Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Mama in the cooler

This area is chicken country. This is true now but was more the case thirty years ago.

Our land is part of what was once the Alderman farm. The Alderman place was big, hundreds of acres. The original family house still stands, empty, about 100 feet east of my property line on John Mason’s land next door.

The Alderman place was broken up and sold off in the early 1970’s.

On what is now my land there were three big chicken houses, 5000 birds in each, full of laying hens. The family I bought the place from, by the name of Belk, actually worked these houses for the first few years they owned the place.

There was a building they called “the cooler” where they collected the eggs. Part of this building was a big cooler where they stored the eggs.

Across the road a big warehouse like building was used to grade and candle the eggs from the chickens here and in several other locations on the old Alderman place. Eggs were shipped from there to grocery stores all over the area. The building is still there; it has been converted into a church.

There is another “cooler” building across the road from me.

The Belks got out of the chicken business years ago and the chicken houses were torn down. The “cooler” was a more substantial building and was used for storage for some years.

As it happened, Mrs. Belks brother became ill and was moved into a nursing home. The Belks were unhappy with the care he was getting so they fixed up the “cooler” into a proper house and moved him in there. He lived here for a few years before he died.

So our place has two houses on it, the main house where my bride and myself, along with a great variety of dogs, cats, and whatever else she thinks is too cute to sleep outside, and the house that was once “the cooler”.

Now I need to give some background, I’ll get back to all this, I promise.

Some years before we moved here, we lived in Orlando Florida, yeah the place with the mouse.

My sister and one of my brothers also lived there. I have five brothers and a sister, but this was the largest concentration of siblings that existed in any one place. My mother was living in Lakeland Florida, about 60 miles west on the way to Tampa. We had no other family in Lakeland and only one brother in Tampa. We (my siblings and I) decided to gang up on mom and get her to move to Orlando where we could keep an eye on her.

We all assumed she would move in with or near my sister, which is where the grand kids are. My bride and I owned a little house near downtown that had a small guest cottage in the back yard. Mom surprised us all when she announced she wanted to live in our guest cottage.

Mom did indeed live in the cottage. She settled in, and soon had gangs of blue haired ladies she palled around with. She was chair of every committee that her church had and just generally a well integrated member of the community.

When we decided to move to the country, we assured her that she wouldn’t need to move. We planned to just rent out the house and let her stay where she was. The conventional wisdom in the family was that she wouldn’t want to go anywhere.

Much to my surprise, she wanted to come along. This wasn’t a problem but it was a surprise. Just in case you think we were trying to ditch mama, we were not. One thing for sure about my family, no one keeps their thoughts to themselves. I don’t think anyone has ever had an opinion that wasn’t communal property.

So we all moved up here and started to get settled in to our new digs.

There is an old woman who lives up the road from us, who we knew of but had not met. Her name is Mrs. Mead. One day not long after we moved in we saw a “Yard Sale” sign at Mrs. Mead’s place. My bride and I stopped in.

Mrs. Mead is 93 years old and has more energy than most twenty year olds. We introduced ourselves and she said she was glad to meet us. Then she says, “I’m told you got your Mama back there in the cooler, I’d like to meet her too”.

When I told mama this she thought it was the funniest thing she had ever heard. To this day she calls herself “The old lady in the cooler”.

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