Midwest Weather and the Seasons Controlled Life on the Family Farm

An Oregonian recalls growing up on his family farm, planting and harvesting around the sometimes capricous midwest weather

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Midwest weather dominated our life on the family farm, being a prime topic of conversation and indeed the aura that orchestrated our existence. My uncle's diary entries reported the temperature, the direction of the wind in the morning, as well as any changes during the day.

The seasons were distinct. Spring scarcely appeared when the earth suddenly warmed in May and one felt that "God's in His heaven, all's right with the world." Dad with horses and plow was in the field and the clear, sparkling song of the meadowlarks punctuated the air. School was out in mid-May, and soon we were catapulted into the season of storms, with crashing thunder and spectacular lightning. Dad always watched the clouds, and as a darkening sky threatened a tornado he closed the barn door and hustled us with wraps and flashlight down into the cave. He stayed near the top steps, and only after the wind became furious would he close the slanting door. Our farm was spared, but I remember visiting the shambles where a tornado had struck.

Summers were humid and often got up to 100 degrees. We often retreated to the basement to pit cherries, peel apples and do other chores preparatory to canning.

Fall was corn picking time. With horses and wagon Dad worked the rows, husking and heaving the ears up against the sideboard and into the wagon. Each bang resounded in the crisp fall air. As the trees lost their leaves their configuration stood in stark relief with a beauty of their own.

Winter brought snow and severity. Dad changed the wagon wheels to sleigh runners; it was our transportation to and from school two miles away. At times he bedded us down under horse blankets, kneeled in the wagon with his fur-lined coat, collar up, cap with earflaps, reins over his shoulder as he drove the horses.

Early spring was a time of rains, cloudbursts and swollen creeks. Dad would take us to school in the buggy or carriage, the narrow wheels slicing the mud as he hummed his monotonous though comforting melody.

Nature's voice was our companion, the cosmos in which we lived. Though nature often disciplined us harshly, again she was sweet and loving. We tuned our lives to her authority, and in her rhythms experienced both confinement and enhancement.

Bernice Severson
Portland, Oregon

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.