By Rick Houser –
If you have read many of my columns, I’m more than positive that you are well aware that many of my topics revolve around things that took place in my younger days. I was born and raised on a family farm in the 1950’s and 60’s and into the 70’s. The topics are usually familiar to all, even though they happened in a different time in my life.
In my youth I wanted to be as successful a farmer as could be for that time. I can say today with confidence that in many ways I succeeded. When you grow up on a farm and are living rural what else would I have wanted to be? An astronaut? I would give my Dad my undivided attention. In those days I didn’t know of a better example to follow than my Dad. I mean the men in the neighborhood would continually tell me how good my Dad was, so after a while I stopped thinking about it and began believing he was that good.
Along with the desire to be a farmer was the idea of being a good hand on the farm. I don’t mean just our farm but anyone’s farm I was working on. I grew up too fast and by the eighth grade I was at my adult height and weighed about 150 pounds.
When you work out on a farm, it is very much like going to a gym to work out. I don’t recall a day that I didn’t lift something. It might have been hay or straw bales. We always had to feed the livestock and to do so we carried burlap bags of ground corn. In the spring we were always handling bags of fertilizer. The lifting was endless, so as time passed I developed my muscle tone and by high school I was about as strong as anybody my age and maybe many of the grown men in town.
I know I was always taking challenges to see if I could out lift the others and in some cases I lifted on a bet so I would have some pocket money. It always sounded so cool for someone to challenge me.
But along with this part of life were the different chores we had to do. I got to where I could bale hay all day and into the night. We raised a lot of tobacco and when it came housing time I tried to cut as fast as any hand and I took my place up in the barn, straddled out on the tier rails hanging the tobacco and sweating to beat the band. Sweating was a farmer’s companion, and no matter how hot or cold it was we still worked and poured the sweat.
I know what you are thinking at this moment. You are thinking, “My goodness. he sure does brag a lot.” Maybe I do go on a lot about those days and what I did. The main thing is that we all did these chores and carried out those jobs. Whether you were the farmer or the hired hand. you would sweat as much as the others. In those days we all gave the farmer who employed us a fair day’s labor for a fair day’s wages.
But here is where I am going to change my view. In my youth, I worked long and hard. It didn’t seem to matter just how long or how strenuous the work took, we did it and I must admit that other than some sore muscles, I felt more like the Energizer Bunny. We just kept going and going and going, but in the past years I have noticed quite the contrary.
These days my joints ache and lately even more so when the weather changes. My legs don’t feel near as strong, I get winded at times and my feet will ache more often. Yep, it seems that the body that carried me through all the years of my youth is now letting me know I am not a spring chicken anymore. I doubt it is only me but I’m going to guess that my neighbors and cousins that shared those days of endless labor might have a stiff joint or two also.
Frankly this is one of the most basic reasons that I write about my youth. You see I can still visualize them in my mind’s eye. Since I can’t go back and accomplish those jobs from back then, I can at least remember that I sure as the world did accomplish them and I can remember the details that went with those days. To me if I can recall the times of the past, I will always have that time locked in my mind where I can reach out and access it if I so desire.
It wasn’t just what I did, but who I did it with. Most days it was my cousin Walt and my neighbors Herb and Charlie Marshall. For several years we were the main spark for the labor force down on Fruit Ridge Road and we approached the jobs with concern and conviction that the job must be done timely and nicely. Working beside these guys just enhances my memories even more.
This is where I have come to this point and that is asking myself “Just where did the years go?” I have a full memory bank, but how did it all go so fast? I am not rocking chair age yet, and I am still working. The thing is I walk slower. I think a little slower and more times than not I’m thinking back to my past. I am not as nimble or agile anymore either. My guess is if I told my grandchildren that I used to work so hard, they probably would look at each other and say, “Yeah sure, he did, in his mind he did”, and then wink.
I’m still young enough to think and I am still pretty good at that, but that is so much easier when you have good things to remember.
Rick Houser grew up on a farm near Moscow in Clermont County and loves to share stories about his youth and other topics. If you wish to read more of his writing he has two books out. “There are Places to Remember” and “Memories are From the Heart”, He may be reached at email@example.com.