My poor mother. Truly, I don’t know how she endured the demands of raising seven children, with all of the antics that four boys can conger up.
Well actually, my trail-blazing big sister had a pretty good stash of antics of her own that she pulled out once in awhile. Sometimes she won and sometimes she got to drag the yard or paint the gas barrel because Mom heard some of the things my sister uttered under her breath.
Yes, mothers do have ears in places you would never guess. And sometimes when they hear those things, they take you outside to a busy farmer father, and tell him to give you something outside to do, with strict orders to not let you back into the house until supper time.
That’s how my sister learned to drive Dad’s prized Ford tractor.
My sister had mastered the science of burping on purpose – speaking entire sentences in one burp.
She also could make quite a commotion coming down the steps. Having heard it, Mom would point and tell her to march back up the steps and come down like a lady.
How painful that had to have been for my sister; she hated being a lady.
Dare I say that we found plenty of ways to get into trouble on the farm, but at the same time, the farm was a place where kids could scatter and find something to do without bothering the neighbors – especially if you had lots of siblings.
We had enough kids to play Mass, and for our own small baseball team when my brothers didn’t have farm work to do. At my parents’ farm sale, we finally dug up the disk blades that served as our bases, pitcher’s mound and home plate.
Oh, the memories of hitting the ball and smacking my little sister (who was pitching) right in the nose. I was less than popular.
If you were a girl growing up on our farm, some activities were inside as Mom gave herself a daily reprieve every summer from doing the dishes, by telling us we had half an hour to get them done, then set the timer on the stove.
We transformed the job of doing the dishes from drudgery to an afternoon project. For example, it was much more fun to clear the table with one person in the dining room and the other standing by the sink in the kitchen.
We tossed dirty plates like Frisbees and gathered up leftover baked potato tin foil (and sometimes even the leftover potatoes) giving us extra batting practice.
Someone would wad up the tin foil (or prepare the potato for launch); stand by the table and toss it into the air, using a wood spoon to bat it to the other person in the next room.
It provided great fun until the potato broke and made another mess for us to clean up quietly, hoping that Mom wouldn’t hear our giggling as we hurried to get rid of the evidence.
Dad drank four pots of coffee a day (probably among other things) and the empty drip pot was a three-piece nightmare once when it came apart after it got tosse – coffee grounds adorned the carpet. That was so not a good night.
There were also peanut butter taste tests. (Remember those commercials?) Those tests usually took all of our time that Mom had set on the stove timer, so naturally (thinking we were so smart) we would set the timer back, thinking she wouldn’t notice.
Oh, she threatened us from the next room that she was going to come in and “build a fire under us,” but what was it to her if the dishes were getting done, she knew where we were, that we weren’t out walking on top of the silo or seeing how much lint is produced with the cats in the dryer?
I feel sorry for kids today who have never had to make their own fun, even at their mother’s disgruntlement.
But as I think back on swimming in the creek or falling through its ice, riding bikes that we tricked out with playing cards held onto spokes by clothespins, and playing catch in the kitchen with Mom’s bread dough that was resting (and ended up sticking to the kitchen ceiling (as evidenced by the grease mark that lived up there for years afterward), I wonder what kids do today for fun, or to get into trouble.
I think our mom must have hidden the brandy out in the corn crib.
Schwaller is a Farm News correspondent from Milford. Reach her by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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