Trucks at the dock of the Plant City State Farmers Market; date unknown. “Cowboy George” Perocchi’s pickup, with handmade sideboards, looked like the one in the center. / Courtesy of floridamemory.com
Editor’s note: This is the second half of “Life on the Farm – the ‘Packing House'”; the first half ran Sept. 28. This concludes Part 3 of our four-part series, “Life on the Farm – a Memory.” Dale Bliss grew up on a farm in Hillsborough County and is sharing her memories of the seasons of farm life there.
Their “Disney World”
My sister Martha, who’s older than I am, and I would often go with Daddy to the market. For us, it was our version of today’s Disney World. Daddy would treat us to a Coca-Cola in a small 6-ounce glass bottle that came out of a Coke machine. He would also give us a dime to purchase Lance cookies from a vending machine; to us, it was magical.
Daddy would visit the farmers market throughout the week and keep in touch with the directors and personnel so that he could keep abreast of the “goings-on” and represent his fellow farmers with a loud voice. Cowboy George never used his “soft inside” voice when it came to fairness.
When Dad came roaring up in his old Army Jeep – with a gun rack and a shotgun in the front, next to the gear-shift lever – people took notice, because he was putting them on notice. The Jeep could have used a back seat, seat belts, windows and some sort of top. When my sister and I rode in the one front seat together, we held on tightly.
Cowboy George was always prepared for any situation he might encounter. Two things he never left the house without: his pocketknife and his handkerchief. Well, also his chewing tobacco, but that is another story by itself! He, like most country boys, carried his pocket knife – not a pocket knife, mind you, but his pocket knife.
An essential male “accessory” for life on the farm
This item was put into service for many diverse uses. It was able to cut just about anything at a moment’s notice, including male cattle that were destined to become steers; rope; PVC pipe; and, if necessary, for cleaning the dirt out of fingernails.
George liked to spend time in the surrounding pastures; he referred to these places as “the woods.” His pocket knife could cut a palmetto branch for grilling “weenies,” or kill a snake. Why waste a bullet? And, of course, it was his all-in-one utensil for cooking and eating in the woods.
To wash it would be an insult to the blade, so Daddy would just wipe it off with his infamous handkerchief or a piece of moss. (Don’t ask what other uses he came up with for using moss!)
My sister Martha once found his knife on the dresser in his room and came out with 10 bloody fingers. Yes, the knife was always sharp. Why would George carry a dull knife?
Another crucial “accessory”
He also had his versatile wiping cloth, aka his handkerchief. It was available for cleaning up any spill and soaking up sweat. Remember: Bacterial wipes weren’t available, and my dad would not have wasted the money or polluted the environment with such impractical wipes. He had his “pro-bacterial” hanky, and he would wipe down anything or anyone. Hopefully, George’s wife, Carol, would wash it at the end of the day, if she dug it out of his jeans pocket.
The association would meet for dinners a few times each year, and my father proudly attended. When the Co-op’s members wanted to unseat him, they made up nasty rumors about his conduct as an attempt to discredit his character. When he found out, he quickly gave them his resignation. Daddy had no time for politics. He had a family to feed and a farm to run.
I will always remember that one of the members, Clarence Grooms, father of Carl Grooms of Fancy Farms, remained Daddy’s loyal friend. He paid his respects while Cowboy George stayed his final days in the hospital.
Join me again next time, when I take you on an adventure in zucchini farming, which our father was also famous for. Happy farming! Happy memories!
Dale Bliss feels blessed to be able to live on the same Plant City farm where she was born and raised. Her father, “Cowboy George” Perocchi, called Dale his “little crate-maker” because she made wooden boxes for their vegetables.