One of the first things farm kids learn about is that animals get hungry and need to be fed.
It might start out with them feeding the dog and cats, but eventually winds up with them carrying feed pails to hungry hogs and sheep, then driving the tractor and feed wagon to fortifya group of waiting cattle.
What a transition it is to watch.
Farm children seem to be born with a shovel or a bucket in their hands, and they make up their own schedule of uses for such dad-like tools.
They may include sandbox digging, kitty transportation and digging holes to bury treasures like lamb’s tails from the sheep barn.
Watching our (then) toddler sons handle large shovels led me once to buy them some shovels that were a little more their size.
They were under the Christmas tree one morning. Though they brought big smiles to a couple of pint-sized Schwaller boys, the larger one was a little less impressed.
The plastic shovels were about 24 inches in height. But they only cost three bucks each. Being the two little bulls in a china shop that they were then, I figured we weren’t out much if, or when, they broke.
“Those things won’t last a week,” my husband said under his breath as the boys gleefully opened them. They immediately began to shovel the piles of wrapping paper into a corner as they ignored all other Christmas delights.
The least they could have done was start shoveling all the corn and oats off of the basement floor that had filled the insides of their small work boots as they trudged around inside the grain bins with their dad.
But shoveling corn out of the house seemed less appealing.
They must have gotten that from me.
Those new Christmas shovels went right outside to scoop snow, chop ice and “comb” the dog’s hair, as the dog sat patiently and let them hone their grooming skills.
The shovels also helped clean out the farrowing house and accompanied the boys in the pickup as they tagged along to help clean up grain from around the stopped auger during fall harvest.
Yes siree – those shovels scooped as much sand, snow, hog feed, manure and corn as four-year-olds could scoop.
It was quite a few years later when my husband and I were doing chores and saw those little plastic shovels hanging in the feed shed.
They were smeared with all the things a regulation farm shovel is smeared with-feed, a little hog poop here and there, a little corn, and the edges of them were nicked and worn, just like the real thing.
They looked a little worse for the wear, but they were still around, and 100 percent intact. It was amazing.
Who knew something so cheap would be around so long? I just hope my husband doesn’t think that same thing of me.
A little later on they graduated to child-sized metal sand shovel, which received the same treatment, getting a workout in the farrowing house, feed shed, and in the garage and around the house scooping snow and ice.
They passed a lot of time for two young farm boys who were always looking for something to do.
Today, they hang on the wall in the basement, serving as reminders of a time when life was much simpler for them- when they were just venturing out and learning what it meant to work around the farm.
And as in Shel Silverstein’s story of, “The Giving Tree,” our boys grew up and left them behind to pursue a more grown-up world of farming.
If only those little shovels could talk. I really miss those days.
Schwaller is a Farm News correspondent from Milford. Reach her by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and at www.karenschwaller.com.
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