The picnics in the grove, the evenings before the fireplace, the skating parties, the sliding on Cemetery Hill, the grouse nesting in the woods and feeding the birds in winter were things we enjoyed so much.
The wild animals we had were always amazing. The first wild animal we befriended was a large gray squirrel. He had apparently been hit by a car. Using heavy gloves, although he never offered to bite, we brought him into the house and placed him in a basket. He was an old squirrel since his teeth were yellow and broken. He lived in the basket for about ten days and how he enjoyed having his big tail brushed. One day he was climbing the drapes and I knew it was time for him to go.
The next animals we kept were four baby rabbits. The mother had been killed by a car and the dog had discovered four babies who didn’t have their eyes open, We brought the nest, made from the mother’s chest fur and put it in a box in the kitchen. Next was a light bulb to keep them warm and formula to feed them. Checking with the doctor we made a formula with water, evaporated milk and Karo. The little fellows thrived on it. They had to be fed every three hours with a medicine dropper. There were Flopsie, Mopsie, Cottontail and Peter. When they were big enough to exercise we would let them out on the kitchen floor and watch them scoot from one end to the other.
At last, it was time for them to go, so we washed them with vinegar to remove the human scent and left them in the pine grove. We could never again pick them up but they would come regularly to the back door for carrots.
My success with domestic animals was not as spectacular. Our son had a cat given to him and since the cat had no kittens for a couple of years we assumed it was a neutered male. One spring she presented us with three kittens. We gave away the kittens and since this was a nice cat we thought we would breed her. A family member had a Blue Persian so when she came in season we locked her in the cellar with the Persian. What did I get? A gray and white tiger! The mother developed cancer and had to be put to sleep. We kept the tiger. Once a year Susie would have four kittens, two being black long haired kittens each time.
One summer we had gone camping and my brother was to feed the cats. When we came home he said he couldn’t find the kittens. We assumed some animal had gotten them because Susie used to take them in and out of the cellar.
Later we stopped at Mr. Hunt’s barn for milk (then out town dairy at the red barn on Granby Road) and saw one of our kittens. Asking where he had gotten it he said a neighbor brought in four kittens he had found on Cemetery Hill and thought someone had dropped them off. At home, we showed Susie the kitten and immediately she wanted to go out. About two hours later she returned with another kitten in her mouth. She made two more trips that night until all her kittens were home. The barn was a mile or so from our house and how she knew where to go we never could figure out.
My husband Willard didn’t like snakes. Occasionally the animals would bring one up from the swamp and for awhile our son was interested in herpetology and kept a couple in the barn. When he fed them Willard would be securely locked in the car.
Willard was not a farmer. From the Middle Ages, Tryon’s had not been farmers. For a garden, he never got much beyond tomatoes, string beans, and radishes. Of course, each time he went to the garden he got poison ivy so I would inherit the garden chores. His expertise was automotive, and my family kidded me that one day I would be driving and Willard would still be under the hood. His cars are a chapter of their own.
It was deep in the Depression and we had to do what we could to save money. During the war we raised pigs. I think all our pigs were part deer! I spend more time, during the war, chasing pigs than anything else. One time my neighbor called me home to catch the pig. It had gotten out and plowed furrows in my husband’s newly seeded lawn.
The first year we smoked our own hams. After that, we sent it out to have it cured. The pork chops and sausage were canned. The fat was dried out for lard for pie making, etc.
The bacon fat and other parts were saved for soap making. Few if anyone had a freezer so everything had to be canned. I canned fruits and vegetables and if we couldn’t grow it we could usually get produce reasonably from the farmers.
There was one canning project that nearly led to a divorce. I had had a chance to buy thirty hens for canning. I bought them live! Willard was working second shift at Pratt and Whitney. Before he left for work I asked him to cut the heads off of ten chickens. I meant just ten chickens. I asked him to hang them in the pine trees outside. After he left for work I was ready to start canning chickens. When I got to the pine tree, there to my horror hung ALL thirty chickens!
If you have never dunked a chicken in a wash boiler of hot water, plucked off the feathers, then drawn and quartered them then you can’t realize how angry I was.
When he came home at one a.m. I was still plucking chickens! I had to remove everything out of the refrigerator so I could keep the chickens cool until I could get them drawn and quartered. The smell of the feathers was bad enough but think of the odor if you puncture the sack when you are removing the entrails. Then there was putting the chickens into jars and the long three hours of processing. I had no pressure cooker then.
It was a good year and a half before I could stand to eat chicken.
There was lots to learn in those days. Willard’s car projects my learning to cook, to sew and church suppers.