Every year on about the last week of June I will think back to the days when I would be spending time at my cousin Richard’s home down by Emmons. Richard’s mother Senora and my dad were first cousins and each year we would plan on my coming down and staying for a week or two. I can remember that the first couple of times that I stayed over I was pretty young and the only times that I had spent overnight were at one of my aunt and uncle’s or at my grandma and grandpa’s. The first night on the farm was always tough on me because it never filed that I would get homesick. After making it through the first night I would be fine for the rest of my time there. After a couple of years had passed I didn’t have that first-night problem and in thinking back Senora had to be some kind of a saint for putting up with me.
On the farm I would help Richard do his daily chores. After the milking was finished he would take the water from rinsing the milking machine and use it to mix the feed for slopping the hogs, which I looked at as fun. I can remember thinking about how much fun it was when his dad, Hartwick, would have us clean the calf pens and when I told that to Richard he said “It may be fun to you but you don’t have to do it all of the time.” There were also the times when they would be baling hay and although throwing bales and loading them into the loft was hard, scratchy work, I even enjoyed that.
Theirs was the typical small farm back then: about 180 acres with a few milking cows, some hogs, chickens and geese. There was also this bandy rooster that you always needed to keep an eye on because even though he was small, he would go after you if you got too close.
We also spent a lot of the time playing in the creek that ran through their land and when the water was up we would go to the bridge and fish for bullheads, which was always a lot of fun. We would spend a day or two swimming in the creek and although it was never very deep we would find the deeper pools and have a great time. This would end if Senora found out because she said that the creek was dirty and she would send us to the basement to take a shower.
I finally understood her concern on a day when we had just finished swimming in one of the pools farther from the house when I came walking around the bend only to find the cows standing in the water doing their business. This was one of the times when I believe that both of us were really anxious to take a shower.
Playing in the hay loft was always a good time. We could spend hours swinging from the hay rope and playing army or cowboys and Indians, which would not be a socially correct game in this age of political correctness. When we played those games we never thought of it being derogatory or hurtful because we were just kids playing a game. The games would sometimes come to a swift end if Hartwick caught us playing on the bales of hay.
There was a cow tank by the pump house and in the tank were a couple of bullheads that served to keep the tank somewhat clean. I can still see that old tin dipper hanging on a nail by that cow tank; you had to pump the handle by hand to get the water to flow and I don’t believe that I have ever tasted anything better than that ice-cold well water on a hot summer day. Speaking of taste, the first couple of breakfasts at the farm took a little getting used to. Richards family also had dairy cows and on the days that they had no milk in the fridge for breakfast they would wait for Hartwick to finish milking and he would then bring the milk to the house in a large stainless steel container. The cream would be skimmed off of the top and put in a separate container; a pitcher was also filled and used for drinking and to pour on our morning cereal. Now being a kid from north of Albert Lea that had milk delivered in glass quart containers by Willie, our milk man, I was not used to putting warm milk on corn flakes. You have to remember, in those days there were no “picky” eaters; if you didn’t eat what was put on the table, you just didn’t eat. Needless to say, I spent the first couple of days choking down corn flakes with warm milk and savoring every bite of my toast and honey.
Yes, these were good times to be a kid and also times when I learned some life lessons and also about how the simple things learned on a farm can make life feel pretty darned great.
Until next time, take the time to encourage our youth to get outdoors and enjoy all of the natural wonders that nature has to offer. Fishing is a great sport that anyone can enjoy without much expense. If you introduce a kid to fishing, he or she will be “hooked” for life.
Please take some time to honor those who have sacrificed so much for the freedoms that we enjoy today. Also take a little extra time to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice, those who served and those troops that are serving today.