Sometimes I miss the green acres
As the line from the theme song from Green Acres goes … “Farm living is the life for me.”
Over the years, I’ve made no secret of the fact that there’s no place in the world I’d rather have grown up than a farm. This time of year always takes my mind back to those years living on the family farm.
There’s just something about springtime on the farm. Okay, so the thawing manure piles are not so pleasant, but once you get past that it’s pretty great. You just can’t beat the fresh grass, the blooming crocus flowers, the sight of the baby calves frolicking in the meadow with tails in the air, kicking up their heels.
The lessons that I learned from my parents living and working on the family farm will be with me forever.
One of the most valuable things I learned growing up with my brother on my parents’ farm is the value of hard work. We knew a job had to get done for the good of the family business, and we did it whether we liked it or not. Whether it was pitching bales onto a trailer in 90 degree heat or bedding down the livestock with those same bales when it was minus 30 degrees, we enjoyed the satisfaction at the end of a hard day’s work.
Working alongside my family made it all bearable. I recall my dad’s famous saying, “A family that picks rock together stays together.” Even though I probably rolled my eyes in disgust as a teenager, I’ve come to realize that he had a good point. Our parents led by example, working right alongside us and not simply telling us what to do. Our parents didn’t have to threaten us in order to get us to work. We did it because we were taught to pitch in and pull our own weight. If nothing else, Dad reminded us that we had to earn our room and board. We weren’t simply entitled.
Some of my best memories with my dad are the ones spent out in the barn trying to help a mama pig safely bring her litter into the world. Or if it got too late, I’d await the count of the new additions when Dad woke me in the morning.
Of course, it wasn’t perfect blue skies and dandelion meadows all the time. Farm life was, and is, tough. Machinery broke down, tempers flared, droughts ravaged and weather wreaked havoc.
We learned about life and death. No matter how many times you checked on them, even if you spent hours rigging up heat lamps or brought a sick calf inside to the warmth and safety of your own bathtub – sometimes, no matter how hard you tried, you couldn’t save every animal.
Earlier this month, I went over to Ely Elementary to take a photo of a farm safety presentation conducted by a local farmer’s wife. She did a great job, but I couldn’t help but wonder what the kids were thinking as I watched the fifth graders take in the information about living and working on a farm. Most were looking on with eyes glazed over. I realize that might be typical fifth grade behavior, but as I watched them, it dawned on me just how few of those kids live on a farm or are even exposed to farm life. I wondered if the few farm kids in the bunch will someday realize just how lucky they are.
Times have certainly changed, and farm families are the minority by far. It saddens me to think that so many children won’t have the privilege of living on a farm. So few will learn the value of a hard day’s work by picking rocks or hoisting hay bales. Very few will ever experience springtime on a farm.
Although I don’t see myself ever living on a farm again, I’m thankful for the lessons I learned there as a child. It’s just too bad my children won’t be able to do the same.
Though my dad passed away more than 15 years ago now, and we don’t get back to the family farm but once every couple of years, I can’t help but hearken back to those days, especially in the spring.
Even though I occasionally miss farm living, I don’t see myself ever going back. I’m also an admitted shop-aholic and would never say goodbye to city life. I guess those other famous lyrics from the Green Acres theme song fit me much better these days, “Dah-ling I love you, but give me Park Avenue.”
Mullally is a Tribune writer.