I bought a box full of old farm papers and magazines almost a year ago and the other day I finally got around to rummaging through them.
In the lot were half a dozen copies of The Michigan Farmer from 1938, ’39 and ’40, each of which carries one of my favorite features, The Song of the Lazy Farmer.
I’ve never been able to ascertain who authored the little verses that appeared in many similar farm papers from the late 1930s well into the 1950s.
They were written from the point of view of a less than energetic farmer who preferred commenting on the passing scene, eating, fishing, hunting or just napping in the shade, to actual farm work.
His wife “Mirandy,” who had to pick up the slack when he goofed off, continually prodded him to get busy but he usually found a way to escape, most of the work — at least to hear him tell it.
Here are a couple of those long lost rhymes and, though sometimes it’s a little difficult to pick up the rhythm, if you succeed the rhyming pops out at you:
The first is from Sept. 24, 1938 (The Chinese and Japanese were engaged in bloody fighting on the Chinese mainland, while the Spanish Revolution that brought Francisco Franco to power, with the help of Hitler and Mussolini, was in full swing).
Along about this time in fall I can’t think ‘bout a thing at all but punkin pie, it seems to me the world is safe as long as we keep on a-raisin’, year by year, a punkin crop; there ain’t no fear of revolution bye and bye if folks is filled with punkin pie.
A piece of pie that’s oven-hot will soothe your spirit, like as not; it fills your soul with love and peace, the smell alone will make you cease from talkin’ politics or war. There ain’t no room for trouble, for when you’ve filled up on punkin pie you understand the reason why a man can love his enemies, there ain’t no room for hate, gee whiz, in our insides, if we but dine on punkin pie, so brown and fine.
There ain’t no punkins in Japan, and if we want to work and plan to bring peace to the Orient, we sure could do it if we went and loaded up a ship and took a lot of punkins and a cook.
For when they smelled them punkin pies, them soldiers all would surely rise and leave the trenches and the gore while passin’ up their plates for more of that there pie, they couldn’t fight because their belts would be too tight. The Spaniards too would cease their row and sign a treaty up somehow if mellowed up with punkin pie, they wouldn’t want to fight and die.
They’d leave the army flat for fear, when pie time comes around next year, they’d not be here to git a piece, and so the fightin’ all would cease; good-will and peace should shroud the earth that gave the punkin fruit its birth!
Another from April 22, 1939:
When I was young my mother would in spring to keep me feelin’ good, just fill me up with sulphur and molasses, for you understand, it thins the blood and purifies and puts new brightness in your eyes. At least that’s what my mother said; it clears your liver and your head, and so I had to take the stuff, she never thought I had enough.
But now I’ve got a better plan, Mirandy stews up in a pan a mess of greens, ‘most anything can be made into greens in spring, they’re mighty tasty too, and so, you ought to see the way I go for greens, they may be only weeds, but they’re just what my system needs.
The livestock knows what’s good for it, they paw around and have a fit, at fences they will make a pass, they’re crazy for a taste of grass. The springtime sunshine puts a kick in grass that’s growin’ lush and thick, the vitamins or carotin or such that Nature has put in to that there grass is just the thing to fill them full of zip in spring.
Us people too need stuff like that to help rid us of winter’s fat, in fall I don’t mind pork and beans, but now all I want is greens. It beats all how them greens take holt, they make me frisky as a colt, they lubricate each joint and bone until I doubt if they’re my own; the biggest thing that springtime means, to me is fillin’ up on greens.
When I was a kid we ate lots of dandelion greens in the spring. We had a huge supply of dandelion plants and Mom would pick and wash the leaves when they were young and tender.
Then she’d fry up some bacon ,nice and crisp, and drain and crumble it, mix vinegar and sugar and the bacon bits into the hot bacon grease, and then pour the hot concoction over the greens, wilting them just before putting them on the table. That was good! She’d fix young leaf lettuce from the garden the same way.