Good old days were, in fact, pretty goodI think I’ve figured out why, as I grow older, I think the old days were so great. It’s because most of the memories I have of my younger years are either pretty good or kind of funny. Even the miserable times — times when I must have really struggled with some misfortune or challenge — seem, I don’t know, noble somehow.
By: Terry Woster, The Daily Republic
I think I’ve figured out why, as I grow older, I think the old days were so great.
It’s because most of the memories I have of my younger years are either pretty good or kind of funny. Even the miserable times — times when I must have really struggled with some misfortune or challenge — seem, I don’t know, noble somehow.
I look back on farm labor as mostly a good time. I’m pretty realistic. I know July and August were usually hot and miserable. I know dust from the chaff blowing out the back of the combine in the middle of an oats field caused a person to itch something fierce. I know taking an ax and chopping a hole in the ice covering the stock pond so the cattle could drink got a body wet from the hood of a parka to the toes of cracked, insulated boots.
I know all of that. I haven’t totally lost it with age.
When I think of mid-summer on the farm, though, I remember the days when clouds cast shadows across the alfalfa field and the shadows made the afternoon look cool, even if the temperature topped 98 degrees. For a kid, a wide-brimmed Bailey straw hat had much the same effect when the clouds failed to materialize during the dry spells.
One of my fond memories of being a hired hand involves the afternoon my dad showed up in the hayfield I was mowing. He had a canvas umbrella that he shoved into a sleeve just behind the tractor seat. He said the temperature was 114 degrees and I might want the extra shade. It’s an old story, and I repeat it often, because it never fails to make me smile. I don’t remember feeling the heat.
When I think of combining, I remember fields of wheat, not oats, and I’m always the guy in the truck waiting for the combine driver to signal that the hopper was full. The dust from the wheat chaff must have been blowing through the open windows of the old truck, but I usually remember days with a light breeze and not a hint of chaff.
And when I think of knocking that hole in the ice for the cattle, I don’t remember being soaked and chilled. I remember the pale-blue tone of the frozen pond and the gray-white puffs of steam rising from the flared nostrils of the Herefords as they crowded close, snorting impatiently, eying the spot where water mixed with ice chips soon would bubble up. When the water appeared, the cattle would jostle for position, rudely shoving me one way and the other as I made my way off the pond.
Good old days, indeed. The heat and dust of an open tractor in a hayfield or an old grain truck without air conditioning must have been terrible. I suppose I was miserable most of the time. Looking back over half a century, it seems romantic somehow, a tale of self-sufficiency and strength.
I know for a fact that on many of those winter days when I went to the pasture and opened the ice for the herd, the sleeves of my parka and the legs of my winter pants creaked as the layer of ice on them cracked and broke away as I walked from the pond toward the relative warmth of the pickup cab. It had to have been a lousy chore. From the Medicare side of one man’s life, wielding an ax on a frozen stock pond to make sure the herd has fresh water seems like a fine way to spend a January morning.
I suppose the idea of the good old days is much more compelling than the old days themselves. If I were farming today, I’m pretty sure I’d prefer a tractor with a cab, a grain truck with air-conditioning and a stock tank that didn’t freeze over on cold mornings. I’d surely have a cell phone and GPS and computerized planting and feeding and who knows what all else.
But I’d remember to tell my grandkids what it was like in the good old days.