Rural Communities: Neighbors and Friends on the Family Farm

An Iowan talks about the role of neighbors and friends in her family farm's rural community as she was growing up

| Good Old Days

Neighbors and friends were an important part of rural communities, especially during the years when transportation wasn't as plentiful as it is today. Neighbors were relied upon for assistance in general farming practices, such as making hay, threshing, harvesting corn (especially when it was picked by hand), butchering, driving cattle, etc. Women depended on neighboring women for their social life as well as for assistance and support when serious illness occurred or there were "threshing" dinners to prepare.

My mother served as midwife to many neighboring women, assisting in the delivery of their babies. She seemed to be "on call" and certainly a "beeper" was unheard of then. The neighbor's husband or another neighbor came to request her services when that critical time came to deliver a baby in the home or to assist the doctor if he had arrived.

Farm women led a life of isolation but never wanted for something to do to fill their time. The daily household duties amply used the daylight hours, and when twilight arrived, it was indeed time for rest.

Visiting, cards and games were the entertainment when neighbors did get together for a few hours in the slack seasons. Before radio, telephone and television, you relished each bit of news learned from an afternoon or evening visit.

I recall when my brother contracted polio and was critically ill for weeks, a group of neighbors prepared a big box of wrapped gifts for him-he could open one gift a day for a month. We all benefited from the excitement each day of watching him uIiwrap the gifts that those neighbors so generously made possible.

In my pre-teen years, my mother made matching dresses for my friend, who was a close neighbor, and me. We delighted in dressing as twins occasionally. Her mother also made us another matching outfit to wear for church and school. We kids spent many long evenings at the Edwards' house playing Monopoly as well as outdoor games.

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