“In the afternoon, having baked a batch of sour cream cookies, I took some and a jug of ice water back to the north side of the farm, where Dick was harrowing corn, and in the adjoining field Ralph Lewis was mowing hay. Rose went along. A faint continuous thunder came down from jet planes too high in the sky to be seen, and the harsher sound of real thunder sounded nearer, in the west. When I reached the cornfield, Ralph and Dick had stopped working and were trying to decide whether to mow more hay and risk getting it all wet before it cured, or to stop and bale what was already cured. Rose and I voted for waiting; in the meantime, we all ate cookies.” – by Rachel Peden, “Rural Free”, 1961
There is nothing quite like a June afternoon on a farm in the heartland of America.
The frantic pace of spring planting behind them, a farm family can enjoy the warm and welcoming sunshine, the freedom from demands of daily school, that blank slate pleasure of summer in which nothing else in life can quite compare. But, there is always, always work.
June brings the first round of summer’s hay crop, and it is no small task no matter what the size of the farm.
The radio seemed to be a member of our family through the summer months, the weather forecast reason enough to hush, no matter what great story a fellow might be in the midst of telling.
I grew up knowing that such things as dew points and humidity percentages were important things to tune in to.
When the meteorologist intoned, “chance of rain,” we knew that alone could change an entire day, an entire week.
No plans were ever cast in stone on a dairy farm, but especially not in the months of June, July and August.
If we learned nothing else, we learned to be flexible.
Hard work. June meant hard work, but it also meant a bit of a party atmosphere with extra people around and lots of good food at the dinner table.
We had a round table with a big lazy susan custom built to fit in the middle of it where we placed all the serving dishes.
The more hungry people around that table, the more that lazy susan spun around.
One ornery hired hand was known for quietly putting the brakes on with the use of a firm hand, so no one else could spin that round center until he got his fill of mashed potatoes or swiss steak or strawberry shortcake.
After the lunch had a chance to settle, there was either a little time for a bike ride or a dip in the pond or, if the humidity was low and the dew point overnight hadn’t been too high, it might mean heading right for the field and the hay mow.
Little pleasures. And in the middle of a June afternoon, there is nothing quite so refreshing as a drink of crisp, cold water from a jug after unloading a big wagon filled with hay.
And at the end of the day, when the afternoon milking was done, there was nothing quite like perfecting a swan dive in to the pond, or working on increasing one’s underwater somersault numbers without coming up for air.
I remember toweling off, then chasing lightning bugs across an open field while the mosquitos chased us.
Nothing tasted quite so good as a marshmallow roasted to gooey perfection over a fire as the end-of-the-day dessert.
Hard work, simple pleasures. Nothing beats a June afternoon.
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