- As kids, we would check down the outhouse hole for snakes and spiders before sitting down
- We drank cow milk from our cow, then churned the cream into butter
- I rode my imaginary horse through the fields and climbed the hills in search of adventure
By Larry Whiteley
My early years were spent on grandma and grandpa’s farm.
If you needed to go to the bathroom you walked 20 yards down a path to a little building that was outside the house and had no deodorizer. Toilet paper was usually the pages of old Sears and Roebuck catalogs and you always checked down the hole for snakes and spiders before sitting down to do your duty.
Kerosene lanterns or candles lit the night because there was no electricity.
There was no TV or phones back then either.
Water came from a bucket we carried from the spring which also served as a refrigerator.
Hauling hay for the animals was done with a pitchfork and a horse-drawn wagon. We slopped hogs and butchered them ourselves, and hung them in the smokehouse.
Milking cows was done by hand with a bucket and a stool. We drank the milk and churned the cow cream into butter.
Chickens were raised for their meat and eggs. I can still remember grandma wringing a chicken’s neck and watching it flop around. I can still smell the aroma of wet feathers as they were dipped in a bucket of boiling water to help make the plucking of feathers a whole lot easier.
Grandma cooked on a wood-burning stove. Everything we ate was grown or made on the farm.
We hunted and fished, not for fun, but to survive.
Even at a young age my little single-shot .22 sometimes meant the difference between having a supper of squirrel or rabbit, or going hungry. A mess of bluegill caught with my cane pole and a worm was a special treat.
We picked wild fruits like blackberries and gooseberries and gathered nuts. There were no supermarkets or fancy restaurants in those days.
There was no depending on the government to take care of us. There were no food lines and handouts for those in need. We took care of ourselves and worked hard. We struggled, but we were proud of who we were, what we had and what we accomplished. It helped mold me into the person I became.
As a kid, besides hunting and fishing and working around the farm, my time was spent exploring the fields and forests. I climbed trees and rested in the comforting arms of their limbs, carved my initials in them and daydreamed.
I imagined Indians hiding behind them waiting to attack me, rode my imaginary horse through the fields and climbed the hills in search of adventure. I camped out under the stars on summer nights. I captured lightning bugs and put them in a Mason jar with holes in the lid. I can still see all that in my mind’s eye and feel them in my heart. I am a writer today because of it.
As I got older, grandpa let me hunt turkeys and quail with his old shotgun. He even taught me how to use his old muzzleloader rifle so I could hunt what few deer were around back then.
Grandpa surprised me one year with an old baitcasting rod and reel he traded for with a neighbor. Along with it came a rusted metal tackle box with some funny looking lures and I became a “real” fisherman.
A love for God’s great outdoors was planted deep in my soul.
A lot of years have passed since my days of childhood and, yes, things have changed. I know my kids and grandkids have a hard time believing the stories I tell them of growing up on the farm. They don’t think anything about it when they flip a switch and a light comes on, or turn a handle and water comes out. They sure don’t think about it when they flush a toilet but I do!
I sit at my desk writing this on a computer that corrects my spelling and grammar. It stores all the articles I write, helps me do research, sends and receives messages and I could keep going on because the list is endless.
My thoughts are interrupted by the morning news on the TV in my office. I have it on, not to watch all the bad news, but to check the weather forecast for an upcoming hunting trip with my son. I grab the remote and click the off button. If I want to know the weather, I can find that out on my computer or my “smart” phone without listening to negative news and commercials.
Out in my garage and barn is all the latest and greatest hunting, fishing and camping “stuff”. We have a bass boat with the newest electronics that do everything but hook the fish. There’s a duck boat, ATVs and a 4-wheel drive truck to haul it all. My grandpa wouldn’t believe how things have changed.
I sit back in my chair for a moment and see memories on every wall. Fish, ducks, deer and turkey fans from some of my outdoor adventures. Antique outdoor equipment is also scattered about the room. Grandpa’s old rusted muzzleloader sits in a corner and so does his old fishing rod and tackle box. His old shotgun is in the gun safe next to my single-shot .22 rifle.
On all the walls are pictures of kids and grandkids. Most of them are of their first fish or deer, and times spent together with them in the outdoors.
Among all the pictures and directly in front of me, as I look up from writing, is an old picture of grandpa and grandma’s farmhouse where I grew up and where I was born on a Christmas Day. There weren’t many hospitals back then either.
Some folks might say grandma and I have spoiled our kids and grandkids. We have helped make sure they had the latest in electronics, clothing and anything else they needed for today’s world. We have helped with vehicles and assisted with college. They have all the latest in outdoor gear. We don’t call it spoiling though, we call it making investments in the lives of good kids. They work, they get good grades and the kids are not into some of the bad things a lot of kids are doing today. We tell them we wouldn’t be doing what we do for them if they weren’t good kids.
Most of our investments though are re-lived in the pictures on the walls. In case you don’t know it, kids spell love with these letters: T.I.M.E. We gave them plenty of that too and still do. Our time investment has been taking them on lots of outdoor adventures throughout their lives. I have no doubt they will be doing the same with their kids and grandkids.
My grandpa invested in me too. He gave me as much time as he could while trying to survive on that old farm. Maybe our grandkids will have fond memories of us like I have fond memories of my grandma and grandpa from a time long ago, back when things were a whole lot different than they are today.
Things certainly have changed, but time investment in kids’ is still the most important thing you can do to make a difference in their lives.