The Old Bell
Out on a cedar tree that had become a 10′ pole, in the yard, was a rusty iron bell.
It was a dinner bell, but it was more than that alone.
It was used to let the people in the fields know dinner was being served. The ring had to be just right to avoid sounding like an alarm. Just a couple of rings: ding dong, ding dong.
So the sound of that bell was heard by the person or persons working out in the fields or woods. No frantic ringing. It could be heard a mile or two away and they never wanted to send out a “false alarm”.
The bell was used at other times: the birth of a child might need to be announced by a steady ringing of four, five or six times. Ding Dong, Ding Dong, Ding Dong, Ding Dong. The death of a family member might result in a slow series of rings, pulling on the old rope that was attached. Ding…..Dong. Ding……Dong.
At a time of emergency, like a fire, the bell would be frantically rung a long and loud series of times and people would hitch up their mules or jump in the model A or Model T and come running.
Since the bell could be used in all these different fashions, children were forbidden from playing with the bell and ringing it for fun. So most of the time the rusty iron bell just hung there. Ready when needed. I never heard it rung except at dinner time and I got to ring it a couple of times.
The sound of the bell could be heard for several miles. At noon, on the Vinings Place the mules were glad to hear that bell also.
The noon meal in the South was “dinner” for most people. The word lunch was around but did not usually apply to the noon meal. The school child might take their “lunch” in paper lunch bag or a lunch pail. You might take a picnic lunch outside by the lake or river.
The sound of the bell was a welcome sound to a man who had been in the field since daybreak and manhandling a walk behind, mule drawn plow. The sun was now boiling down and the man was tired and thirsty and dirty. The ringing of the bell meant that the mule would be unhitched, the plow left lying on its side or standing partially and the mule and man would head toward the house for food, water, and a couple of hours rest. Maybe a two hour nap on the front porch glider. Rest in the “heat of the day”.
After a nap, the man might take the other mule back to the field, letting the mule that had worked that morning rest and the plowing would continue till dark or until the man just was too tired to work any more. No bell would ring at supper. It was understood the work would go until almost dark but everyone wanted to be through before dark because there were animals to be fed and light was in short supply both inside and outside the house.
When the tractors came, the bell could not be heard off on the big fields at the Vinings Place and an old Ingraham Pocket Watch, about $3.50 at the local store, was referred to to stay on track. Now the bell had little purpose. And the phones came. Announcements and alarms were now sent by wire. Another kind of Bell.
But it was still a bell on a pole in the yard. Waiting to be rung one more time while it rusted in the sun and rain until one day the cedar post had decayed so that it could no longer hold up the bell and it came down and somehow ended up at the flea market or the antique store to be bought by someone who never intended to ring it again. Never realizing the important place it once had in the daily life of the previous owners.
But it was still a bell! Though not useful as a bell, anymore.