People living on my street spend thousands of dollars on their lawns. They buy seed, fertilizer, water and pesticides to grow the perfect lawn, then spend more thousands of dollars on lawn mowers, fuel, fertilizer spreaders and other equipment to maintain it.
My grandparents, still struggling with the effects of “reconstruction” had no money for lawns. Instead, they kept a hoe handy and if any sprig of grass appeared on their yard, they dug it up and threw it always. The yards around old farm homes contained nothing but a few wandering chickens.
There was a practical reason for this: pest control. If any pest, be it a bug, worm, lizard, or any other crawling creature started across that bare ground toward the house, a chicken was sure to eat it!
The chickens were welcome for other reasons. The provided eggs for breakfast and the main menu item when the preacher visited the house for dinner. They were also the source of another problem. They left their “droppings” all over the yard.
We never had to cut grass, but we did have to sweep the yard on a regular basis. That required a very stiff yard broom. To make a broom, we went out in the woods and found a dogwood tree that was growing in a shaded area so that it had long spindly limbs. Three of these limbs tied together with bailing wire made a good yard broom. But what about landscaping? There were gardens and fruit trees around the edges of the yard. And for color near the house, they would take an old tire, split it around the tread and pop it inside out. Grandmother would then fill that with woods dirt and chicken droppings and plant her flowers in it.
Now remember that rednecks never let any useful material go to waste.
The best thing about a bare yard is the space it left for kids to play marbles. We had three popular games involving marbles: pig eye, circle and rolly hole. The first two involved trying to knock marbles out of the circle or pig eye by hitting them with your favorite marble called the “shooter.” Rolly Hole was similar to putt-putt golf. We would shoot the marble from hole to hole around the yard to see who could complete the circuit with the fewest shots.
The naked yards were environmentally sound as well. We never sprayed dangerous pesticides in or around our homes. We never polluted the air with fumes from gas lawn mowers and we never disturbed our neighbors with all the noise. (That was probably not important sense the nearest neighbor was usually a half-mile away or more.)
There are two ways to deal with poverty. You can sit on a sofa and complain, or you can get out and use whatever is available to make a better life. And that includes dogwood limbs and chicken droppings!
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. His website can be accessed at http://www.frankgillispie.com/gillispieonline.
I remember those days! But, we called the yard broom a brush broom. However, it was made from the dogwood branches same as yours. There were many lessons learned in sweeping those yards too! Thanks for your article and the memories it brought back.
Very good article . I member some of them days . I was alots younger then and dont have a good memory of it. I have heard of some of the older folks talking bout it though. My Grannies yard was that away. Werent never no grass in her yard. So many things of the past just never seem to get passed down. I think that added value just seems to get lost.
All the youngins always dismiss the value and wisdom of what the older folks have to offer.Same as we done.
I reckon its a happenin in all walks of life as I have heared it said " you are just L7 " meaning square and its different now. I reckon in some ways it is, but in alots ways it really aint.
Granny used tell me " aint nothin new under the sun or in nature " I never knowed what she meant,with so much changin. Now I kinda do if take into fact human nature.
Nice article but what does it have to do about the title of the article? One sentence at the end of the article does not answer the titles statement. Sweeping a yard is a good way out of poverty? Come on Frank, you can do better than this.