This is the real farmer’s daughter


“I was haulin’ hay, I was feedin’ the hogs and that summer sun had me sweatin’ like a dog. So I cooled off in the creek, then it was back to work in the dad-gum heat. I was cussin’ out loud, thinkin’ bout quittin’. Lookin’ back now I’m sure glad I didn’t. Cause just when I thought it couldn’t get no hotter I caught a glimpse of the farmer’s daughter.”

— lyrics to “The Farmer’s Daughter”
by Rodney Atkins

A big, busy farm is a great place on which to grow up. Consider yourself doubly blessed if that farm sits in the middle of a friendly farming community where strapping, healthy kids were constantly looking for work.

I grew up feeling as though I had been lucky enough to be born in to a family of big sisters who looked out for me and kept me in line, and equally fortunate to have hired hands who came to seem like big brothers.

With four daughters born over seven years, it is a vast understatement to say that my father was a wee bit protective, but he certainly didn’t keep us under a glass bubble. I laughed out loud the first time I heard the new hit song by Rodney Atkins, thinking how far off this Hollywood version of the farmer’s daughter always proves to be.

Wrong image

The polished-up story of the farmer’s daughter shows a beautiful young woman, long hair blowing softly in the breeze, leaning against a pretty farm fence. To add to the fable, she is dressed in bright white, smiling in the face of a gorgeous day filled with a new handsome man.

No matter if it is a song or a movie telling it, the story paints a picture of a pretty girl doing nothing but breathing and looking gorgeous.

That’s not the way it was on our farm.

Working hard

Not a single day went by that we weren’t right out there working just as hard as the men. It sort of takes the zip out of a possible romance when your hair smells like corn silage and your boots spent an hour sorting feeder pigs in the hog lot.

Hollywood leaves out the swarm of nasty flies attracted to sweaty skin. Add in a few hundred mosquito bites from a morning spent walking the dairy farm fence, and you get the lovely picture.

I remember baling hay with the hale and hearty Hoover boys, all of whom were well over 6 foot tall, and then heading to the house for a meal. We sometimes had eating contests with these lumberjacks, which I might point out most Hollywood stories most definitely do not include.

Imagine, if you can stand to, milking cows in the pre-dawn hours, then rushing to get ready for school.

One bathroom. We had one bathroom in our old farm house, and a strict schedule was posted for showering. I shudder to think how quickly we were forced to shampoo our long, straight hair, and I still find myself hoping we didn’t carry the fragrance of the farm off to school with us.

As my older sisters flew the nest, one of our hired hands would join me to milk the cows in the morning, then he would pick me up for school. As I climbed in to his car on one particularly tough day in which we’d had several first-calf heifers to break, we both knew we were running late.

“Please tell me if I smell like the milking parlor,” I said as we headed for school.

“How would I know? We both probably stink!” was his off-handed answer.

Oh, boy, there is a subtle hint of romance in that answer, eh? The boys who worked alongside us really were just like big brothers, and remain so to this day.


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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.



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