Judith Sutherland: Papa was a farmer


“She would gather the eggs in her apron, studying each one, deciding whether this one was a keeper egg or one she would take to town to sell for pennies. Her husband, fortunately, was blessed with the patience of Job, remaining quiet as his wife pinched a nickel until it turned in to a dime.”
— Brenda Meckler
“Papa Was A Farmer”

(Part I)

(See Part II)

Charlie was the only great-grandparent I ever knew. His wife had died in the year before my birth, but the stories of Anna Chloe live on.

Born in 1884, Charlie carried the experience of a lifetime of farming, and he loved plowing and planting with his team of horses.

Didn’t want tractors

When tractors came along, he wanted nothing to do with them. He knew how his horses would perform, and those crazy machines just couldn’t be trusted to ‘gee’ and ‘haw’ when he turned the steering wheel.

Most of the neighbors believed it was because Anna Chloe wouldn’t spare a dime for her husband to put fuel in a tractor that would cost way too much money to buy, when the horses were already being fed and housed. Charlie loved his horses, so they weren’t for sale at any price.

When the harvest was completed, Anna grumbled that those horses were still going to keep right on eating, even though they essentially weren’t earning their keep until the spring work started up again. This, of course, was back in the years when every farmer saved out his best harvest for seed the following year.

One day, Anna Chloe came upon this seed in the granary of the barn and nearly expired from the thought of money being frittered away, wondering why in the world Charlie didn’t sell the entire crop for cash.

“I do believe the rafters of that old barn were lifted by the shout she let out!” Charlie said with an ornery grin.

Waste not

She saved everything, including gift wrapping paper, ironing it to be used again. She lit a lantern only if it was absolutely necessary to see to do fine work, otherwise sitting out on the porch where light was free. She held on to every fabric scrap, finding a use for it.

Every meal, made from scratch, provided potential leftovers to be stirred up in to a new dish. Her egg money somehow stretched mightily in her hands, and she could cook and bake circles around the finest chef.

Long after neighbors had electricity, this couple relied on a windmill to power their place.

Of good stock

Charlie first met Anna when his brother Frank landed a job on the Fry farm in 1905. Anna was one of 10 children, and learned to cook by helping her German-born mother prepare large meals.

Using the guise of checking on his brother, Charlie kept his eye on one of the impressive Fry girls. The two were married in September 1906, after Charlie received the blessing of the bride’s father and immediately took his horse and buggy to get the marriage license.

Tough row

Their early years were financially challenging, as Charlie continued to help his widowed mother raise her younger sons on her own farm. Perhaps it was this that soured Anna on ever owning a farm of their own, but for years Anna and Charlie repeatedly moved from rental farms and homes when a buyer came along for the one they temporarily called home.

Eventually they landed on a 200-acre place with a big house in a welcoming community, and Charlie enjoyed growing corn, wheat, oats and hay. He kept cows, steers and lambs in two large barns, while Anna raised chickens and sold eggs for household money.

My father’s memories of this grandmother was of a hard-working, determined woman who rarely smiled, though she was married to the most jovial man in the community. Perhaps that is what made it work, as the two made a successful team and raised three children, one being my father’s mom, Helen.


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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.


  1. The poster might want to read Brenda Meckler’s “Papa was a Farmer”, mostly set in rural Ohio in the very early 20th Century (C.E.).

  2. Sorry, I meant to say that the readers of this piece might want to read that book, from which the poster quotes at the top of the article.

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