Tidy shocks of turkey red wheat stood row upon row, tall and straight against a cloudless summer sky. Kansas is wheat country and harvest time on Grandfather's farm meant weeks of hard work for everyone.
For the men there were long hours of pitching bundles and scooping wheat under a blazing sun. For the women - cooking five meals a day for a crew of ravenous threshers.
But for the children, these were days of unparalleled excitement. Like young birds, we lined the fence, digging bare toes into the dewy grass, waiting for a glimpse of the distant threshing rig.
Soon a parade of hayracks with teams and drivers rolled into the driveway. Behind came the monstrous thresher with its nine-foot wheels clattering and banging,and the engineer tipping his straw hat to us with a wide grin. But best of all, perhaps, are memories of Grandma's gorgeous meals - cooked in a steaming little summer kitchen, and served like royal banquets in the big, cool dining room of her large brick home.
For days Gram planned menus, saving choice foods for the threshing crew. There were cookies and bread to be baked, cream to separate, butter to be churned.
Long before the sun rose on threshing day, Grandma made countless trips from pantry to cellar to summer kitchen, her apron securely tied over a striped cotton dress.
Morning lunch was the first meal served, and when the whistle sounded for dinner, all field work stopped. Under the apricot tree the perspiring threshers splashed grimy faces, soaped hands in basins of water, and filed silently into the dining room. Grandpa offered a blessing and the feast began.
Gram's oak table, stretched to the limit, fairly sagged with platters of golden brown chicken, bowls of steaming gravy, potatoes, and beans picked fresh from the garden.
There were bowls of Aunt Kate's prize cole slaw and cucumber salad; side dishes of spiced crabapple, watermelon, and dill pickles. Warm rolls and molds of home-churned butter were served along with tangy, wild sandplum jam. Pies lined the bay window - a parade of summer apple, coconut, and Mom's special cherry/mulberry.
Stone crocks of lemonade with chunks of crystal clear ice helped quench a ravenous thirst. Cooking for threshers meant hours and days of hard work for every farm woman. But it was not without compensation. The hungry men admired, ate their fill, and were generous with praises for Grandmother's cooking.
Dinners like Gram's are rare now - masterpieces created with few conveniences - without the help of electric stoves, mixers, a deep freeze, running water, or a supermarket nearby. Yet she never complained.
A year's work had been rounded out, and Grandma added her part. She gave thanks for a good harvest, for grain in the bins, and hopefully, if wheat prices were good, a little money in the bank. Pan Fried Chicken 1 (2 1/2-3 pound) fryer, cut up 1/3 cup flour 1 teaspoon salt Lard and butter or cooking oil and margarine
Combine flour and salt in a paper or plastic bag. Shake several pieces of chicken at a time in a bag and coat well with flour mixture.
Heat lard and butter in a large heavy iron skillet until sizzling hot. Brown chicken briskly on both sides until deep golden brown. Cover and cook over low heat 30 to 40 minutes or until tender.
For a crisp crust, uncover last 5 to 10 minutes and re-crisp both sides. Remove to warm platter. Cream Gravy Pour off all but 3 or 4 tablespoons of pan drippings from the skillet, keeping crusty pieces.
Stir in 3 tablespoons flour and brown quickly.
Gradually stir in 1 1/2 cups light cream or milk and simmer over low heat, stirring constantly until mixture comes to a boil.
Add salt and pepper to taste. Serves 4. Bacon Flavored Green Beans 1 pound green beans 4 slices bacon 1 1/2 cups boiling water 1 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon fresh summer savory, chopped 4 slices bacon 1 tablespoon bacon drippings
Rinse beans and snap off ends. Cut in 1-inch lengths. Dice bacon, brown and drain. Add beans to boiling, salted water, bring to boil, cover and cook until almost tender. Drain and add summer savory. Add bacon drippings or melted butter over the beans and mix well. Old Fashioned Cole Slaw 1 1/2 pounds shredded cabbage 1 teaspoon salt 2/3 cup sugar 1/3 cup vinegar 3/4 cup whipping cream
Place shredded cabbage in covered dish and refrigerate for several hours. Combine remaining ingredients 30 minutes before serving; add to cabbage and mix well. Sour Cream Sugar Cookies 1 cup margarine 1 1/2 cups sugar 2 eggs 1 teaspoon vanilla 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon soda 2 teaspoons baking powder 1 cup sour cream
Cream shortening and sugar together. Add vanilla. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each additon. Sift flour, measure. In a bowl combine flour, salt, soda, and baking powder and stir.
Gradually add dry ingredients alternately with cream, beating well after each addition. Chill dough well. Dough is very soft and can be placed in freezer compartment of refrigerator while you work with it.
On well-floured board, roll out small amounts of dough 1/4-inch thick. Cut in medium-sized circles and place on greased baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees F. 7 to 8 minutes.
Rolled to 1/8 inch, this makes a very crisp cookie. Rolled to suggested thickness, you have a soft, chewy cookie. Makes 6 dozen. Cookies may be sprinkled with a mixture of sugar and cinnamon. Old-Fashioned Molasses Cookies 1 cup margarine 4 cups all-purpose flour 1 teaspoon salt 1 cup dark molasses 1 cup sugar 1 egg 1/4 cup hot water 1 1/4 teaspoons soda
Sift flour and measure with salt. Cut in margarine as for pastry. In another bowl combine molasses and sugar. Add egg and beat well. Dissolve soda in hot water and add.
Combine flour and molasses mixtures and beat until well blended. Chill. Turn out on lightly floured board and roll 1/4-inch thick. Cut in circles and place on greased baking sheet, 1 inch apart. Bake at 375 degrees F. 8 to 10 minutes, or until deep, rich brown.
Rolled thin, this cookie is very crisp. Rolled to suggested thickness, it is a soft, chewy cookie which goes well with milk. Makes 6 dozen 2 1/2-inch round cookies.