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Growing Up in Rural North Louisiana
Thank God, I'm a Country Girl
Growing up in rural North Louisiana was a gift that keeps on giving. The good times I spent romping through the meadows, fields and forests were some of the best times of my life.
The life skills that I learned on our farm/ranch, near Coushatta, Louisiana, are ones that I still use today. Come join me as we take a stroll down memory lane during the 1950s and 60's in the hills where I grew up.
Growing Up in Rural Louisiana Was a Delight
Growing Up Poll
Where did you grow up?
I Was Born
My French, Roman Catholic father married my American, Methodist mother in 1949. He immigrated to the United States and they set up housekeeping in a small farmhouse about ten miles outside of the town of Coushatta, Louisiana. (The picture above shows the barn and tractor shed, which was 5 times larger than the house.)
There weren't many French people in rural North Louisiana, so Dad stood out, to say the least. His life in America was quite different than in France and North Africa. He immediately set about learning how to manage a working farm and ranch, while Mom managed the household. About two years later, I was born and I spent the first 19 years of my life in North Louisiana. My North Louisiana roots are responsible for the person that I am today, but the French and New Orleans influence broadened my horizons quite a bit.
I was a happy child. The large ranch where we made our home was located in the hills a few miles from Armistead (at the crossroads on Hwy. 1) and when I was big enough, I spent a lot of time outside exploring the fields and forests.
I had an older half sister, who spoiled me rotten and treated me like some sort of living doll. She put pink curlers in the few golden hairs that I had when I was finally able to grow hair.
When I got a little older, she used to take me with her to Coushatta. I served as a pint-sized chaperone. She would dress us both up so we looked really cute and it was great fun, that is, until I learned how to speak in sentences and could tell Mom and Dad about the interesting places that my teenage sister took me. Not long after that she was off on her own, working in Shreveport and marrying her high school sweetheart.
Always Loved Animals
For some insane reason, people used to constantly dump puppies and dogs on the road by our house, in the hills between Armistead and Evelyn. It seems that city and town people foolishly thought that the dogs could take care of themselves or that some kind soul would take them in. We were very kind souls and that's how all of our dogs came to live with us.
First there was Rip, Van & Winkie, who showed up when I was a baby. I remember Rip. Van was given away and something happened to Winkie. Rip lived to be pretty old. There was also a female that showed up later that we called Puppy. Mom and Dad said that someone had dumped scalding water on her before she found her way to our house. We kept her and when her hair grew out it was beautiful, long and golden brown. Puppy and Rip had several litters of puppies under the house by the floor furnace.
I always loved animals and became attached to the many puppies and kittens that were born under the house. One that I really liked and had even named was a gold pup, daughter of our dog, Puppy. But, Mom and Dad decided that we had enough dogs, so they gave her to a neighbor lady one day when I was at school. A few weeks later we went to her house and I wanted to see the puppy and I was told that it had choked to death on a chicken bone.
We did keep one, a male. He was white with a brown head and a pink nose. We called him Rudy the pink nosed puppy. (That's him lying down on the brick patio while I model my new robe.) He lived for a long time and even came with us to the new house, but Dad accidentally ran over him when he was asleep under the pickup truck. He lived, but never was quite the same and died a year or so later. Dad had a tendency to jump in the truck and go and even though he loved animals, he felt that they would always get out of the way. As a result, one of our cats lost a tail and another kitten was run over when he raced away while they were up in the motor or in the wheel well. That is one of the reasons that today, all of our cats and dogs are kept inside.
Training Rescued and Adopted Dogs
Dad had several fields where he raised grass to make hay. Back then, the hay-baling equipment was pulled behind a tractor and there was a step by step process that had to be followed in order to produce good hay. Dad always has been an animal lover and he would often rescue little creatures from sure death in the hay field. One time he brought home a nest of baby Cottontail rabbits. We tried to raise them by feeding them warm milk, but were unsuccessful. They were very small and Mom wouldn't let us bring them inside to stay warm. If we had only had a cat with kittens, we could have tried to get the mother cat to let them feed.
Dad attempted to raise Bob White quail in the playhouse that he built for us under the old Hickory Nut tree. (See the photo on the right of my younger sister dressed for her first day of school and my little brother who seems glad to be staying home.) Dad did a great job of raising them and they were almost full grown when a possum or a raccoon unlocked the screen door and some quail escaped and some were eaten. But, on the bright side, after that there were always plenty of Bob White quail in the pastures.
Raising Bob White Quail
Chickens, Roosters and Other Creatures
There was always a lot of wildlife around the house and life was never dull. One morning, Mom went into their bathroom and lifted the toilet lid and out popped a 5 foot long chicken snake (black rat snake). She screamed and slammed the lid down. Dad came running in with a giant butcher knife and chopped it's head off. He found a break in the old clay sewer pipe outside and surmised that it had gotten in through the crack. From that time on Mom would always raise the toilet lid very carefully.
Mother had a strict rule that we were not allowed to crawl under the house because ground rattlers lived under there. I never saw one, but she said that she had seen Rip, the dog, grab one and shake it until it was dead. There were many kinds of snakes around the farm, but most of them were non-poisonous. Chicken snakes (black rat snakes) used to get into the hen house so we had to make sure that we closed the door each night. I always enjoyed collecting the eggs and they were an important source of protein in our diet. Sometimes a hen would make a nest and hide her eggs out in the yard somewhere and we would have a batch of chicks.
Most of the hens and roosters were mild mannered, but when my little brother was a toddler there was one really hateful rooster that used to chase him around the yard trying to peck him. Being good big sisters, Ginni and I used to play bodyguard whenever our little brother went outside. To this day we don't know why that rooster only chased after Paul. Maybe it thought he was a predator or maybe it just didn't like little boys.
Old Favorite, Calendar Kitchen Towels
Dogwood & Cardinal 2012 Kitchen Towel
When the year is over, unlike paper calendars that are usually thrown away, calendar towels can be used as kitchen towels, stitched into decorative pillows or framed for attractive wall hangings. Contents include: One 16" x 27" calendar towel, hanging cord, dowel coupling and hardwood dowels.
Brother and Sister
As you can see by the photo of me (holding the gray striped cat), Paul and Ginni, most of our young life was uneventful.
I had some health problems as a baby and caught every childhood disease imaginable when I was in second grade, but that was nothing compared to the time when my younger sister and brother were playing outside and my brother decided to sneak over to the tractor shed to see if any of the farm workers were there. Ginni tried to get him to come back, but he got away and scooted through a large scoop device that was propped up in the shed. When she tried to follow him, she hit the part that was holding the bar up and it fell across her back, trapping her and preventing her from being able to breathe. Even though Paul could barely talk, he was able to run back to the house and say, "Ginni hurt", to Mom. Somehow, Mom got her out and threw us all in the car to rush her to the hospital in Coushatta. I remember looking at Ginni lying there in her little red t-shirt. Her skin was so blue that it looked black and she was barely breathing. We made it in time and Ginni made a full recovery, although I think she still has problems with her back where that iron bar struck her.
Every spring Dad and the hired hands would round up the cattle for vaccination, branding and to make steers out of the bull calves. This was when we would get to see all the cute new calves. It was quite an event to watch the men herd the cattle into the corral and then send them through the chutes.
One year a part Brahman cow had twin calves. She didn't have enough milk to feed them, so Dad kept them in the barn and we helped feed them with a bucket with a large nipple. Even though they were small, the calves almost pulled the bucket out of our hands when they fed.
For a few years, Dad worked part time as an accountant at the Auction Barn and once he bought a big old horse at an auction there. It seemed enormous, but was pretty gentle. Since I was the oldest I got to ride it first. My legs were so short that I couldn't reach the stirrups so when he started to walk I bounced up & down, but somehow managed to stay on. He decided that he wanted to go back to the barn & no amount of pulling on the reins or yelling, "whoa!" would stop him. Dad ran over and got him under control then Mom and Jessie led the horse with the 3 of us on it. We didn't get to ride him again. I think Jessie, the man who worked full time on the place, used him to ride the fences each day.
Singing Alarm Clock - $ 34.44
The Desk & Alarm Clock has its own special card: Beautiful BirdSongs, a selection of the 9 most beautiful bird songs from our collection. The alarm will awaken you to the gentle serenade of beautiful bird songs every morning.
There were pastures filled with cattle around three sides of our house. I remember lying in bed on spring nights, listening to the bulls bellowing and fighting. You could hear them pawing the ground and butting heads. Sometimes they were so close that they would bump into the fence.
There were other memorable night sounds in the old house. A very large hickory nut tree grew right beside our bedroom and the rats or flying squirrels used to pick the nuts from it and bring them into the attic. It sounded like someone bowling when they rolled the nuts around up there during the night. Most people would think it was creepy, but to us, it was just one of the sounds of the house and it meant that it was time to gather the hickory nuts and sell them to the nice man at the crossroads who bought the pecans we picked and also loved Hickory nuts and other native food.
Bulls Fighting Bulls
This is how it used to sound when the bulls fought in the pasture near our house. We had a Black Angus, like these, and also Hereford and a Brahma.
First Day of School
I had my younger sister and brother to play with on that big hill in the country, but I think I was still a little lonely growing up. I looked forward to my first day of school with great anticipation. Mom made me a new dress and fixed my hair. I had a brand new book sack with pencils and paper.
I woke up early and was out waiting for the bus at least an hour before it was due. Mom didn't know where I had gotten off to and was searching everywhere. She finally came out to the bus stop at the end of the long driveway and made me come back in the house. When I finally got to school, I loved it, even though my teacher was a big, fierce looking woman with a shrill, bird of prey like voice. I loved learning new things and I still do, today, however, I don't recall many more times that I was out early to wait for the bus.
Emily's First 100 Days of School
Life was good on that ranch in North Louisiana and I wouldn't trade the time I spent there for anything.
My brother and sister and I learned some important life skills such as self sufficiency and improvisation while growing up there. When you live in the country you learn early how to take care of yourself and how to adapt everyday objects so that they can be used in new ways. It's a shame that today's children don't have the opportunity to live the simple life like we did. We learned how to entertain ourselves without using much electricity or technology.
Our creativity and imagination bloomed in that farm house, so many years ago, and my siblings and I became lifelong learners. Today, we continue to learn new skills each day and I hope that we never stop learning about this big, beautiful earth.