I’ve begun looking to November and the 70th anniversary of writing my Up A Country Lane Column. Of the more than 3,500 columns that have been published, I want to share a few of my favorites, beginning with one from the 1950s called Jeff Runs Away from Home.
Surely in every child’s life comes a time when existence at home becomes intolerable and visions of running away dance tantalizingly before his eyes. I ran away at the tender age of three and promptly wandered into the nearby public swimming pool where I walked off the deep end into the water. Only the prompt action of an alert lifeguard made it possible for me to sit here today and write this column.
A few years after the swimming pool episode, I wandered again. This time I arrived at home with my arms filled candy, toys, and the like. My astonished father retraced my steps and discovered I had gone into every store in town and picked up what I wanted and said, “Charge it.” Since I was the minister’s daughter, the store people let me leave with the items. (I still don’t know why they didn’t realize I should not have been in their establishments all alone.)
My father took me back downtown. We stopped in every store and I returned the articles, saying meekly, “I’m sorry.” One ice cream cone, which was in no condition to be returned, was paid for with a nickel from my allowance. To my knowledge, that experience ended my running away from home.
Yesterday was a bad day as far as my two youngest children were concerned. Jeff, age five, and Craig, age three, had a huge argument. It seemed one of them had a white toy horse. The other one, who had not thought about that small horse until he saw it in his brother’s hands, decided that he had to have that particular toy. Bedlam ensued.
I stepped in to insist since Craig had been playing with the toy first, he should continue to have it until he was done. Jeff looked up indignantly and said, “Then I’m going to leave this house. Goodbye!”
When I looked in the boys’ bedroom a few minutes later, Jeff was taking clothes out of his drawer and putting them into a box. His big brother Bob (nine years old) was sitting on his bed and watching with great interest.
“Why are you putting in your Sunday shirt?” Bob asked.
So I can go to Sunday school.”Jeff’s jaw looked firm.
“How will you know when it’s time to go to Sunday school?” Bob asked.
“When the church bell rings, I’ll put on my good shirt and go,” Jeff answered.
They discussed at great length where this wanderer would travel and where he would put his sleeping bag at night when it got dark. Suddenly the subject of food came up. “I’ll pack you a lunch to take along,” I suggested helpfully from my observation post by the door.
Jeff looked at me in surprise. “Won’t you be sad to see me go?” he asked.
“Do you want me to be sad?”
“Yes! I’m mad because you won’t ever let me do what I want to do.”
“Well, I will miss you very much, but I want you to be happy. Will you come back home and eat supper with us this evening if we have fried chicken?”
For the first time Jeff began to waver. Visions of fried chicken suddenly became more enticing than being able to do anything he pleased.
“I guess I’ll wait until the day after tomorrow, and then I’ll run away from home,” he said. The crisis was had passed.
A short time later I looked out the window to see the three boys with their heads close together over a book of Indian handicraft, cooperating on a new project. I had been forgiven.
Delicious Fried Chicken
Here’s a very simple way to prepare fried chicken. I learned this method from my friend Emmy Bengston. It is a good dish for celebrating the end of summer or to convince young children not to run away from home.
Cut a fresh chicken into pieces and soak for a few minutes in warm water to bring it up to room temperature. That will keep the cold meat from chilling the hot shortening. This also helps speed the cooking time.
In a plastic or paper bag, combine 1 cup flour with salt and pepper to taste. Drain the chicken pieces and drop each in turn into the bag and shake to coat with the flour mixture. Remove each piece from the bag and slip into large pan in which you’ve heated vegetable cooking oil deep enough to cover the bottom of the pan. (Emmy likes a mixture of half canola oil and half soybean oil.) Cook until chicken is nicely brown on the outside and done on the inside – ten to twenty minutes, depending on the sizes of the pieces. Remove from the hot oil, drain on a rack, and serve.