Surviving childhood, farm style

Riding a bicycle without a helmet, riding in a car without using seat belts or infant car seats, drinking water from the garden hose and riding in the back of pickup truck. You might have seen a list like this titled, “How Did We Survive Growing Up in the ’70s?”

I bet you could add to the list. Talking with some friends who also grew up on farms, we too, have things to add.

Growing up on a farm, you were around a lot of equipment. Being a passenger on a tractor without a cab. Learning to drive a tractor, and many other pieces of equipment, long before you were legally allowed to drive a car. Riding in and playing in freshly harvested grain in gravity wagons.

Stacking hay and riding on loaded hay wagons. Farmers use a chain-driven conveyor to take bales up into the hayloft, the “attic” of the barn. Many a farm kid has walked on that conveyor, and some even rode bales up into the hayloft. 

I remember my mom sending us outside when my siblings and I had gotten on her last nerve. It didn’t matter if it was cold, because the barn was available and the hayloft was our winter playroom. Epic rope swings!

My older brother liked to build tunnels with bales of hay or straw — I never did like them. I didn’t like the ladders I had to use to get into and out of the hayloft, either.

The hayloft makes me think of the grain storage that my dad had up there. When the hayloft was full of hay and straw, you could just walk right over onto the oats or wheat. We played in it like sand and, of course, like any farm kid, we ate some. I wonder if there is a farm kid who hasn’t sampled soybean straight from the field, or even better, after they were roasted. Calf milk replacer powder and dried molasses are pretty tasty, too.

When you grow up on a dairy farm, you don’t get your milk from the grocery store; you go out to the milk house and get it out of the tank. Yep, unpasteurized and unhomogenized.

Another item of consumption that really got my friends to giggling was salt. We all admitted to licking the 10-inch-by-12-inch salt blocks that our fathers had put out for the cows. It didn’t matter to us that the cows had already licked them.

Have you ever been pulled behind the old farm truck or a tractor on a sled or tractor tire inner tube? Or like my husband and his bothers, go bumper skiing?

Growing up in the snow belt, we had snowmobiles, so that was our mode of transportation. You learned to drive them first in the yard, then graduated to the fields close to the house and then ventured further. 

There are more memories that I could have shared and more experiences that I have forgotten. Yes, some of the things we did may not have been the smartest or safest, but they made us who we are and probably really built up our immune systems.

There is one thing that I remember and wonder what my parents were thinking. The electric company had been working on our road and gave us an empty giant spool that the line came on. We rolled that thing around and played on it for several years. How we didn’t break our necks or any bones is a mystery.

Something you learn real quick and always remember — it is best to assume that the electric fence is on!

Submitted by Mary Smallsreed, a member of the Trumbull County Farm Bureau, who grew up on a family dairy farm in northeast Ohio. 

OFBF Mission: Working together for Ohio farmers to advance agriculture and strengthen our communities.