As a young man, my father worked for nearby farmers. Always a perfectionist, everything he did was with an inborn sense of pride.
As Ben Franklin said, "A job worth doing, is worth doing well." When he plowed fields by horse-drawn plow, he did his utmost to cut those furrows straight. Good practice for the next plowing match.
If you were city raised, you may have no idea how much work needs to be done on a farm. You may also think of farming up north as a spring, summer and fall job with nothing much to do in the winter. Sorry!
Storm windows had to be hung on the house. Those close enough to a lake would cut ice and haul it to their icehouse and pack it in sawdust for the icebox during the following summer. We had no ice, no icehouse and no icebox on the farm.
Cows still have to be milked twice a day and fed. The stable, including pigpens and the chicken house have to be cleaned regularly. The chickens need to be fed and the eggs gathered daily. Last year's stable waste is ready to be spread over the fields in late winter or early Spring.
I remember hearing of a politician at the county fair climbing up onto a new manure spreader to speak to the crowd when someone yelled "you picked the right platform." And every farm implement salesman would declare, "We stand behind everything we sell, except the manure spreaders."
Wood had to be cut, split and stacked ready to dry in the sun during the warm months, then moved into the woodshed in the fall. And, stove pipes had to be taken down and cleaned.
While winter did bring a break from most field work, there was often snow to plow. Farmers had pretty long lanes or driveways because they built the house and barn as close to the center of the farm as possible. In many areas, the farmers helped clear the back roads as well. In late winter, many of the farmers made maple syrup. Some had fruit trees to prune in late winter.
Winter was also maintenance time. Time to make repairs to the house, the barn, the fences and the equipment. And there was a lot of equipment.
My father bought the first rubber tired tractor in the area. A Massey Harris 102 Senior and it was prettier than two speckled puppies as they say. By this time, they had paved some of the main roads and had signs up that read "TRACTORS WITH LUGS PROHIBITED" Those steel wheels with the steel lugs were great in the fields but tough on the roads and soon became obsolete.
But Dad wasn't your run-of-the-mill farmer. About the time they got married, he bought a used truck and started driving cattle to market. Then he started buying the cattle and selling them at the stockyards and soon he needed a second truck, a driver and a hired hand on the farm. He never stuck with anything unless he was good at it and he was good at the cattle business and it was good to him.
Later, he would be very successful in the cold storage/locker rental/food processing and home freezer sales, apartment rentals and land development.
He was a sharp shooter, a champion skeet shooter, a champion curling skipper and so good at horseshoes that no one wanted to pitch against him. Nothing could be more discouraging than to get a ringer only to have him put two on top of it.
Back on the farm, Dad didn't do housework and Mom didn't do barnwork. She may have helped with some of the lighter work at one time but once we kids were old enough to help, most of her work was in and around the house and garden.
She knit our mittens, socks, sweaters and scarfs. She mended our cloths, darned our socks and made dresses and aprons for her and my sisters. She made quilts, butter, ice-cream, baked bread and a lot of other things.
I wouldn't go so far as to say there was never a dust bunny under the bed or a fly speck on the window but as far as we were concerned, the house was clean, we had clean clothes to wear and we ate good.
For Christmas, we often had dinner with Mom's sister (Aunt) Muriel and her family and those two women could whip up a Christmas dinner with the old Acme wood stove that was second to none. They didn't eat a better Christmas dinner in Buckingham Palace, at 10 Downing Street nor in the White House.
Mom & Dad never argued or cussed in front of us. I don't remember Mom ever spanking us but all she had to say was "You behave or I'll tell your father." We weren't afraid of Dad, we were just afraid to be bad.
They had a wonderful retirement spending most of his last thirty-some winters in Florida. He golfed until he was ninety-one and died in his 96th year in 2002.
He wasn't our buddy, he was our father. We learned a lot from him. We admired and respected him and we miss him.
Mom & Dad both had full time jobs with no extra pay for working overtime and they did their jobs well.
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