“Them that don’t work, don’t eat.” We must have looked like a hungry bunch because Daddy made sure we worked. Farm work was a regular thing, but when Daddy had invited folks in for a holiday, he kicked it into high gear. The place had to be groomed; brush cut, fence rows cleaned out, fields bush hogged. It was always good to have something new lined up to show progress; another few acres cleared, some pecan trees planted, a new field fenced. It wouldn’t do to have folks thinking we’d been just lying about.
Work was divided into “Man’s Work” and “Woman’s Work.” Women were lucky. As far as “Man’s Work,” Daddy believed in equal opportunity. Womenfolk were expected to work right alongside the men, just as hard and long. Due to our lesser strength and inferior expertise, however, we couldn’t be expected to handle complex tasks involving tractor driving, bush hogging, and equipment use. We were, however, excellent candidates for piling brush, chopping bushes, and wielding simple tools such as hoes, post-hole diggers, shovels, and wheelbarrows. Fetching and carrying were our forte!
Fortunately for the girls, once we had labored long and hard with Daddy, we were free to pursue “Woman’s Work”; that would be cooking dinner after a long day’s work. As often as not, Mother worked alongside us, so “Woman’s Work” started after “Man’s Work” was complete. “Man’s Work” was over at the end of daylight. Men couldn’t cook, clean, do laundry, or milk cows. Fortunately for men, according to Daddy, there was some obscure Bible verse I never heard quoted or referenced anywhere else, that said, “Thou canst not take what thou cannot give.” He also hinted at possible hormone issues. How’s that for rustication? I often felt sorry for Daddy and Billy as they collapsed at the end of a long day while we were cooking and cleaning. They must have felt just awful.
Anyway, back to the holiday. Once we’d worked like fiends preparing, the long-awaited guests arrived, amid compliments on the resort-like beauty of the farm. “I wish I lived here. It looked so restful.” (You should have been here the last week!) Daddy’s mood was effusive. He was a wonderful host. “Get Aunt Lou some more coffee and cake!” “We’re running low on iced tea out here.” He’d charm my cousins. They’d be riding horses, riding the zip-line running from a tall elm to way past the pond, and swimming in the pond. It must have looked like a theme park to poor, deprived children who had to lie about watching cartoons, riding bicycles, playing with friends, and drinking Kool Aid all the time. I felt so badly for them when they’d say, “I wish he was my daddy!” So did I!