Imaginations keep farm kids busy


“Some days, we would simply walk the fields and stroll the woods just for enjoyment. It seemed we didn’t really need a good reason, but sometimes we would offer to check the north fence or insist upon checking to see if the latest storm knocked any trees about in the back woods.
“My sister commanded we stop by the little private cemetery on our father’s farm, enclosed with tiny picket fence. And we would walk and walk and walk in that incredible heat of summer until it was time to get back to the barn for the evening chores.
“Maybe, I am thinking now, we were a little bit touched in the head.”
– Millie Vaneer, Those Olden Days, copyright 1942

There is an entire section in the local public library with books offering tips for parents to entertain their children. Row after row of books touch on such subjects as wonderfully creative arts and crafts, hiking, camping, star-gazing and many such topics.
The bottom line is to keep children from boredom, and to introduce them to creative fun.
No need for them. I don’t know if such books existed for parents when I was a kid. We barely had time to go to the library, and when we did make it there, it felt like a wonderful event, but like every other event, it was rushed.
We were constantly watching the clock, it seemed, in order to get home in time for the next milking and all the other chores that went along with it. Turns out, we never needed those books.
There were days that were wide open in between morning and evening milking. Early in the summer, before first crop was quite ready, or when the hay was still drying in the field, or when second crop was finally all put up and third crop wasn’t quite ready yet. Those were the days of magical consequence.
Making it happen. Those were the days that we could make almost anything happen. We knew the concept of creative fun long before anyone seemed to realize the importance of this on the human psyche.
On our way to the woods, or the hay mow, if it happened to be a rainy day, we would gather our game plan.
Today, we will be cowboys. No, no, we were cowboys last time. Let’s be explorers who just arrived in this foreign land. Pretend you have never, ever seen any of this – everything is brand new and completely unknown.
New days. There were days that we gathered at the tree house, pretending that we were hobos running away from a life of petty crimes. We were hungry and shiftless and in search of a railroad car in which to steal away to a new life.
There were times that we wandered the newly-worked fields, searching for arrowheads and flint. I never seemed to have the eye for arrowheads, or perhaps I lacked the patience of keeping my head to the ground, preferring to keep my head in the clouds.
But, a decent find of a perfect arrowhead was enough to keep us playing the role of the Native American family for a good long stretch of time.
Imagination at work. We were hiding from the cowboys, darting behind trees or taking cover in a fence row. The “enemy” could be something as simple as a barn cat that magically turned in to a panther of monstrous proportions. The passing neighbor might be the FBI coming to haul us away.
Our senses were all heightened, and we could turn any little thing in to a big part of our drama. Until the ticking of the clock ended the day’s theatrical production. It was time to milk the cows.
Or, if we were feeling especially dramatic, those cows turned in to circus animals needing to be led to the Big Top. The show must go on!


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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.