Sunday, January 20, 2008

Story Hour - Part IV

Story Hour is a collection of short, auto-biographical stories written by my father, about his childhood memories growing up on a farm in Upstate New York.
The Father (con't)

I do not recall my father being a particularly devout or religious man. I do recall before moving to the farm, walking back from the Presbyterian church on the Sunday that I was baptized. Religious holidays were pretty much work days on the farm. The cows had to be milked no matter what. Other animals had to be cared for and the wood boxes always needed filling.

DG had an ongoing war with the power company and the rural electrification agency. The survey crew would lay out the power pole positions and drive a small wooden stake to mark the pole site. The problem developed when Jack or Dick would be mowing hay with the team, Tom and Jerry. They would step right smartly along and before they could be turned or stopped, the cutter bar would hit the marker stake and break off a blade or two. This, of course, curtailed the haying operation until repairs could be affected. To my taskmaster father this was an affront to his personal property and so every opportunity to pull up and throw away the stakes was a pleasure to him. Eventually the poles were set and the wire strung. We did not subscribe to electrification.

At a later date we did acquire a second vehicle. It was an overused and abused Studebaker pick-up that had a tendency to die beside the road. Jack and Dick were by this time going to Sandy Creek Central School and thusly were acquiring new friends and activities.

From somewhere unknown Dick had obtained a used radio from a car. It worked. The routine quickly developed. On those nights that DG was on the road the chores were quickly done with. The battery was removed from the Studebaker and connected to the radio in the front parlor. The cluster of rug-rats quickly gathered and sat enthralled as the speaker gave forth with the ”Tales of the Inner Sanctum”, “Amos and Andy”, “The Shadow”, the glorious tones of music and other electronic marvels including, “The Lone Ranger”.

There was, as usual, a down side. After a couple of hours of steady drain on the battery the volume would start to fade and we knew that in a short time the entertainment session would come to a screeching halt. DEAD BATTERY! Might as well go to bed.

Jack and Dick realized that in the morning it would be required that they harness at least one of the lighter horses, hook it up to the truck with the dead battery reinstalled and pull the truck around the barnyard until the combination of speed, inertia and the timely popping of the clutch caused the engine to turn over and fire. This accomplished, they went about the regular chores of milking and caring for the animals while the running engine recharged the battery. Gasoline was 20 cents a gallon and I often wondered if DG noticed how much gas we used when he wasn’t around.

By this time, Dugal and I had grown to the size required to help more with the chores in the barn and house. While Jack, Dick and mom did the milking, Dugal and I would throw down hay from the mow for the horses and cows. Each milking cow also got a scoop of grain. Each horse received a portion of oats that we grew on the farm. The chickens got a scattering of corn and oats in exchange for the eggs we gathered. The pig pen was off to one side of the barnyard by a building where the corn meal was kept. A pail of water also had to be carried with the kitchen slops from the house. However, most days the slop bucket was pretty skimpy as we didn’t waste much.

DG was not without faults. He had a violent temper that he had difficulty controlling. He also had a very vivid imagination and a smoldering jealousy (real or imagined). This lead to an inevitable confrontation that resulted in physical violence inflicted on my mom. It occurred early in the morning while Jack, Dick and Dugal were in the barn doing chores. I don’t know the subject matter but DG lost control and used his fists on my mom’s face and body. The results were very noticeable and it was a very short time before he left for work. There is no doubt in my mind that he did not want to be there when Jack and Dick came in from the barn.

It was a school day so Dugal, Sally, Alec and I went up the hill as usual. Around noon, Dick, driving the Studebaker truck, loaded with clothing and a few pieces of furniture, pulled up to the school and picked up the “Brown Kids”. And so we moved again. This time it was to a very small, 3 room bungalow (No bathroom). It did have electricity and an ice box. It was located just up the street from the house where most of us kids had been born, the house that my dad had built.

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