by Carl Wayne Hardeman
Come out and play with me
And bring your dollies three
Climb up my apple tree
Holler down my rain barrel
Slide down my cellar door
And we'll be jolly friends
~ Connie Cecil Anderson
J. R. R. Tolkien had pronounced "cellar door" the most beautiful expression in the English language. He was speaking of the type of cellar found under the house, used as a storeroom. Some called it a root cellar. My Aunt Cora's cellar was a cool place where she stored her canned produce, 'taters spread out and covered with lime, eggs and milk.
For some reason, houses are not built nowadays with basement cellars. Perhaps it is cheaper to build on a concrete slab foundation. Cellars are common in the country. Mostly storm cellars. My inlaws in rural Pontotoc County, Mississippi, recently installed a new storm cellar. Such storm havens are wise and necessary in rural environs.
One wonders why such is not so in towns. Maybe we depend on the statistics law of large numbers, like individual beasts in large herds. If I lived in rural Pontotoc County, I would have a storm cellar. Tornadoes visit there regularly.
On a recent outing we drove through Ecru, Mississippi, and noted two concrete structures in a park which looked a lot like large versions of storm cellars. We all agreed that must be so. The remainder of our outing we noted and remarked about the abundance of storm cellars and the several varieties.
My inlaws have an updated version of the buried schoolbus storm cellar. Theirs is a shell of a minivan placed on the side of a terrace and covered with dirt until only the door shows. Some storm cellars are excavated and concreted. Some are the newfangled prefab fiberglass models wired for electricity. You pays your money; you takes your pick.
Modern weather reporting and warnings give us time to escape to the shelter during the day while we are tuned in; otherwise, we might want to turn on the radio and TV when we hear the roar of thunder or mighty rushing wind at night.
Entering a storm cellar in the dark has always been an interesting event since less than airtight shelters often harbor snakes, rodents, and dangerous insects. Maybe that is where the custom of men letting women enter a room first came from.
One story has an old farmer asked what he does when a storm comes up since he had no storm cellar. He said he runs out into his pea patch, because that pea patch saved his life many times during the Depression.
My heirloom 'mater seeds have come in the mail. I planned to order three varieties, decided on six, ordered eleven, and told my wife Mimi about ten. With 25-30 seeds each, I am wondering where I'm going to plant all those seeds and then all the plants.
Ain't God good!
Carl Wayne tells us about himself:
"I write gardening articles for the Collierville, Tennessee, Independent, the Southaven, Mississippi, Press, and Desoto Magazine, all from a Southern perspective. I point out the correct pronunciation of ants (aints) and peonies (peOnies) and advise always to plant hydrangeas on the north side of the house. I've been in software development forty years, the last twenty with a large overnight express delivery company. I have taught computer science as adjunct faculty at local universities over twenty-five years. We have a small farm in Pontotoc County, Mississippi, where we raise a large garden with my in-laws. My in-laws were there when the REA strung the first electric wires in that area. They were killing hogs. That night for supper they had liver and lights."
Read more of Carl Wayne's stories at USADS:
Mississippi ~ the Soul of Dixie
Southern Weights and Measurements
Eco-friendly gardening: Yes, It's Weeds
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