Summer on the Farm, 1938
That does seem like a very, very long time ago; but it’s amazing how real the memory remains these many years later. Summer was fun, a great deal of work and a time to learn how to live. My parents expected all of us to work every day; it kept us out of mischief and it helped to keep the farm running at a reasonable pace during those post-depression years. One of my duties was to dust the downstairs furniture twice a week. Our house was close to the gravel road and, though it was not a major thoroughfare, there were cars going by quite often and the dust that rose seemed to find a place to settle in our house. I still have a couple of those furniture pieces in my home and, when I dust them, I think of all the years I performed those same motions. Those pieces are special to me now because they remind me of those precious years.
Another summer job was weeding the vegetable garden – not a bad activity especially if I could share it with one of my sisters. Our gardens were a delight to behold and they did produce vegetables for the dinner table throughout the summer. In addition, mom canned enough to eat throughout the winter months. It was, however, very hot in the sun and it did not take long to find it necessary to find a spot in the shade.
When fall came and the pumpkins were big and ripe, mom would bring them, one by one, to the house. There the pumpkins were washed, cut apart and the inner seeds were removed. Then the cut sections were placed on the cook stove to simmer with a little water until the pumpkin was soft and pliable, when it was my job to remove the pumpkin flesh and put it carefully into a saucepan. Now it was simmered again to remove the excess moisture so the pies would not be too watery. It was at this point that I needed to carefully watch the pumpkin on the stove so it would not burn. I would stir it often until the consistency was just right for making pies.
It did not matter what season it was, but previously cut wood needed to be brought upstairs from the ranked storeroom in the basement to the wood box in the corner of the kitchen. I needed to wear a special denim jacket to keep my arms from getting slivers – then I would load those wood chunks into my arms and make the trek up the basement steps to put them into the wood box near the wood stove. I became very adept at loading my arms with as many pieces of wood as possible to cut down on the number of trips up and down the basement stairs. Fuel was needed year around to keep the stove going because we ate three meals a day in that kitchen. This was all before the days of electricity on the farm with the advent of microwaves for quickly heating food. Imagine the difference in prep time.
It was an early spring day when my dad asked me to go with him to get a hay wagon. In those days, farmers did not have a tool like Facebook or Craig’s list to find needed items. I believe they heard what was available by “word of mouth.” Thus, we made a side trip some distance from our property. When we got there, dad talked with the owner of the hay wagon and they must have agreed on a price, because next thing I knew they were tying the hay wagon to the back bumper of our 1931 Chevrolet – then off we went. We did not have a bumper hitch but we should have. Dad informed me that I should watch the hay wagon at all times and to yell to him if it came loose. Well, sure enough it came loose and made its way into a deep ditch. I yelled as quickly as I could when I saw the wagon make its way down the knoll. But dad stopped the car, went after the wagon, tied it onto the bumper (better this time) and we made it all the way home. Now we had two hay wagons; I guess he felt the need to have both of them. I was glad I didn’t have to glare at it any more that day. My job was done!
Laura W. Berglund
Laura Berglund is a former Afton area resident who writes post-depression stories of her childhood living in rural southern Minnesota. Her husband, Harold, (other than two years in the Army), has spent his entire life in the St. Croix Valley/Afton area, never living more than 12 miles from his birthplace.