Farm Chores: Growing Up on the Family Farm

We bought our family farm when I was 11. It seemed we spent a good part of the summer hauling wheat to market and doing other farm chores. My job was leveling it out, either in the combine bin or the truck. Mom and I made countless trips to the elevator, then one day the trailer hitch broke and dumped the wheat, not in any regular dry ditch, but in the only water-filled lagoon we passed through on our eight-mile trip to town. When we “righted” the trailer, we spent some frantic times trying to rescue the water-soaked wheat. The waterfowl that inhabited the place were very happy for our mistake.

On Tuesday nights, there were the outdoor shows. Everyone would gather, buy groceries and visit. We sat on low wooden benches, swatted the mosquitoes and followed the adventures of our mostly western movie heroes.

Help was hard to find, so Mom worked in the field alone with Dad. I was the chief cook and watcher of my little sister. This began our closeness that continues though we are separated by 1400 miles.

One of the duties I had was to provide meals. We had a hired hand one year who liked catsup on everything. I watched him put it on eggs in the morning, and then continue all day until one day he took one of my chocolate drop cookies with a walnut on top, put it on his plate and added catsup. After one bite he sputtered and choked. “I thought those were hamburgers,” he finally coughed out. He’d finally found something that wasn’t made better with catsup. He also put a hole in the ceiling of his bedroom one day when he was cleaning out his gun because he forgot to take out the bullets. We were grateful that the hole wasn’t in him.

Mom and I always cleaned the grain bins. One time we discovered a mouse nest. Mom got out quickly, and I had the job of killing them all. She also didn’t go into the cave because she didn’t like the lizards. I grew to respect them for they had their own special beauty.

We pumped water from the well, and I learned to take a bath in a little water with a washcloth. One night I got caught in the spare room taking a sponge bath when neighbors dropped in to visit in the parlor. It was a long time before my mother realized where I was and rescued me. I was not about to walk out with a towel wrapped around me.

Reading was my main hobby but by a kerosene lamp it was hard to see, so evenings were limited to listening to a battery operated radio, sleeping and talking. When rural electricity came through, it was the miracle we had all hoped for.

My sister’s farm life is much different now.

Barbara J. Epley-Shuck 
Whitesboro, New York

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.