Mixsonian Morrs and Barbara


Barbara at RidgecrestMom at Ridgecrest

 The first week of August Mom left us, well, just for a week.  Mom was very active with the church Women’s Missionary Union or just WMU as it was known, so Mom went with a group of WMU women from the church to a retreat at the Ridgecrest Christian conference center in North Carolina for a week of church, prayer and the gospel.  The day Mom was left we drove out to Grandma and Grandpa Mixson’s where we stayed for the week.  As Mom got in the car for Dad to drive her back to Gainesville Brenda started crying.  Mom thought about staying but said,  “But I have deserved this trip. The first time since I’ve been married I left both kids & Morris.” 

Cabin in North CarolinaWhile at the conferenced, Mom and ten others stayed at this cabin in Black Mountain, North Carolina. Our family would return in 1962 and 1963 for summer vacation and stay at the same cabin

Summer on the Farm

Mixson Barn

I didn’t miss Mom that much that week for there was a lot to do on the farm. My brother and  spent most all day outside, walking out in the field or the trees in the back or across the street.  Grandma pretty much let us go anywhere, much like she did with dad when he was a boy.  The barn was one of our favorite places to play which stood in behind the house off to one side. The barnyard was fenced off from the pasture behind it and from the house and you would enter it from the house going though a large gate.  There was another gate in the back to the left of the barn that opened into the pasture. Sometimes Grandpa would take the truck into the pasture to get firewood or feed the cows and we boys would ride in the back. When we came to a gate we would jump out, unchain and open the fence, let Grandpa drive through it, close and chain it closed then climb back into the truck. 

The barn had two stories with the bottom used for storage the second story for the hayloft.  On the left side of the barn was a covered area which had roosts for the chickens to lay eggs and was also used for storing firewood which come fall would fill much of the area.  On the right side of the barn was another covered area which had a coral around and behind the barn which I was told was for livestock, pigs, calves although it wasn’t used when I was a boy and was mostly overgrown with weeds.   I loved going exploring in the barn which you would open the front door by sticking your finger in a hole and lifting a latch.  The inside was filled with all sorts of interesting things, barrels, farm tools, sacks of feed, old kerosene lanterns hung on the wall, a five foot long two person hand saw hung from the rafters and so on.  Just inside the front door was a big chest that was filled with old books that Grandma had read and saved, my sister Brenda loved the Nancy Drew books in the chest and there were a few Hardy Boy books which I read. 

Just inside the door on the left was a ladder attached to the wall that led up into the hayloft which was one of our favorite places to go.  As you climbed the ladder and entered the loft there would be the wonderful smell of the fresh hay from bales stacked in it, sometimes a few and sometimes a lot. My brother and I would climb up on the bales of hay and play.  At the front of the hay loft was a door which was used to store or unload bails of hay.  Dad would sometimes open the door and toss out a bail of hay which he would then throw over the fence for the cows. Around the hayloft door and the front of the Dung Beetlebarn were cracks in the boards and knot holes which we would look out over the barn yard and the house.  There was always something interesting to see in and around the barn, I was always fascinated by the dung beetles which would gather up cow dung and roll it into a ball larger than themselves which they would roll around on the ground like miniature Sisyphus.

It was around this time that Grandpa added a bathroom to the house.   In the years before there was an outhouse at the back edge of the yard which I always was a little bit afraid of because of the wasps in it, but Grandma said, “Those wasps are just dirt dobbers, they won’t bother you.”  Dirt, or mud daubers are wasps that make egg sized nests out of mud and the outhouse had them all over the inside.  Oh, and did I say the outhouse smelled of, well you know what.  On the positive side there was always a Sears and Roebuck catalog there that you could read, but oddly there were always pages missing from it.  The following year grandpa put in a bathroom with indoor plumbing.  He enclosed one end of the back porch and put in a toilet, sink and a big claw bathtub but what I remember the most was grandpa dug a big hole beside the house then built a septic tank out of concrete blocks in the hole that that then was covered over.  The drain field for the septic system was always oozing water to the surface so you had to be careful not to step in it when walking on that side of the house, but the leaking did make the fig tree growing there get really big.

A rain barrel that stood at the corner of the back porch so that the rain gutter along edge of the roof would fill it on when it rained.  Above the rain barrel, hanging on a nail was a tin dipper.  On hot days if we needed a drink of water you take the dipper and dip into the barrel and get the most sweetest, cool drink of water.   Come supper time we would clean up and gather around the kitchen table, say the blessing and have dinner.  As the evening fell Grandma would turn on a single bare light bulb hanging over the table. 

After dinner we would all go to the front porch as dusk fell and sit in rocking chairs or on the porch swing. Us kids loved the porch swing, taking turns sitting it as it rocked back and forth, mom, Brenda and me, grandma, my brother and me, my sister, brother and I, the sittings sometimes changing every few swings.  Dad and Grandpa and whoever wasn’t sitting in the swing sat in the rocking chairs. There would be little talk for we all were there in the moment, enjoying the coolness as dusk fell after the hot summer day.  The rhythmic sound of the rocking chairs as they creaked on the floor, the sound of the crickets slow gaining in volume, frogs croaking, a whippoorwill, lighting bugs flashing.  It was a magical time of family, time of connecting, time of love. 

Grandpa never did say much so Dad would usually start the conversation with Grandpa talking about the weather like, “It’s been mighty dry, you think we will get some rain soon?” and Grandpa would pause for a moment like he was thinking, taking a few rocks in his chair, then respond with as simple, “I reckon so.”   It was very quiet out at in the country that you could hear the neighbors dog bark and the nearest neighbor was a half mile away.  Grandpa knew the bark of every neighbor’s dog and sitting there in the evening might hear one in the distance and Grandpa would pause in his rocking, cocking an ear to one side then to the other, and after a few moments would say slowly in a southern drawl “Sounds like Maxie’s dog chasing a coon.”  We would all listen closer to the sound of the chase when the sound of the dog barking would change and after a few minutes Grandpa would say “Sounds like he got him treed.” 

On warm summer nights the fireflies, or lighting bugs as we called them, would come out just after dusk when it got dark and my brother and I would catch them which is trickier than you would think.  A lighting bug flash only lasts for a second so if you see one more than a step away, the flash would fade before you could catch it so I would see one blink, and rush over to where it was and wait for it to flash again.  Fortunately, they don’t fly to far so upon the next flash I would quickly grab it.  We came prepared bringing a jar that Grandma gave us with holes punched in the lid. After catching a dozen or so we would go into the house and put the jar on the dresser in the bedroom and then after going to bed I would watch them blinking off and on as I fell asleep. 

Grandma always had a collection of jars as they were useful for storing things in lighting bugs and other critters we boys might catch.  In the storeroom there were quite a few of mason jars but these were the “good jars” that Grandma used for canning fruits and vegetables so we were not allowed to use them but there were other jars like the mayonnaise jar which was one of the best for it had a wide opening making easy to put critters in.  I to this day I still keep a few on hand but the Jar of all jars in the gallon jar.  That summer I saw my first one when I went with Grandpa in his truck to buy supplies at the store in McIntosh where when Grandpa went to check out, there on the counter was a giant gallon pickle jar.  I’m not sure if I said something or Grandpa saw me looking at the pickle jar and asked if I wanted one and I said yes.  I was really thinking more about the jar then the pickles in it when I said yes.  The man got a pair of tongs, opened the jar, grabs one, puts it on a piece of wax paper and hands it to me.  I say thank you as I was taught, eyes bulging at the size of that pickle.   I take a bite and it’s not bad but after a few more I realize that is one big pickle, there was no way I would be able to eat it all.   On the way home, I tossed it out the window of grandpa’s truck when he wasn’t looking, saying all along how good it was.  Never again would I buy one of those pickles but always wanted a gallon glass jar. (see full story The Pickle Jar)

Mosquitoes were always a problem in the summer which would come out as soon as it got dark which is one reason we sat on the front porch since it was screened in.  If you did go out you had to be quick about coming back in so the mosquitoes wouldn’t get in.  Grandma told stories about when she was little they had a brush made of palmetto strips hanging next to the door so you could brush the mosquitoes away before opening the door.  No matter what you did some always got into the house and there is nothing more annoying thhand pump sprayeren laying in bed trying to sleep with a mosquito whining around your head so just before we would go to bed Grandma would take a hand pump sprayer and spray all around the bedroom which always gave the linens a unique smell.  In the 1970’s they banned the use of the insecticide DDT which I suspected was in the spray Grandma used as it was widely used at the time. 

The following Wednesday Dad came out after work and had dinner with us at Grandma and Grandpa’s then brought us kids home and the next day Mom came home.  We all were really happy to see her, Mom said, “The kids were so glad to see me & Me them! And my dear darling. It surely pays to go away for a while.”

Updated: 03-28-2022

New Car