This is a story told to me by my mother, Gladys MARTIN HEISER (1921-1999). The story was shared with her as she wasn’t present when it happened. I believe this happened in the mid-1940’s at a farm in Sykesville, Carroll County, Maryland.
My grandmother, Florrie THOMAS MARTIN (1894-1979) and her sister, Aggie THOMAS JEFFORDS (1897-1966) helped with chores while growing up. One thing they did was help with burning off the garden in the spring before planting time. Now, they didn’t help with the big fields that their father farmed. They helped with the kitchen garden, the one that fed the family.
My grandmother, Florrie, and her husband, J. Daniel MARTIN (1886-1955) were tenant farmers. Daniel came from a long line of planters. Florrie had a large kitchen garden since she had eight children of her own, and she had to feed some farmhands, too.
Aggie visits Florrie and her family in the mid-1940’s
It was springtime. Florrie and Aggie decided to burn off Florrie’s kitchen garden on their own, seemingly without enlisting the help of anyone else. Keep in mind that Florrie was about 50 and Aggie just 3 years younger.
All was going well to start with. The fire was under control and somehow the two sisters kept it from getting out of hand by beating it down on the sides with wet towels, a method practiced by many. But before long, the blaze became more than they could handle. It was flaming up all over from what I was told.
Did they call out for help?
NO, they did not. They just frantically worked to get it back under control. Knowing the stubbornness of these two women, I am not at all surprised.
Before long, two of my uncles and my grandfather came running when they realized what was happening. They helped the sisters, and soon the fire was out. The field was adequately burned off, too.
I’m sure there was discussion about it later
I imagine my grandfather gave them both an earful, saying how they could have burned up the fields belonging to the owner and what were they thinking burning off the garden without help especially at their age.
And I imagine my grandmother succinctly saying something in return about her sister and her being perfectly capable of burning off a kitchen garden, regardless of what happened that day.
So why did the sisters decide to burn off the field by themselves if my grandfather and uncles were there to help?
I suspect it’s because my grandmother wanted it done right then, and the sisters didn’t believe they needed help. After all, they were experienced at burning off kitchen gardens. And they were confident and determined women. Later, though, Florrie did admit that she and Aggie may have taken on more than they could handle.
Got any fiery stories in your family history? Please comment and share!
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