By Carole McReynolds Davis
Every early July for the past three summers I have received a delightful phone call from Glenda Hartness Tranum. “Hey, Carole this is Glenda, and our sunflowers are in full bloom!” I make my way down to the Hartness' farm which has been in their family for over 100 years to a yellow heavenly sunflower patch just begging and waiting to be artistically captured forever. It was a very hot, humid and typical July 4 that I had a date with millions of sunflowers blowing, swaying and dancing in the slight welcomed breeze. Each sunflower was planted with great love by Davis Donathan Hartness and his beloved daughter, Glenda. Hartness Tranum was raised on old Robinson Road, and his family migrated to South Montgomery Street. Each flower came up, then was tended and cared for by the rest of the Hartness/Tranum family.
I shall tell you this story through the eyes of Glenda, who also gave me unknowingly the title of my story.
“Carole, my half-brother, Gary who is our family historian thinks that his land has been in the Hartness family since the late 1800s. We'll check out the deeds later in the Oktibbeha County Court House. Daddy is the last child to have their plot of land from Grandad. Uncle Charles is the only sibling left living. Daddy's siblings were Aunt Edith Hartness McCoy, Stella May Hull, Homer Hartness (Nell's husband), Felix Hartness and Eugene Hartness.
“Some of my early memories of summer was getting up early to go to the garden before it got too hot. It was just part of summer. I must admit that I hated a garden back then, but I am so proud my folks made us go to teach me how to work and to garden. When young and chopping the weeds out of the garden, I would occasionally chop some of the vegetable plants, and I remember thinking, 'one less to have to fool with when time to pick!'
"My favorite recent memories are riding on the back of the planter when Daddy was planting the peas, riding in the wagon while going to harvest the cantaloupes (It made me think of Daddy pulling a kid in their red wagon.) Although the work maybe long, I love the memories of canning and preserving the day's harvest. Daddy doesn't know how to do a small garden. He has always planted a large garden to allow friends and family to have some of the harvest. He gets a lot of enjoyment out of seeing the produce harvested. He wants minimal spoilage and maximum harvesting. Of course he has enough planted that the squirrels and raccoons have a feast with the drying corn.
"The past few years we have done some small-scale truck farming, and we have sold excess produce at the Starkville Farmer's Market. This year Tyler, our 13-year-old, is taking over the selling operation. He sets up his stand on South Montgomery out by the road side while we all are working in the garden. He has had great reception from the community, and has really enjoyed meeting all of his regular customers. It is easier for him to sell roadside while we are all working in the back gardens. I can quickly replenish his stock fresh from the garden. You can't get any fresher or healthier than that, can you? The tomatoes are the chief crop, but the cantaloupes always sell well when they are coming in their peak. My Mama and I preserve what doesn't sell. I like the green aspect of the locally available produce. There is no gas involved in shipping the produce across the country. The produce is more rich in nutrients due to less time from harvest to consumption. Also the canning process uses less resources since you are able to reuse the jars from year to year. It's like fill, empty and reuse by filling up again.
"Daddy is the organizer and supervisor of the farm. He gets the fields ready for planting and does all the tractor planting. He runs the irrigation using the pond to irrigate. He prioritizes the work that needs to be done each day. My husband, Patrick and myself, our children, Tyler, Jessica, and my brother, Brian all help with the labor in the garden. Yes, my own kids dread the garden as I did when I was their age. However since they are getting benefits financially from the sells, it motivates them to do the hard work. It is also a mission of mine to educate my own kids on gardening with my parents and husband's help. At times I have asked myself, 'Is all of this hard work and labor worth it?' Some days you pick until dark, and you can't see underneath your feet. It is definitely well worth it. I am blessed to get to garden with my Daddy and to can with my Mama! She got me my first pressure cooker this year to allow me to preserve green beans. Last year I had so many jars spoil, but this new pressure cooker will now allow me to preserve green beans. Spoilage of canned vegetables will now be a thing of my past, and it cuts the canning process time down tremendously. One day when I finally retire from being a physical therapist nurse I want to teach others how to can vegetables.
"My Grandaddy, Homer Milton, used to have dairy cows. I have a vague memory of hanging out at the milk barns. I don't remember his garden, but I am sure that my grandparents used to have a big garden because I well remember Grandmother Hartness' huge pantry being full of her canned vegetables. Oh, those wonderful delicious Sunday meals when we all gathered after church at their home. My Daddy raised cows up to about 10 years ago.
"Carole, I don't claim to be a Proverb's 31 in our Holy Bible woman. I think these women are probably a dying breed just as gardening is going by the wayside. I do know that times were better though harder when this 'ole world was full of Proverbs 31 women. If I were born 50 years earlier maybe I would have been more like one myself. The verse says, 'She gets up before daylight to prepare food for her family. She is a hard worker, strong and industrious.'”
Let's peep inside my visual creation on a hot July 4 early morning. Davis Donathan Hartness is sitting in the shade of his work shop shed right before we got to this sunflower field. Look at his dark and light green cap on his head, and his plaid green sport's cool short sleeve shirt. He is an 82-year-old handsome gentleman. See the Hartness/Tranum family. Left to right: Patrick Tranum, Davis Hartness, Peggy Hartness and Glenda with her white Caterpillar cap and light green tee shirt. Fifteen-year-old Jessica would have been here today, but she was resting at home getting ready to travel on a Mission trip to Hatti the next morning. Look at the gorgeous sunflowers of various sizes. See the two largest ones in the front. The third picture is Glenda and myself. I am dressed up for the 4th of July with red, white and blue. I pinned on a sunflower on my large red straw hat and then added yellow jewelry into all of our 4th-of-July colors to blend into all the millions of sunflowers surrounding us.
The second picture is Tyler Tranum sitting in a green folding chair by his huge red wooden sign shaped just like one of his delicious tomatoes at his feet in a big white tub for sale. Look how cute Tyler looks as he is toting a huge juicy home grown watermelon on his shoulder. See his MSU cap in maroon with a big “M” on his head and his cap is also like his grand daddy's in the color of green. Tyler is sporting a green tee shirt too. See the field of the yellow sunflowers in the far distance with the dark woods in the background. Now, look at the foreground and see the pond used for irrigation for the gardens and sunflowers. Look at the gorgeous reflection of the tall green grass in the pond water.
Finally you will see Brain and his son Preston in his arms standing by an old red Barber's truck.
Find three bright reds: my red straw hat for July 4, Tyler's red sign and the red truck with white lettering of Barber's. Find three bright yellows. The sunflower field with the Hartness family standing in it. Glenda and I were surrounded by bright yellow, and the field of the yellow sunflowers in the far distant background with the pond in the foreground. I used the number 3 to capture the two brightest colors on an artist's palette, yellow and red. Both are “happy” colors too.
Frank, my sweet husband, tagged along with me, and when we left our car was loaded down with a huge juicy green watermelon, cantaloupes, tomatoes and three huge sunflowers. I immediately when I got home again, I placed them in a over 100-year-old family pottery blue pitcher. I enjoyed them for days later, and smiled every time I glanced at them. Glenda refused to let us pay for this produce, but we said, “Glenda, we are giving Tyler a little tip instead!” We drove away with smiles on our faces.
Before I end this story I must add a P.S. This happened the next morning early again when we decided on July 5th to go back and purchase a few more of their juicy red tomatoes. What lay ahead for us was quite a surprise. I had called Glenda and said, “we are on our way back to see y'all be there in a few minutes.” We drove up and there was Tyler and his Daddy, Patrick waiting for us down at the road side. Tyler said, “Miss Carole, my Mama said call her on my cell phone, she has a surprise especially for you.”
Well, the surprise was her half brother Gary Hartness, the Hartness family historian who had come from his home in Long Beach to see his brand newly born granddaughter in Columbus. Suddenly I spotted in the distance driving up through the pasture was Glenda and Gary. Gary gets out introduces himself and suddenly says, "I have something to reveal to you for the first time in my whole life.” “Carole I just know you are the girl that I had quite a crush on when I was growing up. Did you not live in the big white house 501 Louiville St.? I am seven years younger than you are, and I think you are now 70 years old? I was in love with you. You had white complexion and almost-black hair. I used to see you on your big 'ole wrap around porch swinging and rocking all the time. I thought to myself, “I still swing and rock all time on that very porch!” He said, “I use to ride my bike by your house, and my heart just melted with love for you!”
In this thing we call life it is the things like millions of bright yellow sunflowers that lift us up when we see them blooming profusely in a field of dirt on the Hartness land that has been in one family for over 100 years. It is heart-warming to know that the next generation and generations to come will keep the tradition of the love of gardening and canning the vegetables and fruits from their family's land. I can hardly wait to next July 4 to get a telephone call from Glenda Hartness Tranum and on the other end of the telephone line she will say, “”Hey, Carole, the sunflowers are in full bloom. Come on out!” I'll tell her, “We'll be there tomorrow, on July 4, 2013 to take a sip and taste God's beauty!"