Friday, 06 March 2020 18:42

COLUMN: Out in the backyard: A place where memories are made

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COLUMN: Out in the backyard: A place where memories are made J.A. Bolton

When I was growing up in the ‘50s and ‘60s, my backyard could go for half a mile or more. When I told Momma that I was going out in the backyard, it could mean a lot of different places. Why, I might be going way down in the woods huntin’, across the road to fish in our neighbor’s pond, or down the road to a friend’s house to play ball.

In that time and age, your parents still cared about where you might be, but as long as you were back by dark, it was okay.

“Snapchat” in my early days meant you were on the porch or out in the yard snapping or shelling beans for supper or canning. In my family, this was a time for stories or family history to be discussed.

In our backyard, we kept a large wood pile of firewood and several large pieces of lightered. It was my job in the wintertime to fill the wood box on the porch and slit the lightered into small pieces.

When I got my chores done and it was too late to go huntin’, I would knock rocks. Yessir, I would dig me a gallon bucket of small white gravels from around our kitchen drain. I would then dump them out on a wooden board I used as home plate. Using a small baseball bat, I could just about knock those rocks plum out of sight for a home run or maybe a line drive. I sometimes hit a few fouls but I hardly ever struck out.

Living between my grandparents’ house and my aunt and uncle, I considered their yards as mine too. There was a well-worn path between all three houses.

Momma kept a chopping block in our backyard to chop off the heads of her chickens. She and I plucked out and singed the feathers off them birds and got them ready for the pot. Why, she could make a pot of chicken ‘n dumplings fit for a king to eat.

Everyone back then had a clothesline in their backyard. My grandma still washed their work clothes in several cast iron wash pots using lye soap. That was about the only way you could remove tobacco gum or other stains you got on your clothes while working around the farm. After ringing them work clothes out by hand, she would hang them on the line or over every big bush in the backyard.

In our backyard were several big pecan and walnut trees. When the trees were bearing, it was my job to keep the squirrels and birds out of the trees. We picked every nut up by hand and by Christmas, Ma would have sold or picked out every one of them nuts. To crack just a few pecans, you could just mash two together but them walnuts won’t that easy, no sir. When the walnuts would fall, they would still be surrounded by an outer hull and have an inter hull. To get this outer hull off, we just threw them walnuts in the driveway and let the vehicles run over them. Best way I knowed of to get that outer hull off before you cracked them with a hammer.

Why, I’ve worn out the knees of several pairs of old blue jeans playing marbles in the backyard. My friends and I had a horseshoe pit and threw horseshoes on a regular basis. Also above the barn, we tacked us up a basketball goal and played a many a game of HORSE.

In my mind today, I can still see my granddaddy and his friends sitting in straight chairs or on Coke crates under the shade trees in the backyard. They would be talking politics or solving all the world’s problems. Seems like all of them would be talking at the same time, then one would say, “Now, if’en y'all will be quiet for a minute, I’ll tell you how it is.” They never got mad at each other but to tell you the truth, I believe they would argue with a sign board.

I enjoyed our backyard, but there was one thing that grew in the yard beside sand spurs that I didn’t like — that would be what we called a switching bush. 

It was a large bush that had little keen branches growing from the main trunk. Seems some parents long ago thought these little keen branches would be the perfect tool to make their children behave. Believe me they worked on my little legs when I misbehaved and they would work today if people would use them. 

Why, Momma would make me go get my own switching limb and if it was too small, I had to go get a bigger one.

Folks, I hope most of the memories in your backyard are good ones. In times past, things seemed to move slower and you knew most all the people in your neighborhood. People worried more about making a respectable living, loving their fellow man, and treating others the way they would like to be treated. 

I don’t know about you but some of my favorite childhood memories were made out in the backyard.

J.A. Bolton is the author of “Just Passing Time” and co-author of “Just Passing Time Together.” He is also a member of the Anson County Writers Club, the Anson and Richmond County Historical Societies, the N.C. Storytelling Guild and the Story Spinners of Laurinburg. Contact him at  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..