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CATCHING FIREFLIES

Updated on April 23, 2014

The Winston farmhouse sat back off the dirt road in a small valley with barns and outbuildings scattered here and there across the ten acres that Samuel Winston inherited from his father. The land had been in the Winston family for three generations. Samuel Winston's great grandfather Titus Winston had purchased it from his wife Mildred's father Charles Harris back in 1850 for one dollar and a deed that read for love and affection for his daughter written on it and the promise to keep it in the family.

My father and mother, Samuel and Sally Winston, had seven children ranging from ages seventeen to eight, with myself, Patricia Winston, being the youngest in this story that I'm about to tell. I have many stories but this one stood out in my memory.

Mama's brother Henry had the neighboring farm next to ours and a five acre field was plowed and turned every year to prepare it for planting field corn by the acre with tobacco fields on another two acres with the farmhouse situated in between. The vegetable garden was in plots closer to the house. Daddy and Uncle Henry combined their land and shared in the planting and harvesting the crops. Both families profited from the other's crops.

Uncle Henry's children were like brothers and sisters to us. A lot of us were of the same age as our cousins and finding a playmate was no problem.

This particular day was in the late spring. We had had a day of working in the fields and was ready for a good rest. My cousin Julie and I played mostly, turning over rocks on the edges of the rows to see what wiggly worms might be underneath. She was more brave than I was since she was the one doing most of the rock turning.

The sun was peaking over the top of Uncle Henry's hill behind the house when we came back from the fields. Mama and my aunt and the older girls began preparing supper. The smell of baking cornbread and fried potatoes wafted out of the kitchen screen door and my aunt had pulled jars of canned green beans from her cellar by the back door. Children were running around the yard playing while the men and young boys saw to the animals and made sure the mules and livestock were taken care of before they could rest and call it a day.

After washing the field dust off of us, we could sit down at the table and eat. It would occur to me, as I got older, that the adults barely had time to sit and rest until their day would start over again before daylight the next day.

By the time we ate and the dishes were washed the sky had turned a darker blue with pink and yellow and light purple streaks over the hill where the sun had went down. The dusk had brought out the flashing sparks of fireflies darting slowly here and there. The night was mixed with the sounds of frogs and crickets down by the creek and the sounds of my family around me.

My oldest sister retrieved some mason jars from our aunt and we proceeded to chase the fireflies in the attempt to catch them, which is not too hard to do since they're so slow moving. We were running around the yard laughing and catching them in our hands and putting them into the jars. Only a few wound up in the jars because our chasing the fireflies had turned into a game of tag with us chasing one another and the fireflies darting around us. The sounds of the night and the happy laughter that we shared as children made a lifelong impression on me.

With a kerosene lantern in his hand, Daddy led us the short walk across the footbridge and down the narrow dirt road to our house. There we prepared for bed and settled in to sleep for the night. My bed was situated close to a window that looked out onto the front porch. It was commonplace for us to sleep with the windows ajar on warm nights and that night I remember hearing the sounds of running water in the creek in front of our house and the crickets chirping and a stray frog would lend it's occasional croaking sound to the night and I remember feeling safe in my little hollow with my family around me.


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