FLOUR SACKS AND FEED BAGS

When Pa would go to buy his seed

Or a supply of chicken feed,

We'd wait for him excitedly,

And hope he'd come back speedily

With sacks and sacks of lovely hues

That we'd be free to pick and choose

For Ma to snip and stitch and use

To cover us from head to shoes.

 

For feed sacks were a way that she

Could stretch her budget easily.

Yards and yards of printed “goods”

Clothed kids in all the neighborhoods.

A dress required more than one

So we would search and it was fun

When two or three, bright as the sun,

Would signal that our quest was done.

 

Many a maiden blushed with shame

When she revealed the miller's name

Across her bottom when her dress

Blew up in answer to wind stress.

Pillow cases, towels on racks,

Scarves and clothes in tidy stacks,

Bedquilts, curtains...held by tacks...

We surely used those printed sacks!

 

Recycling - Not a Lifestyle Choice, But a Strategy

(Tim's commentary)

 

Recycling is a lifestyle choice in our home; in Florence's youth it was essential. Farming then was a balance of subsistence and cash economy.

When she was born in 1926, rural America was in the midst of a long-lived recession. Farm prices had collapsed in 1920 as a result of reduced demand after the end of the First World War. Prices would not begin to rise appreciably until the nation began to prepare for the Second World War.

While the rest of the nation enjoyed the Roaring Twenties, farmers struggled. 44% of U.S. citizens lived on farms at that time. (In 2016, only 2% of Americans lived on farms). There were two Americas in the 20's.

As the poem conveys, subsistence lifestyles require efficient resource usage. The consumption of grain and livestock – which could otherwise be sold – was effectively an expense. Waste not want not was gospel.

I remember when head cheese was a delicacy. (It wasn't really a cheese, but an aspic sausage composed of parts of a pig's face). All of any butchered animal was used whenever possible. We can still see like-minded processing of game in rural Alaska.

If some of the mortified young girls in the poem grew up to have daughters of their own, those girls might have accused their parents of child abuse if they had to wear feed-bag bloomers. But there is a larger lesson, appropriate to both my state of origin and my state of residence.

As I write, both North Dakota and Alaska are suffering from a plunge in oil prices (2017). The decline may have a lessor effect in N.D. but that state is also afflicted by lowering returns for farm products. Residents of both states have much to learn from Flour Sacks and Feedbags.