Family Farm's Work Horses Gentle with Small Children

A Michigan woman tells childhood stories about rationing, sugar beets, and work horses on her family farm

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When my husband, Corwin, was 18 months old, his mother asked his older sisters to take him outdoors to play while she prepared supper. The children went to play by the open barn door. There was a step in front of the door and the girls had their little brother sit on the step so they could keep an eye on him. Father came home from the family farm's fields with the work horses. He unhitched the horses in the yard as was his custom. The horses would race each other into the barn to see who would be the first at the feed trough.

The horses took off at full gallop. The girls saw the horses running toward them and ran out of the way, leaving their baby brother sitting on the step. Both of the horses stopped in front of the baby, stepped ever so gently over him and then continued their race through the barn to the feed box. Father saw all of this, but it happened so fast he was powerless to do anything. Years later he said he thought he was going to have a heart attack.

My husband came from a large farm family. There were two boys and six girls. Money was not very plentiful in the growing up years. Each year they would raise three acres of sugar beets, which the children helped harvest. The money was used to buy school clothes and new shoes. Each fall the boys received one new pair of overalls and two flannel shirts. One year the boys were so proud of their clothes, they asked Mother if they could wear them on the Sunday afternoon before school started. Mother said yes, but not to play by the creek because she didn't want them to get their new clothes dirty. One side of the barn roof sloped to within three feet of the ground. The boys thought it would be great fun to slide down the roof. After an afternoon of sliding they went into the house only to discover they had worn out the seat of their new overalls. There wasn't money for another new pair, so they wore "fanny patches" on their jeans for the whole school year. Nowadays they might be in style, but it sure hurt their pride back then.

During the slow time on the farm, Father would take a job with the sugar beet factory. He would always buy a year's supply of sugar for the family and store it in the attic. The year rationing started during World War II, they already had their supply. Mother didn't know what to do. The children were told not to tell anyone about the sugar in the attic. They were not allowed to play in the attic when they had friends over either. Was Mother ever glad when the next canning season arrived and she could use up a large portion of the sugar hoard.

Sylvia Van Den Bosch
Holland, Michigan


Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then Capper’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from Capper’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.