Thursday, August 18, 2011

Where's Mike?

           Where was that Mike guy from the TV show dirtiest jobs, when I was a kid? Some of the jobs we had at the Stave farm was material enough for Mike to show up, and give it a try.
Mike Rowe from Dirtiest Jobs

             First of all, how would you like to dump horse urine jugs (old Hilex jugs) into a bigger barrel for your chores? Taking a shot to the eye or lip was pretty bad and it was almost a daily thing! The only people, who probably smelled worse than us, were the kids that milked cows before school, and there were plenty of them too. All so some women could prevent child birth somewhere, or quell hot flashes…crazy thought!
Cultivating in an 806, a far cry from the machinary used today!

               I cultivated fields and never minded that so much, even though it was a very dirty job, because you had to hand pump fuel first. Back and forth, back and forth but it wasnt too bad because I had a cab on the tractor, a good radio, and I just drove around and around being careful of wet spots so as not to get stuck,  and sang to the radio all day. Sonny was fussy about how I finished the corners and rode with me until I knew how to do it right.  I was supposed to go only so fast, with the cultivator sunk in so deep. I will admit now that when I knew I was out of the range of the road or the house, where I couldn’t be seen, I lifted the cultivator a little so the tractor went faster when it wasn’t pulling so hard. Being a kid I didn’t think about the fuel I was burning just to skim the ground and not kill weeds etc. But gosh darn it… a Sat night date took some getting ready, and I wanted to get done!
water jug with the drinking spout like we had

             A job I hated was being dumped off in a field with a water jug and a Twinkie or two or three with little bales as far as you could see. Sonny was our older brother and the “foreman” in charge of Kathy and me.  He’d say,” I’ll be back and check on you later”.  The first thing we’d do is take the little cap off the drinking spout on our dirty old red and white drinking thermos and have a slurp of water. Then to gear up for this monumental task we’d break into our lunch and eat one of the Twinkies.  Jeeze, it’s quiet out here, we’d say to each other…only a few bees, horseflies and “piss ants (as Sonny called them)” buzzing around...maybe an occasional dragon fly. Time to start six packing, I guessss… and we never wanted to disappoint him or Mom!  Dragging six bales together we made six packs consisting of three bales rolled on their sides and lined up beside each other, then two bales the other way on top of those, covering the cracks so rain didn’t run in, topped off with one bale on the top. If we were lucky there were no pink baby mice under the bales, or any mothers around either! Seemed like forever before Sonny came and got us again with our empty lunch bucket and warm water jug!

Wheel travel on the road you had to lift the rake wheels and hook a chain to keep them raised!

              Raking hay wasn’t a bad job, probably my favorite unless it was really hot,  except no cab made it dusty.  Sonny would have mowed the hay days earlier, and when it had dried it was ready to be raked and baled. I would usually rake and he would bale at the same time on the same field, and it was nice having him in the field with me, I liked having him going a few rows away. He liked to follow the rake to be assured the hay in rows didnt get rained on which can make for moldy hay. The big tines on the rake would pull the hay into windrows and then he could come along with the baler and feed it into the baler. The baler would spit out bales one at a time. He usually drug another contraption along called a"bale buncher" that after six would get in the bale buncher, he could pull the rope and release them. That was a neat invention for us sixpackers, as then there were six already there we just had to stack em. Every once in a while when I was raking,  I would accidently leave a windrow on top of a rock I hadn't seen, and he would hit it with the baler! Then I’d hear Sonny cussing over the sound of his radio! The worst part of raking was lifting the reels up to travel. Sometimes I remember crying out there because I couldn’t get them and I was hot and dirty. Usually a good cry boosted my strength somehow, and I got them raised so I could travel home on the road with the rake. They were never happy with us if we unhitched and came home with just the tractor.

A good feeling to have a field all raked and neat!

           I never mowed, baled or hauled bales. Mom hired bale haulers, and I drove the tractor and bale wagon from six pack to six pack that Kathy and I had made. Depending on whether the bale haulers she hired were cute or not, was the deciding factor as to whether this was technically a dirty job or not. Kerry was one she hired, so I was more than willing to drive tractor that year!

This is not our farm house but the upstairs windows were high like this

            Another dirty job I hated on the farm after our Dad passed away, was putting the screens or storm windows on the upstairs windows of the house. Mom was scared of heights so she didn’t want to do it, and neither did we.  We didn’t trust Sonny to give us a smooth ride or lift because he was always trying to scare us.  First, he’d always have to give us a wild fast ride right up to the house while we were in the bucket trying to hold on to a glass window! He’d drive fast right up to the house so it looked like you may crash right into the house! Next he’d raise the bucket lifting us up, as high as that bucket could reach. The hydraulics lifting the bucket were shiny even, because they rarely got extended that high! Of course the windows or screens(this was a twice a year job no less!) never went right on either…they always seemed swollen and didn’t want to fit. After listening to Sonny yell over the tractor at us about how to do it, and worrying he was going to give us a wilder ride if we didn’t get it on, finally we snapped the final snap and the windows were on! Praise the Lord the window was on!   Then Sonny would drop us straight down with the speed of a crashing elevator and stop abruptly about a foot from the ground. Legs shaking we’d crawl out of the bucket happy to be alive. He’d be laughing his evil brother giggle and his I scared you laugh, which he delighted in.  I think Kathy did that dirty job more than I did, because after a time or two I developed a fear of heights too, I’m no dummy!

Tractor and bucket like the one Sonny lifted us to the windows with..

            The job of rounding up a hundred and forty horses from two pastures with just two kids on horseback, and Sonny in an old blue pickup truck had to be a daunting task after Dad died.  Sonny would catch the stallions and lead them home one at a time, with his arm out the window of his old blue Chevy truck. The stallions would be pawing and striking and acting crazy the whole way, especially our appalosa stallion Hot Moccasins. If we had any visitors that day, or later any brother in laws Sonny had, they would get to hold the stallion out the passenger side and he’d laugh his evil laugh all the way home because he loved scaring the heck out of someone! Once the stallions were in Kathy and I would go after the horses. Keep in mind rounding up horses are not like herding cows…they can out run your horse some of them, and try to every chance they get!   Kathy and I would ride one on each side of the herd of mares with their colts, and Sonny would sit in his blue Chevy truck on a hill at some cut off point, and bang on the door and yell out instructions. If they got by us  then he'd call us names out of pure frustration!  At the time that seemed like the end of the world if they got by us.  I’m not talking bad about Sonny but that’s just how it went ( and this blog is only my perspective).  He had a temper and would get mad if they got around us and we were just kids doing adult work.  Mom and Phyllis and later Leslie and Shannon would come out and stand in strategic places. Mom was always ready with opening the gates etc, and she'd run anywhere she could on foot to help out. She was always a nervous wreck those round up days and I can see why now. What a monumental task every fall!

          If one in the herd started to get away from us, the whole bunch would go and we’d have to ride wide open over the hills, dodging gopher holes and praying all the while that your beloved horse doesn’t step in one and break his leg, or fall with you. Clark fell on me one time when we came over a side hill and he lost his footing. He fell on me and was up faster than he fell almost! I didn’t get hurt much, a twisted ankle is all. The amazing part to Kathy and me now when we talk about our young lives, is just how young we were, and how hard we tried to please Sonny and we had a real resolve to help Mom and Sonny carry on after Dad died. Somehow we always got the horses in… the quarter horses first then we’d go back for the appaloosas.  The colts were separated from the mothers next, and that involved some fancy gate work for Mom ha! We were quite the ranch hands at twelve and ten and on over the years, if i say so myself.

           The winter weather was another challenge. Sometimes the roads would blow shut and we would have to haul hay to the barn with a horse on the toboggan walking along side it in waist deep snow. Can we say exhausting? After Sonny moved over into the yard that was better because he was there to keep hay in the barn.
               There were a lot of dirty jobs on a farm, but I’m glad I grew up there. When I was eighteen I was ready to move to town. I left home after I graduated in 1973, but still came home when it was time to bring the horses in in the fall. Still today, I like to visit the solitude of the farm yet but I prefer to live in town where it doesn’t seem so desolate. The perfect combination is a house in town with animal privileges.  That’s the best of both worlds for me.

Sonny and Brendon

               Sonny was killed in a car accident when I was twenty eight.That was a shock and a huge blow to our family. He was a quiet guy, a reader of Louis LaMoure books, not one for public functions. If he’d had a few beers he was so funny, he could have been a comedian! He had the best sense of timing and came up with a funny answer to everything. He was a sensitive guy, a thinker, a worrier, but didn't let that show much. He was so handsome! Our Dad's passing had left him with a huge responsibility when he was only in his early twenties. He had his own little family to take care of, as well as a mother and two little sisters he felt responsible for besides, and he was really. He never really had a choice about what he wanted to do with his life. He just had it all dumped in his lap which had to be over whelming for him! He was under alot of pressure and I really I miss him. Sometimes I almost can’t remember his voice, or that laugh when he was pushing somebody’s buttons unless I dream about him. In dreams he’s exactly how he was. We were blessed to have him, and I wish he would have lived long enough to enjoy his grandkids because he loved kids and kids loved him. He was a dog lover too and always had his black lab Pepper, with him everywhere he went.


              We had some dirty jobs which Mike could have made a show out of, but today when I can fix my own pool pump, and take care of my own house hold issues, many times I think, “thank God I’m a country girl, because I would not have survived if I wasn’t”!  They were dirty jobs but you know what they say about dirty jobs... someone’s got to do it!

1 comment:

  1. Yup we know about Farm living!!!!! Us farm wanna be's