Responding to a call for personal memories, Woodrow Masden, who was 87 years old at the time, wrote of his memories as a young boy growing up on his family's farm in Bullitt County. It was first published in The Kentucky Explorer in May 2000. We are including it here with his daughter's permission.
Thinking about my early childhood, I decided to drive back to the 250-acre farm on Pitts Point Road (Bullitt County), where I spent the first nine years of my early childhood.
As I drove down the modern blacktop road of Highway 44 and Pitts Point Road, I remembered the rough, mostly mud, road filled with chuckholes where I drove a buggy, pulled by a twenty-year-old mule, John.
Coming near the homeplace (King's Forest), a large subdivision filled the neighbor's farm that bordered our farm on the north. There, Mr. Gentan, a German, operated a 300-acre farm on the north side of our place. He liked to repair old steam tractor engines. I remember one steam tractor that he replaced the spokes in the drive wheels with wood spokes.
Now I faced my former homeplace. I remembered the deep ditch on the side of the road, where I drove our new 1918 Model-T Ford car, while trying to learn to drive at age six. On the other side of the road was a large puddle of water, where my pony, Millard, tried to lie down when I was riding him to school at Shepherdsville, at age seven.
Further to the south was a large two-story log house that had been recently moved from the middle of the farm out to the main road. Yes, this was our home more than 75 years ago. Missing was the frame extension that served as a dining room and adjoining kitchen. There was a long shed porch, where I liked to play as a young child.
Entering the farm, I remembered the forty-acre field where my dad and a hired man cut the trees and blew the stumps out with dynamite. On my left, I remember the dirt road that led back one-half mile to our home and barns. Tears came to my eyes, as I remembered driving a buggy pulled by a trusty old mule, John, five miles to school at Shepherdsville. John wanted to turn around and go back home. Since he was hard (tough)-mouthed, my hands became extremely tired, pulling on the lines to keep him in the road.
After school, it was a different story. John was ready and willing to head for home at a fast pace. Most of the time I didn't need to hold the lines. John knew the way.
Our new Model-T Ford was kept in the garage most of the winter months. The mud driveway and mostly mud county roads were traveled by buggy or horseback.
Now I arrived at the area halfway to the river, where the house and barns stood. Yes, gone were the large two-story log and frame house, the chicken house, the garage, the utility building, the horse barn, the cattle barn, silo, the tobacco barn, and the corn crib. Even the tenant house was gone. Now, I felt lonely and sad. Here, I spent nine years of my childhood. There were so many memories. It seemed that a large part of my life was spent on this spot.
Here, I first remember Santa Claus at Christmas. The Easter Bunny left candy eggs in the jonquil patch. My baby sister crawled up the stairs in the hall to the second floor, while I watched from the living room. Suddenly, down the stairs she came tumbling, head over heels all the way to the bottom. At age four, I started laughing, for that was the funniest thing I had seen. Then came mother running, and she grabbed the baby. Turning to me, she chastised me for laughing when little sister was in such pain.
The little valley between the house and barn is gone now. The land has been leveled for crops. Here, Dad shoveled a path in the deep snow of the harsh winter blizzard of 1917. The path was as deep as a six-year-old boy was tall. Dad hitched two horses to his buggy to go five miles to Shepherdsville for necessary provisions.
Oh yes, there is an old oak tree with half the limbs rotting and falling. This must be the tree where Dad made a rope swing for me to play, while Mother washed clothes in the backyard.
I can see her now, with a fire under a large 20-gallon iron kettle. There were three wash tubs on a long bench, one for washing and two for rinsing. There she was, pushing up and down on a wash board with each garment in the soapy water. She didn't like the hand-crank wringers of the day. She would wring each piece by hand. Then after rinsing the garment in two tubs, she hung the garments on a nearby clothes line to dry in the hot summer sun. It was quite an art to hand-wring a large bed sheet. Over her shoulder she carried a towel to occasionally stop and wipe the perspiration.
Nearby, there was a shotgun that she used to scare hawks away from her chickens. Several hens were leading their little chicks around looking for food. This is the way the hen taught her brood to look for food.
Hawks liked to swoop down and grab a baby chick for food. As mother was washing, a hawk came swooping down trying to catch a little chick. Mother didn't like to hold the gun to her shoulder to shoot, because it might knock her down. So she set the shank of the gun against a tree and pulled the trigger making a loud boom. This scared the hawk away. We went over, and lying on the ground was a small, dead chick, that the hawk had caught in his powerful talons and dropped when mother shot the gun.
Then there was the time Dad left the Model-T sitting on the little hill between the house and barn. As I played, I pushed the car with all my power until it was ready to roll down the hill. I put it in high gear, turned the switch on, and pushed. To my surprise, the motor started. It went down the hill with the motor running, and I was running beside it. Finally, I was able to jump on the running board and turn the switch off before the car ran into the barn on the other side of the ravine. My dad was greatly surprised when he and a helper came in from the field. I heard him say, "How did that car get over there? I parked it by the house?"
There was the time when Mother fired up the wood cook stove in the kitchen and put some pots of food on to cook. Then she went out to the orchard to pick some apples. Suddenly, a large stick of wood fell out of the stove on the floor. I ran to the orchard yelling, "Mother, the house is on fire!" Mother ran and showed me how to put the fire out by pouring water on it. Then Mother put her arm around me and said, "Son, you saved the house and everything from burning." The only damage was a small hole in the floor.
The nice Winesap apple orchard is gone now. I remembered Dad picking apples in the fall, putting them in wooden stave barrels and covering them with a grass sack. Then he took them to trucker Robert Ice, who hauled them to cold storage in Louisville. During the winter, Mr. Ice would bring Dad a barrel at a time. Gee, those apples were good. Mother cooked them in different ways.
Robert Ice was the leading trucker in the Shepherdsville area. He ran several (service) trucks. They were rear-wheel chain driven, with narrow solid rubber tires. Dad usually called Mr. Ice to come haul hogs and cattle to the Bourbon Stockyard in Louisville. Often, the truck would get hung up in the mud by the barn with the slick, solid rubber tires. So he wrapped the wheels with a small log chain to pull out of the mud.
Now, I thought about the time the cattle got out of a pen behind the barn when Dad was away. With Mother's help, we bridled our saddle mare, Bessie, to round up the cattle. Luckily, I found that Bessie knew how to drive cattle. After she learned where the cattle were to go, she just about drove the cattle without my direction. When a cow was contrary about going in the right direction, Bessie would dodge and swing in all directions to head the cow off. At times, it was all I could do to hold on. I thanked Bessie for her help. We saved the cows from getting into the corn field.
Oh yes, there is where the large mulberry tree stood. I liked to eat mulberries from that tree. Once I ate so much that I became extremely nauseated and was sick about all night. Dad told me to be careful when eating the berries, and to make sure they were clean and not to eat so many.
Looking at the family garden area, I remember the gooseberry bushes. Gee, those berries were good. Mother and Dad had many vegetables in that garden. As I was walking toward the river, there were memories of riding Bessie, dragging hay shocks to the large hay stack that Dad and workers were building. In the fall, Elzy Osborne would bring his horse-powered bailer to compress the hay into 90 to 125 pound bales, tied with steel wires. It was interesting to watch Elzy standing on the baler, poking hay down in the chamber, as two mules walked in a circle providing power for the operation. Often, Elzy would shout, "Get up, Jack, get going there!"
Walking further toward the river, I remembered the fields of corn on the river bottoms. In the winter, the river would overflow the bottom land leaving rich sediment. Most of Dad's corn grew in this bottom land. Yes, I could remember Dad and a worker walking behind a cultivator plowing the corn. Dad would stop at the end of the corn rows and take me down into a spring that flowed out of a bank. We would lie down and drink the cool water. Gee, that water was good on a hot summer day. Often now, I wonder if modern health departments would approve. Maybe? Maybe not?
Sometimes, the river would overflow before he could harvest the crop. One year, I remember watching the river rising, and one by one, a corn shock would float down the river. Today, the bottom land is all grown up in Johnson grass. The owners can't plant corn. There is no use. The grass would smother the corn. It is such a shame.
Oh yes, my aunt, Otis Porter, liked to take my sister and me down to the river to play and try to swim. She had something she called "water wings" that she would lie on and swim. I suppose they were the first life jackets.
Across the river there was the home of Johnnie Sarr. Their daughter, now Mrs. Maraman, and her children also lived with them. The father of her children lost his life in the train wreck at Shepherdsville in 1917. I faintly remember the wreck at the age of five.
Now I walked to the spot where Dad built a tobacco barn in 1919. Mr. Spurling, our tenant, raised a crop of tobacco that was housed in the barn. The tobacco was stripped and sent to market in Louisville. Sadly, the crop was estimated to sell for less than the trucking fee to haul it to market. So Dad placed the crop in a cooperative pool to be sold at a later date. This was Dad's first and last experience with tobacco. The new tobacco barn was put to other uses.
Not far away were the cattle barn and silo, used to store corn silage to feed cattle for market. At the time to fill the silo a man brought a steam engine and silage cutter. I liked to watch the steam engine run the cutter with a long belt. I always said, "When I am grown, I will get a steam engine." My dreams finally came true. Ten years ago, I purchased a toy steam engine that runs on steam. I still have my engine. Occasionally, I fire it up and watch it run.
Now I walked back to the old home site, where I spent nine important years of my young life. I remembered the dinner bell rang at 11 o'clock on the neighbor's farm to the south, telling the workers to come in for dinner. Then, at 11:30 the dinner bell rang on the Gentan farm to the north. We didn't need a dinner bell. Everyone knew that Mom had dinner ready at 11:30.
I always wished we had a dinner bell. In fact, I have always liked bells. The train bells on the old steam locomotives, Santa Clause bells on reindeers, bells on the harnesses of work horses, and courthouse bells all have fascinated me. Last summer I told my son, Ronald, the interest I have had in bells. So he purchased a large dinner bell at the Sale Barn and gave it to me. I took the bell home and installed it high in my large garage and utility building. I knew that if I put it outside the children in the community would be running by and ringing it. So now at last, I have my bell.
When I am in a nostalgia mood, I go to the building, with tears in my eyes, and ring the bell thinking about past experiences. Repeatedly, I thank the good Lord for my many blessings. Now at the age of 87, I ring my bell 87 times and give thanks.
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