Saturday, May 29, 2010

Barnyard Hierarchy

Let's face it; someone has to be in charge of the barnyard. 

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Felling Trees

When you are seven years old, it’s normal behavior to question the concept of death. But, as a well cared for rural child with a happy temperament and lots of natural curl, you don’t entertain the reality of death or the dying process, until you have reason to.

Photo: Little Teresa, Dad (holding the baby sister) and little brother.

I think it was the autumn of my seventh year (although I cannot swear to it) my dad, my brother and I went to cut wood, in the woods, for our wood stove. I suspect my mother sent us off with my dad because she was expecting my sister and needed rest.

My first memory of that day was my brother and I as we hopped out of the pickup. We were going to cut wood just "over the hill" from our grandparent's farm. Immediately, Dad laid down the rules. We were told we had a certain area we could play in and were not to go any farther than the imaginary boundaries he had set in our minds. There was good reason to stay in our assigned area; he would be using a chainsaw felling trees.

Even though the rules had been set, I knew in my mind and to the very core of my seven-year-old soul that I had to keep an eye on my four-year-old brother. He wasn’t trustworthy- then. (Of course he is now and I’m not saying that because I’m sure he’s reading this.) We played. We watched the frantic squirrels gathering their winter’s store. They didn’t appreciate my brother and I collecting acorns- huge acorns. We played on a stump taking turns jumping on and off.

I heard the popping noise and turned to look at the tree that our dad had been cutting on. There was a snap and then a swoosh as the tree fell freely through the air. The next thing we saw, my brother and I, was the tree falling toward our dad and grazing his head. Then the tree fell and our dad fell nearly simultaneously.

On the ground, he lay bleeding. I remember it being from his head. My dad, my brother’s dad, our only dad lay lifeless, on the ground. The world seemed to stop. My brother and I were frozen. The birds weren’t singing. The squirrels had disappeared. The crisp breeze had stopped. The world was still and scary.

Through my fog, I heard the voice of my brother. “Daddy’s dead, Daddy’s dead.” He ran in circles around our dad's body. Around and around he ran screaming that our dad was dead.

I was the oldest and I had no idea what to do.

My four-year-old brother screeched to a stop and looked at me. “I’m going to drive the truck down to Grandpa’s and get help.” He ran for the pickup.

“No, you can’t.” I said running after him. I knew the keys were hanging in the ignition. “You don’t know how to drive.” Experience with my head strong brother told me I might have a difficult time stopping him.

Photo: My brother and I.

It had only been a few minutes since the tree had fallen when we heard our dad groan, saw him move a little, and sit up. He wasn’t dead after all and my brother wouldn’t need to drive the pickup to our grandparent’s house.

Rural Significance
When I was a child, there were things that a rural father would do to support his family that could be dangerous. Necessity would dictate that fathers go hunting, cut firewood, use farm machinery or work factory jobs to provide for their families.  But, sometimes accidents caused by these tasks would result in death.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

A Summertime Job for a Rural Girl

Most of the time as a rural teen my job was to play my guitar and be a free spirit. It was my 17th year, my summer before my senior year of high school, that I decided I wanted a job. That year, I had been given my 1965 Ford Mustang (see photo above of my car, my aunt on the left, and myself on the right) that needed gasoline to run. Moreover, I didn't want to burden my parents with the expenses of my final year in high school. I needed a job.

I found a job.

Well my dad actually told me about the job and probably talked to the owners for me, because suddenly I had a waitressing job at a small resort restaurant, in a state park, near where I lived. This was the same state park where my dad worked for many years. He KNEW people. I worked all kinds of shifts. Sometimes I worked the breakfast shift, but mostly dinner. I worked Sundays in the beginning, but later somehow finagled it where I rarely worked on a Sunday.

It was hard work for a rural princess, with manicured nails, to work as a waitress. But I persevered. Well, except I almost quit the first week. Here’s what happened.

I hadn’t been at the job too long when I came home and told my parents I was quitting. I hated smelling like a restaurant. I hated getting up early some mornings and working late evenings. I hated that some of the older waitresses didn’t like me because the lead waitress loved me. I had many valid stupid reasons why I needed wanted to quit something that was out of my comfort zone.  As I shared my woes, my dad sat quietly for a minute or two and then told me that he wanted me to give the job one more week. If I still hated it, then I could quit, but first I needed to give the job a fair shake. He told me he thought I would get use to it and enjoy the money after all was done.

He was right.

I did get use to it. And I did enjoy the money. Not the 50 cents an hour that I made, but the tips from the very generous steak eating fishermen. I made $500 that summer. That job helped me buy many of the things that others would buy for their senior year of high school, gas for the car, and clothes to wear.

Working at the state park was a good way to meet guys, if you liked smelly older fishermen with waders. Oh and then there was the rich young man - who was too old for me in spite of his youth. He was related to the owners of the restaurant. He would come to the park every weekend. And every weekend he would invite me to his room at the resort – also family owned- for a drink. "I have some good Scotch", he would say.  He was a repeat performer. He asked me the same thing every weekend that he stayed at the park.

And every weekend, I would politely tell him to take a long jump off the rural bridge just down the highway.

I learned that summer:

1. That fishermen are fine fellows.

2. To carry two platter dishes on one skinny arm.

3. To make shortcakes (pancakes).

And most importantly,  I learned -don't quit before you give something a real chance.  I even used this wisdom with my children over the years and with anyone else who hated their new situation.  I changed it a bit, I would say - give it a month and you will get use to it, if not then leave. Most of the time it works. Most of the time it's about adjustment. But, sometimes it's just best to walk away.

I found this journal not too long ago of my projected expenses for my senior year in high school.  If the numbers are correct, I had plenty of money leftover to play.

Rural Significance: Back then, it was more difficult for a young girl to find a summer job. The waitressing job was one of the best jobs I have ever had. I learned so much that summer about myself, people of The Ruralhood and about people all around the world.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Rural Mothers

I wrote the following poem, To Mother, for my mom's birthday in 1972. I'm still madly in love with this precious person.

Photo: My mom at 18-years-old with me.

To Mother

If a poll could be taken, It would be found,
There's no finer more special mother around.


You're understanding, sweet and always there,
When I have secrets or gossip to share.

You've managed a home and a job just as well,
And there's so much about you to tell.

But to sum it up in words so true,
Mom you're the greatest and I'll always love you.
(written July 10, 1972)

My mother has cried with me and laughed with me. She has worried over me and encouraged me. She is a wonderful grandmother over her grandchildren and her great-grandchildren. She is a woman to emulate. How blessed I am to have this woman in my life to call Mom.

Happy Mother's Day!

Monday, May 3, 2010