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jimbo rambles: September 2005

Sunday, September 25, 2005

so it was sort of a farm

The place I was brought home to on the Cape Vincent Road from being born at Mercy Hospital, though for sure the memories are as foggy as you would expect for a newborn, well, I guess it was a farm. There was a barn, a row of attached sheds, a separate chicken coop, and acres of fields of and woods.

My father had a job at a radio station in Watertown as an engineer, and since he worked mostly a late shift, this gave him time to plant a couple acres of corn and a good size tomato patch and squash and corn and beans and peas and carrots. I think we might have tried potatoes at one time but had no success.

But anyway I guess after the vague toddler memories, the dog putting it's front paws on the tray of my high chair, that kind of thing, one of the first things that I remember is weeding in the bean patch with my mother, but maybe I wasn't doing so much weeding as just hanging out. I was just little, after all. But that's what kept us busy in the summers, putting fertilizer around the tomatoes, picking thte corn, selling it by the side of the road on a little stand that we'd wheel out every day except Sunday, when we'd go down to Wellesley Island for a day of swimming in the cold rocky water. We'd leave our little stand piled up with corn though, with a box for people to put money in, just in case they needed some corn on Sunday. You couldn't say we made a lot of money at it though. So I never thought we were farmers, but then I don't think that farmers ever make a lot of money farming, they just spent a lot of time farming. But we didn't have livestock, and that's what really makes a farmer, I think. We did have chickens in the coop and for a time we supplied eggs to some around the neighorhood. And we had a mule, Nellie.

Nellie was bought to be a help in picking the corn; the rows were rather long and walking up the rows with a burlap sack on your back is rather tiring, as you might imagine, and so my father's thought was that we could put the sacks on the donkey's back and put the corn in the sacks as we walked along through the rows. Of course my father didn't take into consideration that donkeys really like to eat corn, and once you got the donkey in the row it would stop to eat rather than pick the corn and Nellie turned out to be no help at all with the corn, and instead spent the rest of her life out in the pasture really engaged in nothing all that productive. Occasionally we'd hitch her up to the sleigh in winter and try to get her to pull us down the road on a sleigh ride, but she wasn't too crazy about that, and every time we tried to ride her she would either run through a grove of sumac trees with low-hanging branches or she would stop and stand facing up a hill so you would slide off her back.

We had a lot of mysterious farm implements in the sheds that would be not used for years and when we later moved off the farm be snatched up by antique collectors as a picaresque memoirs of a simpler time. It was indeed a simpler time, so simple that we didn't even use a lot of thos implements, just hoes and rakes and tillers and threshers. A manure spreader.

The barn had a hay loft, but we didn't have hay, since we had no cows, just Nellie, who fed on grain, so the barn was mostly a place to hang out and play, and shelter for the donkey (and stray barn cat families) in the winter. It was fun to hang out there, dusty and smelling like hay.

Eventually we used the barn in summers to hold dances, but that's another story for another time.

So it wasn't so much an abstract farm, but a real place we lived through, playing and working and scraping by, our big family in in this Northern New York rural community.