I love farm stories, even though I’ve never lived on a farm. But many of my relatives have. Here’s my deceased grandmother’s favorite:
When she was a child, her family farm had a small bull (this would be southern GA, 1920s). For some reason, one of her uncles started to share his chewing tobacco with this little bull, and he became addicted. Every afternoon, when her uncle would come near the bull’s corral, he would come to the edge and nudge her uncle until he handed over a plug of tobacco. Her uncle eventually got sick of this, so one day he mixed in some hot peppers with the tobacco. The little bull went absolutely nuts, kicking and screaming and hopping, but he never bothered my uncle again.
I wonder how many more farm stories involve variations on some sort of mild cruelty to animals.
We raised poultry. All free-range and living in fields and on waterfronts, so they lived great lives up until the moment they were whacked. At age 11, I was taught how to kill chickens.
Very quickly and efficiently!But after death, they would still act alive, even with heads cut off. Like Running in circles without heads and so on. Us farm kids quickly figured out how to make a dead chicken give someone the finger
My mom tells this story of how she spent a summer at a cousin’s farm when she was a kid and befriended their only cow Bessie. Bessie was elderly but real friendly. One night they sat down for dinner and mom didn’t recognize the dish as anything she’d ever seen before so she asked them, “What’s this?”’ to which they replied, “It’s Bessie’s tongue.”
She was mortified!
I got lots, most of which do not involve animal cruelty.
The Wisconsin ANG flew A-10s out of Madison, and they loved to fly around our farm. (Maybe we never complained about the noise?) They would fly really low - like ‘make eye contact’ low. We’d wave, they’d wave back. Sometimes when I was out in the field going down a row, a shadow would pass over. When I’d look up, and A-10 would by flying in the same direction. I just got ‘strafed’! I was a practice target.
After a bad storm, we were outside and were looking in the right direction to see a tornado form right in front of us. Start to finish, we got to watch the whole thing. It was all empty farm land in the path, except for one thing: the only damage was to the only trailer home in the area! (God hates trailer homes!)
I “assisted” with a breech birth of a calf when I was very young. What a mess! Had to use a block and tackle to get the calf out. I think both cow and calf made it, but I was pretty young and I’m not sure. I’m sure she didn’t like the experience!
Our neighbors used a threshing machine for years. It put out a ginormous (to an 8 year old. it was probably only 15 feet high) straw pile that we loved to play on every harvest season. Like a grass hill you could slide down.
I remember my mom saying that when her family visited her rural grandmother, the farm chicken that my grandmother killed and served up tasted far, far better than supermarket chicken (my mom was recalling this in the 1960s). As a kid, I thought this was a bunch of hooey. Supermarket chicken tasted fine to me.
Then in the 2000s the foodie craze started, and organic, air-chilled free-range chicken was to be found at some stores and butchers. By Golly, she was right. These chickens are way better.
Well, it’s not really a farm story but my father did spend a few of his formative years in a rural part of West Virginia and he was fond of telling and we were fond of hearing the biscuit story.
You see, his family on both sides runs deep in Appalachia and his mother, my grandmother makes just a fantastic pan of biscuits and his grandmother, my paternal great grandmother, was known for her blackberry jelly. Now, one Saturday, the family returned from an outing to town and found waiting for them on the front steps, a jar of blackberry jelly. “MawMaw must have stopped by and left a jar of her jelly for us,” exclaimed my grandfather. “Cora, you must make us biscuits tomorrow and we’ll have your biscuits and MawMaw’s jelly before we go to church.” The kids, of course, were overjoyed.
The next morning, my father made his way to the breakfast table and grabbed a biscuit, split it open and smeared a generous helping of jelly inside the biscuit. He took a big bite and immediately gagged and spit it out. My grandfather, who had been enjoying a cup of coffee before he had his share of the biscuits and jelly was, of course, quite upset. “Your mother works hard to make those biscuits and your grandmother works as hard on the jelly. You will not insult them by refusing to eat perfectly good food!” And he sat there and glared as my dad ate every bit of his biscuit.
Having satisfied himself that my father had atoned for his poor manners, my grandfather reached for a biscuit himself, spooned a healthy portion of the jelly on it and raised it to his mouth. Just as he was about to eat it, he sniffed, opened the biscuit and poked it with his finger. “Son, I have to apologize. I forgot I asked your grandfather to bring me some tar to patch the roof.”
I heard this one from my uncle, who admittedly loved to tell stories.
He said he knew a farmer who had hired a new farmhand. And part of the deal was he would feed the hand three meals a day. The problem was they were going to be working out at a distant field and stopping for each meal would involve a half hour drive each way between the field and the house.
So they got up in the morning and the farmer cooked breakfast. And when they were done eating, the farmer said, “Seems a shame that we’re going to lose an hour of work later today when we stop for lunch. I have an idea, why don’t we eat lunch now and then we can stay out in the field later on.”
To his surprise, the hand agreed to this idea. So the farmer made another meal and the two of them ate it. The farmer was happy that he had put one over on the hand and was amazed when the hand then said, “I guess as long as we’ve saved time by eating lunch, we might as well eat supper too.”
The farmer was happy to agree and was thinking he could put anything over on this guy. So he cooked up a third meal and the two of them ate it. And then the farmer said, “Well, we’re all fed for the day now. I guess we better get started.”
And the hand said, “No, I’m going back to bed now. I don’t work after supper.”
The gravel road out to the farm was about a mile long and the dogs chased my father’s truck every time he left the house. One time he decided to break them. He got some little Black Cat fireworks to throw out the window on his way to work, but he pulled back in shortly after he left. When he walked into the kitchen we asked, “Did it work?” He said, “I don’t know. I forgot to roll the window down.” The lap of his pants was full of burnt holes and he had to change. We waited till he’d left again to bust out laughing.
Just Asking Questions, we were told that the Air Force ran those drills in west/central Wisconsin because the terrain was similar to Moscow.
Besides cruelty to animals, there was always cruelty to children. My mom was a pediatrics nurse, and harvest time was always pretty grim on her ward. Also, there was the family with kids who never had playmates come over: dad would come up and make all the kids go out in the field and pull mustard.
Pulling mustard is bliss compared to picking rock. That’s when you follow the plow and put all the loose stones in a wheelbarrow.
I’ll remember all kinds of stories after I hit submitt, but I don’t want to leave out the one about blowing stumps with too much dynamite, and scoring a direct hit on the outhouse.
City slickers often seem surprised when I tell them that sometimes eggs come out with no shell.
I’ve assisted in many a calf castrating. The mama cow paws the ground and blows snot all over the place. When they’re cut off, the dog has a nice snack.
I spent many summers on a relative’s farm in south Georgia. Stringing tobacco on racks and hanging them in the cure house. Later, we’d climb around the cure houses and barns and catch Black Widows and put them in a styrofoam coffee cup. My cousins and the other kids would each get 10 or 20 in a cup, and chase each other pretending we were going to pour them on each other.
I look back upon that, and wonder just what would have happened if we had tripped and maybe spilled a dozen on ourselves? Just another reason I shouldn’t even be alive today…
The time I spent on the farm picking crops, feeding cows and pigs, taking tobacco to the auction barn - they’re some of my happiest memories of childhood. I wish I had a farm right now.
That probably explains one other thing - one week, there was sort of a “top gun” practice over our farm. Seemed like one or two of every fighter in the inventory was flying simulated combat that week. They flew higher than the A-10s, but low enough it still make a good show.
I remember, one day they broke for lunch, or refueling, or whatever, and there was only a big old hawk out, lazily circling the sky. I imagined he was reclaiming his airspace.
I pretty much grew up in a tiny farming town in northeastern Illinois. The population was 200, according to the city limits sign said, spread over a dozen blocks. There was one gas station, owned & operated by a guy who was practically blind. We’d go there for sodas from the machine outside or for candy inside. There was also a general store, owned by another family, down the street from the gas station but we didn’t go in there much.
Summers were spent swimming in the old limestone quarry, the town’s first business until it hit water. The Sportsman’s Club sponsored the Fourth of July parade, from the school’s parking lot to the quarry, where there was entertainment all day and fireworks from the area around their clubhouse at night.
Our house was on practically the only hill in town, presumably made from dirt which had been dug out for the basement. That was some great sledding in winter! Though we had to make sure to stay away from Mom’s plants and the blackberry bushes. There was a low area at the line between our property and the cornfield which sometimes ponded and froze over for skating. I tried skating but discovered that I have weak ankles.
That cornfield? Yeah, sometimes we’d sneak fresh ears out of there for corn on the cob.
On Saturday mornings I’d get on my bike and ride out to one or another of my farm friends’ houses to play. Two of them had horses so that was a big deal for me. If there wasn’t a horse to ride we’d ride the sheep. Got in trouble for that.
One of my friend’s farm had a huge barn with a U-shaped hayloft and they’d store the bales up there and then open them and toss the loose hay down in the center of the U to use.
They hung a rope from the ceiling and you could swing from side to side, Tarzan-like. Or you could let go halfway across and drop into the pile of hay. The mom would always remind us to check the loose hay for stray pitchforks before playing this game.
Often there would be a nest or two of kittens hidden somewhere in the tunnels of hay bales and searching for them was a favorite game. I also loved the wandering flocks of ducks, chickens geese and their offspring. One farm even had peacocks and hens.
Most farms had a dredge ditch or were close to a meandering river which flowed through the area and that was also a fun place to play. We’d wade in the mud, swim and sometimes just climb out on a branch and laze the afternoon away. The dredge ditch at one friend’s farm was clear with a sandy bottom and full of minnows and crawfish. I always wondered how they got in there and how they survived through the winter.
The farm mothers I knew had a very relaxed parenting style. I suppose it was because they were so busy and there were so many hazards that they became somewhat inured to worry.
I’ll never forget one night when I was in my teens and attending a graduation party on a farm. After dark some of the teen attendees went outside and began tearing around in an old jalopy that they’d converted into a sort of flatbed. The yard was full of children, it was dark and it looked like an accident waiting to happen.
The farm wife looked out the window and yelled, “Be careful you don’t run over any kids!” I thought that was the understatement of the year.