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The Hackberry Tree

Story ID:6026
Written by:Monte Leon Manka (bio, contact, other stories)
Organization:retired
Story type:Poem
Location:Hemet CA USA
Year:1936
Person:Chelsea Kansas Kid
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THE HACKBERRY TREE

On our Farm back in Chelsea
Not fifteen feet from our kitchen door
Stood a huge Hackberry Tree.
That was planted years before.

When the sun was blistering hot
In the summer we had it made
It helped to keep us cool
This old tree offered lots of shade.

In the fall this Grand old tree
Dropped thousand of tiny seeds
The seeds were black
And the size of a garden peas.

When you stepped on them
With your bare feet
They left a black spot
They weren’t good to eat.

My Uncle Ves built a bench
Around this grand old tree
He told me he built it
For Leslie and me.

It was not really for us
But for the hired men
With pails and pans of water
They could wash their dirty hands.

My job was to pump clean water
Keep the wash pans clean
Supply soap and towels
And stick around the scene.

Dad brought them in his pickup
Twelve or thirteen dusty, dirty grimy men
They all removed their shirts
And shook the dust out of them.

They dusted off their pants, with their hands
And headed for the pans of water placed around the tree
Washed their hairy arms, faces and hands
Used my towels and finally.

Put on their shirts, combed their hair
And entered the dining room, took a seat
When all were around the table
It was time to eat.

On the bench around the tree
I had to clean up the mess
Clean the pans and hang up the towels
A job for me and Les.

After dinner they all came out
Took out their Prince Albert tobacco cans
And all rolled their own cigarettes,
And lit them up to a man.

The smoke filled the air
Around that Hackberry tree
It was so thick with smoke
Leslie and I could hardly see.

When they left for the field
Our job had just begun
Time to take out the food scraps
And wash the dishes one by one.

Les and I
Each stood on a chair
He washed and I dried
And I put away the silverware.

Mom and Betty, the hired girl
Straightened up the dining room
Cleaned off the table
And grabbed the old straw broom.

The dusty shoe prints were swept up
The room was clean and neat
And Billie, our Collie dog
Had lots of scraps to eat.

This Hackberry tree was still standing
When I left the Chelsea farm
Twenty years later
Still had its stately charm.

The bench had rotted away
And no longer was of any use
But it had served its purpose
After much abuse.

Would I like to go back
And sit in the shade
Of that Old Hackberry tree
And sip my lemonade?

You bet your life I would
And listen to the chatter
Of those contented hired men
But that really doesn’t matter.

I can close my eyes
And in my mind I see
Those good Old Days
Around that old Hackberry tree.
Monte l. Manka—08-13-2006