Growing up in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, we were surrounded by apple orchards and farms. Our little town of Winchester had National Fruit Products which made such delights as applesauce and apple butter…the aromas permeated the town. I lived in a white and blue collar neighborhood. I spoke with a Southern accent, and my speech was peppered with many idioms and colloquialisms.
Every summer, we would travel to my grandparents’ farm in Alton, Osborne County, Kansas. My Gramps and Grammy were Andrew and Isabella (Boultinghouse) Storer, my mom’s parents. Their farm seemed vast to me with acres of crops, outbuildings, and animals. A river bobbed along the edge of the property. When we visited there, I heard another language being spoken. What did some of those phrases mean? My grandfather would talk about checking out the Angus on the north forty. Angus? North forty? When he feed the pigs, he would yell out words that sounded like “Sue Whee” with a high accent on the second syllable. Those porkers would come running for slop. One time, he mentioned how flat the land was…but then he spoke about how the Kansas mountains were lined up from town to town along the highways. Living under the shadow of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, I certainly could not see those Kansas mountains. Little did I know, but they were another name for grain elevators.
My grandmother also spoke in another language. Each morning, she told us that she had to go milk the nannies. I was instructed to gather the hen fruit and bring it to the kitchen. I asked what trees it was on…she laughed and told me to go to the chicken coop with a basket…I would spot it in the little nests in there. My grammy also kept egg money in a can in her kitchen, and she said she could use it when she went to town on Saturdays…all gussied up she would be.
My grandparents had a strange phone number which wasn’t numbers at all. Their number was two longs and one short. Their neighbors had similar numbers made up of different longs and shorts. We were to answer the phone on the wall only when their longs and short sounded; otherwise, we would be hearing people talk on a party line. That would not be polite.
My mom understood completely what all they were talking about, but I am sure that my dad was also puzzled. My dad was from Philadelphia, and he was a city boy with Polish immigrant parents. Did it take him long to catch on to this Midwest lingo?
I miss my grandparents and parents. I wish I could once again walk on that farm, gather eggs, drink goat’s milk, slop hogs, and get all gussied up on Saturdays.