MY CHILDHOOD ON THE FARM

By Bill Grosboll
August 27, 2007
 

     I recently had a phone conversation with my sister Sue and she told me of a book she was presently reading titled ďChildhood on the FarmĒ which sounded very interesting. When I got to thinking about it, I decided to give you readers the opportunity to relive what I experienced growing up on the farm. Many of the memories are not that pleasant for me as they entailed doing chores that I detested, but for the most part, I wouldnít
change any part of that past. It seems strange but my long term memories that I can recall also occurred about the same time that Mom and Dad decided that I was old enough to help out around the house. Prior to having chores, I donít recall much which means that the chores were so hated that I remember them or, just possibly, the folks determined that
I could learn to do the chores because I now had the ability to remember how to do them. I wonder!
     I guess the first thing I learned to do was wash dishes, actually dry dishes, since sister Pat was two years older than me and it was her job to wash. We were so small that we had to stand on kitchen chairs pulled over to the sink in order to be tall enough. Looking back, this wasnít really that hard of a job but at the time it was a killer. First off, it required Pat and I to work in close proximity to each other for an extended period of time which always lead to arguments about how the job was being done. Iím sure that Pat usually started them since she was the older and more dominant force. Since sister Sue was six years younger than me, she was just a toddler when Pat and I were slaving away at the
dishes and it irked us that we were working while she was just playing around. After the bowling alley opened up in Petersburg, in what year I donít remember but I do know that I was still doing dishes because Mom bowled on Monday nights (Dad bowled on Wednesday) therefore Dad was babysitting the three of us while Mom was bowling. This meant that on Monday nights, Pat and I didnít argue but we did learn another game. She or I would purposely drop a glass or saucer, causing a loud crash on the tiled floor of the kitchen. We would immediately yell out for Sue to leave the dishes alone. Here would come Dad from the living room and begin reading Sue the riot act and paddling her hind end while she tearfully went screaming from the kitchen, much to the delight of Pat and I. Itís amazing how inventive the young mind can be! When I turned ten or eleven years old, Dad informed Mom one evening after supper that since I was now working in the field, he did not want me washing dishes anymore and that Pat and Sue could do them. I could have popped my shirt buttons!
     Some of my other chores at this early age were feeding the chickens, gathering eggs, and later, when I was a little older, killing an old hen and cleaning it for Mom so that we could have fried chicken. Now, let it be known that chickens are the nastiest critters that ever walked the face of the earth. I think all they ever did was eat and poop. The smell was terrible! Baby chicks are cute but once the yellow fuzz that covers them begins to change to feathers, look out, because things are going to change for the worse. Feeding them wasnít that bad, gathering the eggs was just slightly more undesirable, but the absolute worst was killing them for Mom. Iíll not go into too much detail about how the killing was done but it required cutting off their heads and placing the beheaded chicken on the ground. You old timers know the old saying ďrunning around like a chicken with itís head cut offĒ, which means that the person is going every which way and generally achieving nothing. Well, the headless chickens donít actually run around but rather, hop around. Both wings flapping, both feet hopping and going no where in particular other than all over the chicken yard. Next, after they stopped hopping, Mom would have a bucket of hot water prepared and this was used for dunking the chicken into it to loosen itís feathers. After a good soaking, the feathers pull easily but does that bucket of water begin to smell terrible after dunking a few chickens into it! I can still smell that water to this day! After pulling the feathers, newspaper was wadded up and set afire and then the picked chicken was swung over the flames to burn off its pin feathers. Only if there is nothing else to eat and I am super hungry will I eat chicken simply because of that smell, not the taste.
     Before we had electric well water pumps, all water for the livestock had to be either pumped by hand or by use of a windmill. One of our three cattle lots did not have a windmill so it was my job to pump water from the well into a water trough which, I guess, held a couple hundred gallons of water. These old water pumps usually required priming which required a gallon or so of water to be poured into the top of the pump and immediately begin pumping to establish prime. Once priming was achieved you could not quit for a very long period of time because the darn thing would lose prime again. Now the secret to this type pump is that while you have prime, you stick a bucket under the spout of the pump and catch a bucket full of water and set it aside so that you have water to prime the pump the next time. Guess how long it took me to learn this! I remember that the stroke of the pump was so great that once the pump handle was in the full upright position, I had to jump into the air and put my full body weight on it to push it down. Each stroke like this would produce about a half gallon of water so that will give you some idea how many times I had to jump.
     Every farm boy longs for the day that he gets to drive the tractor on his own. I was finally given that opportunity about the age of ten. This opened up a whole new world of chores! Not only was I expected to be in the field every day after school and all day Saturday, but if there were any jobs (chores) requiring operation of the tractor, it now meant that I was expected to do them if my physical size permitted. I remember my first job in the field with the tractor. It was harrowing with a three section harrow that was hooked to the tractor with a chain. It was a simple job but I managed to screw it up on my first outing. Tractor tires have large cleats on them and when pulling something connected
with a chain it is very important not to turn too sharp because if you do, the cleats on the tires will catch the chain and pull the chain up as the tire turns. Yep, I did this the second time I turned. I managed to stop the tractor just before the harrow was about to come up on the tractor seat with me. For those of you not familiar with a harrow, they have steel spikes about six inches long about every foot and several rows of them. It was somewhat scary, actually terrifying, to see these spikes coming up the back of the tractor and straight at me. After I stopped the tractor, it left me with only one choice (not pleasant). Go get Dad and get ready for Ö.. ! One thing about Dad, he was consistent. What I feared he would say and do came true. I loved the man dearly and I feared him just as equally. He ended up getting my Uncle Bill to help him get the harrow back on the ground and after pointing out my stupidity he had me continue on. I never turned too sharp again which
says that when it comes to some things, Iím a fast learner!
     Now that I have began remembering this portion of my childhood, I realize that there is too much for one article so if you will allow me, I will continue with these memories on a continued basis.
 

 

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