I spent seven hours yesterday edging and weeding the back yard flower beds. After the first fifteen minutes, beads of sweat started to drip off the end of my nose. No problem. My one day in the 94-degree, feels-like-107 outdoor sauna is nothing compared to the struggle my maternal grandparents faced.
Herren, 18, and Lena, 19, married in 1906. Herren’s father gifted him with a few acres for a starter farm in Ino, Alabama, and Herren built a house for his growing family. My favorite parts of the photo–which are difficult to spot–are the knee-high stumps in the yard. That’s right. The lumber for the house had to come from somewhere.
Knowing a little about my ancestors reminds me of how grateful I am that, after my day of weeding, my husband and I didn’t have to erect a shelter to protect ourselves from last night’s thunderstorm.
Or sew a Sunday dress by candlelight. Or scamper outdoors in the middle of the night to visit the outhouse. Or build a fire and pump water before starting the coffee. Or feed the chickens, hogs, cattle, cats and dogs before hitching the mule to the wagon to go to church.
No wonder they were so strict about setting Sundays aside for church and rest.
When I knew them, after the arrival of running water and indoor plumbing and electricity and TV and air conditioning, they didn’t complain about how hard their lives were. They rocked on the front porch and told stories. How the baby, Fred, unwittingly created a time capsule when he dropped his Tinker Toys behind the lath in the new house just before the plastering began. How Shep (or Sport or Scout) lost his leg to a tangle with a barbed wire fence. How French, after his first year of veterinary school, came home and neutered all the cats on a picnic table in the back yard, with my mother as his able assistant.
Really. Weeding is not that hard. Another couple of Saturdays in the back yard, and I’ll be ready to do the same in the front yard. After which it’ll be time to resume the battle in the back again.
It’s classic Man vs. Nature. Nobody wins. It’s enough that we get to play the game.