Farming Makeover

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic
A teen's summer farming experience.

Submitted: May 29, 2009

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Submitted: May 29, 2009

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I disembarked from the ancient station wagon and straightened wearily. Three hours of squabbling cousins, chattering aunt and booming uncle could really rub the nerves raw. Not to mention the dog that scrabbled into my lap every few minutes to look out the window. The lovably shaggy mutt didn’t seem to get the message that he was NOT welcome – he was incredibly odorous. The fact didn’t surprise me in the least, seeing that he came from a farm that he had the run of, but I sincerely wished someone had thought to leave him at home, where the smell was unnoticeable among all the others that hang around a farm.

“Bobby, show your cousin to her room, “ Uncle Rudy’s voice boomed over the top of the station wagon. The youngest of my three cousins grabbed my hand in his little grubby one and literally dragged me up the porch steps. I followed resignedly. I really didn’t want to be here. This week’s visit to my aunt and uncle’s farm had been my parents’ idea, not mine. I hated outdoor labour, and I knew I would be expected to help do hay, or weed the garden or some other such despicable chore. I wouldn’t exactly be forced, but I would be expected to.“ It’ll give you a taste of rural life,” was my parents’ argument. “It’ll be a nice change.” Yeah, right. More like a sweaty, dirty, smelly change. It wasn’t exactly my idea of a good time.

I found my oldest cousin Jake behind the barn tinkering on his antique tractor that he was readying for the annual summer fair. I had just finished helping Aunt Bev with the dinner dishes, and needed to escape. The problem was, where to? There was no place to hang out around here. The putrid smell of the barn could even be sensed in the house, and there was no escape from the dirt and dust that was everywhere. Aunt Bev had noticed my look of disgust and apologized for it, saying that in the summer there was just too much to do outside to worry about the house to any great extent.

“Grab that wrench for me, will you?” Jake greeted me abruptly. I handed it to him silently, wishing I could be anywhere but here. The mud slurped at my shoes as I shifted uneasily. “There, that should work.” Jake straightened with a grin. “Here, hold that.” I accepted the greasy wrench gingerly while he climbed up the tractor. It started with a loud roar, then sputtered and died. Jake cursed and hit the steering wheel with his fist.

“What’s wrong with it?” Iasked as Jake climbed down. He shrugged.

“I don’t know, that’s the problem. They didn’t have repair manuals for these things way back then – hey, have you gotten a tour of this place yet?” Slightly unnerved by the quick change of subject, I shook my head. Grinning he gestured me to follow.

Jake showed me the milk parlour, the holding pen, the barn where a dozen calves were tied up, and the huge hay loft. There at least the smell was sweet. Coming into the barn, I had gagged on the awful smell. Jake had laughed and dragged me in anyway, saying that I would get used to it soon enough.

I shook my head. “Never!” I told him vehemently. “Never could I get used to this. I don’t know how you all can stand it!” The loft was okay though. I sat down on a bale and breathed deeply. Jake plucked a piece of grass from a nearby bale and stuck it in his mouth. I could only stare in astonishment – he was chewing hay! I thought they were exaggerating when I read about it in books. Jake laughed at my expression and held out another piece for me. I looked at it and shook my head.

“Oh, come on, Elly, don’t you ever try anything new? It ain’t gonna kill you, you know.”

I accepted it and tasted it gingerly, only to spit it out instantly. “Eeeyuck!” My face scrunched up in disgust as I vainly tried to swallow and rid myself of the taste of dust and dirt that was hay. I sympathized wholeheartedly with those poor animals whose main source of energy throughout the winter was this miserable fare.

“It’s not as bad as all that, Elly – it’s just timothy! Quit being so melodramatic!” Jake wheeled about and hoisted himself down into the barn below. I followed slowly, ashamed at my behavior. How could I help it, though? I came from the city, where some sort of decorum existed, not this uncivilized way of life!

The next few days were just as I expected. Work, work and more work. Oh, sure, I was the dummy who offered to help, but Aunt Bev and Uncle Rudy certainly should’ve sensed that I really didn’t want to help and that I was only offering out of politeness. As it was they accepted enthusiastically and put me up on the swather to cut and windrow hay. “It’s the easiest job there is, “ Uncle Rudy had boomed. “Just steer straight along the row and the machine does the rest.”

“Ok, fine,” I thought. “I can drive, so I should be able to handle this” – and I was right! It was hot, boring work, but it was manageable. At least I didn’t have to muck out calves, weed the garden or clean the milk parlour, like the other members of the family were doing. I was on my own, in a relatively clean setting and definitely feeling better about myself.

I rolled into the barnyard at what I figured to be suppertime. Nobody had come for me, since afternoons were dedicated to hauling baled hay from the fields already cut and dried. I headed towards the barn, where they were halfway through a load of hay. I watched Uncle Rudy and Jake hoist the bales onto the hay elevator which carried them to the loft to be hauled off and stacked. I climbed up the ladder to help Aunt Bev, my two cousins and some girl I didn’t know stack and pile. I found this extremely hard, as I was entirely unused to labour. I hated the hot sweatiness of the job, the pickiness of the bales against my arms as I hoisted them over my head for stacking, and the sharp pain of binder twine cutting into my fingers as I picked up the bale. I was relieved when the load was finally finished. We all flopped down on bales to relax for a bit.

Everyone was chattering excitedly around me. We only needed another thousand bales for winter. We. The simply pronoun made me feel good. Even though I had been out in the field all day, seen by no one, I was still included. I was an integral part of the whole haying operation. Suddenly elated, I absentmindedly plucked a piece of timothy out of the bale I was sitting on. I was getting a taste of an alien way of life for me, and it was beginning to taste good. I caught Jake’s eye and his grin expressed open amusement. Grinning back, I tipped an imaginary hat and winked, the piece of hay hanging out of my mouth nodding in unison with the movement.


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