By Carole McReynolds Davis
Do you want to be free? We all want to happy and carefree just like a bird soaring in the blue sky above.
May I introduce you to one big brown turkey named, “Tommy,” and his two friends, one black rooster named “Henny,” and one white hen named, “Penny.”
They lived in an old barn yard fenced in completely with a big old posts. They just stared outside the barbed wire fence all day long day after day. “Tommy” dreaded being the center piece on the Thanksgiving table, and “Henny” and “Penny” did not want to become fried chickens as an extra dish or two on that special day with cranberries, gravy, English peas, and pumpkin pie with whipped cream on top.
This fence became “Home Sweet Home” to “Tommy,” “Henny” and “Penny,” and this fenced in area kept these three buddies from any entry or exit into the other part of the farm.
Since these three were together all the time they had great friendships and got along well together. I suppose that they all three “sat on the fence,” and they just remained neutral on just about everything from religion to politics, and they just did not take sides. They got along fabulously well, and maybe had accepted living their lives behind an old barnyard barbed wired fence. It is sort of sad life, but they had accepted this life of being fenced in with a smile and a gobble and a couple of cackles.
Where in the world did I find the perfect Old McDonald’s barnyard? I discovered the most wonderful old farmhouse, barnyard, and one fenced in turkey and two chickens in all of Oktibbeha County, on one beautiful Nov. 20, 1985, on the rolling hillsides of the Craig Springs Road.
You have not really lived until you make a turn off of Highway 25 or turning from Sturgis, heading towards Highway 25 to this memorable and country road of Craig Springs. This is exactly where I was headed one early morning 25 years ago searching for a subject to paint for that autumn day ahead of me.
My car pulled into the arbor-shaped tree-lined driveway where a dirt-gravel road lead me past a mailbox towards a country home site, and there was ahead of me this fenced-in barnyard. I had arrived at Mr. J. W. Baswell and his sweet wife, Mildred Baswell’s place. I could not have found any sweeter folks in all of this world than J. W. and Mildred.
“Good early morning, J. W. and Mildred,” I said. “Good morning to y’all both!”
They said, “Carole, come on inside now, and let’s have a hot cup of coffee, scrambled eggs, bacon, and some sure enough good grits with butter melting on the top. Got a fresh pan of biscuits that I just fixed, waiting from some of this summer’s plum marmalade Mildred put up, just waiting to be spread on the top of one of these hot biscuits.”
I heard that old creaky back door slam behind us, and I felt just like part of their family. We chit-chatted about the lovely fall morning, and I begin to tell them that I wanted to paint their barnyard and “Tommy,” “Henny” and “Penny.”
“Oh, Carole, we’ll be so happy to have you spend the day with us, and we’ll have fun being with you too!”
I really did appreciate their love towards me, and I just knew that this would be a fun painting waiting to be sketched, and adding all the many colors of their world on my canvas so that we could all enjoy this scene that lay ahead of me to create. I could hardly wait to begin.
I unpacked my entire car with all my art supplies. In a way, I am fenced inside my own art studio at home, and suddenly when I go outside to paint I am free at last to be me with the whole world around me instead of four inside walls holding me close inside.
I can breathe the fresh air, and feel the sunshine kiss my cheeks gently as the sun rays play hop scotch across my white stretched cotton canvas. This day I chose to do a large water color of my scene before me.
After that mouth-watering breakfast fit for queen, I was ready to get started on my sketch and then to place all my paints on my palette to add the colorful world outside of my three subjects and the foreground and background of this old barnyard. I could hear the occasional cackling of “Henny” and “Penny” and noises of “Tommy’s,” gobble, gobble, gobble.
Have you ever heard a sure enough, gobble? This is a strange gurgling sound made deep within the throat of a turkey. There is a special word called, gobbledgegoot, which is an official professional pretentious verbidge or jargon.
A chicken is a domestic fowl, and there is not anything cuter than a chicken. They scratch around with their little feet, and make their own funny little cackling sounds all day long. It is a soothing sound especially if a hot summer’s afternoon rolls around, and it is time to take a nap in an old porch swing. You might be lucky enough to hear their cackling and scratching, you will suddenly be lulled to sleep by their own soft chicken music. Suddenly you’ll hear a loud, gobble, gobble, gobble, and you become wide awake again. Oh well, you took a short a cat nap for a few seconds, and you feel relaxed.
How does one describe handsome, “Tommy?” He is a large stout game bird of the pheasant family and a native to Mexico and the southern USA, but now widely domesticated. He is brownish and variegated iridescent plumage with a bald head with red wattles on his neck. “Talk Turkey” means to talk pleasantly or agreeably. It also means to speak frankly and openly. I looked at “Tommy” and suddenly thought he might be a sort of pompous and self important turkey. He was a unique turkey for sure.
All during the morning and into the afternoon, J. W. and Mildred kept bringing me little snacks and chatting with me too. Now, I love them both very much. J. W. Baswell grew up right there on the Craig Springs Road, and Mildred came from near by Winston County. They both belonged to the Sturgis Presbyterian Church, and Mildred kept up with the business part of the church and J. W. was an Elder. She also worked for years for Lambert and Annie Lee Livingston Williamson whose own daddy, Arthur and Mary Livingston once owned the grocery store on Main Street, Sturgis.
Lambert took the grocery store over and ran it after Annie Lee’s parents died. J. W. worked on the college farms at MSU for years and years and he was dearly loved at the farm there too. J. W. and Mildred had one son and one daughter. You just couldn’t find any two finer people than J. W. and Mildred. They were gracious, loving, and showered their hospitality on anyone who came down their driveway and up to their front door. You could just be walking or riding, and they made you feel welcomed.
As I kept painting and getting lost in my own world that fall day, I began to really see all the colors within “Tommy’s” feathers.
Look at all the colors of browns, greys, blues, purples and silvers. Look at his beady black eye his yellow beak, his red wattles in his neck.
His front leg is firmly planted in the dirt, but look closely at his back leg. He is just about to “strut his stuff!” He has a persnicketiness about him. Pernickey means that one has a action that pays attention to details or trifles fastidious precise or special handing of his life and becomes fussy about small things. “Tommy” is in charge, after all, he is the “king” of the barnyard.
He is facing the left of the watercolor board, and he is looking towards the old greyish brown fence post. There is an old bowed up weathered fence board with dark black holding down the top of the board as well as the fence wire which has touches of pinkish colors in it.
Spot the black rooster, “Henny” dreaming of getting out somehow with his head towards the right inside the barb wire fence.
Find the white prissy hen, “Penny,” day dreaming of life outside this old fence. She too is looking towards the right side.
Find the strong top reddish brown heavy wire at the top of the fence, and let your eyes go from square to square of the wire fence. It all makes a pattern of squares. The barb wire fence make a soft feeling of being wired and kept inside their own world of “Old Baswell’s had A Farm, Ei-Ei-O!”
Several years later after I had spent such a glorious day at their farm, Mildred went to heaven. As it was told, she was walking out to their mailbox. She spotted a turtle crossing her path in front of her, and leaned down to move him on to the side to protect, love, and save the turtle. Mildred fell dead suddenly there on that very road she loved so much.
What a way to die, happy and in peace in the home and place you cherished helping a turtle make his way in life too.
J. W. joined her in heaven several years later. I am sure that they are looking down imagining seeing “Tommy,” “Henny,” and “Penny.”
Thanksgiving 2010 is the time to express our thanks and show our gratitude for all of our many blessings we have in our families and in our great country of America. It is a holiday set aside and apart for feasting and offer our thanksgiving to God for His many blessings. It is always the fourth Thursday in the month of November in the USA. We should all be thanks-givers, and each one of us offer Thanksgiving for just living each day and for our life itself.
As I write the ending to my column for The Starkville Daily News today, I hear these words, and I see two angels...