By Ada Brownell
The rooster was almost as big as I was when he chased me down the cellar stairs, flogged me beating me with his wings and an attacking me with his spurs. I thank God that someone heard my cries and rescued me.
Despite that event, I learned a cellar was mighty important to our family of ten. I was the baby and the “runt of the litter” of eight children, according to Daddy. People used to ask me after I became an adult why I was so much smaller than my four sisters. With a grin I said, “By the time I elbowed through the crowd, the food was gone.”
But that wasn’t true. Even in the days when Daddy only make one dollar for a twelve-hour day shoveling coal from railroad cars onto trucks, we had plenty of food to eat. You see, Mama and Daddy knew how to raise chickens, pigs, beef, and a huge garden, although they only had ten acres, and much of that food ended up in jars on the cellar shelves.
I learned early it took work from about everybody to get that food into the cellar. Plant the seeds. Stick those tiny tomato plants in the ground. Hoe and pull the weeds. Shell the peas. Snap the beans. Peel tomatoes. Pick the grapes. Pick the berries. Go to the orchard and pick the cherries, apricots, plums and peaches.
But first somebody has to wash and sterilize the jars, and often that somebody was me.
Our first cellar was underground, a mound in our backyard. I don’t think I ever went in it. We didn’t have tornadoes in Colorado. But the cellar was a good place to stand on so I could get on a horse if I pulled her up beside it.
When our family moved into our two-story house, the “cellar” was actually a basement with an outside entrance. We always had shelves and shelves of canned goods, and Daddy’s potatoes and onions lasted through the winter when stored down there. He put his carrots and sweet potatoes into pits, covered with dirt and they’d keep a long time too.
I think of storing food in a cellar as similar to things we learn, good memories, and scriptures we memorize and put into our heads. What I put into my brain and recall even years later is an amazing part of God’s creation. That’s one reason why I’m careful about what I put in my mind. I don’t want what I put there to be like one rotten potato in the cellar which can stink up the whole place, or a poisonous spoiled improperly processed jar of green beans which can kill.
Yet, when the rotten potato or bad green beans are thrown out, the beauty and the appetizing appeal of a box of fat crispy potatoes, rows upon rows of red tomatoes, golden peaches, green beans, and lilac grape and rosy raspberry jellies remains. The food would last and feed our large family for at least a couple of years, when properly sealed and stored.
For us, the cool cellar made it possible.
My mom’s washing machine also was in the cellar, a furnace with a auger which fed the coal stored in the basement into the furnace.
Mom separated her laundry on the floor and one day picked up a fat toad that slipped underneath the dirty clothes. She threw him into the steaming hot water in the wringer washer and then gasped when she saw him. She hurried up the steps outside and called to Stuart, the neighbor boy.
Stuart didn’t even protest at the task she wanted him to do. He reached in, grabbed the toad, and walked away with a happy face. He had a toad and the quarter Mom gave him to do the job.
What a time we enjoyed with our cellar!