Thursday, May 10, 2007

My Work: Hayin' Time - Part 1

At haying time Ardis Cronk would put her boys to shame. They were big lads but Ardis would climb into her overalls and march along next to the wagon, throwing up 40-pound bales with either hand. Left, right, left, right. No one wanted to stack on her side, she fired them up there so fast.

She kept 200 head of cattle and knew every one by name. Her husband would try to get her to sell some, but she couldn’t part with her cattle. She had a soft spot for them and kept each one until it died.

One day she showed up with a huge bandage on her nose. It was a magnificent nose, too, stretching out and bending down at the end, big enough to catch the wind in a stiff breeze. It seems she was brooming down her front walk and leaned into her work a little too much. The hook she used for hanging up the broom caught her on the inside of her nostril and gave her a nasty pull.

Another time she was hauling out manure from the barn by wheelbarrow and running it up a plank to the top of the pile. She slipped on a wet spot and fell right in up to her neck. Couldn’t get out by herself, she had to yell until her boys came to pull her free. They did, after standing around and laughing just short of making her mad enough to throw them into the manure, too.

Ardis used to cook up a storm, feeding as many as had to be fed during haying time or barn raisings. But she never sat down to eat herself, just grabbed food on the fly as she served it to all the others. Her cookstove was the pride of the county. Black and gleaming, she must have polished it every day.

Her kitchen window faced west and when she washed the dishes the sun was in her eyes. So she found a pair of old sunglasses and wore them with a straw hat at the sink while she scrubbed her pots clean.

When she died, they found four cloth bags full of coins buried deep in her dresser. Each was labeled with the name of one of her boys and contained egg money she had saved for them over the years. Ardis never had a new dress or went to a movie, but she left her boys something after she was gone.

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