So it Was

July 17, 2012 § 10 Comments

Every week or so, Penny and I take the boys on separate adventures. Given the amount of time they spend together, and given that both of them are just as rowdy and rambunctious as young boys should be, and perhaps even more so (never mind strong-willed, hot-tempered, and generally feral), it feels imperative that we occasionally pull them apart for a few hours, lest they thrash each other right into the emergency room. I exaggerate, of course, but not by terribly much.

We alloted this past Saturday morning for just such adventures.  The rules of engagement are simple: the boys alternate between us from week-to-week, and can choose what they each want to do, so long as it doesn’t cost anything, and doesn’t require much vehicle travel. Generally, we stick around the homeplace; fishing is a popular option, as are mushrooming and the construction of catapults from scrap materials on hand.

This week, Fin wanted to go squirrel hunting, as he’d recently made what he deemed a decent squirrel potpie (actually, it was chipmunk, but truth is, there’s precious little difference between squirrel and chipmunk. They’re both disgusting) and was keen to replicate his success. So he loaded the .22, and he and Penny set off for the woods to stalk wild game.

Rye was having trouble deciding what to do. I offered fishing, romping through the woods, tractor driving instruction, and helping Melvin, our 65-year old dairy farming neighbor, load square bales into his barn. I’d seen Melvin baling at nearly 9 the evening before, and knew the hay would still be sitting in his wagon, which was fine so long as the weather held. But showers were forecast for the afternoon, and if that hay didn’t get under cover, it’d be ruined. It’s not that Melvin couldn’t’ve put the hay in the barn by himself, but if ever there is a task where the phrase “many hands make light work” rings true, it’s loading square bales.

I was a bit surprised when Rye chose the lattermost of these options. First of all, at 7:30 a.m., it was already wicked hot and humid, and would be more so in the loft of Melvin’s old barn. Second, he freakin’ loves driving the tractor – what boy doesn’t? Third, the bales weighed somewhere in the range of 50 to 60-pounds; Rye weighs somewhere in the range of 50 to 60-pounds. You do the math.

In any event, we puttered down the hill to find Melvin, which wasn’t that hard, considering he was where he is every single morning of every single day of every single year at 7:30 a.m. Which is to say, he was milking. “Melvin, we came to unload the wagon,” I said. He looked at me, then at Rye, and almost – but not quite – missed a beat. Within a half-dozen minutes, we had the wagon positioned at the bottom of the hay elevator, and Rye had climbed the sketchy wooden ladder with the missing rung into the loft. It was determined that I would load the elevator from the wagon, and Rye would pile bales in the barn. To be honest, I wasn’t sure he’d be able to do it, and I don’t think Melvin was either. But there was nothing to be gained by not trying, and so Melvin returned to his cows, and I started sending bales up to Rye along the clattering elevator.

Within an hour, we had most of the bales unloaded, and Melvin had finished milking, and he came out and we all stacked them neatly along the back gable wall of his hay loft. In the vast, open space of the barn they looked almost inconsequential, and I knew it was maybe three days worth of feed for his small herd. Three days out of the 200 or so days they’d need to be fed hay over the year, and for a moment I thought about all of the essential work that happens that most of us never see, that goes unheralded and unnoticed. Unappreciated.

That night, Rye showed me his hands, and the blisters that had already formed and burst. Little flaps of skin hung ragged from his small palms.

“That was fun,” he said.

And so it was.

§ 10 Responses to So it Was

  • Nancy Settel says:

    what a wonderful and encouraging story about our future generation.Oh how I love reading about your farm and the daily happenings, the children are a delight and how I wish so many more children could experience this. My hat is off to you and Penny for raising such fine boys. nancy settel

  • jennifer fisk says:

    Among my fondest childhood memories are those from haying on my Aunt’s farm. The reward for all the work was a swim in the river. Your boys are so lucky. Hopefully, they’ll always remember the wonderful life you’ve provided for them.

  • Lindsay Koehler says:

    Ben, your posts offer a happy bit of peace in my day. Thank you for sharing your days with us.

  • What an awesome way to spend childhood!

  • maggiemehaffey says:

    It’s so nice to see such whole, healthy children being raised in their natural environment. The separate one-on-one times with parents is a really great strategy. It is also a lifesaver to any parent of young bear cubs, which is how I used to describe my two, now 26 and 30… Now, they both work with us on the farm. Rye chose well, didn’t he? It’s so rewarding to watch a child learn the enjoyments of hard, physical work. Too many children are allowed to sit on their rumps all day in front of a computer game instead of using their bodies as they were intended to be used. Those poor children are being done a great disservice. You have found the secret to a long, happy life for you, and your boys, who will, all too soon, become whole, healthy men. Bravo to you and Penny!

  • I’m proud of that boy…

  • that is awesome~I love that your boy chose to do that! by the way, I’m glad to hear that we’re not the only one with 2 boys who like to fight all of the time…l loved your explanation of them…so much like my boys, I just smiled!!

  • One of my favorite posts that you have written. The photograph is exquisite. Thank you for sharing.

  • Ben Hewitt says:

    Hey, thanks everyone.

  • Vonnie says:

    Hmmmm…so your boys argue as well? Glad I’m not alone in that world, mine bicker incessantly. They do love each other a lot but seem to have the need to best each other all the time. As a parent, it’s exhausting to listen to. We try to do time alone together as well, it works sometimes, and sometimes not. They also see their friends separately as well, which has been helping this summer.

    I grew up doing hard physical labor myself. I worked at a boarding stable almost daily for the occasional chance to ride a horse. The owner definitely got the better end of that deal, but I sure learned lots of important life skills. And we hayed hundreds of acres of fields for the up to 65 horses, and I am allergic to hay. So, I would come home riding on the top of the hay wagon stacked with square bales, arms and legs covered in scratches and pokes and swelled from the allergy, muscles screaming, but feeling happy. Yep, it’s a great way to teach the value of hard physical work. Good for Rye! Wish we had the opportunity to provide that for the boys now, we don’t live in that type of situation anymore. It’s still country, but much more suburbia then I had growing up.

    Did Fin have any luck with the squirrels? Our rule for our boys is this…if you shoot it, you have to eat it. So, they are selective to say the least!
    ~Vonnie

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