When my dad was a boy, he and his family, including his sisters Laura and Ruth, and his brother Bill, lived on a farm in the Great Lakes Region. The winters were bitterly cold, and long. The snow got deep, and you only went places if you had to. This didn’t stop the kids from getting out and playing in the snow, which is typical. Bundled up warmly, their big sister takes the boys outside to pull them on their sled for a while. I’m sure the free time that provided to their mother, who had been cooped up with these bored children, was a blessing.
Living on a farm back then, the kids needed a good imagination to entertain themselves, because there were no video games to play with. Kids had to make their own fun, and my dad and his brother were very imaginative. What began with two sweetly innocent little boys, would soon graduate to the pranks and antics of boys with big ideas. Once summer arrived, the possibilities were endless. From setting off dynamite on the forth of July at daybreak…a prank that makes me wonder how many times their mom wanted to throttle them, to sneaking out by the river with buddies to cool off and maybe try their hand at smoking. You put a group of boys together on a summer day with nothing much to do, and they will be sure to come up with something…a thought that makes me cringe.
Of course, there were the chores too, and my dad and his brother were never real troublemakers, just typical boys.The did use the dynamite to work the place too. The would blow tree stumps out of ground that was needed for some other uses, and they fixed fences and gate posts…sometimes after the sunk the post into the ground with one of their dynamite adventures. They took care of the family pets, and other such chores, like cutting and stacking wood. But they always found time to play, and of course ride the horses…a mode of travel that was far more common to that era that this one. My Aunt Ruth, however, was the one who seemed to me anyway to be the one to thrive on the horses. She can be seen in many of the old pictures riding a horse or in a wagon hitched to two horses, to take her to a quiet place where she could sit and enjoy the warmth of the afternoon sun.
That was just a different time and place, when life wasn’t so fast paced. When people worked hard, and then took time out to relax and enjoy the beauty of the country they lived it. It was simply life on the farm.
When my Uncle Bill was out to visit us about a year before my dad passed away, I had the rare opportunity to hear some of the stories of their childhood first hand. Dad had two sisters, Laura, who was the oldest child, and Ruth who was the youngest child. Dad and Uncle Bill were the two in the middle, and being both boys, I’m sure added to the mischief they managed to get into. Of course, there were the typical stories about walking 10 miles to school, barefoot in 2 feet of snow, and it was up hill both ways…of course, but everyone knew those were just a tall tales.
And then there were the stories that I knew were true, and these were some of the most shocking ones. As is fairly common with boys, my dad and uncle were always into something, and braver that they probably should have been. They told us of one 4th of July morning when they decided to “celebrate” with some fireworks, and since they didn’t have any traditional fireworks…well they improvised…with dynamite!! They placed the dynamite on a gate post, and lit it. When it went off, the gate post was pushed several inches into the ground. It was quite obvious that their mother would notice this when she came home from town that day. Well, my first thought was, “How did you not blow yourselves up?” They told me that they had used dynamite before when they had to remove a tree stump, but that they never thought about what their mom would say when she got home…well, they fixed the gate post before that could happen. I can just about see the shocked looks on their faces when that gate post sunk. I don’t think they expected that, and the look on their faces as they told the story showed that they could still remember how they felt. I wish I could have seen that!!
Uncle Bill also told me about a time when he and my dad were out playing on the woodpile. Apparently they loved to climb all over that wood. I’m sure they played everything from war games to hide and seek, but apparently there was one time in particular that my dad, who was a couple of years younger than my Uncle Bill, and three years old at the time, had played himself out. My Uncle Bill told me that my dad fell asleep, standing up against the wood in the pile. I can just see that now. I’ll bet is was a precious sight.
My aunts didn’t ever appear in these stories of antics, which doesn’t surprise me really. Boys are so different than girls. My guess is that the girls didn’t really want to play the same rough games the boys did, but it is what makes my dad and uncle who they were in those young years. And they never lost that little boy mischieveousness…ever!