I was just conversing with some adults about our childhood memories, and how we spent our summer days and free time as children, and it certainly wasn’t in front of an electronic device, texting.
Times have changed; of course they have. Our children need to be technologically-trained, because that is absolutely the way of the world now. But, that does not mean they should not be engaged in other things.
I grew up on a family dairy farm with about 45 milking cows, calves, heifers, a hen house with chickens and maybe two roosters, always a couple of dogs, cats, a pony, and even some Clydesdale horses at one point that my dad actually used for pulling a rake around the farm.
We each had our own chores. I scraped the walk in the barn (that means scraping fresh cow dung off the walkway), put down fresh straw bedding for the cows, cleaned the bulk tank after the milk truck came to get the milk, and watered and fed the heifers.
My favorite job though was feeding the newborn calves milk replacement with the large calf baby bottle.
I loved mixing the milk concentrate with water in the bucket and then stirring it with the giant whisk to make sure there were no lumps.
Those calves would suck that milk right down. Sometimes, I had to help the calf learn how to suck from it, which would take patience and tolerance of some bucking from the other calves.
Entering the hen house to collect eggs was an adventure. Many times, my nieces and nephews would be visiting and we would enter clad in armor and artillery (a stick) to keep the mean old rooster at bay. He was the protector of those hens, and nobody was going to have the eggs or bother those hens without a say from the rooster. He would peck and chase us, and it then turned into a game of cat-and-mouse people-(egg stealers)-and-rooster.
By the time we got out of the chicken coop or hen house with eggs in hand, I felt like I had won an Olympic competition. That rooster was a mean opponent. I will never forget him.
My days on the farm certainly did not mean all work absolutely not. Living on a farm meant we had a lot of room to roam, play, and discover not to mention buildings that transformed into our forts, houses, businesses, and anything our minds could imagine.
With cousins, nieces, and nephews, my brother, and neighborhood friends, we used to love to each stake claim to a different shed, corn crib, woodhouse, hay barn, or summer kitchen, and make it our own. I used to love to move the bales of hay around in the hay shed to create rooms and furniture.
Our bikes would be our vehicles. The barn would be our vet clinic, where we would tie up our bikes, which then served as horses, and we would give the medical treatment deemed necessary.
The hay barn was also our basketball court. My dad put up a basketball hoop, and we played many games of hoops on that wooden floor.
But the venture that was the most fun in the hay barn was the Tarzan swings with the rope from the top of the high hay bale stacks to the loose straw below. I don’t remember any major injuries or broken bones that resulted.
Sometimes, I am saddened by the major diminishment of family farms for many reasons, but mainly because of the work and play ethic that is no longer gained and learned from these farms.
We have to continue to encourage our youth to use the outdoors for work and play. It is important for development of work ethic and their imaginations and creativity. We want our children when they grow up to discuss their childhood memories with great fondness.