Playing Around

Addie has a staring contest with a cowThe friend I usually brought with me to the farm was Addie. One of our favorite pastimes was playing around in the barnyard. In the barnyard was a large barn, a tractor shed, a corn crib, and, later, a huge pole barn which housed the cotton picker. The large barn was divided into three sections. The outer two sections usually held large wagons used for the collection of hay or cotton. The center section was larger and much more interesting. There was another corn crib on the left side along with the stairs up to the hayloft. The hayloft had openings at either end and a trap door through which hay bails could be dropped. There always seemed to be a breeze blowing through the windows of the hay loft. Sometimes Addie and I would just sit with our legs dangling out of the window facing the pasture enjoying the breeze.

The wide main hallway of the barn had gates at either end and there were several stalls along the side not taken up with the corn crib. I don’t remember the use to which these stalls were put in the life of the farm. Addie and I, however, had a definite use for them. There was a fairly large herd of goats that seemed to just run around wherever they liked. When I asked what the goats were for my father just told me that his father had liked them and that’s why we had them. The goats were fairly skittish and sometimes comical. Often we’d see one standing in the empty trough used to feed the cattle. They’d scamper all over the place and I guess I could see why my grandfather liked them.

The goats wouldn’t let people get near them though. Whenever Addie and I tried to approach them with an offering of corn or some other treat they’d let us get only so close and then charge away. This behavior was such a challenge and the goats were so, well, I guess “cute” is the way to describe them, that Addie and I were determined to get close enough to pet them. We tried herding them into a corner of the barn lot. We tried sitting very still on the ground with our hands filled with shelled corn. Nothing worked.

Then we hit upon a new scheme. We closed one end of the main barn hallway. Then I would stand across from the open end of the hall while Addie herded the goats around the barn so that they ended up running right at me. As they approached me I’d wave my arms and make lots of noise. Addie was right behind them doing the same thing. The only way for them to go was into the barn. We left the doors to all of the stalls open and some of the goats would inevitably end up in one of the stalls. We let the others escape but closed the stall door. One of the times we did this trick we ended up with two baby goats in the stall. They were so cute. We gathered lots of corn and carefully entered the stall with the goats. Sitting on the sweet smelling hay we eventually had the two baby goats sitting in our laps and eating corn from our hand.
Addie and I loved to explore the nooks and crannies of the barnyard. We’d venture into the tractor shed which smelled of oil and gas. We’d climb around in the hay loft and all over the new cotton picker. The cotton picker was red and had its own tractor. It also had its own pole barn. It was huge and offered lots of challenging surfaces for climbing. Once, Addie climbed to the top of the cotton picker while I sat in the seat of one of the other tractors across the barn yard. We had trouble hearing each other so we came down from our respective purches and decided to make up a sign language that we could use instead of yelling across the barnyard. Eventually we were able to communicate without words but it was certainly slow going.

When Mr. Pettigrew wasn’t driving his truck he left it parked beneath a large oak tree. Addie and I would spend hours playing a game we called, “walking the truck.” We’d try to see how many times we could walk around the bed of the truck without falling. The sides of the bed were fairly wide and easy to balance on. The part of the bed that ran behind the cab would have been easy if we had used the cab for balance but we decided this was cheating. The trick was what to do with the arm on the side next to the cab. Eventually we ended up holding that arm over our heads as we walked this part. By far the most difficult was the tailgate. The top of the tailgate was far narrower than the sides. We’d usually hesitate before stepping onto the tailgate and then kind of run across to the safety of the other side. We sometimes could make it to 50 times around before falling or giving into the temptation to use the cab of the truck for balance.

There were also trees to climb. The easiest were the fig trees along the garden fence. They were easy because they had branching limbs that started quite close to the ground. Of course the best time to climb the fig trees was when the figs were ripe. We also climbed some of the oaks and hickories in the woods that was home to the worm farm.

The house had a big front yard. It was great for playing football or baseball. Usually Addie and I would play with Jimmy and whoever he’d brought with him on that visit to the farm. Minnie Nell and Gladys would sometimes play with us. At night we’d play, Highway.” This game involved one person being, “It.” Everybody else would go and hide somewhere around the house or behind a tree. The person who was It would walk around looking for the rest of us. When we were caught we’d have to go to “Base” and then yel, “I need a highway!” This was the clue for the rest of us who were still hiding to try to wave back and forth so that the person who had been caught could see but the person who was It couldn’t. after receiving the “Highway,” the caught person could go hide again. One autumn I remember hiding in a pile of leaves. I didn’t get caught for ages and gave many “Highways” to my fellow players. The only problem with this hiding place is that I itched for about the next three days.

I don’t remember ever being bored at the farm. We collected peacock feathers. We’d try to sneak up to the edge of the small stock pond in the smaller of the two pastures and then jump up to see if we could surprise some frogs. If we did manage to surprise them they’d leap into the water with a deep hilarious croak. We’d sometimes stand at the fence of the pig pen and watch the huge pigs either walking about or wallowing in the mud to cool off. It was hard, as a child, to see over the fence into the pig pen but I had been told that if I stood on the fence the pigs might bite my toes. So I stayed safely on the ground and peered between the boards of the fence.

Sometimes our play came disguised as work. We would lug heavy shovels full of corn out to the cows and tip it into the wooden troughs. We would work alongside the farm hands during haying. It took two of us to manhandle a single bale of hay onto the trailer which was being pulled slowly along by a tractor. And sometimes we’d completely fail in this endeavor, collapsing breathlessly on top of the bale of hay when we couldn’t quite get it lifted high enough to be deposited on the trailer. I’m sure we were, at times, more of a hindrance to the farm hands than a help but they took it all in their stride.

On rainy days we’d explore the attic and scare each other half to death making ghost noises. Or we’d play board games such as Monopoly and Scrabble. There was also some kind of game played on a board which had a star shaped pattern with indentations for marbles.

Whatever the season, whatever the weather, we had things to do, games to play, games to invent. It was a magical place and a magical time. I’ll never forget the farm.

 

Go fly a kite!

 

Childhood joys on the farm

Gone fishin’

Playing around