Daddy and his helpers make a great team


“I can think of one thing that a good farmer will always do right, and that is to build and maintain proper fence to keep his animals at home. It is not a fun job on a farm, but an enormously important one. If it is done right and checked often, and the lush pasture maintained, it will pay dividends many times over.”

– Louis Bromfield, 1956

Finishing up breakfast in the late spring or early summer, it wasn’t unusual to find out what was in store for us that day as our dad carried his plate to the kitchen sink.

He had spent the early morning hours scouting out the fields and pastures as he always did, rain or shine, and he’d enjoyed his bacon and eggs, toast with lots of real butter, quietly.

Here’s the plan. He was thinking of the game plan for the day ahead. When the dishes clinked into the sink, it was our cue to listen up. The coach was about to go over the game plan.

Several times a year, that game plan included this opening statement, “Girls, we are going to have a fence fixin’ party! Get your boots on and follow me!”

We knew better than to grumble or growl. It didn’t do one bit of good. People who visited our place always commented on what willing workers we all were. It was a matter of simply knowing that there was lots of work to be done, and we never argued about it.

The fence fixing party usually was prompted by a leaning fence post that our observant dad had spotted. We headed for the errant post first, likely knocked out of its straight alignment by a rambunctious heifer.

Helpers. Each of us carried the supplies that Dad had assigned to us – a sledgehammer, wire, wire cutters, a sickle or a scythe or a new post. After we’d watched and helped with the repair project, Dad would let us in on the rest of the plan.

It was time to walk the whole pasture, checking for any possible problems in the making – leaning posts, weeds that had grown too close to the electric fence, wire that was either too taut or too loose.

He was usually on his way to check the hay fields or the wheat fields so that he could get our afternoon “party” planned.

We would set off across that seemingly endless pasture, two girls heading one direction, two girls heading another, our supplies in tow. If we came to something we couldn’t straighten or fix ourselves, we were to be responsible for remembering where that was so we could direct Dad to it later when he checked back with us.

Bug bites. We didn’t have bug spray or sunblock, and the buzzing, biting bugs and the beating sun could be relentless. We just worked through it, knowing what we were doing was important.

Our cattle rarely got out, and this was why. Our dad took great care and great pride in his sturdy electric fence. The fence-fixing supplies got heavier as our walk around that big pasture grew long and tedious. When the four of us met up at the end, we would compare notes on who had the hardest repair job.

Dad’s pick-up truck would wheel into the barn bank and he would quite often have some great news for his pink-cheeked crew.

“Let’s go eat some lunch, and by the time we’re done eating, the hay is going to be dry enough to bale!”

More to do. One thing we learned beyond a doubt: On a dairy farm, the fun just keeps on coming!


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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, and three grandchildren.