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Toys of the Farm

Story ID:9883
Written by:Monte Leon Manka (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Story
Location:Corona Ca. USA
Person:Greatful Chelsea Kansas Kid
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Coming from the farm, my younger brother and I had things that the city boy did not have. We had old tractor-transmission gears that we used to play with. We used a board to make the road, in the dirt, then play with the gears. As you rolled the gears, they left teeth marks in the dirt and this was our caterpillar tracks. The gears were different sizes. The big ones were trucks and the small ones were cars. We could go to the hayloft and make tunnels out of the baled hay and play for hours. We worked hard to move the bales but the tunnels were fun to play cowboy and Indians in.
We had a straw stack that the cows had eaten tunnels into and we would play hide and seek hours at a time. When the next door neighbor kids came over the straw stack was the first thing we headed for. We, my little brother and I, would go to the back of the hen house and dig some worms for fishing. Our favorite fishing hole was not very big; it was also our swimming hole. We would bait our hooks and after swinging our bobbers and hook out into the water we sat back and listened to the sounds that the different birds and animals made.
The squirrels would come out and scold us for being there. They would bark at us but when we stood up, they would disappear. The cawing of the crows, the hawk high in the sky made a funny sound as he hunted his favorite food, field mice.
The Killdeers and Meadowlarks all had a special sound and we knew them all.
Mom told us if we caught the fish she would cook them but we had to clean them. Cleaning required a board and a nail and hammer. You nailed the fish to the board and then scraped the scales or pulled the skin off their bodies. They were so slick you could hardly hold on to the fish.
We would hitch the mules to the buggy and head for parts of the country that we had not been before but were always back by mealtime.
We made bows and arrows out of Paw-Paw branches. The Paw-Paw tree had a fruit shaped like an avocado but was light yellow and you could eat them. The Paw-Paw tasted like an overripe banana and we used them for grenades when we were playing war. If you were hit by a ripe Paw-Paw fruit it did not hurt but the green ones hurt like heck.
We had close experiences with a skunk and possum and small water moccasins. I caught a big snapping turtle once and I could not get him to open his mouth to get my hook. We only had two hooks between us so I finally broke the line and went home.
In the wintertime, the river would freeze over and we would try to ice skate with clamp on ice skates. They kept coming off the soles of our shoes. Dad came to the river once and wanted to try our skates. I laughed to myself. I told my self I am going to enjoy seeing my dad busts his rear on the ice. To my amazement, he took off; in a couple minutes he disappeared around the bend, reappeared, skated up to me, set his skates, and sprayed me with ice as he stopped. I stood with my mouth open and Dad knew what I was thinking. I found out later when he was younger he was an excellent skater and was the tease of the skating party.
One cold day my Uncle Ves and I went to the river to check the ice, to see if it was frozen hard enough so we could skate. We came upon a spring that kept the ice from freezing and in the three foot diameter circle there were Crappie swimming almost on the surface of the water. My uncle rolled up his sleeves, put his hand, and arm into the freezing water and when a big Crappie swam by he would toss him out of the water onto the ice. The fish would freeze instantly. I gathered them into a pile and we took them home to eat. When we got into the kitchen I got a tub of water, put in the fish, and prepared to scale them. I did not know that the fish were not dead. The warm water revived them and they were jumping out on the kitchen floor. I had to put them into a dry bucket so I could clean them.
In the winter time, in the evening, we would take stick matches split them on one end and insert a couple short pieces of paper and put a needle in the burnt end and this was our darts.
Mom was always sewing and we would take buttons with four holes in them, string thread through them and put it on our fingers and make the buttons whirl at a terrific speed.
Some times the mail carrier could not make it to the mailbox with the mail. When he did we would take the Sears Roebuck catalog and spend hours looking at the fine things on the pages. The catalog served two purposes one for ordering and when it was out dated we would take it to the outhouse.
On the winter days, that we could not get out my uncle had an old chest with post cards from far off places and we would look at the pictures and dream. We had a stereopticon and would look at the world war one pictures in ď3D.Ē
The neighbor boy had a kaleidoscope and he let us take it home and the color combinations kept us occupied for hours. One Christmas I got a top. It is not the easiest thing to make-work but when you found how to make it stand upright, it was fun to watch.
We played hide the thimble. We would tell the hunter if he was getting hot or cold. Sometimes I lied and Mom would get after me for deceiving my brother.
I try to imagine what it would have been like to have the toys of today back in our living room on the farm. We were poor and I did not know it. We always ate good and had plenty of covers for the cold winterís night. I thought we were rich, as you can see it is all in the mind.
I remember Mom canning fruit, vegetables, meat and jellies for the winter. I thought nothing about it then but as I grew older, I can see that she spent hours over a hot, wood stove to prepare for cold weather. I did not appreciate this until now. I do not know why it has taken 70+ years to realize that Mom and Dad worked like slaves to make a home for the family. I never once said thanks.
A Grateful but not very thoughtful Monte 11-22-99