Was it really life on a farm? I don’t know. I will take a look. My dad and grandfather moved up to Orange County from the outer edge of New York City in 1939. They bought a 47 acre working farm and made that their life.
The memory of those early days is best captured by a delightful 95 year old man named Vick who still lives. He told me recently that the very first job he ever had was to hang out in my father’s barn with a shovel and catch cow flops before they hit the ground and made a mess.
I remember my father also telling me about the disaster that occurred when his dairy cows got into a patch of wild sweet onions. Their ingestion of the onions destroyed the taste of the milk, and the dairy buyer refused to buy any of dad’s milk at that time. Dad had to throw away thousands of gallons of milk.
Dad soon came to realize that supporting a now fast growing family on a farm income in that part of the state was a losing proposition. Eventually, he took on a job with the New Haven Central Railroad, where he worked for many, many years. However, he did not totally abandon the farm life.
By the time I came of the age of remembering, about 1954, we had a few pigs, a bunch of chickens, vegetables, and Wilmot Chambers horses. To this day, as clear as clear can be, I remember dad chopping off chicken heads, and watching the chickens run around the yard. Scared me to an unimaginable level.
Also remember with the greatest fondness the horses we kept for Wilmot Chambers. I think they were old show horses, but all they showed was the wear and tear of their lives. But you need to know, whatever drudgery they had experienced before, we more than made up for with love when they were with us. God, how we spoiled those horses. We spent all our time feeding them, petting them, swatting flies, and loving them. Just couldn’t wait every spring to hear the sound of Wilmot’s horse truck coming up the driveway.
The pigsty, which held two pigs, was about 50 yards back of the house. Used to walk with my dad or mom when it was time to feed the pigs.
The back 40 was all beautiful fields and forests, and as much as I then remembered that time of life being boring and lonely, my memory now of that time was one of great imaginative undertakings. Friends who visited, which didn’t happen often, always wanted to play in the woods. They just loved the hell out of it. And, OF COURSE, when we got older, the woods would be the site of our first smuggled cigarette smokings.
A funny thing happened to me in 2001. My mom passed away, and the five of us decided to sell the farm. Being the only one still local, the bulk of the responsibility rested with me. After I signed the sale papers, I had great difficulty accepting the fact but the place was no longer ours. I felt the new owners were trespassers, even though, of course, they weren’t. It’s now fourteen years later, and when I pass by the farm, I still have the same feeling.
I guess I just feel I should be there for the new folks and warn them to not let the cows eat the sweet onions.