Thank you Mr. Pearson

Tonight was special. Many children, accompanied by their parents, grand parents, aunts, uncles, siblings and Cub Scout brothers visited the farm. They met the animals. They went for a hay ride. They sang along with the marvelous Casey Aro. And we made ropes.

How I came to learn the art of rope making is told in an earlier blog. “People you meet and things you get roped into.”

Rope making is magical in more than one way. Each child gets to choose their colors. I have twelve different ones. The company I get the twine from has 32 in all. The ropes we make are twelve strands each, enabling the designer to chose up to six colors. Each rope is different. Each one unique. Each one is beautiful.

Once the machine is strung, the magic begins. The designer turns the crank that turns the hooks that twists the strands together. As the strands tighten, the tension increases. When the proper tension is reached a weight suspended on a rope and pulley system begins to rise. It is at this precise moment that I begin working the rope with what I call my magician wand. As I move it back and forth, the three strand merge into one rope. Depending on the speed the rope maker is turning the crank, the rope forms in a matter of seconds. When the twist reaches the machine I ask the cranker to hold it while I secure it with a simple little hog ring. Once secured, I cut it free from the hooks. I fire up my propane torch and melt the ends. The new rope owner makes a wish and blows out the flame. I hand the rope to the child. The deal is done.

The whole process takes less than five minutes. During that brief interval we talk. Who is the rope for? What is the dogs name? If it’s for grandpa’s dog, what’s his name where does he live? Children chose colors for their own reasons. Bystanders praise them for their choices. “Wow, that’s a beautiful
rope. You are really strong to turn that crank. Jessie (or whatever the dogs name is) is going to love what you made”

Life is a series of short encounters when you really think about it. I may never see these children again. But for a brief five minutes it’s just me and them, sharing what’s important, creating a bond. Then occasionally I run into children in the
L & M. Store. “Remember me Mr. Ed? You made a rope for my dog.” We take a brief moment to catch up on the news about them, about the dog, about grandpa and grandma etc.

Thank you Willard Pearson for sharing this gift with me. I wish I could share all the children’s joy and amazement with you.

Rope making corner at Mr. Ed’s Farm

20140725-012911-5351381.jpg Willard Pearson, age 91, explaining to me how his machine works.

Old McDonald had a farm…

Old McDonald must have had quite a life. All those animals, all that singing. A baa baa here, a baa baa there. A Moo moo here a moo moo there… You know how it goes. What you probably don’t know is baa baa and moo moo means feed me, I’m hungry. Get out here and do your chores. To which McDonald replied E-I-E-I-OOO which means don’t get your wool in a knot, I’m coming.
Which reminds me, tomorrow night old Mr. Ed needs some help doing chores plus it’s more fun when you have help. Chores start at 5:30. After the animals have their supper we will rest, relax and sing along with Brian McCauley.

Brian is one of the best Old McDonald singers around.

4th of July memories of a farm kid

By the first week of July, summer is in full swing. School has been out so long you have forgotten about it. Haying is the undisputed priority. Cut in the morning when the dew is still on, start raking around 11. Listening to the melodic sound the baler makes as it gobbles up huge windrows of aromatic smelling hay. Wiping the sweat off your brow as you wait for the next bale to come up the slide. Stacking the bales as tight and high as you can on a undulating hayrack. Getting a combined feeling of satisfaction, pride and exhaustion as hayrack after hayrack gets filled and dropped on the field. Eating a late supper of sausages, fried potatoes, fresh bread and pie. Dropping off to an exhaustion driven sound nights sleep. Then waking
up to loads of hay bales to be elevated into the hay mow or stacked in the hay shed.

Unless you baled hay on the 3rd of July, the Fourth was truly a holiday you looked forward to. It was a day us kids looked forward to and got really excited about. Family reunions, neighborhood parties and hometown parades.

I have many fond Independence Day memories. A favorite is the Nelson Family reunion at my Aunt Lila and Uncle Al’s farm. Lila was my Dad’s sister. He came from a big family of fun loving Swedes. He and his sisters used to play tricks on each other. More than one pigtail got exchanged at a birthday gathering.

The Stuckmeyer farm was just outside of Lastrup. It was a picturesque place sitting in a lower area, white barn, house and a white fence along the driveway. I remember Lila had beautiful flower beds. All the aunts and uncles and cousins would gather for tons of potluck food, softball and exploring the barn and outbuildings.

Something I’ll never forget was seeing where the pigs lived. Al and his brother Arnie had build a framework of posts and wire. Every fall they would blow oats straw onto it. There were narrow tunnels, dark musty passage ways and pitch black alcoves from where unseen pigs grunted their displeasure at us unwelcome Intruders. My cousin Lavonne had ponies, dogs, goats. There were clucking bantam hens with their broods of baby chicks. My cousin Denny, who was a little older than the kids my age, had firecrackers. We loved watching him light and throw them into the empty cement silo. For us little kids it was simultaneously exciting and scary. We were well programmed not play with matches in a barn or anywhere else. We hoped he wouldn’t blow his fingers off like our parents said would happen if we had fireworks.

Several of our family’s July 4th’s were spent at Mickey Lodermeirs, a neighborhood family bigger than ours. It was a potluck affair, lots of food, all the hot dogs you could eat and Shasta pop. We rarely had pop at home maybe because it was too expensive, maybe because water was better for us. Never more than one can. At Mickey’s’ the pop was in a stock tank filled with ice. You had many flavors to choose from. You had to reach down into the cold icy water to see what was there. And you didn’t have to ask because the adults were too busy visiting. I remember softball games where you got to borrow someone’s glove when you were in the field. I remember they had ponies and riding horses. They even had a team of welch ponies that pulled us around in a wagon. These parties went all afternoon and into the darkness of dusk when Micky shot off some fireworks. It was a magical time for little kids.

In my later years on the farm we had teams of oxen. The first team, John and Thor were big white Holsteins. Dad would find someone to haul the oxen and we would load the wooden wheel wagon we restored onto an old trailer and head to Genola for the parade. After finishing that parade we would go to Pierz or Harding. It was great fun. Dad seemed to know everyone and delighted in the cajoling that happened all along the route. I remember Harding particularly well because of its short Main Street. We did the parade one way then turned around and went back through town the other direction. Another parade I remember was Pierz when we had four oxen on a manure spreader. Made the ox pie scooping very convenient!

July 4th was truly the high water mark for the summer. Yeah, there was still a lot of haying, grain shocking and threshing to do but nothing really to look forward to. (We tried not to think about the inevitable back to school thing).

On the 4th we should pause on this national day of independence to reflect on patriotism, country, freedom from colonial tyranny. We should remember to thank our forefathers for declaring independence, establishing a bill of rights and writing a constitution. We should recognize the countless generations of American veterans have fought to preserve this United States of America. If I see a flag waving, I wave back.

For me it is that special day that only comes once a year. It signals that summer is half over. It’s still a good reason to take a day off from baling hay. It’s a good reason to spend time with the cousins, to watch a parade with friends and neighbors. To feel the WOW of the rockets red glare as the bombs burst in the air.

P.s. Besides If not for Independence Day I might be sipping tea instead of coffee and I’m just not a tea guy.

Getting ready for a parade. My brothers Ron, Bill, Sister Gloria and myself posing on the oxen with Dad in the foreground.

Brothers Bill, Leo and Sister Iris posing with town cousins

More cousins. Notice the cute kid with the bow tie.