field notes ➤ Tsianina Blackstone, 1968

❝ Our ranch was composed of 160 acres allotted to us by the government in the final distribution of Creek tribal land. Part of our acreage was used for cattle grazing and 40 acres was apportioned for farming. Our farm house was a low, rambling structure, roomy enough for our family of 12 which included four adopted children. My mother could never resist taking in the various nameless children of the community who had nowhere else to go. The kitchen was of ample size and the focal point of our family life. It was not a strange sight during the rainy season to see a water moccasin snake drop from the ceiling of the kitchen into a pan of water which was set on the stove to catch the raindrops from a crack overhead. . . .

Living on a ranch, where part of it is farm enough for all your needs, is abundant living. We had a fruit orchard with the best grade of apples, peaches, cherries, plums, pears, and apricots. Another part was for vegetables—potatoes, peas, green beans, cabbage, turnips, mustard greens, onions, spinach, carrots, okra, and navy beans. We never had to go to the market; everything we needed was in our cellar or smokehouse. Our smokehouse was filled with hams, slabs of bacon, pork shoulders, pigs feet (which I did not like), chitlins, and hog’s head. All we had to go to town for was sugar, salt, pepper, and flour. In the woods along the creek were wild grapes, persimmons, blackberries, and dewberries. Strawberries we grew in our garden. In the woods were plenty of nuts—black walnuts, pecans, and hickory nuts. We children had lots of fun playing “Old Horse” with the pecans. We would put as many nuts in our hand as we could hold covered and say “Old Horse.” Your opponent replied, “I’ll ride him.” You answered, “How many miles?” If your opponent guessed how many nuts were in your hand, the whole amount was his. If he missed, he would have to make up the difference. This was a lot of fun and we called it gambling. . . .

Cyclones frequently come in the middle of the night. To me, it was thrilling rather than frightening to be dragged out of bed in my nightgown, half asleep, when the sky was black as pitch and the trees almost bent to the ground. Here again my mother’s calmness took the fear from my heart. We stayed in the cellar until the storms were over. Built about 50 feet from the house, the cellar had a cement floor and the roof was made of wooden rafters. A mixture of adobe mud and straw was shaped into a mound over the rafters. The only opening was a side door. It was the coolest place to keep our milk, and we set the crocks on the cement floor after it was saturated with water—it served as our icebox. ❞

Where Trails Have Led Me
by Tsianina Blackstone
(privately published, 1968)

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