One of the most interesting parts of parenting aside from watching your children grow up, is seeing where they land, and seeing the kind of adults they become.
So the year Santa Claus brought our young daughter a toy washer and dryer set for Christmas was a stellar proclamation of her feminine role in the family.
She would most likely end up doing that job someday anyway, so we thought she may as well think it’s fun for as long as she could, before she discovered what laundry issues on the farm really are.
A little imaginary spray here and there, and the clothes emerged free of burrs, a day’s alfalfa and various forms of hog doo-doo.
She did wash and dry a few clothes in her new appliances, until she pooled forces with her younger brothers one day.
It was quite a ruckus I remembered hearing. Chairs were being hauled into the living room and animals were being lined up along the side. On the other side was her washer and dryer set adorned with a crayon-colored sign that read, “SAL BRN.”
It was quite a sight, actually. Our boys would take turns running animals past the imaginary people in the stands, while the other would talk about the animal and sell it.
After they were sold, they would walk up to the business counter (thus, the washer and dryer set), plop the paper work down on the attached ironing board, which she had flopped up in order to open for business that day.
She handled all the business transactions and paperwork – her first official business managering job.
All kinds of livestock auctioneering business was conducted over that washer and dryer set and ironing board in the following years, until their animals had to have all been sold at least 15 dozen times. Our daughter must have made a heck of a commission.
It was a sight to behold, as siblings came together to imagine and play something they all enjoyed, and the laundry facilities were being used by both genders.
Women’s rights groups would have proclaimed a holiday and deemed our daughter a genius who, like singer Roger Miller used to say, was “20 minutes ahead of her time.”
A few years down the road they got to actually take their real animals to the sale barn, leaving the washer and dryer set at home for some other young child’s dream play.
They had the real thing, now. It was very Puff, the Magic Dragon-like.
They had brought some of their own calves this time, and I invited myself along for the show, as many a farm mother has done in her years of raising farm children.
We all climbed up into the stands, including their grandparents, who hadn’t been at a sale barn in many years. We took in the sights and smell – sawdust and wood chips, dust, and lunch cooking in the other room; the bellering and snorting of animals; the looks of producers donned in seed corn caps and jackets who brought animals, hoping to get a fair price for them. And the looks of buyers, hoping they could get something purchased without paying an arm and a leg for it. So to speak.
The auctioneer began and the calves came running through the show ring, with a hog panel separating man from beast. Heads were nodding and pencils were calculating; bids were being acknowledged.
One calf came running into the show ring and the auctioneer said it weighed 285 pounds. I remembered that our sons used to wrestle guys who weighed as much as that calf did. It brought to mind comments we would hear from other parents who came into the stands at the meets, telling us they saw So-and-Such, s heavyweight wrestler out in the parking lot eating from the hay bunk that was hooked onto their school’s bus.
Mothers of light heavyweight wrestlers have a pretty strong prayer life.
The usual farmer banter ensues and neighbors get caught up with other neighbors at a place where they’ve found themselves together again in the name of agriculture.
The longer the sale went on, the more I understood why playing sale barn was way more fun for our daughter than playing “Let’s do laundry” – even when you’re just starting out in elementary school, and even if your farm-crazy younger brothers persuade you a little bit.
They’ve never looked back.
Schwaller is a Farm News correspondent from Milford. Reach her by e-mail at email@example.com
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