Children on the Farm

Children on the Farm

by Tammie Unger of Alto, TX

Whether picking flowers from a tulip tree in Kentucky or swimming in a muddy Texas pond, children can always find something to do in the country. It is January. This time of year with fair weather and sunny days in Texas (no snow in the south!), my brother disked the garden area for planting. Yesterday the younger children set out half a crate of onions, which grow well here. Joshua and Bethanie laid out the rows and Josiah pitchforked manure into the galvanized tub in the small wagon. The little ones helped. Hillarie and Gideon planting while Samuel filled the tub with water and poured manure-tea on the newly set onions. I helped Samuel to speed the job along. He did a very good job even if he is a little fellow.

The first year here, there was a lot of plowing and disking to be done, as it had been a very long time since anyone had cared for the fields and a lot of undergrowth and saplings had to be cleared out. My Daddy read a book saying not to plow every year, so when you spread the manure it stays in the topsoil where the plant roots will sprout. It is good to do, if you first loosen up the ground with several plowings, when you want a garden area that will grow something right now, and you don’t have years to build up the soil. It has helped our garden doing it this way. By disking, the topsoil is loosed for planting and a second disking after spreading manure leaves it ready for seeding. Then the fun begins, directing little hands and feet what to do to help and where not to walk or step.

Children on the farm can give you a lot of laughs while watching them. Last week my five year old brother, Samuel, showed his farm boy ingenuity by climbing up the door of the tool room and onto the large hay bale to get on the Belgian draft horse’s back, (following two other attempts to get on the Belgian and Tennessee Walker fillies that failed after his confident boasts). His blue eyes sparkled at his success. Later that day, last year’s spring calf came leaping out the side of the barn all saddled with a child’s saddle and blanket and being led with a sheep-halter. The saddle kept slipping and they were having fun with gleeful shouts and laughter. The calf enjoyed the romp too until he got tired. One trick the calf, “Nickel,” tried was kneeling down and sending Samuel rolling down a bovine incline into the dirt. Nickel held the pose a few minutes, his head crooked to the side and laying on the ground, while the three would-be riders puzzled over how to get him back up again. Hillarie’s ride ended when the calf laid down altogether. Finally, Gideon and Samuel were mounted when Nickel raced and bucked across the garden area (before it was plowed) and the saddle and blanket neatly slipped down the right side landing the two boys on the ground. Gideon started to chase the runaway calf but gallantly changed his mind and went back to check on his brother who hit the ground hardest. I wonder if they decided calves aren’t designed for saddles?

Further south than us, our relatives work to have their gardens each year. Their small acreage is faithfully worked and planted to grow vegetables. There are few trees but several gallant cedars toss their green tops in the wind and offer shade. A barefoot girl tells how she prayed for a whole field of flowers, and she still delights in picking flowers she finds. The chickens, goats, and other animals have sheds, pens, and a barn for a haven that my uncle and his sons worked to build. Making mudpies is an enjoyable pastime for the little girls playing in the yard. With bottle feeding baby goats, raising chickens, or playing with puppies, there are a lot of fun things to do. The youngest girls are all smiles and hugs when we see them, each with their own place to fill with their charming personalities.

When together, our relatives and us on the farm, there are many things like riding horses, playing tag, building huts, and picking flowers, to keep the youngest ones happy. There are also long walks and picnics. The boys finish off their days sleeping in the barn loft. (My cousin learned twice what it feels like to fly by accidental falls from the loft, good thing he’s tough.) A crowning pastime pleasure for the youngsters is jumping into large stacks of loose hay or playing “king-or-queen-of-the-hay-bales.” The boys have wrestling matches with hay to cushion the falls.

Well, we have beets, lettuce, potatoes, and more to plant, among other chores, so I need to close. God guide you and, as we say in Texas, “See ya’ll later!”

A River to Cross

by Sylvia Commerford of Chilliwack, BC

It was now eleven o’clock at night and still Ben was unable to sleep. He had been on his way downstairs earlier, when something in his father’s voice stopped him cold, outside the kitchen door.

“Betsy! I don’t know what to do. The bank manager called and said if I don’t have a payment by the end of the week, he will foreclose on the farm.”

“Oh George!” Betsy exclaimed, “Can’t he wait until the end of the month when the crop comes in?”

“No Betsy!” Ben’s father replied. “He said I had already extended my credit limit. The only recourse I have is to put Ben’s horse “Cocoa” up for sale. Mr. O’Reilly across the river has offered a fair price.”

Ben fled, his heart beating in his chest. “Sell my horse?” Cocoa had been a present on his seventh birthday. For the last two years he had loved and taken care of her.

Back in his bed, he tossed and turned. What did Dad mean by “foreclosure?” Did it mean that the bank would take the farm away? Where would they live? What would happen to his mom, his father, his sister Elizabeth and himself?

With dawn streaking across the sky, Ben finally fell asleep. He now knew what to do. No matter how much he loved his horse, it was more important that they would have a place to live.

The next morning, unable to meet his mother’s eyes, he made his way to the barn. His father was already there, cleaning out the stalls.

“Hi Dad!” Ben greeted his father, “I’d like to say goodbye to Cocoa.”

“What do you mean Ben?” Ben’s father seemed taken aback.

“I heard you and Mom talking last night,” Ben confessed. “I know what’s happening Dad, and I want you to sell Cocoa to save our farm.”

“Oh Ben! If there was any other way, but there’s nothing else I can think of to do.” Ben’s father’s voice caught in his throat.

“Please Dad!” Ben tried hard to fight back tears. “Call Mr. O’Reilly, maybe he’ll let me visit her sometimes.”

“Thank you Ben!” His father hugged him and made his way to the house.

All that afternoon and part of the next day, Ben and his sister, Elizabeth, played with “Sport,” their border collie, down at the creek. Ben’s thoughts constantly turned to Cocoa. Just when Ben was ready to head for home, he heard his father calling.

“Ben, Elizabeth! Come quick!”

“Something must have happened!” Ben exclaimed, “Come on Elizabeth. Let’s go!”

They scrambled up the bank of the creek and ran toward the barn. The sound of their father’s voice had routed the chickens and “Marmy” their cat, as Ben and Elizabeth came into view.

“Look Ben, Elizabeth! Look who’s inside the barn!”

There, shivering, trembling and very wet stood “Cocoa.”

“How, how did she get here?” stammered Ben.

“She must have crossed the river,” Ben’s father replied.

“I don’t see how. That river is at least a mile across at this time of year.”

Cocoa missing Ben, had torn free of her rope and following her nose, had made her way to the river. There she had plunged in and swam against the treacherous current. At times the current had been so strong she had been side swept. Finally after swimming and struggling for hours, she had reached the opposite bank of the river. Now, here she was back home with the boy that she loved.

“You know, of course, that I have to call Mr. O’Reilly?” Ben’s father asked gently.

A little later, they heard Mr. O’Reilly drive up. The kitchen door slammed behind him.

Ben started rubbing Cocoa down, while Cocoa nuzzled his shoulder and neck, whinnying softly. Tears started streaming down Ben’s cheeks.

“You really missed her, didn’t you?” asked Elizabeth.

Just then the kitchen door opened, Ben’s father and Mr. O’Reilly appeared on the steps.

“Ben! Would you please come here?” his father called.

Ben wiped his eyes with his shirt sleeves, put down Cocoa’s comb and walked slowly toward the house.

“Hi Ben,” Mr. O’Reilly said. “That horse sure loves you. This is the first time I have ever heard of a horse crossing a mile wide swollen river to be with the boy she loves.

“I want you to keep her, Ben!”

“But, but,” sputtered Ben. “How can I ever repay you?”

“Your Dad will reimburse me when his crop comes in,” Mr. O”Reilly replied.

That night, Ben thanked God for Mr. O’Reilly and bringing Cocoa safely back to him.