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Remembering life on the farm

From where I sit

July 7, 2012
By Bonnie Phares , The Inter-Mountain

Those of us who grew up on a farm are an almost lost generation. That is most unfortunate because so many lessons were learned there to see us through life.

Just think of all the people you pass in a day's time, just driving the streets of Elkins. How many of them, do you think, have ever set foot on a farm? Kind of sad to me and, at the same time, makes me very grateful for my upbringing.

The Piercy farm consisted of 105 acres and was situate just 1 mile off Laurel Mountain Road. My mother said that when Daddy married her and took her to his home place, Piercy Road was in such bad condition she was going to put up a sign that read: "Choose your rut carefully. You'll be in it for the next mile." Thankfully, over the years, the ruts did disappear.

The farm's boundaries began in a hollow at the foot of Laurel Mountain and spread out into acres of pasture land, nothing grand but sufficient, that provided us with hay, corn and oats. We had milk cows up until I was about 10 years old, and then Daddy chose to raise beef cattle only. They were a lot easier to take care of, especially since he was not a full-time farmer, but had to work (for Esso) to make a living for us.

There's no question you feel the hand of God when you're raised on a farm. Everything He created is all around you, things that cause you to wonder about life and marvel at how well nature works together. There I learned about life and death. I learned they go hand in hand. I saw a newborn calf get up and walk and know exactly where to go to get its nourishment. I also saw a litter of 12 pups born and only eight of them lived.

I saw how much work goes into a field of corn. I watched my daddy plow the ground, disc it into a fine dust, fill the corn planter, and put the kernels in the ground in all those straight rows. Then Mother Nature takes over with the sunshine and, hopefully, lots of rain to make it grow. Harvest time meant cutting it all, pulling the ears, shocking the stalks, and filling the bin in the granary to feed the cows all winter. Lots of work. A process, patience, sometimes disappointment in the crop. That was farm life.

We were self-sufficient. We didn't borrow things. We had what we needed or we made it. We entertained ourselves, thus my love of stitching and reading that I've carried all these years. Life was slower and easy. We did a lot of porch-sittin' in the evenings and on Sunday. We appreciated family; aunts and uncles visited, and we played with our cousins. We had our own family cemetery on the farm, where granddaddy and grandmother Piercy and my dad are buried.

We learned responsibility and accountability, traits greatly lacking in young people today. Mother didn't straighten and clean our room; we were responsible for that. We took our turn at the ironing board as soon as we were tall enough to reach it. My sister and I took turns with the supper dishes each evening, one washing and the other drying. We hung clothes on the line, and took them down and put them away. We complained and whined, but the chores still had to be done and we did them.

We butchered our own beef each year and filled the old chest freezer to the top. It is still difficult for me to plan a meal without deciding on the meat first. We planted a garden, where my sister and I picked rocks along the rows and then took up a hoe for the weeding. Mother canned everything that could be preserved, and then we ate like kings all winter.

It was a disciplined life, dictated by the animals and the seasons. The cows in the barn had to be milked every day, the chickens fed and eggs gathered. Every day. Winter meant coal in the bin and all the machinery put in the machine shed out of the weather. Spring was planting time and getting that machinery back out and making sure it was all ready to use. Summer was hay making, first cutting in July and second in September. Fall was oats to be thrashed by Ivan Bell who traveled the farms with his one-of-a-kind thrashing machine. Then it all started over again.

We welcomed people into our home all the time. Evidently, my parents were good hosts because it seemed to me we had company on a regular basis. Big yard picnics, croquet and badminton, Kool-Aid and watermelon, hide 'n' seek when it got dark. People just stopped by, and we told them to "come on in" anytime. No one does that anymore.

There were those times, too, when I just wanted to be completely alone. The woods we owned provided a solace that I have found nowhere else. I could walk and talk with God and, as young as I was, didn't even realize that's who was with me. I could wade in the creek, pick up fossil rocks, just stand very still and listen to the water flow and feel that summer breeze, rustling the leaves on all those trees above and around me. What a comfort that was. I remember pulling birch bark from a tree and tasting its sweet flavor. With just the gentle peace the woods offered, nature tended to my soul.

It was a good life, the best really. We were blessed and knew it, but never took it for granted. We loved and laughed, cried some, too, all part of the fabric of who we were. That life made me who I am, shaped me.

Too bad there are so few who have that opportunity today. They have really missed out, and there isn't a thing we can do about it.



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