Some Didn’t Learn

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
The industrial age shifted the culture of agricultural communities and families. As society became more aware of the needs of the individuals, many individual needs fell through the cracks in out of way places. For example, U.S. society has not yet dealt with the loss at that time of the resource of educating females, as well as the loss of opportunity to many farm boys whose family tradition focused first on maintaining the status quo of the farm, even as that status quo became less viable for want of outreach.

Submitted: August 24, 2016

A A A | A A A

Submitted: August 24, 2016



Some Didn’t Learn

Old man trying to feed them all.

Plowed and worried; worried and plowed.

Tingling begins behind the plow.

His boys, and girls ran through the rows.


Turned from education, resentment not born idle.

Arms not long enough to hold his loss to bridle.

Never would tell his youngest children how his father died.

Head bashed with stove wood by a student, just a child.


Nine years old, father helped build the school.

Did he ever go back, he followed Grandpa’s rule.

Plowed and found love, gambled, buried wife.

Grandpa gone, he lost and leased back his own home farm.


Had so many sweethearts, they said “Cupid blushed;”

When it came to marrying though, he wouldn’t be rushed.

Finally did, with sorrow his witness.

Buried a baby ­ beautiful daughter, his bride followed in distress.


To another pioneer his mother finally remarried.

Some thought he’d marry a widow himself, married her daughter.

Never lax about working his sons, first two, then three more.

Raised his dead cousin’s granddaughter, turned out ‘twas his granddaughter too.


Three more daughters, then he moved to the doctor’s farm.

Middle daughter resisted, fought for control, the youngest resisted her hard.

Second son and wife died, he gave to in-laws their orphaned son.

Handed him over at the gate; his wife said not another one


He told his children just one thing about attending school.

They couldn’t make trouble, or stay home - that’s the rule.

The one girl bothered the youngest two to keep them from their learning tasks

The school came for the youngest; said she was the one had to last.


One boy liked to write his letters; that’s as far as he thought he could go.

He learned all that in a separate room, ‘til his sister said “Go slow.”

He could read a little, couldn’t count money or tell time.  No one could remember

 if there’d been a clock in the house before or after the house caught fire.


Had to move elsewhere, the farmer farmed.

He had to feed his own.

Farmed one son out at the age of 8,

While his oldest’s career was born.

He was a professor of education, he taught psychology

But father’s home didn’t see him much.

First one, then two married, only four left at home

A shed with windows in a field; in front was where they plowed.


The folks went to school to test the last boy,

To discover how much he had learned.

He wrote large letters on the chalkboard,

Putting off numbers to come.


His mother said keep on ‘til you read. 

Without it, it cannot do.

Teachers and parents conferred.He said he was so far back;

they let him try to make it on his own.


Sister’s interruptions were successful;

Slowed their learning as well as her own.

The fighting young daughter could read and write -

But bi-polar was the price.


One only wanted her real mother found,

A brother labored; but was never around.

The oldest girl and boy married and the rest

Ran up a tab at the grocer’s and ate.


The old farmer harvested his field alone,

For his children thought his small crop futile.

One son cached some ginseng root,

Another cached his brother.


Mother and daughters stared through the screen,

Everyone knew what would happen;

They’d charged too much on the grocery tab,

The old man couldn’t break even.


There were rules when the mill trucks passed

Laden from harvests nearby.

The old man hoped since he’d ordered no truck

They’d stop and carry his little crop on the side.


Drivers said they couldn’t; each load had a code

A tape to match for the mill from its farm,

Advised the old man to ask for help

Use someone else’s truck as a loaner.


His oldest son arrived with his own truck

And hurried the load for the mill.

The old man weakened, limbs grew slack,

They laid him on the porch, weak and ill.


Then carried him onto the truck.

Racing to the mill and for a doctor.

The journey on rutted country lanes,

Sapped the old man’s strength remaining.


Returned home weakened, process beginning

A series of strokes began slowly.

To town they moved to a little house

For seven year’s rest for his labor.


Soon mother, who now cleaned another’s house;

Because the daughters not to be trusted,

Was told that her cough was contagious. 

She must stay home and be treated.


With the first serum given the doctor split care

Between her and the house of a neighbor

Her heart expected to halt at first dose,

So instructions for resuscitation given.


All were there save the one boy who would duck here and there.

She gave a look round to each face,

Then cast a look where the absent one would have been,

Closed her eyes to pass to her rest.


The old man walked up the hill each day

And sat beside her grave.

To chew tobacco, not allowed

In his house where his rent was paid.


Two youngest sons at the manufacturing plant, one sister, pilfering raced,

To a sister’s friend in the far southwest where she was ordered to give it a rest.

The other girl to a boyfriend bound, another, an orphan’s home ran.

The oldest sis forced to return from the west never to venture again.


Weakened, the old man sat on a chair on the porch of the little house,

Needing his children to look after him, he moved from one to another about.

After almost six years, his large frame weighed like a feather in oversized clothes,

Carried to bed in the arms of his youngest son, with a water glass left by his side


He remembered the cherry wood clock on the shelf;

From the tree his grandfather hewed,

Carved for a grandmother, who died too soon,

The clock had kept memory alive.


His thoughts?  He was his own plow force,

Had no animal to pull for him.

Trained his sons to work, for certain, that was.

Stopped only when his luck was broke.


Six years to remember as his blood vessels burst,

Trying to feed them, but stronger they left.

With bills at the grocers he couldn’t pay all,

Except with an auction and a little to trade.


He remembered old harvests from big ones to small

A daughter lost at threshing, scalded by a falling urn.

What was the promise of life’s early joy?

Make children work hard so they cannot fall.


He’d never been “lenient,” ‘twas dutifully echoed.

Quiet; his thoughts unspoken.

Never tried to see that orphaned grandson either.

Kept his promise, never brought in another.


He said his two youngest girls would never leave home.

One married, produced a girl of her own.

The other married, stood pregnant, but didn’t tell Dad,

And gave birth to a son two weeks from his end.


He was ready to go, where he needn’t think of plowing -

But could remember the light days when his heart throbbed unbounded

When he loved whom he loved; there weren’t yet many burials,

And riding beside his grandfather, his thoughts and words mattered.

by S. Pearce ©2014

© Copyright 2018 S. Pearce. All rights reserved.

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