Thursday, July 25, 2024

The Circle Of Life

curtis stewart, my turn The beginning of 2020 brought an end to a century of farm ownership when we sold the family farm in Eric, Oklahoma. All of the grandchildren — including me — are mostly removed from the area, and the time was right.

A neighbor whose farm adjoined ours bought the property after having leased it through the years. Their farm had also been designated a Centennial Farm.

Not that it didn’t hurt to part with something that had been the center of the Stewart family since my granddad came to Oklahoma as a boy with his mother from Georgia. He was the youngest of several brothers. After his father died in an accident at the Mason Jar factory they owned over there, he and his mother traveled out West and bought the farm, which was his inheritance.

My granddad later built the farmhouse and married Grandmother. They started a family of four children and raised them on the dairy and row crop operation, which also included cotton in the mix.

My grandparents’ farmhouse was the gathering place at Christmas, and most of our vacations were spent “fixing things at the farm.”

The cisterns needed cleaning and plastering, and the new tin barn needed mending. It had replaced the red wooden one my older cousins burned down lighting grasshoppers on fire.

Other general maintenance was sandwiched in between picking up pullets from the hatchery and watching out for rattlesnakes that loved to hide in the bar ditches.

Christmas was always a spread of the traditional items. My dad’s job was to make ambrosia for the dinner. We were assigned to the “kids’ table” while all the adults gathered at the main table.

One Christmas was interrupted by a cousin breaking both arms falling off a crudely rigged zipline. And somehow, Santa always found his way to that farmhouse to bring my cousins, and my sister and me most of what we asked for.

As we age, we look back on the small things that helped shape our lives and hope we can continue instilling them in future generations.

After all the visiting was over and goodbyes were said, Granddaddy D would open his wallet and give us all a “dollar for ice cream.” After his passing, that duty fell to my Uncle Dub — affectionately known as the Ice Cream Uncle — and then to my dad.

With grandkids of my own, I, too, now open the wallet and continue the tradition. However, inflation has hit the ice cream funding just like it has everything else.

My granddad handing out a dollar for a treat was a simple thing, but it was much more than the money. His gesture represented the love of family. My granddad enjoyed being able to provide the little pleasures in life he and Grandmother did not have during their childhood and through the Great Depression.

There also was a gas well on the property in Oklahoma. When the royalty check came in, my grandmother would take us to the little diner in town and buy us a hamburger.

You couldn’t buy one hamburger today with the amount of money she received. The check was typically about $7, but that was her “hamburger” money.

So they both bestowed on us something I still reminisce about and cherish. As we age, we look back on the small things that helped shape our lives and hope we can continue instilling them in future generations.

All of my dad’s remaining immediate family, including Uncle Bob, were able to gather when we placed the Centennial Farm marker awarded by the state of Oklahoma. Some of our own children were present as well.

The meal was not as grand as Christmas spreads of old — the fruitcake and ambrosia were missing — but the love was still there.

Today, I run Spade Co-op Gin in Spade, Texas, and reside in Shallowater, but I will always miss that farm.

— Curtis Stewart
Shallowater, Texas

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