Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Summer (the season) (07/09/09)
TITLE: Summer Tapestry
By Robyn Burke
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Growing up on a dairy farm in the evergreen state of Washington, summer time was special. We all had chores to do as part of keeping farm and home running smoothly, but on those hot summer nights as dusk settled, we could always count on cajoling dad into a game of kick the can.
Similar to hide-and-seek, kick the can involved hiding but while the one who was “IT” was seeking, the rest of us were stealthily sneaking back to home base; kicking the can as we arrived made us ‘safe’.
Our farm was full of wonderful hidey-holes; haymows, wood sheds, wind rows of trees, bushes and deep dry ditches. Dad often had the best hiding places and was usually the last one to be caught--if at all!
Aside from games, the farm offered many delights for a kid: a tree house, the woods behind the farm, an old storage building accessible by a set of rickety stairs, and of course, the haymow. We made hay forts and tunnels in the mow. A rope swing and a large pile of loose hay could keep us busy for hours. Calves, kittens, and chicks, along with their birthing process kept us entertained and educated about the facts of life.
Making hay was a family affair. We all had our assigned tasks and as we got older we could count on moving up the ladder. I was driving tractor in the field before I was tall enough to fully reach the pedals so I drove standing up. The sheer delight of being behind the wheel totally blocked out the fact that Dad had it stuck in the lowest gear possible where it would lug gently along, without any pressure on the throttle. Being too scrawny to buck bales, my position of tractor driver lasted long enough to find out what driving sitting down was like. A metal seat when wearing shorts has left me with a sizzling memory.
Mom fed the summer work crew; large pans of steaming casseroles, gallons of kool-aid, dozens of cookies, all consumed by hulking teenage boys, their grimy faces taking on rosy hues when my teenage sister clad in cut –offs and halter top, offered them seconds.
Rain was a threat to haymaking. We needed those bales dry to retain nutritional and re-sale value. So when rain clouds threatened we moved fast! I remember many times everyone running through the field, tractor in high gear, throwing bales on the wagon as fast as could be tossed, and then, arriving back at the barn just before that first fat drop of rain spilled from the skies.
Hay wasn’t the only thing we harvested. We grew the bulk of our own vegetables, canning or freezing it for the winter. Making applesauce and jam was also a family event, which often included my mother’s parents. Grandpa would turn the apple peeler and Grandma would slice them up, placing them in a salt water bath to prevent browning while mom cooked batch after batch on the stove. Jam making involved three important things: sugar, stirring and patience. All worth it when spread thickly over a fresh slice of warm homemade bread.
Swimming in the pond, picking berries to earn money for school clothes, root beer floats on the back porch, riding bikes on dusty trails, water fights with no holds barred, and weenie roasts in the yard, all part of the summer tapestry woven in my mind.
But the summer memory I treasure the most, is that of slipping out of bed at night and climbing onto the roof of the house. Stars hung so low I swear I could scoop them up and put them in my pocket. From my perch I could hear the cows lowing in the field (bet you thought they only did that in Bethlehem). I could smell dew rising off the grass, taste the saltiness of my sun soaked skin, and feel the squishy softness of asphalt tar between my toes. Then the screen door would creak, followed by a rustling noise as mom and dad settled into the porch swing and the murmur of their voices as they talked served to remind me of the safety net of home.
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