(I suppose we'll call this Part III.)
After Papa’s passing The Farm was divided up between my Daddy and all his siblings. That’s quite a bit of dividing. But then again, there’s quite a bit of farm. Over the years, my Daddy one-by-one bought those sections of land from my aunts and uncles until eventually he was the sole owner.
Another piece of his family’s land (just up the road and where the “old homeplace” or Mama’s house is located) is still owned equally between the families of all of the 13 siblings. It’s a somewhat complex ownership. But honestly, it’s a somewhat complex family. Once you start dividing anything by 13 (a tricky dividing number to be sure) and then subtract and fractionize and toss in a little calculus for good measure and OH WAIT, DIDN’T COUSIN JASPER SAY THAT UNCLE SO AND SO PROMISED HIS PART OF THE LAND TO AUNT SO AND SO BACK IN 1964?, well things can get pretty dicey. In a land ownership way, I mean.
About another half mile up the road from Mama’s house Daddy also at some point purchased the small 2 acre site of the former Lost Prairie School. Nothing remains there now of the one room school house where my Daddy and all the other Sims kids matriculated, but Daddy wanted to own that property “just because”. The fond memories of those school days made that place matter to him. He was just so drawn to that hardscrabble land of his childhood. I still visit the “Schoolhouse Grounds”,as Daddy called it, during berry-picking season as it's yielded a bumper crop more than once over the years. It also, however, seems to be a particularly fertile ground for Copperheads. For that reason I try to do my main berry-picking elsewhere if I can. Keep in mind though, I’m certainly not above fighting off a pesky venomous snake or two if it means the difference in having enough berries to make a berry pie. A girl has to have her berry-related priorities.
Picking berries is just one of the life-skills I perfected at The Farm (if one can in fact, perfect a life skill or anything that involves snakes, bugs, stickers, and lots of bleeding). I’m not what you’d call competitive, but I guarantee I could put the smackdown on just about anyone in a berry-picking contest. And I say that with the utmost humility. When you’re good, you’re just good.
I can’t tell you how many gallons of berries I’ve picked or for that matter how many good sticks I’ve dragged for miles as I followed Daddy when he “walked the fences”. The acreage is huge, but I can tell you where you’ll get into the worst grass burs, where the seed ticks will literally cover you up, and all the of the very best places to cross the creeks -most of which I discovered by trial and soaking wet error. I have chased hundreds of Horny Toads (RIP)(those blasted fire ants!) and played in Big Red Ant piles (please note: not fire ant piles)(I am no fool) for hours. By the way, the trick to playing with The Big Red Ants is to make them think you're one of them… kind of like The Ant Whisperer. I’ve memorized the Whip-poor-Will’s call while falling asleep on the porch and learned to identify the snakes that I needed to stay away from. And while most of my snake lessons took place in the great out-of-doors, at least a couple of interesting ones happened right inside Papa's house.
Wouldn't you know it.