Wednesday, June 1, 2011


When I look back at all the jobs or "careers" I have had since I was 16 years old I must say that the one I loved the very most was that as a farm hand.   For several summers and while attending boarding school in Pennsylvania I worked on a dairy farm.  During the summers I lived with Dave and Cindy Walter and their young son Pete and dog Chipper.  I became a real part of the family.  I had a small room in the attic of their farmhouse.  I was up by Oh-Dark Thirty to help Dave with the morning milking and chores.  By nine we were back in the house for an incredible breakfast which Cindy had waiting. I will never forget the fried scrapple, eggs toast and coffee all topped off with a Lucky Strike!   Then it was back to work.  This job was great not only for the close family it provided, (mine was out of the country), but it incorporated the things I love most: animals, machinery and the outdoors.

Must be About Milking Time!

Every day was different.  There were hot days on the tractor plowing or disking fields in preparation for planting corn or alfalfa.  Other days were rainy but we had to fix fence. We were so proud of the brand new Allis Chalmers D-17 Tractor we hollered every time we started her up " THAT'S DIESEL SMOKE".

The Big Orange
She may have been new and very high tech for the time, however the old John Deer Tractors who joined her in the stable were all workhorses too.  Once my friend Sam and I had a bit of competition and tried a tug of war between the D-17 and our John Deere 60.  We hated to admit the JD won - I think mostly because of her massive weight and traction.


Later in the summer we would mow acres and acres of alfalfa to let it dry before chopping it with a forage harvester behind the D-17.  The alfalfa would be chopped up and blown into wagons towed behind the chopper.  This could be a real train and a handful on some steep hill-sides.

Chopping Silage

We shuttled the wagons back to the barn where they were unloaded into a blower that blew it up a pipe into a silo.  For a while we had no automatic silo unloader - so come feeding time I would climb the rungs of the 80 foot silo and get on top of the silage and throw it down a chute with a pitch fork!  The first time I went out to do this after lunch I had just climbed into the top of the silo and Dave came running out and scrambled up the silo to get me out.  I was not aware that the fermenting alfalfa creates a toxic gas.  He had realized where I was going and saved my butt!

Those Beautiful Gentle Faces

Much of the Alfalfa was mowed and then raked into windrows to be baled.  Many evenings Cindy would drive the tractor pulling the hay wagon with Pete in her lap.  No fancy big round bales, but very heavy square bales which we picked out of the field with hay hooks and stacked on flat hay wagons.  Dave, Sam and I always competed to see who could stack the highest load.    There was more than one time that a wood-chuck hole in a field would bring a load tumbling down.

Watch Out For Chuck Holes

Most days we were working from around 5AM 'til 9PM at night. We worked every day but sometimes took Sunday afternoons off for a family get-together.  Of course we had to get back for evening milking!  Often we were working zombies!   I recall "napping" on a tractor while disking or mowing on a hot and dusty afternoon.

Another thing about farming is you are always braking things.  A mower hits a hidden fence post in a field or a power-take-off shaft gets bent while backing a wagon.  So we spent a lot of time fixing things.  I learned a bit about welding and the value of keeping moving equipment greased and adjusted.  Dave could fix anything.

Cows are wonderful - huge but gentle.  Each knows her own stanchion so when it is milking time she will come into the barn and go to her spot to be milked and fed.  There is nothing quite as nice on a cold winter morning as snuggling your shoulder up against the warmth of the cow as you put the milkers on her udder.  We loved and were proud  these animals; most every one had a name.  We groomed them and often washed their tails in buckets of warm soapy water. 

As I said this was the greatest job I ever had.  I will never forget these times, these animals, and most of all the family that took me in as one of their own.

My farm job was prior to the invention of the camera - so these pictures are the best reproductions of my memory that I can find...

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