“And it never failed that during the dry years the people forgot about the rich years, and during the wet years they lost all memory of the dry years. It was always that way.” — John Steinbeck
Why is it that our human nature holds so little memory of such realities that make up our survival? With so much to be grateful for, it seems we grumble when we should be dancing a jig for all the goodness that comes our way.
It has been this way through all time. During an incredibly mild month of February in Ohio, I happened to overhear a woman grumbling because she had just heard it was going to turn cold.
Out of season
Winter coats had been replaced by spring jackets, with a few days so warm that people were out and about in short sleeves.
“You’ve got to be kidding me — it’s going to snow this weekend?” was the question that perked my ears. Well, yes. It is winter in Ohio, after all.
That particular February day of sunshine and 70 degrees was the rarity that defied all reason.
During a dry year, we were taught to pay extra close attention to water use in the house and on the farm, but conservation was a part of our daily lives no matter what. In my first job as a young adult, my boss was amazed that I didn’t have to be harped on to be conservative with supplies.
I had learned to squeeze every bit of goop out of any tube, to go easy on volume of any item to avoid waste going down the drain. It’s that way for any farm kid, and it’s one of the best life lessons to learn early on.
Not long ago I watched a young woman in my kitchen peel a brown egg under running water, with the faucet running as fast as it would go.
“Hey, let’s put a pan under that water so it’s not all going down the drain. … I keep thinking you’re gonna run the well dry!” I said, trying to put a lightness into my words.
“But water doesn’t cost anything out here in the boondocks, does it?” she asked with a bit of disdain in her voice. I bit my tongue. To make matters worse, she took two little bites of that lovely egg and threw the rest away.
She was raised in the city. Would you have already guessed that?
We were brought up with the realization that everything had a cost, even if it could not be figured in dollars and cents.
My dad taught us that kindness to the cows brought a much better return than showing your temper and getting the herd all riled up. Fresh water was necessary for the cows for best production, so we knew to keep buckets, tanks and troughs full.
Milk paid the bills which kept the farm growing which kept us all going. We didn’t expect excess, not even in the bountiful years, so we conserved what we had. We didn’t waste food.
Not long ago, a classmate I hadn’t seen in many years said she remembered me as the “sweet and spunky” dairy farm kid who couldn’t stand to see all the milk and food wasted in the grade school cafeteria.
Funny that those were the high points she recalled, but I’ll wear that with pride. My goal at that time was to become a missionary who could help get food, milk and water to every part of the world. I haven’t made it to that profession yet, but perhaps I’ve just been in training all these years.