VACATIONS ON MY GRANDPARENT’S FARM
I’d take my little brother for a bumpy ride
in Grandma’s antique doll carriage
past all the orange tiger lilies
that lined the long dirt lane
open on both sides.
We’d stop at the field
full of black raspberries
and eat our fill.
Then, we’d visit Pearl and Ammon,
the old couple who lived
at the end of the lane.
I got a kick out of how the chickens
were free to roam in and out
of their kitchen all day,
and how, as Pearl’s cotton dresses
would get worn out,
they’d become aprons
and, later, dust rags.
At night, Mommy would carry a kerosene lamp
to walk us up to bed
and tuck us in.
With no electricity,
everybody would go to bed early.
Whenever I woke up early enough,
I liked to watch Grandma brush her hair
before putting it back into a bun.
I was fascinated at the way it was so long,
it came to her knees,
and how the bottom foot of it
was red instead of gray.
As a teenager, I was expected to be helpful.
As a girl, that meant helping with meals
and all those dishes to be washed
after three big, hot meals every day.
It was much more fun to go work
in the fields with Daddy and my uncles.
I’d get stuck with kitchen work
soon enough, when my brother
was old enough to be a help
instead of a hinderance.
I loved standing, balanced,
on the flat-bed wagon,
pulled by the hay baler,
which was pulled by the tractor.
Using a big hook, I’d grab each hay bale
as it came up the chute from the baker
and stack it behind me.
I’ll never forget how horribly itchy
hay dust is on sweaty skin.
There was no bathroom on the farm,
just the outhouse and the pump
for filling buckets of water for washing
when a shower
would’ve been so much easier.
Grandpa’s brother, Uncle Clarence,
had the farm next door.
After Aunt Maggie died,
he bought an old school bus,
had it towed to his farm,
moved into it
and rented out the house.
A friend of the family, Fred,
Sometimes we’d visit him.
There was a little brook to cross,
but the bridge was long gone,
so everybody just drove through the water
and up to his house.
After heavy rains,
he just didn’t leave
or get any company.
The front steps were gone also.
Instead of replacing them,
he just dumped shake in a pile
and built a little hill
slanting up to the porch.
Once, when Grandma was feeding the pigs,
one charged at her
as if he was going to run between her legs,
but her longish dress got in the way,
and she was thrown onto his back,
so she had a little ride,
but she was riding backwards.
While at the farm, the big treat
was when one of my uncles
would drive into the town in the evening
and come back with ice cream.
We’d all sit around the big kitchen table
and enjoy eating it in the glow
of a kerosene lamp.
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