This farm style stood the test of time

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Just this past week, a friend and I got to talking about how certain traditions have been handed down, some by family, others through the law of life’s essentials.

Last Sunday we were blessed to be a part of the christening of the newest baby in the family. Autumn’s beautiful, traditional christening gown prompted thoughts of how wonderful it is that some things remain.

My husband and I sat with Autumn’s great-grandmother, Beulah Harpster, during the baptismal service. She once wrote about something along these lines, focusing on how denim has become a part of our world, which was not always the case.

When she was given a pair of tiny ‘overalls’ for her firstborn baby son 65 years ago, she thought they were darling, as every baby was dressed in pastels at that time. Beulah decided to have her baby’s photograph taken wearing those tiny denim overalls.

Her mother was not very excited with this, saying, “Oh, why did you put those dark overalls on him, he is just a baby and he has all his life to wear overalls, but he does look sweet.”

She wrote of how her three sons and her husband all wore denim every day while working their dairy and crop farm.

“Just imagine how many knee holes there were to patch! I must confess I didn’t patch very many. My mother-in-law took pity on me and would do the mending while watching television.”

Which prompted the thought of just how this one simple staple — denim fabric — came to be. Initially considered the uniform of dairy farmers, ranchers and other hard-working handy men, the blue jean has gone through many transformations. Even the names have changed over the years, being called everything from overalls to dungarees to work britches to denims to blue jeans to just simply, jeans.

Beulah recalled how new denim overalls were stiff as boards when new, and how difficult it was to put them through the wringer washer.

“When I got my automatic washer, I thought heaven had come down to me and I still thank God often when I use it.”

She writes of finding screws, bolts, nuts, nails, pocket knives and “half the farm” in the pockets of those jeans on washing day. Nearly every old black and white school picture taken shows children in their dress clothes, with all the girls in dresses, as denim was initially considered work clothing only. But more candid photos often show boys and men in jeans that were cuffed, and often a very wide cuff, folded to the appropriate length.

Today, every man, woman and child I know would have a hard time getting dressed throughout a week’s time without several pairs of jeans, the sturdy farm uniform that has stood the test of time.

About the Author

Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, in college. More Stories by Judith Sutherland

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