Author: Kandice Cruz
Type of Work: story
Source: CMv1 #46
© Copyright 2002 Kandice Cruz
Reading Jim's story about his childhood experience with the cookie time reminded me of
my own childhood so I thought I would share it with all of you.
I am ten out of eleven children. Of the eleven children in my family, only two of us are girls and of the eleven, only three of us where our parent's biological children. (We didn't get my sister Stephanie until my mother remarried about 9 years ago after the passing of our Father back in 1986) The rest of the 7 boys that I knew as my brothers where adopted by my parents through them being foster parents for the State of Texas.
We grew up on a farm in the panhandle of Texas in a tiny assed town by the name of Muleshoe, well actually the farm is outside of Muleshoe and between Amhearst and another tiny town called Heart's Camp. The farm that we grew up on was Johnson's Ranch and the majority of our land was dedicated to cotton that my family grew and after it went through the cotton gin, the majority of the cotton went to the Levi Strauss Company. Oh yes, we had cattle and chickens and other animals that one would find on a typical ranch/farm. But the thing that really sticks out in my mind the most is a family tradition that dates back to the early 1930's.
Every Easter, the ranch would be open to the children from the three farming communities that surrounded Johnson Ranch. The ranch hands and field workers would spend about 7 to 8 days coloring hard boiled eggs and then spend about 3 hours hiding all the eggs in the cotton fields. At a set time, normally around 1 pm on Easter Sunday, all the children that could get to the ranch would come and meet at the main house and then Momma would read to us the story of Peter Rabbit. After the story, all the kids that gathered would be really anxious because we all knew that at the end of the story, Nanna (my mother's mom) would ring the triangle that hung on the porch and that signified the begining of the Easter Egg Hunt. At the end of the hunt, each child would count their eggs that they gathered and a ranch hand would double check their counting. The winner of the hunt would get a prize of $10 and a ham. I never understood why each year the winner of the hunt wouldn't be one of us kids that lived on the ranch.
I also couldn't understand why most of the kids that showed up for the hunt had looked like they had been working in the fields all the week long. I know that many of them where not ones that I would see in school during the week. One Easter, when I was 6, I asked Nanna about the kids. She told me that the majority of the children there where from migrant farm worker families and most of them had to work in the fields along with their parents in order to get the money they needed to put food on the table. For me that just seemed unfair to those kids that they couldn't play for having to work. I knew that our own ranch hands and farm workers would work from the time that the sun came up until it set in the evenings and in the spring and summer that would mean working about 14 to 15 hours a day.
I guess that I never really realized that back then kids had to help out in anyway that they could in order for their familes to eat. The only time I ever had to work in the field was because I had been naughty and had to pick cotton as a punishment. And of course we had our chores to do on a daily basis, for example, I had to gather eggs out of the hen house every morning before I went to school, but to imagine having to work long and hard hours out in the unforgiving Texas sun was just something that made me stop and think. I guess that I was one of the lucky kids back then, even though we only got a new pair of shoes when it was time to begin the school year and at christmas instead of the plethra of toys that today's kids get, we got new clothes for the winter and at easter my brothers would get a new suit to wear to church and I would get a pretty dress that my Nanna would hand sew for me.
Today as I stop and remember those times from my childhood, I really have to thank God for the strong family values and hard work ethics that I grew up with. Through my family's tradition I learned community service and how to give back to those that helped bring in the cotton crops when it was time to harvest. But after Nanna telling me about the kids and about their home life, I never hunted eggs again during the traditional hunt. I would hang on the front porch and watch those children run through the field and they would be laughing and joking with each other and for me, to watch them having fun instead of having to work was the best part of Easter.