Generosity and Community in Rural Oklahoma

plowing with horses, Oklahoma gardening tradition, old time garden tradition

Written by Ron Cook

 

 Winter is waning and it’s nearly garden plowing time again, so I thought I’d paste this old photo (the photo below) and a short gardening story.  The photo below is of Bill Trammel, plowing my garden with his old red mule, named, “Earl.  The photo was taken in February of 2011. The feature photo, which appears above is just a Creative Commons photo, showing someone plowing with horses.

mule plowing, Oklahoma garden tradition, gardening tradition, gardening and community
This is the picture of Bill Trammel’s mule plowing. The feature photo doesn’t show Bill, and obviously that’s not his mule!


(I sure do miss those days)…


Bill, Earl, and I are in no shape to do plowing like this anymore, but up until 2013, we would make our rounds each February, plowing several gardens along the way.  Bill would show up at my house at Seven O’clock in the morning, driving a team of horses, pulling a wagon load of various plows, discs, and a harrow.  I’d climb in and we’d take off.  He’d have two mules tied behind the wagon following us, his black mule named, “Rita” and his red mule named, “Earl.”

We’d plow gardens for our neighbors, on 5 different farms, all in the same week.  We would hitch a different draft animal to the plow as they became fidgety from the boredom of watching the others work.

We’d plow gardens for our neighbors, on 5 different farms, all in the same week.

 

(You could tell which draft animal was ready to plow next by the way they would become restless and start chewing things up, back at the wagon).  It would take about a week to get everyone’s garden broke in early February.  We did this in February, in order for the turned up grass roots to be exposed to a good, hard, freeze or two before Spring weather arrived.

Then, on Saint Patrick’s Day, we’d come back around with a Lister, to open deep furrows, in order to plant about 300 pounds of potatoes between the 5 farms.

(A Lister is a type of plow with a double moldboard, used to prepare the ground for planting by producing furrows and ridges). I wish I had a photo, but I don’t.

At the end of planting time, we’d all get together to cut up the ‘eyeless’ potato cores that were left over from the 300 pounds of potatoes.  When that was done, someone would fry up a big mess of catfish and fried potatoes with onions.  After all that work, everyone was ready for a big shindig, so while the men were tending to the mules, wagon, plows, and horses, the ladies would be frying up a big meal.

potatoes in soil, fresh dug potatoes

When July 4th came around, we’d come back with the mules and horses, to help dig and harvest all the potatoes that were planted back in March.  Everyone worked together, going farm to farm and we’d have another big fish fry after the harvest was done.  (This time, with freshly dug potatoes, onions, corn on the cob, cucumbers in vinegar, and a big mess of fried okra).

Everyone worked together, going farm to farm and we’d have another big fish fry after the harvest was done.

Over the next few weeks, Bill and I would load his wagon with freshly dug potatoes, onions, corn, vine ripe tomatoes, cucumbers, summer squash, and okra. Then, we’d head off down the dirt roads, stopping at each house along the way to see if anyone could use some vegetables.  We’d usually make it about 5 miles before we ran out of things to give away.

…we’d head off down the dirt roads, stopping at each house along the way to see if anyone could use some vegetables.

 

On one of those trips, two ladies we had never seen before, pulled up behind us on the dirt road, honking their car horn and asking if their two kids could ride along in the wagon.  We said, “Sure”.  After the kiddos were loaded up, the two women drove up ahead of us and disappeared around the corner.  Bill and I thought they were just driving on ahead to park and wait for the wagon to catch up, so they could get their kids back.

We drove the wagon for several miles, then turned back to see if we’d missed them.  By then, we were slowly beginning to realize we had been ‘taken for a couple of rubes.

Those women had left their kids with us, so they could go shopping!

After about three or four hours of searching, we found the two women at their house and gave their kids back.  They had gone shopping at Walmart and just left their kids for us to babysit for the day.

Oh, well, Bill and I enjoyed another day of running the roads and handing out free veggies, and the kids had a good time passing tomatoes to people as we went along.

 

For a more complete account, click here to read it in context in a thread in Green Country Seed Savers.

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