One of my earliest memories as a youngster was watching the Punxsutawney process unfold on the television screen. My initial thoughts were Dad had found a channel with the most unusual hunting program. The hunters, after strangely swapping their orange caps for top hats and checkered Woolrich for tuxedos, bravely reached into the cavernous unknown. The sport resembled catfish noodling, but rather than a slippery fish at the other end, there was a sharp-toothed rodent. As the early February spectacle continued, with hoards of onlookers, I began to think it must be a joke. I nearly fell out of my chair upon learning a holiday celebrates the farmers' most wanted, vile criminal.
A shadow is the last thing on the rider's mind as the horse plummets into a woodchuck hole. Watch hundreds of dollars worth of soybeans as they seemingly disappear back into the ground. Who would trust the arrival of a season, let alone a simple weather forecast, to such a culprit?
It is unfortunate Cupid arrives a couple weeks too late to fling an arrow at the aforementioned whistle pig. That said, I feel the little guy intentionally avoids the farm. My childhood lacked lace, poetry, chocolates and secret admirers. I always assumed Cupid had heard what the Nych family did with visitors. Uncle Johnny once had a Kirby vacuum salesman put in a six-hour shift. The guy kept going on and on about how his miraculous machine could do just about anything. Aunt Bonnie, much in need of a deserved break, challenged, "Can it milk a cow?" The family soon discovered the salesman sure could.
Spring's early beauty shouldn't be a depressing time, but it's tough being happy when all of the other kids are frolicking through the local park in search of eggs. Farm kids don't have to hunt too hard or look too long--they already know where to find eggs. Just yonder the barn, head straight for the chicken coop. Unfortunately, ya' can't miss it. As a farm boy, my parents made me enjoy egg hunts just about every day of the year. The problem is, found within the shell was neither candy nor coin. The yoke, at times literally, was on me. To boot, one of the most popular Easter activities is adorning eggs with patterns and color. Farm eggs, while delicious and nothing like ones laid in grocery stores, are brown. I found dunking my farm fresh brown eggs in and out of vivid dyes to be less than satisfying. It was much more fun starting with white eggs and, after slapping on every color, ending with a shade of brown.
Most farms, at least mine, only seem to observe the second half of the compound word fireworks. Come the Fourth of July, farmers are all too busy in their fields. Naturally, they are likely ensuring the com is knee high. While on the topic of freedom and independence, there are not many liberties for a kid on the back 40. Between chores, I know not how our forefathers had time to ignite fireworks, let alone plot a revolution.
Do not even get me started on this cruel and unusual joke. Everyday involves hard labor on the farm. September sets two very different paths in motion. Labor Day is the official start of high school graduates matriculating to their freshman year of college. For the agrarian workforce, Labor Day has less to do with freshman year and more to do with fresh manure.
To celebrate Christopher's 1492 discovery, farm kids get the day off of school to make a few discoveries of their own. Children of the corn soon find, with harvest right around the corner, their course and destination are already determined. If the captains of the farm, also known as parents and grandparents, wouldn't have noticed, I'd have jumped ship that crisp October day. While I should have been exploring every square inch of fall, I was confined to the milk barn. I bet Chris never had to finish chores before sailing the ocean blue.
First, let's clear the air, which is always a good idea anywhere within close proximity to our barns. Before examining October's final day, the reader must realize candy com has nothing at all to do with bona fide agriculture. Candy corn, unrelated to sweet corn, has everything to do with Halloween. To a farm kid, Halloween means going to school like any other day of the year. Once there, teachers and students keep asking, "Are you dressed like a farmer for Halloween?" Outweighing such awkward social situations, one perk makes trick or treat a true delight on the farm. Few brave, sweet-toothed souls venture long, dusty farm roads. Costumed candy crusaders are a species preferring ritzy housing developments who prey primarily on the distribution of full-size candy bars. The rural lack of customers equates to more leftover candy for the farm kid.
No one appreciates a big, home-cooked meal more than a hungry farm boy. Year round, even the very best restaurant cannot touch the magic Grandma conjures in her kitchen. However, November's holiday differs greatly from all the meals that were served the prior 11 months. For the first time, main course looks frighteningly similar to a couple of newly formed friends. As a boy, I reveled in the endless pet shop that was my family farm. Acquiring pets, I'd befriend the turkey and watch as he strutted about the barnyard and fanned his majestic tail. I named him Jake. The most loyal of all pets were the piglets, Spanky was my favorite. Upon our great feast, a strange sensation swept over me as I entered Grandma's dining room to a stuffed turkey and baked ham. They sat side by side, identical to the way Jake and Spanky had so many playful afternoons.
While most children clamber down the steps to plow into presents, farm kids awake to a different brand of surprise. Sure these rural children get gifts too. However, the night prior to such a grand scale operation necessitates the year's largest consumption of milk. Somebody has to provide the liquid to wash down all of those homemade Christmas cookies.
It's the poor farmers and, more specifically, their kids. To me, the fact Santa could drink such volume only increased his allure. I would never have been able to drink more than a couple of glasses in one sitting. I was astonished how Santa could do it house after house.
Marshall Nych writes from his home in Pennsylvania.
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|Title Annotation:||COUNTRY LIFE: ON HOLIDAY|
|Publication:||Countryside & Small Stock Journal|
|Date:||Sep 1, 2015|
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