Thanksgiving is a time to remember what we are thankful for and be grateful for the opportunities we have had that make us who we are. As I remember what I am thankful for I think about what has impacted my life the most. I am thankful for the opportunity to grow up on a farm. Although the farm was not big I learned working hard was the key to being successful.
My grandparents (who were originally from Chicago) decided to buy a small farm in Northern Illinois and start a dairy operation. Although they did not know the hard work they were going to face, they hit the challenge head-on. Dairy farms raise female dairy breed cattle that produce milk for ice cream, cheese, and other dairy products. Dairy farming was not financially feasible for my family which made my farm switch from dairy to grain.
Thankfully, my family decided and were able to keep up with farming rather than give up on it all. Sadly, many farmers have had to stop farming because of financial issues and the younger generations not wanting or able to take over the farming operation. Luckily, my family was able to start a corn and soybean farm and my dad was willing to it take over.
When I was young I can remember how hard my dad worked to create a successful farming operation; but it was not until I was older when I had to get down and dirty learning it the hard way. Although not all times of the year are always busy and stressful, the busiest time of the year is where I learned the most about hard work. And that time of the year is both spring when planting and the fall when harvesting (picking the corn and soybeans). During spring and fall time the most physical labor is done as well as the longest hours. Of course if the weather is accommodating planting and harvest would go a lot smoother. Nevertheless, as we all know, the weather is unpredictable this makes planning for these two seasons almost impossible. But no matter what Mother Nature has in store, the job has to get done and patience was important to be able to keep working hard through long hours day and night.
This is only one example out of many others of how I have learned hard work from being on the farm. I am thankful for having the opportunity to live and work on my family’s farm. Through my experiences, I learned the importance of patience and the rewards of hard work. Qualities like this many farm kids acquire at a young age and use throughout their life, whether they decide to stay on the farm or pursue other careers.
Remember to be thankful for your experiences because they shape who you are.
In November, American’s focus on thankfulness: for their country, their blessings, and their families. At Corn Corps, we’re going to focus on being thankful for our FARM families and the laughs and lessons they provide.
I was raised on a farm and very much value what I had while growing up in the sticks. For this post, I was going to share some of my cherished memories but decided to instead focus on what my Dad and his siblings learned and the antics they were up to!
My dad, Bob, grew up on a livestock farm in McLean, Illinois, with his four younger siblings, Susan, Marcia, and twins Jack & Jill. With my grandparents, Carl and Dorothy, they raised beef cattle, hogs, chickens, and sheep and grew corn, soybeans, and alfalfa. I can never get enough of hearing the stories they have to share, here are a few:
When I sit and think about my favorite memories, it occurs to me that most of them involve animals… and me being ornery. One specific incident with skunks comes to mind. I was mowing hay with a sickle mower and the tractor I was using didn’t have a good seat so we fashioned up a wadded up gunny sack for a cushion. With every pass I made, I could see a momma skunk with her babies hanging out on one end of the field. As it was getting close to noon, I started to drive the tractor home for dinner, I decided that those babies would make some pretty good pets, so I stopped and picked up two of them and put them in the gunny sack. When I got home, Mom was standing on the sidewalk. I walked right up to her with a big smile on my face holding the sack of skunks and said, “Guess what I got!?” She could smell them before I even got half-way up the walk and was none too happy about it. I put them in a rabbit cage, but the next morning they had escaped. I’m guessing they might have had a little help.
We had one ram that was really mean, I mean downright MEAN. One time I was out feeding the sheep and the ram started to chase me, I jumped up on a rack of wood and was stuck, he wouldn’t let me down. After a while, I started throwing 2×4’s at him to get him to leave and he just deflected them with his head. I remember being up there for a long time before getting down, but I can’t remember how exactly I was finally able to.
When I was in grade school we had a really gentle Angus bull. He wasn’t bottle-raised but you wouldn’t have known it, he acted more like a pet than a bull. Whenever we moved the cows I would just jump up on his back and ride him!
There are so many great memories it’s hard to just pick a few, but I do vividly remember Jack holding my hand while he held on to the electric fence, that was a real hoot! I also remember having to bottle feed a calf that we named Bobby. This was during the time Bob was in Vietnam, thus his namesake!
A simple but favorite memory was playing in the haymow with new kittens. I loved my time doing that! Living in the country we didn’t have close neighbors, but I did like to ride my bike up to my friend’s house which was on the other end of the country block.
A very important lesson learned was to never go near an electric fence with Bob… I can remember him sticking my foot on the electric fence when we were with our Dad out checking the fences.
Some of the days spent working were also some of the most fun, we spent many hours riding on the hayrack wagon stacking hay as we baled and then sending them up in the barn and stacking them yet again. While this doesn’t sound like much ‘fun’, we also played up in the barn a lot. We had ropes tied to the beams and would swing across from one bale pile to another.
I remember all of our 4-H projects. From planting flowers in the garden, in fact, they were marigolds and I planted them in the design of 4-H, to our cattle for show. Bob always had the one with the curly hair and mine was always straight. I tried to make waves on mine with the curry comb. We fed them their feed mixed with STICKY molasses. And I, of course, can’t forget breaking them to lead. Sometimes I didn’t know whether the cattle or the tractor was going to win.
Mom would always have fried chicken for us on Sunday Dinners. I remember my Dad wringing their necks and they would be running around the barn lot, then Mom would clean them down in the basement in boiling water. Once the feet were cut off, I would take them and stand them on the counter so I could paint their toenails. The stinky chicken feathers were not very appetizing, but when the chicken was done it was always good!
From playing in the hay mow to electric shocks, I think it’s pretty awesome that I have a lot of the same memories as the generation before me on the exact same piece of ground. And for that, I am thankful.