You have to live farm life to know it

“My best friend was Julie Newman, a little red-haired girl. Her parents, Big Dave and Debbie, owned the gas station next to our house, and also the car wash (which sometimes worked and was sometimes frozen), farther down Charles Street, and a row of three apartments behind the hardware store. It was a little empire.

But their greatest piece of real estate by far was their 120-acre farm, which sat three miles or so outside Mooreland. Of all the places in the wide world, Julie’s farm was my favorite place, and I learned some very shocking things about life there.”

-from A Girl Named Zippy by Haven Kimmel



I ran in to an old girlfriend a few weeks ago, and we sat down and talked for awhile.

She said that as long as she lives she will never forget staying overnight with me and insisting that we get her up to go out and do the morning milking and chores with us.

“You said to me, ‘No, you don’t want to do that …’ and I just insisted, like a fool, over and over that I wanted to. Ugh. One morning of it and I thought I was going to die. How in the world did you all DO it?” she asked me with sincerity.

My son happened to be with me that day, and he chuckled at the memories my childhood friend and I kicked around.

When she pointed out to Cort that this very early morning start was seven days a week, 365 days a year, in all kinds of weather, whether we felt well or not, he said, “It really is hard to imagine.”

Had to ‘be there.’ And I think that most people really can’t imagine it unless they’ve lived it.

It’s so interesting to me that especially those who grew up on a dairy farm have their own set of memories, including their own vocabulary no one else would be able to interpret.

Little things, like a “strip cup” and a “dip cup” and “junker milk” and “kicker” – these were all things that made up our terminology.

I think one thing that helped us survive a childhood on a farm was our ability to truly care about the animals that made up our world.

Saving the world, one runt at a time. My sisters, Sher and Deb, were determined to save runt piglets that came along in our farrowing pens, and they shared the hard work, determination and the subsequent heartbreak of one runt after another proving that Dad was right when he said they almost never make it.

Haven Kimmel touches on this subject in her humorous autobiography.

“For instance, when pigs were born, the runt of the litter was almost always just straightaway thrown on the dead baby pig pile, since it was bound to die anyway. This was a practice I had protested so often and so loudly that one day Big Dave allowed Julie and me to take a runt into the house to try to raise it.”

Big plans. Kimmel elaborates, “We decided to name him Sam. We had many plans for him. We were going to enter him in the Mooreland Fair Parade on Kiddie Day in the Pets category, with maybe a ruffle around his neck.

“We were going to teach him to give us rides on his back. We were going to build him an apartment house out of cardboard boxes and keep him with us forever, all the way up till the time Julie and I bought our own farm, where he would be installed as the Main Pig.”

That little runt didn’t even make it a full 24 hours, but they sure got lots of enjoyment out of that cute little fella during that hopeful stretch of time.

“There is hardly a thing in this world as perfectly cute as a baby pig, and even Julie, who was all business in the farrowing house, couldn’t help but rub its little snoot and admire its dark pink color,” Kimmel writes.

A Main Pig somewhere. My sister Deb is still determined to believe that the one runt they did manage to save is running around in someone’s back yard to this day, enjoying being Main Pig to a large family of adoring children.

I don’t have the heart to tell her that the limo that picked her pink pet up was actually a livestock truck headed to the Farmerstown Auction.

Don’t breathe a word …

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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