Originally published in The Perkins Journal on Aug. 15, 1985
By Zola Sample
August is the typical time for peach drying. It comes at the climax of the peach harvest. Real ripe peaches with seeds removed are required.
In the early days, when money was as scares as hens’ teeth, and all the canning jars were filled, drying was a have-to case. Folks did not want them to go to waste so they got busy and worked the small fry and teenagers.
First our sacks were washed clean and white to spread on smoke house roofs and other elevated places with flat surfaces to lay out the peaches with the rosy insides facing the sun. It was some job, especially when a a quick shower threatened. A wild scamper issued from a call from Mother to hurry and gather in the drying fruit.
However, the dried peaches were greatly appreciated in winter months for cobblers and pies.
Apples were dried in the same way later on hot days in the fall. There was no new-fangled apparatus to do the job quicker in that day.
Hot meals were cooked early in the morning in greater quantities to keep the dwelling as cool as possible. Ice was a rarity for even ordinary ice boxes were hard for some to afford. But folks managed to get by among the numerous house flies that seemed to enjoy hanging to the ceiling on a night and waking as daybreak to torment the occupants. During the hot time in Oklahoma, it was an endurance test for the folk.
Most people shucked their shoes. The hot sand burned the sole of the feat. Sore toes were bumped on sandstones and roots and other objects.
Chores had to be taken care of on farms. Water had to be supplied for livestock. The molting hens stood around in the shade with wings held out from their naked bodies fairly panting.
Domestic animals were lazy and took to the shady and cooler places during the day. Plants dried from the heat and most gardens waited to survive somewhat when the fall rains set in. Many hot days passed without a drop of moisture. Old Sol had his reign for weeks, extending into September.
The watermelon ripened; you could tell by the dead curl near the melon. Balsam apples ripened on the fine for children as the passed along the lanes. Weeds died, but the goldenrod bloomed in the byways and crabgrass thrived.
Swimming parties on rivers and ponds that retained their water was a great summer sport for the farm lads. Days dragged by with folk lamenting how hot it was as neighbors gathered to pass the long summer hours.
Grasshoppers slowed their pace. Caterpillars hatched in numerous lots and the beady-eyed lizards hid in the shade.
Oftentimes the drought lasted several weeks; shrubs and trees died, pastures suffered and many animals died from starvation. Early days in Oklahoma became and endurance test during the hot weather months.
Progress has been a blessing in Oklahoma. Folks today have many conveniences they should be thankful for.