Just some fond memories
- Dear Group,
it is a rainy day here in Dallas and I have a little time on my hands so I
will hopefully not bore you with anoher little blurb I put together last
October or November!
Of all the seasons, it is autumn that most brings back memories of a life
long ago on a little farm. It must be the smells of autumn. Those who know
about such things tell us that the sense of smell is the strongest and most
enduring of our senses. The slightest whiff of a forgotten perfume can
instantly bring back vivid pictures of a grandmother long gone. The aroma of
baking bread can do the same thing. For me, it is the smells of autumn that
cause immediate flashbacks to times long gone. The scent of burning leaves
somewhere in the distance, the wonderful smell of smoke coming from burning
mesquite wood, the smell of wood freshly split and stacked, hay piled in a
barn loft, the smell of pipe tobacco always reminds me of Uncle John Babek
sitting on his back porch puffing away and looking over his harvested plot.
Uncle John was probably my favorite uncle. I guess in today's world Uncle
John would not be considered very ambitious. He was a farmer and a
blacksmith; not a very good farmer, but an excellent blacksmith. Uncle John
believed that too much work was detrimental to one's well being! Aunt Louise
was of the same opinion. They never had any children and their life was a
very simple one. Uncle John was a firm adherent of the principle that you
only worked hard enough to provide for the necessities of life. One of the
necessities of life for him was to have a lot of time to hunt and fish and to
sit on the back porch and spin tales!
Did he ever spin tales. He was born in the Weatherford area in 1889,
eventually moved to Oklahoma to the vicinity of Prague, and after a number of
years settled in Ennis. His stories of Oklahoma intrigued me the most. In my
mind, the way he told the stories, it was a rugged and savage land!
Our little farms adjoined, Uncle John's and ours. They were situated off
Crisp Road, about five miles northeast of Ennis, and both backed up to the
old Village Creek. The early forties bring back the most colorful memories.
Most of the kids living around us went to St John's School. A number of us
were in Sister Mildred's second grade! There were the Haba's, the Krajca's,
the Kriska's, the Pavlacka's, and of course, my cousins Mary Ann and Rosie
Mikula whose family farm adjoined ours on the north. The old yellow bus
dropped us off on Crisp Road about a mile from our homes. The walk home now
seems like it was always an adventure, especially during the autumn months.
It seems that the air was always fresh and invigorating with spider webs
slowly sailing on what little breeze there might be. The sound of a farmer
chopping wood off in the distance, quail bursting from under the bushes as we
walked along the road, often the honking and quacking of geese or ducks
flying in a V high above making their way to the coast, and always multiple
dogs barking their greetings to those coming home. I must not forget the
squealing laughter of the girls, for the boys were always tormenting them
It was on these days that I always looked toward Uncle John's farm house,
first, to see if there was smoke coming from the chimney, second, to see if
the garage door was closed signifying that he was home. Usually I'd see him
waving from the back porch. His home was about a quarter of a mile off the
little dirt road leading to our home. A gravel road and electricity had not
yet reached our places!
A quick hello to mom and to my Babicka Mikulova, who then lived with us, a
rapid change of clothes, a wonderful snack, normally homemade bread, butter,
and preserves, then off across the field to Uncle John's I'd go. He and Aunt
Louise loved to bottle grape juice during the summer. They had their own
small vineyard. But invariably the juice would ferment in the bottle. I loved
to watch him open a bottle in the kitchen! Often it would just explode out!
The kitchen ceiling and window curtains often had the most lovely splotches
of purple color!
Almost always, Uncle John was standing there with his old single shot 12
gauge shotgun and my trusty little .22 rifle waiting for me. Off we'd go to
explore Village Creek. Usually we stopped off for a bit at the back end of
his farm at a large sandy area and hunt for arrowheads. Based upon the number
we found, and the large number of pottery shards and other material that
could be found, we deduced that at one time this must have been the site of a
small Indian village. In fact, years before, Village Creek had flooded after
a severe spring storm and toppled a large tree on the bank. Once the flood
subsided, my dad and Uncle John were examining the flood damage to their
properties, and lo, and behold, they discovered a human skeleton under the
roots of the toppled tree. They called the authorities and investigation of
items surrounding the bones convinced them that this was the burial of a
tribal member. I used to be a little leery of this area, convinced that at
night spirits of the past must certainly prowl about! But in the company of
my uncle and my .22, protection was on my side.
I guess in those days we were not environmentally sensitive. We hunted for
rabbit, squirrel, fox, and possum. Game was part of our meals whenever we
could find it. Mom and Aunt Louise both could whip up as good fried squirrel
or rabbit and white sauce as could be had anywhere. Today it is called a
delicacy, and can only be found at fine restaurants at a dear price!
The most enjoyment from those afternoons was just being there. Crunching
through the leaves as we walked, an owl hooting off in the distance, crows
fighting for a roost for the night, the dogs yelping and howling as they
chased some query through the brush, building a little fire in the creek bed,
the leaves rustling in the breeze above us.
Slowly we'd amble back toward the farmhouse, knowing that shortly I'd hear my
mom's voice coming from across the field, "Frankie, supper is ready!"
Oh, to be six or seven years of age again!! Uncle John did not teach me how
to make a living, but he did teach me how to live!
Frank J. Mikula