When I was about 9 years old my Great Grandmother came to live with us. Ruby is what we called her I guess because that was her name, Ruby Lowe Isley. She was my Great Grandfather’s second wife and had helped raise my dad and his brothers and sister after their mother died. She was a very quiet and simple lady who I never heard say a bad thing about anyone, even though some of her step-children treated her very badly after her husband died.
She was a neat lady who instilled in me my appreciation of the Shelbyville author Charles Major. She read the books “The Bears of Blue River” and “Uncle Tom Andy Bill” to me and my brother , great adventures for a young boy who would later trap just like the” boys” on the Brandywine Creek. She told how Mr. Isley, as she always referred to her husband, and his sons and son-in-laws farmed Charles Major’s farm. Part of the 1000 acres they farmed for many years. But, I transgress.
Ruby was extremely knowledgeable of the signs of the Zodiac as they apply to farming and gardening. Always talking about how Mr. Isley would or would not do certain tasks on the farm unless the sign was right. I have kicked myself a thousand times for not paying attention as she explained the signs and what they meant and how they affected things. Oh what I’d give to have that knowledge now to pass on to others. I need to say at this point that my dad did not believe in the signs! With that being said the story of the fence post begins.
When I was 12 we moved to a small farm outside of Greenwood. Dad and mom built a house and dad and I built a barn and that first fall we built fences around the barn lot and garden plot. We were setting post at the corner of the garden when Ruby came out and said matter of factly that the sign was wrong to be setting fence post and they would not stay in the ground. Dad nodded and said OK but we have to get this fence built because we are bringing some livestock home next week. Ruby returned to the house and Dad says, “That is old wives tales and folklore. But, tomp (that’s Hoosier speak for tamp) those post better than you ever have. I mean really tomp them.” We finished the fence that day and the next week we got some sheep.
I don’t remember if we had a severe winter that year or not. All you remember from your childhood are the days you got to stay home from school because of the snow. You don’t remember the cold, bitter cold, drab, dreary, or windy days just the snow days. Anyway, when winter was finally over and spring arrived with the thawing of the ground lo and behold; the corner post at the garden had come up out of the ground at least 8 inches. Ruby never said a word about those fence posts. Not even an “I told you so.” I remember saying something to my dad about the post coming out of the ground and he said,” Well, you must not have tomped them hard enough. “Those posts remained for all to see for 2 or 3 years with no attempt to correct them. Finally it was decided we didn’t need to garden anymore and we took the fence down.
I have built a lot of fence since then and sometimes the post would rise up out of the ground over the first winter. I sure wish I had known what the proper sign was to “plant” fence post.
Thanks for listening.