Today, while I was looking through my mother, Carla Sweet Chlouber’s writings who passed away in 2011, I found something she had written before she left for college. I’m preparing for a slide presentation, Art & Legacy— from the individual to the community, I’m giving next week, and wanted to share it as it feels like a breath of fresh air from a different time — I’m estimating it must have been written around 1956. The description of life is so idyllic that I thought I would look to see what the crime rate was around that time. Surprisingly if you look at how many people there were then and now, it’s much lower now. It really is something to wonder about. We are so well connected now, which I think is a good thing if we are able to use it to our benefit. But did we trade our innocence for that ability?
For me, one of these long summer days is a day for doing, for planning and for dreaming. A day on the flat wheat lands of northern Oklahoma starts with a golden glow, a sort of mistiness that makes the world look unreal. In these mid-summer days the golden atmosphere lasts all day long. In the middle of the day, the sun shines down with a blazing heat, and there is still that golden haziness that covers the whole world. It not only covers it, but penetrates it, until everything seems to be suffused with a warm golden light.
Gold is echoed in the color-scheme of the countryside by the wheat fields. in northern Oklahoma all the land is in wheat. There are a few fields of oats or barley, and some vetch or alfalfa, abut mostly there is wheat. The gold of the wheat fields is edged with the dark green of the trees and bushes along the roads. There is a large field of alfalfa south of our house. It is going uncut this year because it is in the soil-bank, and it is blooming with small dainty purple flowers. I pick bouquets of alfalfa that fill the house with the odor of alfalfa.
Ordinarily this time of year the roads would be filled with combines and trucks loaded with wheat, but this year there has been so much rain that the crop is a failure, and there is very little wheat being cut. Many of the wheat farmers will no doubt be ruined, but the crop failure doesn’t affect us because, although we live on a farm, my father has another job. He teaches English and Spanish at Northern Oklahoma Junior College in Tonkawa in addition to raising registered Red Poll cattle. The cattle are very beautiful, fat and sleek, with glossy red hides. They are extremely gentle and good humored, and each one has a different personality. My cow is Beckey—her full name is Elginvue Beckey 2nd—and she is stubborn but generally good natured. She often acts irrationally. Last year she had a fine handsome bull calf, which I named August for the very good reason that he was born in August. Now August is as big as his mother and completely independent of her. Soon Beckey will be having another calf. I hope it is a heifer, a pretty, soft, little big-eyed heifer. If she is born in August, I will call her Augusta, or perhaps Augustina.
I am doing much planning and dreaming this summer. Next fall I will be going to Oklahoma State University for my sophomore year of college, and naturally I must be planning my wardrobe and dreaming of the things I will do. My mother and I together make practically all my clothes, and many a summer day at our house is spent in sewing. My grandmother gave me some black cotton with gold streaks in it that I plan to make into a full gathered skirt. I think it will look beautiful for the rest of the summer and the early days of fall with my sleeveless white sissy blouse.
But now is summer, and I must live the long, lazy days for their own worth without spending all my time looking forward. I must continue to promote my tan. my most serious purpose in life this summer is to acquire a glorious golden tan. I am already well on my way to achieving my purpose, and my friend Mac (who is a girl) says I have the prettiest smooth, golden tan she has ever seen. Every morning from about 11 to 12 after helping my mother do the morning household chores, I lie in our backyard and soak up the sun. It feels so wonderful to stretch out with the sun beating down on my body, all the world hushed by the heat, and with nothing to do but let my thoughts wander around and attach themselves to anything they please. Sometimes I put suntan lotion on my body, but only because it feels good to do so, not because it helps my tan any.
My mother works around the house, making dill pickles that make the kitchen smell good with vinegar smell and sewing a pink checked cotton summer sport shirt for my brother. When my brother, aged 15, is not working hard hauling hay, he is lying on the sofa reading. He reads any and everything, from “The Last Angry Man” to my psychology textbook to “The FBI Story”. I think he must read seven to eight books a week. Many of our frequent trips to town are to the library.
I take the short trip of one mile to town to go swimming in the afternoons. Tonkawa has a pool that is large and filled with cool, clear aqua-blue water, and, of course, people, people that are small brown-skinned boys, and large brown-skinned boys and young men and old men, and all sorts of women, many sitting at the edge of the pool trying to tan. But I don’t try to tan at the pool, because I can tan at home, and I don’t like to wast the 35 cents I pay to go swimming on anything but swimming. I love to swim, to play in the water, to dive in it, to simply feel it all around me. After being all wet, it feels good to put on dry clothes and comb my hair that is by now very wet and put on fresh lipstick and go back to living in the dry world.
For supper we have many things that we have raised in our own garden, young potatoes and tender green beans and onions. We also have fried chicken that we raise ourselves. my brother makes cakes. he makes a very good chocolate one with peanut butter icing, of which I eat a small piece. I have to watch myself to see that I don’t become a glutton, because I love food.
After supper, our whole family usually reads, and we listen to music on the radio or on the record player. The night is hot and still, with many insects flying around our screen doors trying to get to the light. But despite the insects, the night is pleasant, and I am pleasantly tired and so ready to stretch out in my wide bed and sleep. And tomorrow will be another golden summer day, with many things to do and many things to dream of and plan.
Carla Sweet Chlouber 1939 – 2011
©Chlouber Estate 2015