To paraphrase Charlie Daniels, “I’m in a bind ’cause I’m way behind and I’m willing to make a deal,” or in my case, to plagiarize another, more gifted author. In many of the weekly farm papers of the mid-1950s was a regular feature called The Song of the Lazy Farmer, which was a short — usually two paragraphs — and humorous observation on the passing scene, as well as the author’s (who’s never identified by name) troubles with his wife Mirandy over his laziness.
I have in my collection of old farm-related literature a number of issues of the Ohio Farmer, a weekly paper published in Cleveland. During the 50s, the editor was Eldon Groves, who lived just east of Salem on Millville Hill and who was at one time editor of Farm and Dairy.
Anyway, my run of Ohio Farmer papers runs from 1949 through 1954 and I thought I’d treat you to a few of the Lazy Farmer stories and see if they bring back memories to the geezers out there (like me) and introduce his humor to the rest of you.
This first one, from the Nov. 17, 1951, issue is particularly apt, since it describes my present situation to a T:
“With winter here and lots of time to stay inside and write this rhyme, I planned to turn a brand-new leaf and work until I had a sheaf of these here ‘songs’ so thick there’d be enough to last ’til spring, by gee. I figured I would buckle down and thus remove the angry frown which editors wear when they must wait for stuff from me that’s always late.
I told myself no Christmas gift would give those boys a bigger lift than having a three-months supply of copy all set and laid by; besides I’m getting mighty tired of fearing that I might get fired.
“So I collected pen and ink and sat right down to try and think of half a dozen songs or more at which the customers might roar. I hadn’t more than just begun when neighbor showed up on the run: “Quick, grab your gun,” I heard him shout, “there’s pheasants thick as all get out!”
Two days of hunting, natur’ly, required that I rest up for three; by that time it had snowed a bit and rabbits could be tracked and hit. And so two weeks have slipped right by, two lines is all the stuff that I have writ, and once again this rhyme will reach the printer just in time.”
Another one about hunting from October of 1951:
“Mirandy can’t quite understand why I don’t hardly raise a hand to help around the place at all, and yet at hunting time each fall I’ll tramp and climb and grunt and strain until my back’s in awful pain. When I’ve worked myself to a nub and ask her if she’ll kindly rub my aching muscles, she will say: “How come you lay around all day in winter, spring and summer too, insisting that you cannot do a lick of work because you ail, and then come fall, you never fail to grab your gun and lose your head a’huntin’ ’till you’re almost dead?”
“My gosh, I’d think that anyone could see that hunting’s lots of fun; there’s nothing will pink up your cheeks and make you feel first-rate for weeks quite like forgetting ev’ry care while you gulp in the crisp fall air and get clear off where you’re alone, where you can feel the world’s your own.
“It is an old instinct of men, which still shows ev’ry now and then, that makes ’em want to match their wit with Mother Nature for a bit. Besides a man will always find more fun in things of any kind which he does of his own free choice instead of at his master’s voice.”
Finally, from December 19, 1953, is this little song in favor of Christmas advertisements:
“It wouldn’t make my neighbor mad if there were not a single ad in papers or in magazines, on radio or TV screens. He argues that he knows the score ’bout what to spend his money for; he says he doesn’t need advice about each piece of merchandise, and so he thinks it’s waste of space for ads to clutter up the place.
“On this point I do not agree, it always tickles me to see the wondrous things that are for sale and read each advertiser’s tale of how our lives would reach the peak with so much down and some each week. Especially now, with Christmas near, a feller gets a little cheer from seeing spots of friendliness amidst reports about the mess the world is in, ’cause just the news would give ‘most anyone the blues.
“To read what old Vishinsky said, you’d think good will toward men was dead, but then you see a gift display and know some friendship’s here to stay. The news reports all indicate there’s been no peace on earth of late, but then across the page you see a warmly lighted Christmas tree. Yes sir, while bad news takes up room we need those ads to pierce the gloom.”
It’s sad when one considers how little changed the world is some 60 years later — like Pete Seeger asks in his song, “When will they ever learn? When will they ever learn?” But however that may be found, I hope you enjoyed the Lazy Farmer’s little rhymes — too bad he’s not still around, to brighten up our modern times.