TITLE: Just A Country Boy
By Jim Oates
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The day Daddy made the announcement, “We’re going to move to the country.” With all the gusto and enthusiasm a five year old city boy could muster, I decided then and there, “I’m gonna be a farmer.”
In 1936 as the country was making its way out of the great depression, Daddy, who was lucky enough to get a job at the Ford Motor Company, decided to buy a three acre lot out in the country. Mama and Daddy were going to grow their own vegetables, have a few chickens for eggs, a cow for milk and butter and maybe a pig or two.
It didn’t look like much by today’s standards or even Mama’s for that matter, but to me, a would-be farmer, it was great. There were apple trees to climb, a few grape vines and so much open space. Looking to the west I could see forever with not another house in sight.
Speaking of houses, this one was sitting up high on cement block pillars, high enough for stray dogs, cats and any other critter, or a small boy for that matter, to crawl around underneath. It was framed with shiplap boards and wrapped in black tar paper which kind of puffed out when it was windy. At times when it was real windy some of it would flap and had to have another wooden slat nailed in place to keep it from ripping. There wasn’t a lick of insulation, but it did have ten-test wallboard inside.
The outhouse was just across the yard. This was country living at its best. I can only imagine now, what Mama and Margaret, my teenage sister must have been thinking.
My first job was to help feed the chickens. They were fun to chase as well. It took me quite awhile to muster up enough courage to reach under a hen to gather the eggs. Some of those hens were fierce as they threateningly fluffed their feathers and hissed unbelievable sounds at me. Others were very gracious and stood to allow me to reach under to remove the eggs.
As I grew older I had to throw feed over the fence for the two weanling pigs we had acquired. I had seen Daddy kill a chicken now and then, but what was going to happen to the pigs? When the time came, the biggest was loaded onto a neighbor’s pickup truck and taken somewhere, only to reappear naked and cut in half; right down the middle!
I now had to help pull weeds from among the vegetables. I wasn’t really fond of that job, in fact I hated it. I would have been much happier climbing a tree.
Then I had to help my brother with the cow, first by leading her to the pasture, then back to the barn at night to be milked. Sometimes I would climb on her boney back, and just hang on the best I could. I didn’t have to steer, she knew the way.
My brother thought it great sport to squirt me with a stream of milk. As I grew, I became the squirter; the cats were great fun to watch as they scrambled to lap at the stream of milk. Now I was in full charge of the cow, what I really hated was when she laid in the manure. I had to wash her udder!
She was deadly accurate with that with that soggy mop of a tail. Without warning, splat, right across my face. “Oh! Yuck!”
On reaching adulthood, I, along with my brothers, were able to acquire eighty acres of farm land. Although we had to work off the land to make a living, I, in a small way attained that dream of becoming a farmer.
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