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The Nurses Apron Partnership

If Old Aprons Could Talk by Marta Strong

Posted: 2 April 10

It is amazing how a plain old apron can stir up so many memories and emotions. This apron is not fancy and the pockets resemble two patches sewn on each side of the front. The shape of the apron is flat and made from a feed sack cloth. The front narrows as it rises up towards the neck and it has a cloth strip attached on each corner that slips over the head to create a bib effect. At the wide part of the apron are hemmed strips of cloth sewn on each side. These strips tie in the back and hold the apron on. This particular apron is rather large and could easily cover a woman of size.

My grandmother was a good sized lady in stature. She definitely was a hard worker and her apron was very important to her. The only time I remember my grandmother without her apron was when she went to town or to church. I cherish that old apron. I proudly display it in my living room with grandmother’s dough bowl, rolling pin and biscuit cutter. I also have a photo of grandmother wearing that same apron. She is coming out the back door of her house and down the steps with a big beautiful smile.

The feed truck would deliver supplies to Grandmother and Granddaddy’s farm. Grandmother was very careful choosing which bags of seed she wanted. There would be so many sacks, so many colors, and so many patterns to choose from. Of course, after the contents of the sacks were fed to the animals, grandmother would wash the sacks very carefully and hang them out t dry. She used the clean sacks to make dresses, quilt tops, even pillowcases, and of course, aprons.

Grandmother and I used to walk past the barn, the tool shed, and the hog lot, then on down the hill where an old tree grew twisted over and up, like a horse. She and I both would have a good laugh. Then we ventured on through the pastures and under the electric wire fence, I just knew I would accidentally touch it and electrocute myself to death. Grandmother would just take a stick and lift it up and let me ease through. Above the pasture was a huge orchard where we would gather apples and pears. Grandmother would pull the corners of her apron up and load it full with the delicious delicacies.

Often I would play outside while Grandmother was busy cooking. Sometimes I would smell homemade bread as she was taking it from the oven. Usually bare-footed I would run to the house, being careful not to step in chicken poop. Then she would pull a big hunk of homemade bread off the end of the loaf, load it down with freshly churned butter and hand it to me. Yummy good! I could have eaten a whole loaf. One time my Dad told me that grandmother made seven pies and had placed them in the pie safe. He said he knew he would get in trouble if he cut one of them and ate a slice. So, he just ate a whole pie, washed the pan, and grandmother never knew.

Grandmother would rise early each morning and head out to the barn to milk the cows. Sometimes she had to tie the cow’s tail with a piece of twine to keep it from swishing her in the face. If she had a real contrary cow that kicked at her, then she would use a contraption on the cow’s two back legs. This would hold the two feet together so the cow couldn’t kick the milker or knock over the milk bucket while the cow was being milked. There were always some wild cats and kittens in and around the barn. Grandmother would pull a cow’s teat over and squirt milk in their mouths while she milked. It wouldn’t take grandmother very long to fill up the bucket. She tried to teach me how to milk, but I was too slow.

Grandmother would bring the slop bucket from the house down to the milking barn. After we finished the milking we would walk to a pig pen out in the edge of the woods. She would pour all the scraps and leftover foods from the kitchen into the log trough. The hogs used to scare the daylights out of me slurping up that slop in a loud snort. I would sometimes have nightmares at night that I had fallen into the trough and was eaten alive by the hungry hogs.

There were a number of buildings on my grandparents’ farm. Just below the house was a bigger barn with a loft and doors that opened. The doors were there to make it easy to load and unload the hay from the fields, but sometime when there was room we would have plays up there. We would creep up to the hay loft and search for the old momma cat to see where she had hid her baby kittens. We would find them, but she would always move them again.

Granddaddy had built an elevator-type building where crocks of milk and butter were lowered in to the ground to an underground spring. The milk stayed cool and fresh until time for use. The elevator had shelves and on the outside of the little building was a big crank that was used to lower it up and down.

Grandmother would go out to the chicken house and gather the eggs and carry them in her apron. If an old hen was sitting on the nest, grandmother would just reach under her and gather the eggs up. It scared me to do this. I was afraid the old hen would peck at me. The henhouse had a big area what could be raised up so the hens could go to roost at night. Then this area could also be lowered down to clean out the chicken poop. I didn’t like doing that…phew, it stunk, but it was a job that had to be done. This was used on the gardens for fertilizer. Grandmother had a little wire house not far from the back of the house where she would raise her little baby chicks. She would keep them there with their mom until they were large enough to be placed with the bigger chickens or sold.

Some of the chickens would just wander around the yard and there were a couple of roosters that stayed outside the lots. One rooster would chase me every time I went outside. It never bothered anyone else, but when it would see me it would chase me and have me screaming at the top of my lungs. One day it chased me in the front door of the house and I was just shaking and crying. Grandmother said that was enough of that; she would not put up with that rooster anymore. She picked up her hatchet and went out and grabbed the old rooster and chopped his head off. It was not too surprising that we had chicken for supper that night.

I guess it is a good thing old aprons can’t talk. In the evenings, grandmother would sit on the front porch to string beans or shell peas and talk with family or neighbors. Later she’d gather up her scraps in her apron and carry them to the slop bucket. Then she’d take the apron and wipe the sweat from her brow and maybe even a tear from her eye. On warm evenings she would fan herself with her apron and thank God for another day.<

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