Granny's Notes - the writing of Sue Gerard

Account of summer farm life reveals not-so-simple duties

A city fellow once said, "Sue, you farmers have it easy: You plant in spring, the crops grow all summer and you harvest in the fall." He taught psychology, and I should have had him with me on the tractor one day in the summer of 1958. Here’s what I wrote one evening on my old Underwood, using cheap yellow paper that is now brittle with age and has ragged edges from being filed in piles all of those years:

" ‘Hope you didn’t have a big day planned for tomorrow,’ Chub said last night on the way home from choir practice.

" ‘Not much, I guess. There are tomatoes to can, and I was going to Velma’s to pick a bushel of cucumbers that she didn’t need. Is there something you need for me to do?’ There was! This morning he was up at daybreak laying off three lands in the hog pasture, for me to mow the weeds!

"I’m a pretty good farmer when things go right, but those weeds were tall and tough, the pasture ground was bumpy where the sows had rooted deep holes out last spring - and the mower belt kept slipping. Chub added belt dressing, and I was set for a day of worrying through tall and tangled weeds.

"I just recently learned to mow and must do each process consciously, thinking it out as I go. Example: When matted grass and weeds collected in the sickle, this is what I was to do: release clutch, take tractor out of gear, lift hydraulic lever to raise the mower; clutch, shift to reverse, back up; take the hydraulic lift out of gear to stop the cutting bar, shift to neutral, climb off, pull weeds out of the mower and scatter them behind, on the part not yet cut. Then I’d climb on and get started again!

"After lunch, about half through with the mowing, the white pigs finally rooted under the lot fence to see what was going on in their pasture.

"From then on I yelled, ‘Sooey, out of here’ to keep pigs away from the sickle bar, which could have cut off their white feet right there in their own pasture. I’m hoarse from yelling above the noise of the mower and tractor.

"My part of the hog pasture is as smooth as a man’s freshly shaven chin; the weeds are wilting. Now their seeds will not mature and make more weeds. I’ve repeated that complicated process so often that I can shift, raise, back up, shift to neutral, climb down and so on ... automatically.

"By the time I mow tall weeds again, however, I’ll have to learn the sequence over again.

"Chub’s Uncle Archie (who came to visit for a week and is still here) sits on the front porch smoking his one-a-day cigar and remembering his faithful team of horses; they knew more about mowing than any tractor knows. They could help a farmer cut tall, tough weeds, knew when to back up when he needed to lift the sickle bar and things like that.

" ‘You’d better mow around the garden while you’re here - might tear the thing up when you do the pond bank,’ Unc said.

"I don’t mow pond banks. Unc wanted to help, flew into the weeds around the electric line posts. His doctor wouldn’t approve of that for this 81-year-old.

"Unc swung the scythe skillfully and then put one of those little white pills under his tongue and sat in his rocking chair a long time."

Today I recall that Uncle Archie lived into his 90s - outliving his doctor by several years.

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