By Joe Rector

Each day that I sit down at the table to eat, I am thankful for the bounty which God has provided. I realize that too many in this country, the place supposedly where abundant food is available, go hungry every day. Though we never went without food, Mother and Daddy had to make some adjustments as we three boys and our appetites grew.

Mother made our lunches for school. She’d spread potted meat or egg salad on slices of white bread, and the only way to tell that anything was on them was by the pink or yellow tint. She’d also include crackers smeared with peanut butter. The lunches were meant to fill us without breaking the bank; they were much cheaper to serve than school lunches, which we ate only on special days when turkey and dressing were served.

Like most every family in Ball Camp, we had a garden. The darn thing took up most of our back yard, and it was filled with standard vegetables: corn, potatoes, green beans, and onions. We boys pitched in to break beans under a shade tree in the back yard or around the kitchen table. My fingertips sometimes would be sore from the task. Mother cut corn from the cob and froze packages, and she canned dozens of jars of beans. She also canned tomatoes to use for soups in the cold weather months.

Daddy bought two calves one year. He installed an electric fence around a section of the back yard and put the animals there to graze. We boys named them Blackie and Brownie, not necessarily creative names, but accurate enough to identify them. For some time, the calves grew and would come to us at the border of the fence. We’d give them clumps of hay and pats on their heads.

One day, we arrived home from school to discover that Blackie and Brownie were gone. We ran to Daddy to find out where they were. He knew how fond we were of the two animals, so he let us down easy. He told us that he took them somewhere to trade them for an equal amount of frozen meat. The freezer was filled with packages of hamburger, roasts, and a few steaks. Over the months we feasted on the meat, never once realizing that what we consumed were our two former pets.

Every month, Daddy made a trip to the Merita Bread Store. He stocked up on “day-old bread.” The store’s stock consisted of the loaves that had been returned from grocery store shelves. It was a nicer name for the items than “stale bread.” He’d bring home 10-12 big loaves of white bread and place them in the freezer. One by one, they were removed, thawed, and turned into sandwiches or ingredients for such things as dressing. Sometimes the stuff was dry and coarse, and I still can recall the taste of freezer-burned bread.

Daddy also stocked up on other items from the Merita Store. He’d buy fruit pies, usually apple or cherry. We boys sometimes would sneak some out and try to eat them. They were harder than a brick and impossible to bite until they’d thawed just a bit. We also had raisin-cream cakes and devil’s food cream cakes. Mother would toss them into our lunch bags still frozen. We’d try to remove the wrappers at noon, only to watch the top layers of the cakes stick to the cellophane. Still, we were grateful for a treat like that.

On occasion, I still like to drop by bread stores, and yes, I purchase cakes and pies. However, buying a loaf of that bread is a different matter. Besides, these days, nutritionists tell us that white bread isn’t healthy for us. So, I pay a king’s ransom for a loaf of whole wheat bread at the grocery store.

I am thankful that my children have always had food to eat. Maybe we didn’t serve steak every night (unless hotdogs are known as tube steaks), but Amy managed to serve good things that we all ate. I also am thankful that my parents loved us enough to make sure we had food on the table, even if it came from the garden out back or from the day-old bread store.