As summer winds toward fall, this has been a year constantly ahead of itself, it seems. We awoke Aug. 15 to a chilly 47 degrees here on our farm, and it felt as though we had slept through to late September.
It prompted memories of school days. When we were kids, I envied my school friends who lived in town, enjoying summer days of complete freedom, riding their bikes, organizing their own daily fun, getting to walk to the little market in the village for a Popsicle.
We constantly stayed busy on the dairy farm, catching up on the many chores that always needed doing.
One of the worst jobs, in my memory, anyway, was scrubbing the back wall of the milking parlor. It had to be kept as clean as possible so if the milk inspector made a surprise visit (and it was always a surprise… not a happy one) that wouldn’t be an instant mark against us.
This type of work required elbow grease, in the years pre-dating anyone owning a power washer. It was hot, hard, unsatisfying work. I usually was teamed up with one of my sisters and we would try to find a way to make it a fun contest, a harsh scrub brush and soapy water.
Then it was on to stone picking in the open fields, or weed patrol in the fenced-in pastures. We were to walk the pastures with the fence checker, making sure there was power to all points around the enormous dairy pasture. One of us carried a sickle and whacked at weeds that threatened to take over if given half a chance.
What I remember from those working days is the unrelenting sun, and my dark-haired sister turning brown as a berry while my fair skin turned pink to red and a crop of freckles grew on the bridge of my nose.
When the calendar told us it was time to prepare to go back to school, it meant a bit of a break from these extra chores and baling hay and straw, but the twice daily milking still needed to be done.
We found ourselves working out a very detailed, minute-to-minute schedule, as there were four of us girls and one bathroom, and not nearly enough time between morning milking and jumping on the crowded school bus. As the youngest of the four, I learned to wait my turn and keep it simple. To this day, I can be ready to walk out the door in short order, and I feel certain it was learned way back then.
For me, hand-me-downs were something I looked forward to, as I grew in to some of my sisters’ favorite clothes.
One year, realizing I needed a couple of new dresses, my mother ordered a “mystery pack” from Montgomery Ward, stipulating only my size. I waited like it was Christmas.
The day the package arrived, I opened a two-pack of dresses in my size, one a blue-stripe shirtwaist dress with buttons, the other a red jumper. They were brand new, never worn, and they were all mine.
I thought I had hit the jackpot.