Having grown up on a farm during my formative years, no matter where I lived — east coast to west coast — I always seemed to carry pictures in my mind of the old farm.
I could always see the old fence posts and gates, the old machinery behind the tractor shed, the ruts in the drive leading to the place I knew as home. They were as clear as if they were a part of my own face.
There were things I would touch that would remind me of the feeling of the wet clay we would dig out of the area beside the driveway and attempt to shape. The occasional hayride now and then on special occasions would bring back the smell of fresh cut hay. Checking the temperature of the baby’s milk bottle by shaking a few drops on my arm, then licking it off, brought back the taste of warm-squeezed milk during milking time.
I am so thankful I learned the work ethic by doing farm chores. Getting up at five, helping with the milking, gathering eggs, and bringing water in from the pump taught me not to be lazy. I never actually looked at my chores as “fun,” but neither did I consider it work. It was just part of life.
However, there were some real fun things we did as kids, things that perhaps kids growing up in town don’t get a chance to experience.
Now, mind you, these things I did were before air conditioned farm equipment and some of the more modern machinery. Back then, it was fun to ride on the fender of the tractor while grandpa mowed and plowed. Riding down country roads in the back of the old pickup while sliding all over the place was fun.
That was before seat belts were required. Sitting up on top of the old combine and watching the wheat fill up the holding tank was considered fun.
The day Grandpa allowed me to control the lever on the manure spreader and I threw it in the wrong direction, was fun, although he didn’t think so when he got covered in manure. He was able to finally laugh about it at dinner time.
When I watch teens driving their cars and trucks into the school parking lot, it reminds me of when we rode our horses to school and pastured them in the field behind the school. It seems that riding horses was more fun than trying to control the many horses in today’s vehicles. It was also cheaper to feed just one horse.
I didn’t realize what an impact the old farm had made on me until I tried pulling my feet free of the fast-paced society I found myself in. It was like trying to pull a shoe out of a muddy rut. Unfortunately, our child only knew the concept of farm, not the experience of earth senses. While she was still in her formative years, I wanted her to experience the things my memories were made of and some of the things that made me the person I am today.
So we left our home on the Pacific and came home to Atlantic. Just being able to ride on my John Deere lawn mower, rake fall’s leaves, shovel winter’s snow and dig in Spring’s soft dirt has given me the feeling of yesteryear.
You who have used chainsaws over the years to cut away unwanted limbs and unwanted vegetation in your fields, may not get too excited when it needs to be done. However, when I was able to help my father-in-law do some clearing last spring, I began to make more of a connection with the earth.
I now remember what is meant by pouring your blood, sweat and tears into the land. It was a warm day, a tree with large needles left its marks on my arms and hands. I didn’t cry about the cuts, but when I lost my glasses in the process, I kind of cried inside.
However, as we were leaving the pasture where we had been cutting, I saw a bull in the farm across the road. It brought to mind a humorous situation when I was a kid, involving my two uncles. They had gone to an auction and bought some cows.
While the one uncle remained at home to take care of the newly bought cows, the other uncle went to another auction quite a few miles away to see if he could buy a bull. He told my uncle that if he found one he would send him a telegram to let him know, so he could come and get it.
Well, my uncle bought a bull, but all he had left for the telegram was enough money for one word. After thinking for quite a while he came up with an idea. He sent the telegram with only one word on it — comfortable. He knew that his brother was a very slow reader, so if he read the word very slowly it would read, come-for-ta-bull.
As for this column, I hope you are all comfortable with my serious side. But if you are anything like me and enjoy a little humor now and then, come-for-ta-bull as well.