When one of the grandchildren came to visit on a day off of school, I dug out the old home movies thinking he'd like to see what his dad looked like when he was small. The activity was a hit. We did not finish with the movies that day, but we made plans to get together again on another day off.
The opportunity for another movie day was this week. A mid-term break provided the day off of school.
I had forgotten how many pictures we had of the men out in the field doing farm work. As we watched I had to narrate what was going on explaining not only what was being done, but what the machines were.
I was sure he'd heard about much of this from his dad. Seeing the old machines at work made sense out of some of his dad's stories.
My husband and father-in-law did not invest in a lot of new machinery. They made the old things work as long as possible. We saw the "C" tractor mowing hay and raking it. The "M" tractor my son still has that was attached to many of the other machines. All of the tractors were red in those days.
The first unknown machine was the threshing machine. Preston had seen a drawing that Grandpa made of a threshing machine, but that was all. The movies show the old machine at work. It was set up near the barn so that as soon as the straw was baled it could be stored away in the barn. The bags of oats stood outdoors waiting to be stored in the granary.
If you ever participated in the threshing process you must remember how dusty it was. Sometimes the men wore handkerchiefs over their mouths and noses to keep the dust out.
There were pictures of two of the old balers. One baler made very large bales and the other one had a kicker that shot the bales into the wagon at least that was what was supposed to happen. Every once in a while a bale got away if the driver was not careful turning the corner.
I had to explain the corn planter and the grain drill. Cultivating was another new to him activity. My husband was very careful to get close up pictures of each machine. He thought that one day he wanted to splice the images and make a movie of a year on the farm.
The haybine was the same one that his dad used to cut hay when they first started farming. He was quite young when they used it, but thanks to his scrapbook there are many things he "remembers".
The oat shocks in the field were something new as well. I always thought they looked like little huts. Preston thought so, too. They looked fun to play in from his perspective. I remember being inside my trailer trying to rest when my husband walked on the roof to get those shots of the oats.
We took more movies when the children were young than we took later on. I was careful to document important events such as learning to crawl and taking that important first step. There were family pictures of birthdays, Christmases, and Easter observances. The movies cleared up for us when the children received certain toys as gifts.
As we watched I realized how we had captured a by-gone era. All of the immediate family members except for my brother-in-law and me are gone. Watching those pictures reminded me of what was said and done as the family worked together.
The two farms were run together. Hay had to be taken in at the lower farm first. The gravelly loam soil allowed those fields to dry out faster. The upper farm was also last to lose the snow so growth up there was a little slower.
It was more than a little sentimental watching the family work and play together. It was hard to tell where one activity left off and the other began. Our picnics were often the result of a day at work at one farm or the other.
The cousins seemed so happy to be together. Whether they were working or playing they enjoyed the camaraderie.
Farming was a hard way of life at times. The work was physical and unpredictable. The pay was minimal for all of the effort put forth. There were no days off. There were no paid vacations. There were no sick days and no paid holidays. There were no employer funded insurance or retirement plans.
That being said - the best part of country life was the lifestyle. We enjoyed our free time because there was not much of it. We could make anything fun. I am so glad we took all of those old movies!
Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, PA. Contact at firstname.lastname@example.org