Friday, August 16, 2013

What Have We Been Doing? Part 4 Shooting Crows

Ok, back to our frantic preparations for last week Saturday's extravaganza:

The pyramid was done, now it was time to get the rest of the yard presentable. We finally finished most of the weeding and deadheading on Thursday.  My mother, Lucille, came down to help us weed for the first time this summer.  She had been busy working on her art project, decoratively painting two fifty gallon rain barrels for me.  (I am going to devote a post to her artwork very soon.)

With the major weeding done, the next thing to catch our eye was the Quarry.  Oh, very attractive. 

Waterlilies in better times
  The waterlilies in the Quarry pond looked dreadful.  We had a stretch of hot weather earlier in July that effectively toasted the foliage to a crispy, crunchy brown.  The only way to deadhead a water lily is to toss a canoe in the pond and cut the rubbery stems one at a time.
Waterlily 'Crispy Critters' last week 
 I don't have any photos of this chore.  We ended up using a corn knife, which has a long, curved blade, to cut the stems and then toss the yucky things in the canoe.  Carl spent a few hours doing this while I went around and around the pond with a net, scooping up other floating stuff.  We switched jobs a few times to reduce the monotony and ease stiff muscles.  When we were done, I wish I could say it looked wonderful, but no...wonderful isn't the word I would use.  There were still stems poking up through the shallow water here and there.  If we had done the deadheading a week or two earlier, there would have been time for the lilies to send up fresh leaves.  But it looked a little better for the garden walk, anyway.

New buds are forming, too, so at least we'll enjoy some flowers again before fall.
On Thursday afternoon, we had a surprise visit from my nephew and his family all the way from Wyoming.  It was great to see them as it has been a few years, and wouldn't you know we didn't take any pictures?  I have been even more scatterbrained and exhausted lately due to a recent change in thyroid medication which has been a rollercoaster ride I'd love to get off of.  (The sooner, the better.)  So it wasn't until they had left when it hit me we didn't take any photos to commemorate their visit. Their young son and daughter had a great time in the canoe and carried on with our deadheading operation for us.  (Again, no photos......what was I thinking??)

When our company left, Mom went back to weeding and Carl and I went and did something really silly.  Around here, we call it 'Shooting Crows'.  Now, I hasten to inform you, no crows were actually harmed.  It's a saying that Carl coined from an experience in my early adolescence.  Here's where the saying originates:

Way back in 1972, Carl and I met in a 9th grade science class.  I had never known Carl personally before 1972 even though he lived exactly one mile away from me our entire lives and I'd seen him once or twice.  His father was the local blacksmith and my father often took repair work to the shop.  

I remember the first time I laid eyes on Carl like it was yesterday.  Though I'm not sure of the date, it must have been around 1969 because my dad had just purchased a new Ford F150 pickup truck in a bizarre shade of bluish turquoise the year before.    Dad was fifty-six years old and I was eleven.  We'd been baling second crop hay on a blistering hot day in July and even though I was driving the tractor and not doing the tougher job of loading the wagon, sweat was the order of the day.  As was the rule rather than the exception, our old baler suddenly lost a cotter pin, causing the arms that dragged the hay into the plunger to go gollywockers and plunge themselves straight through the metal guard.  Luckily my quickly throwing out the PTO (disconnecting the tractor's power from the baler) put an end to more serious mayhem, but we still had a broken baler.

There's another saying in farm country, 'Make Hay When the Sun Shines.'   Haying season was by far the most stressful time for us back in the day.  You have to cut the hay and let it lay for sometimes days on end and hope against hope there will be no rain.  Then we would rake it to turn it over and dry on the other side creating what are called windrows.  But if there has been excessive rain even before the hay was cut and the ground is damp, the hay takes up that moisture, too.  Even without rainfall, the evening dew also makes baling impossible until it dries off over the course of the day.  Hay must be as dry as possible before baling which for us, meant waiting until early afternoon.  Prime time would be from 1PM to 5 or 6PM, depending on the dewpoint.    Damp hay packed in tight bales will heat and barn fires are catastrophic.  Hot hay is not a good thing. 

But as usual, I'm off topic again, so back to Carl:

By the time we broke down it was close to 3PM and the sun wasn't going to be shining a whole lot longer.  The breakdown couldn't have come at a worse time as rain was forecast for the next day.  Dad was cussing as he took the baler apart to get the broken part off.  I dutifully handed him wrenches and idly scratched a few mosquito bites.  Finally the broken part was removed and Dad asked me if I wanted to along to the blacksmith shop.

I jumped at the chance to take a ride.  There was no air conditioning in our lives, but just being able to hang my arm out the truck window and splay my fingers out to play with the varying wind currents was a cool treat.  I also filched a cherry Popsicle out of the chest freezer, too.  Life was good, a ride, a warm breeze, and an icy treat.  Leaving the farm for any errand in the middle of the day in summer was an adventure for me.  Come to think of it, since I'm still on the same farm some forty-odd years later, it still is.
We arrived at the blacksmith shop and the first thing I saw was some kids sitting around a picnic table drinking something from a pitcher.  I immediately sank to the floor boards of the truck, I was dirty from baling hay and painfully shy around other kids.  Popsicles came in 'twin pops' and I had carefully separated them so I could enjoy two treats to make it last longer.  Sitting on the floor boards of the pickup in the hot sun with the dripping confection was a bit uncomfortable, but it beat being spotted.  Still, I would sneak peeks out the window when I thought the coast was clear.

He never saw me, but I noticed Carl right away, though I didn't know his name.  I wasn't too impressed.

 He wasn't a Farm Kid. 

And he was wearing shorts.

 I never knew any boys who wore shorts, and certainly not in Haying Season.  Blue jeans are the proper attire for haying.   But then I didn't get out much and I didn't know any boys and to be fair, he wasn't doing any haying, so my superiority complex was uncalled for. 

 I brushed off the flies that found me delightful due to my sticky state and hoped the broken part would be welded soon.  I needed a drink.  Whatever those other kids were drinking looked good, but I stayed put, out of sight.  Finally after what seemed an eternity, Dad was back in the truck and we were on our way. 

"Why are you sitting on the floor?" he gruffly asked me as he turned the truck around.

I shrugged, "No reason," but I waited until we were almost to the road before I got back up on the seat and stuck my arm out the window.  I've always been an anxious, nervous person and now I could breathe again.  Back to playing with the wind on the short drive back to the hayfield.

Our actual face to face meeting came three years later when we were fourteen.  Carl had gone to a parochial school while I was educated in the public system until the two schools merged in the ninth grade.   And though we went to a small school, we met only because we were seated alphabetically.  Surprisingly, this was the only class we ever had together in our four years of high school.  We were both fourteen years old and the attraction was mutual and instant.  Needless to say, I just about flunked science that year.

We didn't start officially dating until we were 16, but Carl found his way over to my dad's farm much earlier than that on a Honda 70cc minibike.  He would take a break from his dad's shop using the excuse of going for a bike ride and end up at my house.  Back then all the farm kids (but me) had dirt bikes and there was an amazing system of inter-farm trails spanning miles.  His visits were always very brief because he wasn't supposed to be seeing me; his parents frowned on the idea.  We were too young and no good would come of it.  Parents worry.  I know.  I'm a parent, too and yes, I've been there, done that. 

My folks didn't appear to be too concerned, though Dad was a bit annoyed in a fatherly way.  He said he thought Carl had feet that were freakishly big.  He usually referred to Carl as 'Big Foot', as in, "Here comes that Big Foot again.  Doesn't he have anything else to do?"   

Mom simply forewarned me that 'Men don't buy the cow when they can get the milk for free'.  Point taken, Mom.  There would be no free milk forthcoming.  Not a drop. 

Poor Carl.

But Carl wasn't going to let parental dismay get in his way.  Sometimes he'd simply materialize out of nowhere and ride alongside of the tractor while I was doing field work.  He'd grin and wave before speeding off back through the woods toward his home.  He was very good at showing off on that motorbike, popping wheelies and horsing around.  Personally, I was dazed, I never thought any boy would be interested in me.  Sometimes I wasn't sure if I'd really seen him or not, like a mirage, until I saw the dirt bike's tire marks in the lane. Once he stopped and scratched something into the dirt of the lane before grinning at me and speeding off.  I stopped the tractor to see what it was and was thrilled to see a big heart.  Ah, young love. 

When we were fifteen and had no driver's licenses, a neighborhood wedding popped up.  Since we both lived in the same neighborhood, our folks were invited.  We kids weren't, but back then, as long as uninvited kids didn't come for the big wedding supper, their presence was tolerated at the wedding dance.  Dances then were big affairs with well over three or four hundred people invited and there was always a live band, usually polka oriented.   The polka bands would try to appease the young folks by tossing in a rock 'n roll song now and then, but somehow an accordion and a tuba just don't cross over into that genre very well.  Polka was King.  "Roll Out The Barrels" was always a favorite and "I Don't Want Her, You Can Have Her, She's Too Fat For Me' would get the place jumpin'.

This particular wedding was Very Important to both Carl and I because it was going to be our first sort of official Date.  Since we neither of us could drive, we had to rely on the good graces of other people to get us to the dance.  Carl's folks weren't interested in taking Carl along to the supper since he wasn't invited, so he arranged to go with his older brother to the dance.  They couldn't pick me up since we weren't supposed to be seeing each other.  (Such a tangled web, I know.)

My folks were going and didn't have a problem toting me along since they'd been doing that all my life.  I was basically an only child after my much older brother went into the military and Mom never left me with a sitter.  She had no need to, since the only place she ever went at night was to these neighborhood weddings.   Back then it seemed everyone in our neighborhood was invited to at least three or four weddings a year, marriage rates must have been unusually high in the early 1970's.    Since I was a young child, I ate my supper early and came along with my folks to the dance hall and sat in the car until supper was over.  Mom would come out and wave me in and I would sit with her and watch people dance while Dad socialized at the bar. 

But the biggest fly in the ointment was my dad.  His moods were often mercurial and for some reason, maybe it was anxiety, maybe not, the fact was he could be very unpredictable about special occasions.  The wedding was in the summer, and there is always something to do on a farm in the summer.  And, of course, we were dairy farmers, so the cows have to be milked before we could go.   Dad had been grumping around earlier in the week, saying maybe we should skip this wedding since he had too much work to do.  This wasn't unusual, his anxiety levels were always high whenever we had to go somewhere off the farm.  I held my breath and confided in Mom the reason why this wedding of all weddings was important to me.  She understood, and we remained cautiously optimistic he would change his mind. We were on track for a timely departure for the wedding that night, we'd gotten to the barn a bit earlier, chores were going smoothly. 

We were in the middle of milking when suddenly Dad looked out the barn door to the recently planted corn field about twenty acres away.  The corn had started emerging and the tiny green shoots were pushing their way through the loam which is a pretty sight for a farmer. 

On that particular evening, it was also a pretty sight for a flock of crows.  The flock had settled in the cornfield and were busily uprooting the shoots to get to the corn kernel still attached to the roots.  They simply pull the seedling out of the ground, eat the corn kernel and move on to the next plant.  Though this might seem like minor damage when there are so many corn plants in any given field, when you are a small farmer, a flock of crows can do a great deal of damage.

"Oh, those #%^ crows!" my father yelled, startling us and the cows.  "Karen, go get my gun!  They're not going to ruin my crop!"  He fished around in his pockets for his truck keys while I ran for the .22 and ammunition. 

Mom meekly protested that we really didn't have time for this expedition or we'd be late for the wedding, but Dad was adamant. 

"Oh, forget the stupid wedding! Get me some birdshot, too!" he yelled to my already departing back.  "If I chase them off, they'll probably be back, so this is going to take awhile."

As I ran, I was near tears. Oh, no.  Not now.  We were doing so well, we were almost done with chores, we simply do not have time to go shoot crows.  The flock of crows wasn't a new problem; we'd usually deal with it by sending the dog out to scare them off.  But now it was turning into a who knew how long 'Thing'.  We might miss the wedding entirely.  I was beside myself.   Now I'd never get to go on my first date.  Odd stuff like this always came up whenever there was a special occasion.  Darn crows.

Luckily, the crows flew away after the first shot and probably made their way to another hapless farmer's corn field, because they didn't return and Dad sat in his truck waiting.  Mom and I flew through the rest of the chores alone as fast as we could, feeding the calves, putting down fresh hay and rinsing all the milking paraphernalia.  I had just about given up hope on going to the wedding now, but Mom said she was going even if Dad wasn't.  She sent me to the house first to get ready to go which I did in record time.

Eventually, Dad gave up on Crow Patrol and long story short, we finally did arrive at the wedding.  They were late for supper, but I was ecstatic. 

Carl was there.

 I don't remember much about the rest of the evening, but it was way too short as all good times are.  I ended up asking my mom if I could ride home from the dance with Carl (and his brother as our chaperone) and it was magical.  We'd had our first sort-of date.

Some time later I told Carl the saga of how I almost didn't make it to the wedding that night and he thought it was kind of funny. As he came to know my father (and me) better, he could see this was a pattern of behavior with us.  And since you get like the people you live with, even Carl has been infected.

And now, four decades later, we're no better than my dad was that day.  Almost without fail, and especially before garden walks, we invariably come up with some goofy idea we simply 'have' to do because it 'won't take long'.  Again, Famous Last Words.

We've become experts at Shooting Crows.

Part 5 eventually.


FlowerLady Lorraine said...

Thanks for this funny, sweet part of your love story when you were young. I thoroughly enjoyed it.


Alison said...

I love when you wax poetic about your girlhood. In today's world, with all our big cities and technology, your stories remind me of when life was simpler. I could feel your heartache as you went to get your dad's gun.

Carol said...

What a cute story. I enjoyed it. As a person with whom life hasn't gone as I wished, I think it's great that you are still in your childhood home, married to your childhood sweetheart. Oh, if only but we deal with what we are handed. You should be a writer and I look forward to the next part. Thanks

Shirley said...

Sweethearts so young! I enjoyed your story of young love. Something tells me my husband wouldn't want our "stories" of forbidden love shared on my blog. My dad didn't like him, of course, and though he tried to forbid the relationship, where there's a will, there's a way. And we had the will. LOL. We've now been married 30 years.

steve said...

I thoroughly enjoy your story its so lovely after reading your story i gone to dream world because now in cities no one have to spent time with there love.

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Lana said...

Beautiful. And to look at everything you've created is clear you two were meant to be together.

Loved the life stories of things from another time that have carried you into today.


Pam's English Garden said...

Beautiful love story! Wonderful to read about a simpler time.

Betsy said...

Thank you for sharing a sweet story.
I wish crows were all the problem we had today.

Toni said...

Great story!! I laughed out loud at your description of weddings and polkas and the bands trying to play rock 'n roll. It's a Wisconsin thing. Takes me back to my childhood. I also laughed about the boys and shorts. To this day I am not sure I have ever seen my dad or brothers in shorts! Farm guys just never wear shorts. Can't wait for Part 5!!

Rosemary said...

Cute story.