Farm Collector

These Cool Mornings Remind Us

219 Hubbard, North Fort Myers, Florida 39303.

IF YOU STOP TO THINK, whether you reason it out
or not, there is a little humor in almost everything. What might be
a tragedy for you could be funny to someone else. Even the seasons
are saturated with wholesome humor, such as grand-pa’s salty
remarks at the scratching of wool underwear.

One of the first things these cool mornings remind us of, is
that we left the window open. Well, smile at it, because what’s
the use to worry over an open window when you live in Southwest
Florida where the snow never reaches the windowsill. After all,
these cool mornings herald the approach of many things we have been
wishing for. Such as relief from the heat, lawn mowers and
mosquitoes.

When cold winds start humming through the wires, many people
wish they could visit some place where snow or frost never falls.
Only one such place exists in the U.S.A. and that is Key West. But
when I visited Key West in summer, I wished for weather cold enough
to freeze the biters off sand flies. When frost falls, is an idle
expression, because frost isn’t supposed to fall. Frost just
forms and is supposed to form on pumpkins, but the barefoot boy of
yesterday used to find frost on the axe handle in the wood pile.
With the coming of oil heat the old-timer who used to be a farm
boy, has almost forgotten what the good cold weather does.

THREE SCORE YEARS ago, the big gray opossum of
Uncle Ramos day, furnished many a story and Sunday dinner. Rut it
took one or more heavy frosts to make the old-time Southerner’s
dream come true. The old-time gray possum’s favorite food, from
which he derived his finest flavor, came from persimmons. And
persimmons never ripened until frost fell on them. To eat
persimmons before the frost sweetened them would sprain your face
and though puckered, make whistling impossible.

Another Southern delicacy is made much better by a heavy frost.
That is the collard greens of North Florida and Georgia. Akin to
cabbage, collards never head and frost can settle all through the
big leaves to sweeten them to a Cracker’s taste.

I have been asked why the sugar mills in Florida did not plant
enough sugar cane to operate the year round. That shows how much
some people appreciate the seasons. Even sugar cane in it’s
homegrown shell, must ripen before the juice can be worked into
sweetening for your breakfast coffee. When fresh sap begins rising
in the stalks, the juice refuses to settle in the clarifiers, so
the mill has to shut down when the press room men start
cussing.

To the many men who used to supplement their years’ income
by trapping, cold weather was a blessing, especially in Florida.
The otter, raccoon, possum and other full-bearing animals of the
Sunshine State. donned winter coats to make them pelts more
valuable. Even rabbit fur is worth more in winter in Florida and
the bear enjoys his winter coat to the fullest by wearing it in the
open instead of hibernating like his Northern cousins.

NOT ONLY DOES cold weather in Florida help many
people but it gives the rest something to remember. I remember many
years ago in the days of big timber in Florida, a careful engineer
was backing an ancient logging engine over rough, rotten track when
the boss, who had gone on the trip without a coat, became
impatient. Anxious to get home to a warm fireside, he asked the
engineer, ‘can’t this thing run any faster?’

‘I’m afraid to try running any faster,’ answered the
man at the throttle.

‘Then let me run the engine,’ said the boss through
chattering teeth. ‘I’m going home before we freeze.’
With that he pulled the decrepit scrap-pile’s throttle wide and
stuck both hands in his pockets. Less than a mile later the ancient
engine flew to pieces before the boss could get his hands out of
his pockets.

That being the first cold snap of the winter, and the whole crew
of 20 men without a jacket, you can bet your overcoat they never
forgot the day. Nor did I for that matter. Because the engine
unexpectedly broke down on an unexpected cold day in Sunny Florida,
I had to make a 25 mile trip to pick up another crew that was
stranded in the cold, on a rail road motor car without a coat.

I USED TO KNOW an old ex-minister named Newton
in Georgia. Rev. Newton quit preaching and turned Faith Healer
where he thought he could do his fellow man more good. Well, he
didn’t seem to be getting very much out of preaching and he
made a good faith and ‘yarb’ doctor.

Back in those days we had an acute ailment called Menrus or
Membranous croup. And twice in life, 1906 and 1907, I played with
four-year-old boys during the afternoon, and sat up with their
corpse that night. That’s how fast that acute croup worked. I
can’t define it by name, having looked through two dictionaries
without finding it. Maybe Webster never had croup or then it could
have been a Georgia word.

One night Rev. Newton was hurriedly called to a child with croup
and believe it or not, he used the frost to make the cure. The
toddler was choking, beyond speaking or crying and its parents had
given it up to die. Rev. Newton, to the horror of those present,
stripped the baby naked, rushed outside and planted its bare
posterior on the cold, frosty ground. That brought a yell equal to
what we would have let out and the baby started coughing up the
mucous that stopped its throat. A big dose of castor oil finished
the cure and Rev. Newton’s fee, just ‘take it to church and
bring it up right.’

  • Published on Mar 1, 1967
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