tractor chugging up the lane, its motor keeping rhythm with my pounding heart. Second best day of the year.
We kids were sent to find “wiener sticks”, and we knew not to get
wild cherry. We looked for maple. And we had to get lots, because
sometimes the sticks ended up being part of the fire. Not intentionally,
of course, but city people didn’t understand the finer art of roasting a
marshmallow, blue flames shooting from its surface, without burning the
stick too. It was a shortcoming that farmers just accepted, and instead
of giving a wiener stick lesson, realized it was just a whole lot
easier to cut down extra sticks.
When we came back from our stick foray, the pop was on ice. I
marvelled at the colors of the cans, red cola, brown root beer, dark
red black-cherry, green lemon lime, orange (duh) orange and purple
grape. This event was second only to Christmas morning for sheer beauty
before my eyes.
And we drank. Without being aware, I am sure that I raised my can to
heaven and toasted all that was good in the world (and that
was…well…pretty much everything) and I toasted summer, and bare feet,
and wieners cooked on a stick, and flaming marshmallows. We played in
the crick, and we ran and chased, playing “it” tag with any kids who'd come to visit. Looking back, they were probably quite
overwhelmed by us farmkids. Maybe even frightened, I mean, kids who ran
through cowpatties and never skipped a beat on their way to the crick to
wash their feet.
The black-cherry pop was the first to vanish. Then the orange and
the lemon lime. And so it went, I could have told the time by the
flavors of pop left in the tub. At the end of the day there was only
root beer left…I reckon because we made our own homemade root beer,
letting it brew in the sun. It was not so special to us.
Ah…and then evening came, and dad built up the fire, big, huge in fact, and we toasted
marshmallows. Lots of marshmallows. And for those whom the pop had not
given a belly ache, the marshmallows caught up with. I leaned back and
watched the flames, the fireflies, the sparks flying up in the air each
time the wood was adjusted. It was our fireworks.
Out beyond where the flames illuminated, silent vestiges of the past haunted the darkening woods and fields (there were ghosts out there). But here, by the
firelight, my once a year pop binge accomplished, all was right with the
When the last visitor from town pulled away, their
tailights illuminating the dust behind them with a strange reddish glow,
we cleaned up everything, packed it onto the haywagon, and headed back
down the lane.
My wish for you all, this day of fireworks and picnics, fourth of
July, 2015, is that you appreciate the simple things in life, like
family and friends, a can of “pop” to drink, fireflies, and if you run
into an unexpected cowpattie, a “crick” nearby to wash your feet in.