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Every Life is a Story
    A place to share my own family stories

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Life on a Farm

My parents grew up on farms. They lived in a small rural town in Oregon, and lived the farm life. When they grew up, they became a banker and a teacher, and settled in the suburbs, but they never forgot their farming backgrounds.

When I was in grade school, the lure of the land was just too much for them. They decided that they wanted to get back to their farming roots, and raise us girls the way they had been raised. They purchased a 37 acre farm, and decided to build a house there.

The housing market was really bad then, and everyone told them that it would take forever for our home to sell, so we put it on the market right away. We were stunned when a week later, we had sold the house. We had a month to move, and we hadn't even dug the foundation on our new farmhouse yet. We purchased a very small trailer home and put it on our farm property, and moved in.

The farm didn't actually have a well for us to have running water when we moved in. So for a week, we went and showered at other people's houses. We had no room in the trailer, so my mother made us pick just one toy and one book each to keep. Everything else went into storage. We had bunk beds, and shared a room for the first and only time in our lives. The bunkbeds could only fit in the tiny alcove that was our bedroom if we put them in front of the closets. We had to climb onto the top bunk to open the closet doors and get to the clothing inside.

We had other farmers use our property to grow alfalfa. They planted and harvested, and we had to help them with water. So every morning and evening, we had to move the pipes to the sprinkler lines so that all of the alfalfa would get water. The pipes were very long and heavy. My mother would take one end of the pipe, and my sister and I would take the other end. My mother tried hard to carry the pipe close to the middle so that she carried most of the weight, but what she didn't realize was that her height made all the water in the pipes run down to OUR end. We got drenched. Every time.

As construction began on our home, we got used to construction vehicles coming up and down the quarter mile dirt road to where the house would be built. It was Oregon, so of course it rained a lot. After awhile, the dirt road turned into a mess of mud, and horrible ruts. It got so bad, we found we couldn't drive on the dirt road at all. We would have to park at the end of the road and walk in to our trailer- usually lugging the laundry we had to do at the laundromat, or the groceries we purchased. It was another expense and long wait while we redid the road to be more solid and driveable.

Part of our plans with the farm was of course to have farm animals. This really was fun. We had chickens, several that laid brown eggs, and one special breed that laid green eggs. It was like Easter every morning. We had rabbits- although we only had them because my mother had purchased them for her kindergarten class, and we had to keep them over the summer. We had cows, which were sometimes fun, except for the one cow that kept getting out of the fence and running around the fields so we would have to chase her down. She was one of the first we ate. We also had beehives at the far end of the field. We didn't go visit them, but we liked the idea of having them.

When Christmas came, we went to my grandmother's house and had an amazing, and huge Christmas with tons of presents. We played with them for the few days that we were at my grandparents' house, but when we returned home there wasn't room for them. They got put into storage. Until we moved into our new house, we didn't see them again.

The house was finally completed. It was beautiful, and big, and amazing. My room had its own built in desk, and was my favorite color of green. We absolutely loved our new house, and were so grateful to leave that tiny trailer behind.

Six months later, my father's position at the bank was eliminated, and he was transferred to another city in another part of the state entirely. We hadn't owned our farm and home for even a year before we had to put it up for sale and move.

After all the work, and trouble, and stress, my parents decided that maybe they were done with farm life. We found a home in town, with farmland close by, so we could drive by and look at the fields whenever we wanted to.

They were really nice to visit. But we didn't want to stay there.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Why I Don't Like to Ride the Bus

I know, it's the middle of July, and a beautiful summer. But here in Utah, we have year round schools, and school starts next week. So I'm thinking back to school already.

When I was in first grade, we moved from Corvallis, Oregon to Klamath Falls, Oregon. I was a brand new student in a brand new school in a brand new town. I attended Peterson Elementary, and I met my new teacher Mrs. Dennis. I was very nervous. Most particularly about riding the school bus. I didn't ride the school bus in kindergarten, and this was going to be my first time. I knew that on the first day of school, everyone took care of the first graders and made sure they got on the right bus, and knew when to get off. But this wasn't the first day of school. This was a few weeks into the school year, and no one was looking out for me.

My mother assured me that I would be just fine. She promised that she and my sister would be standing out where the bus was waiting for me so that I would see her and know when to get off. THAT was my biggest fear. I was afraid of missing my bus stop and not getting off in the right place. Because I had no idea where I actually LIVED, and certainly couldn't recognize it on sight yet.

When my first day ended, I boarded the bus with the weight of the world on my shoulders. I approached the big scary bus driver to explain that I didn't know where my stop was and didn't know where I lived. He said something vague that was meant to make me feel better. But I didn't. The bus left, and headed out on it's route. I watched out the window anxiously, watching for my mother. The bus made it's first stop. Some kids got off. No sign of my family. I stayed on the bus. The bus made it's second stop. No sign of my family.

Technically, I should not have gotten off of the bus. My mother had made a promise that she would be waiting for me. I had no idea where I was or where I lived. Call it intuition, or a higher power, or dumb luck, but I couldn't stay on the bus any longer. I was too upset and scared to stay, and I don't think that I cared if it was really my stop or not. I just couldn't stay. I got up, and got off the bus. I stood by the side of the road and watched the bus leave. I was alone at the bus stop, and I had no idea where to go from there. It occurred to me that I had perhaps made a huge mistake.

I waited around for about a minute, then decided to follow the other children that were walking up the street to their houses. Nothing looked familiar at all. I pretended I knew where I was going. Suddenly, I saw my mother walking down a driveway, my little sister in hand. I had gotten off at the right stop! I was so relieved! And so indignant! She was supposed to be right there! She recognized that I was upset, and apologized for being a little late. She didn't think the bus would come so fast. And then I was home, and all was fine.

But the trauma of that little moment has never left. I was never able to ride the bus comfortably on the way home, for fear I would miss my stop. Even after I knew my neighborhood intimately, and could find my way home from just about anywhere, the bus still made me uncomfortable. It wasn't long before I found a shortcut that would let me walk home in a relatively short time. My relief at not having to get on the bus was enough to keep me walking home the rest of my time at that house.

I wasn't always at a school where I could walk home easily. But I walked whenever I could get the chance. A part of me is grateful now to be close enough to the school to walk my children to school, and walk to meet them when they come home. It would stress me out to see them ride the bus.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Lucky the Bird

My mother got a job when we moved to Junction City, Oregon, and I entered the fifth grade. To help, my grandmother babysat us after school every day. They lived out in the country on what used to be a large farm, but now had a big yard, enough for a fabulous garden, fruit and walnut trees, some swings, and a chicken coup. We had just moved from a farm ourselves, and couldn't keep some of our chickens and rabbits in town. My grandparents happily cleaned out the empty chicken coup for our chickens, and built a hutch for the rabbits. That way we were able to play with the rabbits every day after school, and help feed the chickens.

One day, after my grandmother had picked me up after school, she told me that the strangest thing had happened at her house. She had gone out to the chicken coup to collect the eggs, when she found a parakeet eating the chicken feed! It had apparently been a pet at one time because it had an orange band around its leg. She caught the parakeet, and found a rabbit cage to put it in, and she thought maybe we could keep it as a pet. I was so excited to get to grandma's house and see the bird!

Unfortunately, rabbit cages aren't the best place to keep birds. It had escaped through the wider spaces in the wires. I thought that was it, but we decided to check the chicken coup again just in case- and sure enough, the parakeet had gone back to eating the chicken feed. We caught it again, and put it in a box, then called around to see if anyone we knew had a real bird cage. We found one, and put the bird inside, along with some food, and other necessities. We named him Lucky, because he was so lucky to have been found again.

Lucky was our pet for only a very short time. He had been in the wild too long, and didn't take well to being in a cage again. Not as "lucky" as we had originally thought. The chickens and rabbits didn't last much longer after that either. They were just too hard for my grandparents to take care of.

But for awhile, we were checking that chicken coop every day in case any other escaped pets showed up for a free meal.

"To be a person
is to have a story to tell."

- Isak Dinesen  

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