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December 14, 2015 / philosophermouseofthehedge

Woe, the poor child

Children’s Protective Services would have intervened.

Why didn’t the neighbors – friends – anyone try to put a stop to it?

Woman freeing man tied to train tracks. 1916. "A Lass of the Lumberlands". Mutual film lobby card/

“What? You said to entertain ourselves and not to bother grown-ups unless there was blood and lots of it.”(USPD/

I was a deprived child.

Never given the opportunity – the Right (Ask any teenager) – to hit the mall on Black Friday. Nope. Never given any useful training in frantic shopping.

No sticky candy canes from elves ankle-deep in plastic snow or a chance to plead with Santas in worn, oddly damp, red suits. Only a handwritten list of “I’ll die if I don’t get this like everyone else” gift ideas gathered from TV and the Sears catalogue. And I never bought the story that if I left the list on the table Santa could read it with giant telescopes at the North Pole. Nope. Intentional parental sabotage.

Never a fancy new outfit for Christmas Eve church services. Left out of the excited lunch room brag sessions about purchases of velvet attire (with lace!) Dad always said our absence would leave room for all the people who only showed up at church on Christmas.

No weekend holiday parties. No caroling around the neighborhood.

A childhood of memories missed!

Every weekend. Every holiday. Every vacation, we drove away. No point in complaining.

It’s like we lived a dual lifestyle.

Always packed into the car – including the dog – and headed to the old farm.

The farm. For a long time without such comforts as electricity. We had running water, Dad would joke: “You have to run out and get it.”

Dad wanted to get as far away as possible from the telephone and the office. Couldn’t get much farther.

woman and horse.Ann Sheridan.1966:"Pistols and Petticoats".CBS/

No doubt this stylish Hollywood ranch image is what classmates envisioned. We never said anything to encourage that…(USPD/

Oh, it was a hardship beyond imagination.

Fences had to be mended. (“Stop whining about cut fingers. You let go of that wire and it’ll whip back and git ya.”)

Wood gathered and chopped to size. (“So it’s wet. Pick it up. You’ll dry off before it does.”)

Tiny pine tree seedlings had to be planted by hand in frozen ground. Thousands of them. (No, that is not an exaggeration. Thousands.)

The floors were cold. Yes, there were times ice formed on the inside of the window panes.

But hot soup and simple cornbread never tasted so good or a house so warm at than at the end of the day.

And unlike kids stuck in the city, we could roast marshmallows anytime we wanted over the wood burning stove.

With hunting season over and snakes hibernating, there were acres and acres of fields and forest to roam. (“If you get lost, just go straight until you hit the fence line and follow it. Eventually you’ll get back to the house or just pay attention to surroundings so you can remember where you are. Just don’t cross the fence line as the moonshiners are probably busy for the holidays.”)

Country woman and two men in farm house room.Lobby card for "The Scarecrow" Buster Keaton. 1920. Schenck Production/

I swear this is the exact wallpaper from one of the farmhouses. Really. (1920/USPD/

While there were no neighbors nearby at all, we always stopped by to see those closest – of all shapes, sizes, and colors.

Some whose tired worn houses were very close to living outdoors. I remember visiting and politely sitting very still on a chair between pans catching leaks from the roof – in January.

Dad kept an eye on those. Especially elderly ones.

You’d be surprised how even in the mid ’60’s many older farm folks still hitched up mules to wagons each Saturday morning and drove to town. There were shady places with water troughs where the wagons would be tied upon arrival.

Dad routinely stopped by to see if he could offer them a ride, but the wagon ride to town seemed to be a pleasant time of meditation for them. Really, they didn’t want to depend on anyone else.

Besides, one 70-year-old man grinned with a twinkle in his eye, “Mules never have a problem getting back up the slick red clay hill and down the deep sandy roads in bad weather.” He was right about that. We’d have to borrow his mules more than once to pull our stuck car out of the mud car.

Western couple. 1919. "Where the West Begins". William Russell Production/Moving Picture World/

“When you said a country house, I was thinking a bit more French cottage. (USPD/

At night there was nothing to do. Complete radio silence. Complete darkness. Sounds, completely wild.

We’d sit outside and talk. About stuff. About stories and outer space. About the constellations in the sky.

During Christmas vacation nights , wrapped up like packages in wool coats, we’d loudly sing Christmas carols. My mom would scowl and say it was disrespectful to sing like that. (Like the neighbor miles away could possibly hear.) So we’d dig in even deeper and screech out songs like Spike Jones and the City Slicker’s “All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth” or my ultra annoying imitation of Alvin and the Chipmunks. She’d just give up and go inside.

couple on horse under starry sky/1930 movie poster."Light of the Western Stars".Paramount/

The stars at night were big and bright. Mom always liked Zane Grey novels. Be careful what you wish for, star bright. (USPD/

There under a vast night sky with glittering stars instead of store-bought decorations, Christmas never seemed more real.

Quiet gifts we given: self-reliance, kindness, appreciation, learning to not take things too seriously, and being able to laugh at yourself.

Feeling small in the dark, cold night.

Sometimes thought I heard the cattle lowing.

A shame to deprive anyone of all that.

Phil, the Philosopher Mouse of the Hedge.

Production note: still attempting to practice Shavasana, so a long post ought to keep you busy for a while. Meanwhile I want to catch up on all your blogs this week. Thanks for stopping by and jingle on!

woman cooking on wood burning stove /1919 film She Wolf"/ Moving Picture World/Merit Film Corp./USPD.

“Now if the fire will hold up for last griddle cake…” CPS would have a heart attack. (USPD/







  1. Cynthia Reyes / Dec 14 2015 12:12 am

    What a wonderful post. Such great memories. Thanks for sharing.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Dec 14 2015 4:43 pm

      The rough edges may be still in thos memories, they seem a lot more sweet now. Thanks for adding a comment to the holiday comment stocking (hung with care)

      Liked by 1 person

  2. pnwauthor / Dec 14 2015 12:24 am

    Lovely writing. It’s interesting to read about alternatives to spending the holidays. I did do the mall thing, and ate plenty of candy canes–mainstream and not as interesting as what you explore in your post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Dec 14 2015 4:42 pm

      Christmas cookies. We did bake and decorate cookies ahead of time and take them with us. Missing out on that cookies baking in the oven smell would have be child abuse! We used to weep over missing the after Christmas sales that everyone talked about. LIke we really needed more stuff. HA HA. Thanks for jingling along


      • pnwauthor / Dec 14 2015 11:46 pm

        This is true. One of my best Christmas memories was baking and decorating Christmas cookies with our favorite holiday songs playing in the background. I believe we decorated the cookies around the same time we put up the Christmas tree.


  3. shoreacres / Dec 14 2015 1:14 am

    I knows whereof you speak. And I’m with you. Give me Christmas in the country any time. City’s ok, too — but there’s that little lagniappe that comes with the country. Silence. Moo cows. Stars on windmills. The world, still waiting.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Dec 14 2015 4:34 pm

      That’s it. The stillness. So rare. One of the few ways to gain balance and perspective is under a dark silent night. Thanks for gazing along.


  4. allthoughtswork / Dec 14 2015 1:35 am

    “Dad always said our absence would leave room for all the people who only showed up at church on Christmas.”

    This is genius. If I wasn’t an atheist, I’d use it.

    All the stuff you described can be had 365 days a year, so why wait ’til it’s cold? I stopped celebrating any and all commercialized holidays. I can eat pumpkin pie, give someone a gift, or send a love note and a rose any time the mood strikes. Means more when there’s no social impetus driving it. Cheaper, too.

    Liked by 2 people

    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Dec 14 2015 4:33 pm

      Your words are exactly what dad was talking about. We heard that phrase a lot. He frequently said those who don’t live their beliefs (whatever they were) each day all day were faking it. Using literary references, the only attending church on holidays crowd might be considered Pharisees or hypocrites. He was pretty sure that truth, beauty, and enlightenment could be found outdoors as well as inside any building.
      Thanks for stopping by to chat. You’re always welcomed – just remember things here aren’t always what they seem and you must always bring a sense of humor. Appreciate the comment and merry onward!


  5. EllaDee / Dec 14 2015 1:36 am

    Happy memories, reminding me of Christmas on my grandparents’ farm, although we did have electricity and tap water from a tank. But loud singing when pleas from the adults for silent night didn’t mean the carol, and time for simple amusements. The big treats were the decorated country town store windows and a visit to the once-a-year event ‘department store’ upstairs section aka Santa’s Kingdom.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Dec 14 2015 4:25 pm

      Farms touch those who visit them. A good thing. The department stores did used to change the 2nd or 3rd floors entirely into a magic Santa Land (with all the toys, sweets and Christmas decorations available for purchase). One bank had a caroling group wand free hot wassil at noon the week before Christmas. We were happy to just go and look at it all. We were so low maintenance compared to today. Thanks for the jolly comment!


  6. Littlesundog / Dec 14 2015 1:36 am

    Good times. Beats the hell out of today’s drama and chaos. We keep purty quiet here, though we have a few more comforts and labor-saving gadgets than back in those times. We were all the lucky ones – to have those kinds of memories. People today have no idea that simple living and getting close to nature are the best gifts in life.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Dec 14 2015 4:09 pm

      And it didn’t need batteries! I know you appreciate the luxury of those kinds of experiences, too. But electricity and running water were such a welcomed upgrade. Thanks for dipping into this well of memories.


  7. marthaschaefer / Dec 14 2015 1:47 am

    So glad to hear the dog got to go! I’m gonna wager the dog thought it was heaven! Thanks for the memories Phil. Nicely done!!


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Dec 14 2015 4:06 pm

      It was dog heaven. Completely free and free to choose. They generally chose to stay close by – and keep an eye on the car – Always slept all the way back home (and the whole next day in the yard). Can’t imagine a farm without a dog grinning big. Thanks for driving in to leave a comment


  8. D. Wallace Peach / Dec 14 2015 2:25 am

    Oh, I just love this post! It brings back such great memories of my own childhood Christmases. We’d go to the cabin (same idea – outhouse, no running water, no electricity). We’d spend the day outdoors in the freezing weather. At night, we’d stoke up the woodstove, sit around in our long underwear and play blackjack for wooden matchsticks with my dad. Grand times!


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Dec 14 2015 4:04 pm

      We either played dominoes or bridge at night – even the little kids. There is nothing as wonderful as a wood stove. You could see the bright orange flames through the grate – like a wild monster in there – and the shadows on the wall. That experience become more and more unique these days. Something worth hanging on to, I think. Thanks for warming up the comment pile

      Liked by 1 person

      • D. Wallace Peach / Dec 14 2015 5:39 pm

        So funny that you played bridge, too. I though we were the only kids in town who knew how to play. Great memories.


  9. cindy knoke / Dec 14 2015 3:19 am

    Makes you wonder who is rich and who is poor.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Dec 14 2015 3:57 pm

      There’s always a trade off. Farm life is not an easy one even now. As you say, there is a richness of a different sort there. Thanks for wrapping up a comment to leave


  10. angelswhisper2011 / Dec 14 2015 8:57 am

    You just brought us back to Granny’s childhood too, Philmouse. What a difference it was from now and then…sigh… The pictures and captions are so COOL. Your humour is hilarious. Pawkisses for a Happy Week ahead 🙂 ❤


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Dec 14 2015 3:54 pm

      A step back in time – and not realizing how lucky we were, we did complain. And tried so hard walking around outside at night holding a battery operated radio with aluminum foil on the antenna desperately trying to find a radio station. Certainly a good deal of comedy involved looking back. Thanks for your purrfect comment and Paw waves from the fur ones here

      Liked by 1 person

  11. easyweimaraner / Dec 14 2015 9:51 am

    it was great to walk with you on the memory lane… I liked the holidays on the farm of my grandparents….


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Dec 14 2015 3:48 pm

      OUr dogs loved farm trips. All that room to run. Still they ranged close-by to keep an eye on us – and the car. Dogs always slept soundly for days and days after returning home to the city. Perfect plan for dogs. Thanks for staying to bark along

      Liked by 1 person

  12. memoirsofahusk / Dec 14 2015 10:16 am

    Peace. Blessed peace! Sound wonderful – sort of!
    Although my Christmases have never been like this, we did have ice inside the windows. Ah – putting my hand on it in the mornings to melt a hand shape, Going with my dad and my sledge to pick up coal from the nearest railway yard because the roads were impassable. Yes, in England. Until we moved to a house with no fire (horrors) we used to send our letters to Santa up the chimney. Parents would get the fire nice and hot, then we’d carefully feed our wish lists into the chimney – if they went up then Santa would get them. I don’t remember them ever burning up. But we had simple short lists.
    If you don’t post before – hope your Dec 25th is memorable for lots of good reasons this year.

    Liked by 1 person

    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Dec 14 2015 3:46 pm

      What a nice tradition to send Santa letters up the chimney. That would seem like magic. Parts of family (both sides) came from England and Scotland originally. It’s always a surprise to read in blogs now about idioms, phrases, and customs from there that were also common in corners of East Texas when I was growing up. When dad was a kid, Santa always brought each child an apple and an orange – rare treats that didn’t grow in the region. We’ve tried to continue that. Time is short, but I am determined to visited and catch up this week with reading. Thanks so much for the Christmas wishes – and Jingle on!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Kate Crimmins / Dec 14 2015 3:10 pm

    My older brothers remember life on my grandparents farm but they lost the farm before I was born. I missed the homemade wine stories and the potatoes in the oven for breakfast. Somehow when you relate the stories now, they sound so nostalgic. When my brothers were young, they always complained!

    Liked by 1 person

    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Dec 14 2015 3:36 pm

      I was the youngest- and the late straggler of that generation, but we did rough-it without thinking it was really unusual until we got older. Then the stories of a city Christmas seemed so glamourous. What we had was a luxury of a different sort – often unappreciated at the time.Get your brothers started on those stories sometime – bound to be some adventures there.(and write them down.) Thanks for sittin’ down to chat

      Liked by 1 person

      • Kate Crimmins / Dec 14 2015 4:44 pm

        Most of their stories revolved around the barn and the home made wine barrels! My mother always had the stories about how wonderful those potatoes were. My grandmother would throw an apronful in the cast iron stove when she got up. It was like bacon with the smell waking everyone up!


        • philosophermouseofthehedge / Dec 14 2015 4:54 pm

          Hay barns were the most fun ever. The bales were square and stacked, not huge round things left in the field like in later years.(But nobody had to load them into the barn. Winner!)
          My oldest aunt would make hash browns with some bacon in an old cast iron skillet (She cooked better than my mom, so she was the lead chef when we were all there.). That smell is a wonderful way to start the day.

          Liked by 1 person

  14. pensitivity101 / Dec 14 2015 3:18 pm

    We get ice on the inside of the windows in the winter. We love to look up at the night sky without the interruption of street lights, floodlights, or industrial estate PIRs. We talk about anything and everything over a hot mug of tea or soup. We have no TV, and the radio is on for an hour or so just to catch up with the news, plus we have our laptops. Our musical harmonies rise from various breeds of waterfowl on the river. Such is our day to day life.
    Christmas will be spent in a house, praying for no power cuts so that I can cook Christmas dinner for the three of us and the two dogs. I am looking forward to it! Street lights will light up the garden, and the sound of traffic or sirens may abound locally. We will go in the car to either the deserted railway or quarry to walk the dogs. Entertainment will be dominoes or cribbage with tea, nibbles and a bar of chocolate or two.
    Christmas is for get-togethers, family, friends or both.
    Merry Christmas everyone, however you may be spending it.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Dec 14 2015 3:30 pm

      Not so different except you rock with the water there. Life experienced without distractions.
      We always played dominoes! In fact, about to wrap up a couple of sets to take with us for after Christmas dinner. Thanks for adding a lovely comment to this homestead


      • pensitivity101 / Dec 14 2015 3:37 pm

        You’re very welcome. Our friend has a 9 set of dominoes (55 tiles), and we haven’t been able to find a set anywhere. Apparently, there’s a 12 set too. We usually get hammered, but it’s better than watching the drivel on TV and that’s includes Christmas viewing!! We actually prefer living with less and appreciate so much more. We loved the log burner in the cottage and although a lot of narrow boats have them, we don’t. We do have on board central heating though so don’t exactly freeze! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        • philosophermouseofthehedge / Dec 14 2015 4:59 pm

          I’ve seen pictures of little fireplaces/log burners on boats. Not sure about that. Looks warm, but it’s fire on a boat. Luckily we rarely bitter cold here with our boat. Neatly organized boats with little storage for extra “stuff” does point out to you how little you really need to live happily. Enjoy all the delights of the season. (Amazon has dominoes – I took time to look through and find a set that looked familiar)


          • pensitivity101 / Dec 14 2015 5:06 pm

            There are several safety issues about having a stove on a boat, adequate ventilation, tiled walls, a proper hearth and chimney. We’ve been on board one when it’s been lit, and quite honestly, it’s too hot for me. One of our neighbours has just fitted a charcoal burner which needs just an inch flue and no hearth at all as it brackets on to the wall. He’s very pleased as it keeps him nice and warm. His boat is 10 feet shorter than us though and he doesn’t think it would be adequate to heat ours.
            Thanks for the Amazon tip. We’ll look into it!


          • philosophermouseofthehedge / Dec 14 2015 6:32 pm

            Once a boat warms up, it does seem to stay warm. I’d just as soon have it a bit cooler and pile on some blankets to sleep. That charcoal burner is intriguing – will have to look that up. Stay warm!

            Liked by 1 person

          • pensitivity101 / Dec 14 2015 6:34 pm



  15. Madison Woods / Dec 14 2015 5:03 pm

    I enjoyed your story and think now my start out here in the rural Ozarks wasn’t so bad after all! We at least had running water, though one year we did get a frozen stalagmite in the kitchen sink and had to put things we didn’t want to freeze into the refrigerator.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Dec 14 2015 6:24 pm

      Guess there’s a lot of similarity in backwoods rural areas anywhere. My cousins and I were so excited when we finally got a hand well pump so we didn’t have to toss the bucket down that wide dark hole. Not only worry about losing the bucket, but older cousins would watch and sneak up behind you and yell giving a little shove. (Shiver). Your kitchen stalagmite reminds me of the time one sunny day one of the aunts and my mom decided to was some clothes. There was this barrel on legs type appliance on the porch where you hand cranked the spindle after filling it with water ( or smushed it around with a hand paddle) and there was this wringer contraption on the top to squeeze as much water as possible out before you hung wash on the line. It was sunny but cold. The mens’ white undershirts froze into boards on the line. The kids thought it was great. Aunts and mom, not so much. The roughing it life is easier on kids than moms, I think.
      Thanks for wringing out a comment over here!


  16. roughseasinthemed / Dec 16 2015 8:11 am

    Another one here with ice on the windows – as an adult in my own houses, invariably because I loathe heated stuffy bedrooms. Our Christmases have always been quiet, just us and a few dog walks 🙂 I dont always put up a tree any more either. As a kid, I had tangerines, nuts and shiny new coins in my stocking. I think it was something my parents grew up with.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Dec 16 2015 9:25 pm

      Much better to sleep with the room a bit cool. Santa left pecans and walnuts in Christmas stocking for my dad as a kid (and us too). Wonder how far the tradition goes back? Seems more appropriate than candy canes. Quiet walks outdoors seem especially wonderful after a noisy morning and eating too much in an overly warm room. Dogs are such a wonderful excuse to escape gatherings. Oh, time to play chase the cat the cat round and round the house. Snowy, you could be such a big help with that by blocking on route while Molly beat the bush for the cat. Fun times! Paw waves. (Oh, Ok we’ll go take a walk)


      • roughseasinthemed / Dec 16 2015 9:36 pm

        I think Snowy would go into predator mode. While we hoped he would learn good kind calm attributes from Pippa, all he learned was CATZ! But still, he is a Dency. Hey, I’ve read a lot recently about them being shipped to America as rescues. Got to be some opportunity there for working dogs? And, we should go to bed. When we stop barking …


        • philosophermouseofthehedge / Dec 17 2015 1:07 am

          Molly tends to go into wolf mode outdoors, but indoors no real battles as Molly just thinks it’s great fun to wart the fuzzy lump. Right now the cat is in on the kitchen window bench surrounded by chairs. Cat’s had it with living in the shadows. Reclaiming territory. Keeps life interesting.
          So encouraging about the rescues. There’s plenty of working dog potential.Do you have a link?

          Liked by 1 person

  17. The Hook / Dec 16 2015 1:39 pm

    “There under a vast night sky with glittering stars instead of store-bought decorations, Christmas never seemed more real.”
    Your prose is the best gift of all, old friend.
    Thank you.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Dec 16 2015 4:21 pm

      May there be windows and downtime so you get a glimpse of the outside whirl during the holiday tourist travel season. Patience of Job must have been given to you at birth. Best wishes for your home, hearth, and family!


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