CITY GIRL TO COUNTRY GIRL: HOW AGRICULTURE SHAPED THE FUTURE

Fifty-three years ago this May, a young woman’s life was changed forever.  What happened in May 1959 that altered the life of Jane Thomas?  She married a young man who lived on the farm, leaving the city life behind her.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Jane Thomas, now Morgan, a few days ago.  Listening to what she had to say opened my eyes to the obstacles women faced when they left what they had always known behind and became involved in agriculture.

Moving into a two-story house that was over 100 years old was not easy.  The popping, creaking and lack of insulation in the house was not the only thing Jane had to become accustomed to.  No neighbors, street lights and getting use to a septic tank, well water and a coal stove were quite an adjustment.  She chuckled and mentioned a time when she first used the coal stovepipe, received a phone call and talked a little too long because when she returned to the kitchen, the stovepipe was red hot.  She was scared to death and afraid she was about to burn down the house, when her husband came in and “bailed her out.”

A thing she loved about the farm was the animals.  Going to the barn and brushing calves was one of her favorite pastimes.  She made pets out of the calves, which became problem some when she was pregnant and they butted on her for attention.  But nonetheless, she loved them anyway, unless they were not in their pens.  After one horrible experience, she informed her husband Don that she never wanted to hear the phrase, “the cows are out” again.

Helping with the animals was preferred over field work.  Every year she would climb in the tractor to help out, requesting a refresher course.  I chuckled when she said Don made the comment that “she did it last year” and she responded with, “and I taught you how to run the washing machine last year but can you do it today?”  Even though it tried their patience, she said working together in the field allowed them to be together and better understand each other.

“Moving to the farm was the best thing I ever did, I love it” said Jane.  But she did not deny that there were times that she hated it as well.  The things that were hard in the beginning became enjoyable; lack of neighbors, insects chirping at night and livestock making noises.  She mentioned that there is nothing more inspiring than seeing baby calves in the spring and watching the corn they planted grow from a seed into a tall stalk.  She loved raising her children on the farm and teaching them responsibility and hard work.  It was there that they learned to appreciate the beauty all around them and love the little things in life.  

My grandmother Jane has always been an inspiration to me, however, I never sat down and spoke with her about the challenges she faced until now.  I admire her courage, determination and strength, because I know not everyone could have done it.  One of the last things she said during our talk will always stick with me.  “You can take the girl out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the girl, no matter how old she was when she got there.”

Miranda Morgan
University of Illinois Student

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