Recently I found this old picture of Ronnie and I sitting in the yard with some baby bunnies. He was about 12 at the time.
What memories it brings back of all the fun adventures we had as kids playing in the yard, and on that big elm tree in the background. It always had a couple of rope swings on it...and the little ladder so you could get up to the first crotch to begin climbing. I have no idea how many times we fell out of that tree...but I do know there were some bad bumps and bruises, a few broken limbs (ours, not the tree's), and at least one concussion. Nowadays parents would probably not let kids play with such abandon, but oh what fun we had. And what memories it brings back of growing up in the country.
I was visiting with a friend just this week and we were talking about how different it is now then when we were kids, and how much our grandkids have missed out on. Growing up in the country is just a whole other way of life. We used to have so much more time to play, to use our imaginations, and to experience things. Even though we always had chores - gathering eggs, bringing in the milk cows, milking, feeding livestock, etc. - it seems like we still had plenty of time to just be kids. Now people seem to fill their children's lives with so many organized activities that there is none left for just enjoying life. I think this is a mistake. Children grow up so fast...too fast it seems. I wish all kids could have the kind of growing up years we were blessed with. No TV, no video games, no computers - but more homemade fun than you could imagine.
In South Dakota Magazine this month there was a picture of a little kid playing in the sand. It went on to say that studies show that children who play outside are healthier, more creative and do better in school. I believe this. Fresh air and nature just brings out the kid in all of us, and I think it fosters imagination, adventure and an enthusiasm for life that cannot be found cooped up indoors.
Living in the country your best friends were your siblings. You had to get along or you would have no one to play with! Of course we had our disagreements, but we always got over it and moved on. There was too much good in our lives to dwell on petty things so we learned to compromise and share. How much richer our lives are because of that.
We never had a lot of material things growing up, but we had enough to eat and clothes to wear, although usually hand-me-downs. That was probably from necessity but we wouldn't have known the difference because everyone else did the same. It seemed that all the parents followed the old creeds of "waste not, want not" and "use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without". If your pants were too short or your shoes were too tight, there were probably some that fit in the box of your brothers' outgrown things. Being the only girl I often got "new" things passed down from my cousin. It was like Christmas whenever my aunt sent a box!
One thing I remember about growing up was sharing. Do kids learn to share nowadays? We had one bike for SIX kids....you took turns going for a ride and when we got a little bigger we got to ride on Mom's old bike so then we had two! I remember we had a big box of
I think I was very fortunate in that my parents encouraged my brothers to play with me too. Of course, I was always up for playing their games but they would also play house with me and even dress up in girl's clothes so we could have a family. (Hal always made such a cute daughter!)
Sometimes we had a doll for the baby, but often as not we dressed the cats in doll clothes and pushed them around in the buggy. It was always a wild race when the cats tired of the game and ran off dressed in their finery....then we had to chase them down to get the clothes off.
Another thing I remember growing up was mean livestock. Before we had Angus cattle we ran Herefords. And, I remember we had some very mean bulls. You could not be in the barnyard when they came through or they would take after you. Mom had always told us to stay away from them but of course we thought we were pretty brave. One time I stood just watching them come by when one of them noticed me and began pawing and snorting and moving in my direction. I was chicken and went flying to the house as fast as I could go. I ran into the yard, and slammed the gate. As I ran along the inside of the fence that old bull just slammed that fence and pickets went flying. Needless to say, I very quickly went into the house where I was safe. I never told anyone that I was the cause of that old bull breaking the fence, but I sure learned that a picket fence is no match for an angry bull!
I also remember mean pigs, especially sows with piglets. You do NOT want to get into a pen with a mean sow as she will eat you! No lie! Once my brother Howie fell into a pen with a sow. He has the scars to this day. He could have been killed if my parents had not been close by to rescue him.
Horses can be ornery too. We had one who liked to dump us off all the time. His name was "Tagger". I think it was actually Tiger but us kids called him Tagger. We always rode bareback and he could twitch his back in such a way that his hide moved and you would fall off every time if you didn't have a hold on his mane. He loved to dump you off, then he would put his head down so you could crawl up his neck to get back on...only to dump you off again if you weren't paying attention. It was like a game to him but it sure made you mad if you were the one getting dumped! He was a pretty big horse and it was a long way down.
Another horse we had was named "Dolly". She was really a kids' horse - gentle as the day is long. She loved little kids and would walk so slowly so they wouldn't fall off. But if you were older she liked to bite you. She never bit hard, but if you were bent over she liked to nip you in the behind. Sometime you might feel her breath and turn around just before she got her nip in. She would close her eyes and look totally innocent until you turned around again, then she might just nip you anyway. She didn't do it all the time, just when she was in a "playful" mood, so it would be quite a surprise when all of a sudden you got a bite on the butt!
When I was little I was afraid of the chickens. It was my job to gather the eggs and the chickens must have known I was scared because they always chased me. Even though he was younger I got Ronnie to go with me. He would wave his arms and yell to scare off the biddy hens and the rooster so I could gather the eggs without getting pecked. If you were alone some of them would sneak up on you while your back was turned and attack you. It was was not fun, and it HURT too!
Ronnie was always good to go with me to take out the trash if it was after dark too. (I seemed to sucker him into helping me a lot!) We had coyotes around and they would howl something fierce. It was quite a ways to the "ditch" where we dumped our trash for burning and at night it was very dark. Often there were coyotes just across the gully from the trash dump and they were so scary to us little kids. We would carry the trash together, one on each side of the can...almost like holding hands for security. Then we would dump it quick and RUN! as fast as our legs could carry us back to the house. Taking out the trash at night was not for the faint of heart. We learned young that there was always safety in numbers.