I guess it’s nothing new. And yet it still continues to amaze me that children can get “the bug” as young as they tend to get it. While this is also true of the flu, I’m talking about the “farming bug.”
Children, while unable to do many things for themselves when they are very young – some mothers help them so much that they stay that way until they’re 40 years old – are watching. And don’t think they’re not.
Take this whole farming thing.
When we were growing up, I remember one particular afternoon when we were all supposed to be taking a nap. My younger brother, however, was more into farming with his toy tractors while everyone else was supposed to be doing the napping.
Enter my father. My dad could sneak up the steps quieter than any church mouse. It didn’t matter what you were doing or who was in charge of keeping an eye out for him; when we weren’t looking, there he was on the steps, looking at us, catching us red-handed at whatever it was we were doing.
He always waited until we saw him before he would say anything. And it didn’t take long before the nap became a priority whenever he caught us, because his booming voice struck the fear of God into us every time.
I’m certain we collapsed into sleep more from fear than anything at that point.
This particular afternoon, my brother was using all the sound effects as he moved his tractor up and down “the field” that was the bedroom floor. Before long, he ran into a human foot and looked up.
But instead of booming his voice again, Dad said to him quietly, “Why don’t you park that thing over there in the shed and take a nap?”
My brother high-tailed it to bed and took cover under the blankets, never even sticking a toe out. Really, he just wanted to do what Dad was doing.
Maybe Dad thought about that at the time, knowing that imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, as they say. But he’s not around to tell us anymore.
Fast-forward a few years now to my own children.
They were all out helping with the chores and the livestock at a young age. Not because they had to at first, but because they wanted to. It must have seemed fascinating to be around all those large animals and all that noisy equipment when they were preschoolers. It was a big and busy world, which involved trips to hog buying stations, then stopping for a donut and juice after the arduous job of getting all those obstinate critters loaded.
Hog loading day was one of the greatest days on the farm if you were a very young farm kid of either gender. (Farm children would make the trip more often, since Mom and Dad probably weren’t speaking after loading hogs.)
When we decided to move a different house onto our farm, our daughter was five and our boys were three. After all the months of planning and preparation, it was finally time. It was a long and stressful day for everyone, but our children were watching.
Later that week as our children were farming the living room carpet in our old house, one of our boys scrounged up a backless hay rack, hooked it onto one of their tractors, and placed their large toy barn on top of the hay rack.
Ever so slowly, he “drove” the tractor on his hands and knees, being careful not to let the barn move or slide, inching the barn across the room to its new home.
It must have been a terribly exciting accomplishment. They were watching.
During the fall of our boys’ fifth grade year, they did papers at school that told about themselves. It was a fill-in-the-blank, draw-a-picture paper which said, “I used to (blank), and now I (blank).” Many of their classmates wrote about things they did and changed as they grew from small children into fifth graders, and I guess our boys did as well. It was just on a little larger scale.
One of them wrote, “I used to: “Play with tractors.” Now I: “Drive tractors.”
I still remember how shocking that seemed to me as I read it. Though I’d seen them drive tractors by then, it hadn’t really struck me until that paper. They really were growing up.
Our children have all gotten the “farming bug,” and they all are involved in agriculture today. Our daughter is with a seed company, and our sons are farming with us.
Today as our guys harvest the grain in the fall, it takes a crew to get the job done. The radio chatters back and forth with questions, information, or people just shooting the breeze on a beautiful fall day. But of all the people that have been working together since our sons were in the fourth grade and began helping with harvest, my husband was, until this year, the only one of that group who could answer to the radio call of, “Dad, you got a copy?”
It’s quite a feeling. And, of course, now they sound like all the other men out there instead of the elementary and middle school kids they were when they first began.
That farming bug is powerful, indeed.
Schwaller is a Farm News correspondent from Milford. Reach her by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
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