I don’t want you to get me wrong by believing that my entire summertime was all play and no work. Work was a BIG part of my early growing up years.
My first job was at 6-7 years old when I had to walk through the fields after a corn picker to pick up the ears of corn that were left by the machine. We had to put them into bushel baskets and didn’t get paid for it. Another year older and I could start “steering” a tractor. I wouldn’t call it “driving” yet since all I could to was stop and go (with the hand clutch) and steer a wheel bigger than my arms stretched. I would steer the tractor with a wagon behind it through the field while my dad and older brothers would throw bales of hay on the wagon. At this same age I would have to work in the garden with my mom planting seeds, weeding, hoeing and finally harvesting the vegetables and fruit.
When I was young my father built a chicken house that would house 6000 laying hens and it was my job to pick up the eggs twice a day. Sometime later I would get the job of feeding them and shooting the rats with our .22 rifle.
After the age of 10 I would get more and better jobs. One of them was actually DRIVING the tractor disking stocks of corn down to get the field ready for the next planting or dragging a field. Driving activities that wouldn’t destroy a crop if I drove into a ditch or something. Milking the cow in the morning before school, picking up eggs and feeding the chickens became a regular chore.
After the age of 13 I would be driving the tractors and pickups into the fields, even trying my hand at the big grain trucks. I would be asked to cultivate (the hardest driving job) but my dad and oldest brother didn’t have me do that too often. Now I was of the age where many of my oldest brothers were at college or had their own jobs and dad NEEDED me on the farm. Now I would spend 3-5 days home from school to work in the busy planting or harvesting season. There was nothing better than staying home from school to work.
By the age of 16 when I could get a regular license I was doing everything on the farm but I was also looking for my own job. A job that PAID, because, you see, working on the farm your pay was a little different. I can still hear my father saying: “You eat and sleep in my house: THAT is your pay!”
I miss the summertime of my childhood, but not just for me. I miss that summertime because you will RARELY find a child working hard at the age of 7. Today’s people have this crazy idea that giving a child work or chores at a young age is abuse and that they should be allowed to play all the time. I miss that age of building responsibility in youth at a YOUNG age. I knew at a young age that if I didn’t work … I didn’t eat. Can you imagine the outcry of parenting “experts” today if they heard my father say that to me? I miss the summertime of my youth and I mourn the loss of that summertime for today’s youth.