Athens County farm memories: Summer daze
I spent my high school summer years staying with relatives on their Athens County farm. This was the ’50s and my Aunt Hazel and Uncle Orville had not quite adapted to indoor plumbing, but they did have it. The outside privy still had some traffic. And while Uncle Orville owned an Allis Chalmers tractor, he also didn’t sell Dolly, Molly or Rex, three large Belgium work horses; when two worked, one rested. It was a nice arrangement because I got to loaf with the off horse.
These Belgiums had big rumps with a cleavage down the middle, just right to rest a head while Dolly stood mute and still under a huge shade tree, flicking flies and from time to time shifting her back foot. I read comic books that way or dozed like she did.
It was hot then, too. The heat sizzled the air slowing work down but not ending it. Orville piled the raked rows of hay into doodles and then forked them onto the wagon his wife drove. Hazel always wore a dress as did her daughter Ardith. I didn’t, but I made up for it years later when I bought my first cow and milked her in my Liberty of London cotton dress. Like a hatchling, the first person I saw milking was wearing a dress so I did, too! I wore it out and as well the fine silk A-line I had purchased from Lord and Taylors while living in New York City.
My job in those summer months was to yank the trip line releasing the clutch of hay pulled up to the mow by Dolly whose rest, along with mine, had been interrupted. Uncle Orville would yell down to pull the rope when the hay was just where he wanted it. It had to be distributed equally over the mow. Sometimes I dropped the hay outside or worse, on him. That’s when I felt like the city girl I was.
It wasn’t always work. On Wednesday evenings, regardless of the heat and the hay making, Orville drove to Chester Hill to roller skate. Now I could skate just as good as those county kids and I did, floating by backwards, doing zigzags, feeling the cool night air lifting me beyond the clumsy nature of early teenage years into a kind of eternal happiness.
Sylvia Zimmerman is the owner of Fulton Creek Jersey Cheese in Richwood. She holds two graduate degrees and, when not working on her farm or pursuing her interest in sustainable agriculture, writes her own blog.