Terminal Trouble

Harvest was in full swing and my farmer husband of two months came in the house and decided it was time for me to help out in the grain hauling capacity. As a farmer’s daughter, I had ridden with my Dad many times to the grain terminal or the elevator as we called it. Into the truck I climbed with a vague question for my husband…. “What do I do when I get there??”

“Just follow the truck in front of you. You will probably have to wait in line and that will give you a chance to observe what everyone else is doing. ”

It seemed simple. I was a recent college graduate. I should be able to handle this.

As luck would have it, when I arrived and pulled into the grain terminal, there was no one in sight. No long lines of trucks waiting to dump their grain. I glanced in the rear view mirror hoping maybe someone had pulled in behind me. I would just let them go around me and then I could see what I should do. Again… no luck. I waited a few minutes, praying for someone else to come along and then remembering … they were waiting for my empty wagons back at the farm.

I spotted someone down the hill leaning on a shop broom next to the huge silos and the grates that covered the pits where the grain was dumped and I thought… well that’s where I need to be. So I slowly took off toward the dumping area. I lined the truck and wagons up so that my wagon was direcly over the grate and the gravity wagon door could be opened to release the grain. I was feeling pretty good about this until the young man with the broom came over and waited at the truck window. I didn’t know what he was waiting for so I said, “Hi. I want to dump my soybeans here.”

“Where is your slip?” he replied.

“I don’t have a slip. Where do I get one?”

He looked at me kind of funny and said, ” Did you weigh in at the scales?” I gave him a blank look. “First time here? ” he continued. I nodded my head.

He proceeded to instruct me to pull on through, go back to where I started and pull onto the scales to be weighed. “After they weigh your outfit, you go inside and they give you a slip of paper with the moisture levels and other information. Then you come back down here and you can dump your soybeans.” He was really very nice about the whole thing. Maybe I wasn’t the only first timer he had ever dealt with. But standing alongside the silos were a couple of other workers who were getting a big kick out of the girl in the truck that had no clue where to go. I felt my face flush a bit, put the truck in gear and headed back to the beginning.

Wouldn’t you know? By the time I got straightened around and back in line for the scales, there were three other outfits in line ahead of me. I had plenty of time to observe the correct way to weigh my grain and go to the dumping site.

When I got back to the dumping site for the second time, I was ready. I had my slip. I smiled at the guy with the broom, “Long time… no see.” He grinned and took my slip.

And when I got home with my empty wagons, my husband said, “Must have been busy at the elevator today.”

I just nodded my head.

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Farm Wife Life

Back in the early 70’s, I was a young farm wife willing to do just about anything my farmer husband asked of me. I had grown up on a farm, which unknown to me was a prerequisite to becoming his life partner.

Even though I grew up on a farm there were many things that I was never asked to do as a farmer’s daughter. I had to do chores around the farm since we had dairy cows and hogs, but I had an older brother. He got to do some of the “fun” stuff like driving tractor and loading hay and straw bales and hauling grain to the grain elevator. Still, I knew pretty much what to expect, at least I thought I did.

I never really understood my mother’s advice which was “never marry a farmer.”

My husband knew how to delegate; something else which was unknown to me. The first thing he delegated me to do was plow a field with a two bottom plow. I had already received training in driving the tractors on our farm. There were three of them. An 1100 MF and a Case SC with a hand clutch, and a 2010 John Deere. So I hopped up on the tractor ready to work the ground.

“Where do I start?” I asked my husband.

“Go to the middle of the field and start a dead furrow,” he said. “When you get that done, you’ll see what to do next.”

“A dead what?” I questioned. I didn’t think plowing involved death and I wasn’t sure I wanted any part of it. I didn’t remember my dad ever killing anyone or anything while plowing. My husband rapidly, as is his manner, explained to me what a dead furrow was, after laughing hysterically and saying, “you don’t know what a dead furrow is?!?!?!?” This haphazard explanation became a standard in our marriage. I should have stopped it right then and there. But I was still blindly in love and eager to please.

So I said, ” Why don’t you go do the dead furrow thing, and then I will finish it.” I figured we may as well be partners in the crime. He agreed and the job was eventually completed.

The next thing he assigned me to do was to cultivate a field of corn. I had never done that before either, although he was incredulous when I told him that. “You lived 21 years on a farm and never cultivated corn?!?!?! ” There was less laughter this time. I could see he was rethinking his decision to choose me as his wife.

He took me back a long, long lane in a godforsaken area of weedy fence rows and spindly trees and pointed out the corn. It was about 8 inches tall in remarkably straight rows and my task was to line up the little digger things on the cultivator. I later learned that these little digger things were called shovels. I was to pull the cultivator behind the John Deere 2010 and cultivate the weeds that were growing between the rows of corn. He took off across the field, demonstrating how to raise and lower the cultivator on the ends of the field so as not to break anything. It looked pretty easy; I thought I could handle it. Then he drove off in his pickup truck with the promise of coming back to check and see how I was doing.

I started across the field, thinking I could go as fast as he did and thinking this job wasn’t going to take too long. But suddenly I discovered I had gotten a little off course and had plowed up some corn plants instead of weeds. Not sure why they didn’t plant those rows a little further apart. And then I noticed that if I wasn’t careful I was running over the corn plants with those big tractor tires on each side of my seat. That probably wasn’t good. With a little practice I began to improve my skills until I noticed that every once in awhile I missed an entire row or two of weeds. Ah, well, I thought… he probably won’t notice.

Four hours passed. I was dirty, dusty, thirsty and tired. My neck and shoulders hurt like the dickens from looking behind me at the rows of corn and fighting with the steering wheel to keep the tractor straight. I was also extremely sleepy. I didn’t know about the monotony of driving back and forth across a field for hours at a time. And no one had come to check on me!

Finally when I was nearing the end of the field, my husband arrived with an ice cold Pepsi and a candy bar. He looked over the field, and while I waited for him to tell me what a great job I had done he just looked at me and said, “I’ll finish this up. You can drive the pickup back home. Where are those cultivator shovels that are missing?”

I shrugged my aching shoulders…I had no idea what a cultivator shovel was but I hadn’t noticed any shovels when I climbed on the tractor. “Maybe you left them in the truck? ” I offered. He rolled his eyes.

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Getting There

When I was a kid, I rode the school bus everyday.  When I was a senior in high school, I was still riding the bus everyday.  We had one car and mom used it to drive to work.  So I rode the bus.  I did not have my own car.  None of my friends did either.  A few juniors and seniors had cars, but the student parking lot west of the school building was not full.

Once in a while I got to drive because I had something going on after school.  But I had to get up early and take my mom to work at 7:00 AM and then pick her up after work at 4:00 PM so that cramped my style.

The first car I can remember was our little green 1950 Chevy. It had a button on the dashboard that the driver pushed to start the car. The headlight dimmers were on the floor next to the brake. No radio. No air conditioning. Crank windows. No seat belts. No bucket seats.

When I was in high school, we had a 1963 Chevy Belair. That was the car I learned to drive with. It had the same features that the little green car didn’t have but it had a radio! When I was a sophomore in college, mom and dad gave me the 1963 Chevy to drive back and forth to school.

My favorite memory in the 63 Chevy was driving home from college for the last time. I finished my coursework in the summer of 1971, loaded up all of my belongings and headed south on I 75. On the front seat beside me was a giant TV set that my parents had let me use in my apartment. It was the size of a small refrigerator, I swear! The trunk of the car was full of clothes and apartment stuff and the tv would not fit through the door to the back seat. So I pushed the front seat as far back as it would go and pushed and shoved until I got that TV into the passenger seat.

It was a hot summer day, I was on Cloud Nine, because I was going to graduate in a few weeks with my Bachelors Degree, I had a teaching job lined up, and I was getting married in 2 weeks. The radio was playing “Joy To the World” by Three Dog Night and I sang at the top of my lungs all the way down the highway. The windows were all rolled down and I was blowing in the wind.

There are just some moments you never forget.

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My Word is Word

This year I am not making a resolution. Instead I am following a more recent direction by choosing a word; a word for my yearly focus, a word to help me change or to remind me of what is important, a word that will help me reach my goals, a word that will be a daily reminder of what it is that I am trying to accomplish….

My word for 2021 is…. word.

I want to write more words. During the pandemic, I knew it was a perfect time to ramp up my writing…. I certainly had more time to devote to it. I wasn’t very successful, though, so I want to improve on the quantity and the quality of what I write.

I want to choose my words carefully. Those of you who know me are aware that I like to make people laugh. I want to choose only those words which make people feel good and smile.

I want to write more letters and notes to people. Not because I have something truly important to say, but because people need to know I am thinking about them and want them to know they are appreciated.

Yesterday, while youtubing, I came upon a recent recording of a song originally by the BeeGees. The song is “Words” and it is a new recording duet with Barry Gibb (The BeeGees) and Dolly Parton. Barry Gibb wrote the song along with his brothers, Dolly’s voice adds emotion to an already poignant song. Both artists have used words throughout their careers to tell stories and make their way in the world. In addition, Dolly has brought words to so many children through her Imagination Library.

I hope you enjoy the song as much as I do and I hope you find a word that resonates with you.

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Sneaky Santa

Christmas at our house was always celebrated on Christmas Eve. Each year my parents would come up with a plan to distract me and my brother while one parent placed all the gifts under the tree from Santa. For several years I had no clue. I happily believed that Santa was magical and could come and go without being spotted.

As I grew a little older and a little wiser, I began to think about it. Why did we never see Santa or even a trace of him? How is that even possible? I remember one year in particular. I was probably six years old and I was determined that Santa was not going to pay us a visit without being seen.

Our tree was placed on an enclosed front porch. On Christmas Eve that year, I planted myself at the kitchen table which had a clear view of the tree on the porch and decided I was not moving until Santa arrived. I was definitely going to see him. I sat and sat. Mom and Dad and my brother kept begging me to come into the living room and watch TV with them. Nothing they could say would convince me to move.

Finally, in desperation, my mother called to me, “Ruth. Come upstairs with me. We forgot to make your bed this morning. It needs to be done.” “But mom, I am waiting for Santa,” I responded as if they didn’t know this. “It will only take a couple of minutes and then you can come right back down and continue waiting,” was her answer. I whined and she finally said, “Well maybe Santa won’t come at all if he knows you are not listening to your Mother.”

I thought about this for a minute then dutifully followed my Mom upstairs to make the bed. I was in quite a hurry to get it done, but Mom kept finding things to drag it out a little bit longer. Finally we were finished and I dashed downstairs to find my chair in the kitchen.

My brother shouted, “Hey Santa was just here! Look at the presents!” I think he was in on the whole thing. He gave me this song and dance story about how he and Dad were just watching TV and never heard a thing.

My six year old self was quickly distracted by the gifts under the tree and we all spent the rest of the evening opening gifts and enjoying our new toys. But I still remember the disappointment of missing Santa again.

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Thanksgiving 2020

A tiny turkey breast seems almost lost in the oven. It’s almost time for it to trade places with the oysters and the green bean casserole. One oven, so everyone has to take turns. The pie was baked last night and is ready to go and a premade vegie tray awaits its turn in the refrigerator. Mashed potatoes of the instant kind, will be the last minute dish prepared. Just boil some water and add the potato flakes!

There are no grands or great grands coming up the back stairs and throwing the door open to announce their arrival, slinging their jackets wherever they land. There will be no cherry delight traveling from my daughter’s home (why do I always forget to clear a space in the fridge for that?). No hugs, no political arguments (thank goodness for that) and no Christmas wish lists to share with each other ( we have already done that online and with texts).

It will just be three of us, but we still have lots to be thankful for. Our family, so far, is healthy, and able to do their own things on this Thanksgiving day. We all have enough to eat and a place to live, friends that keep us centered or off kilter sometimes, and we all have hopes for the future.

I wish for you all a wonderful day, a different day, a hopeful day and a day full of thanks!

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Penmanship

My love affair with pencil and paper began with my brother. Ron is 5 years older than me and I followed him around like a little shadow throughout my childhood.

I missed him when he went off to school in the fall. When he was nine and I was four, I began to wait for him when I knew it was time for the school bus. I would look at the papers he brought home and listen to him answer questions about his day from my mom.

The concept of school fascinated me, though I had never been there. I looked at the numbers and letters on the pages he brought home, he sometimes would bring me a coloring page that I would scribble on and pretend I was doing schoolwork. I learned to recognize his name printed at the top of every page and was quick to brag that I knew what that word was.

One afternnon we sat down together and he printed my name. He carefully explained how the letter u looked like a cup, the letter t looked like a cross, and the letter h looked like a chair. I was hooked. I sat down and tried to duplicate what he had written. Ron made some examples for me and showed me how to make an entire row of letters. After lots of practice, I was able to write my name. The first letter always gave me trouble, because it did not resemble much of anything except itself! But the cup, and the cross, and the chair stuck with me and made it easy.

Two years later, it was my time to go to school. I could already write my name. The next year, my teacher chose one of my writing samples to be exhibited at the county fair in an educational display.

I continued to love to write. I loved school. I became a teacher and taught manuscript writing to first graders. After that I taught cursive for several years to classes of second graders. Other teachers complained about teaching penmanship…they thought it was boring and tedious. Not me, I loved every minute of it.

And…I loved telling my young students who taught me how to write!

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Why Everyone should raise hogs once in their lives

Every job you have ever held, had elements that made the job difficult, things that frustrated you, things that inspired you, things that gave you a sense of accomplishment or a sense of pride.  Since not too many of you have  been hog farmers, I want to explain to you why you should be a hog farmer…just once in your lifetime.

Raising hogs creates consistency in your life.  You must feed the hogs twice a day and water them twice a day and clean out their pens frequently or your attempt to raise hogs will be all for naught.  And like milking cows, it’s best to be on a set schedule.  Because hogs can tell time, as can most animals.  Hogs like to eat.  And when they get too hungry, they get touchy.  Downright angry.  And they turn on each other which isn’t a pretty sight and can make a difference in whether you make any money or produce a good product.

Raising hogs teaches you about hard work.  Whether you are scooping up hog manure with a shovel and throwing it over a gate or pushing piles of hog manure into a pit,  the one constant is…. hog poop is heavy.  You will develop muscles, your back may ache, and at the end of each day you will be tired.   This may lead to better sleep.  Unless you have to get up in the middle of the night to check the sows who are schedule to “pig” any day.  And by “pig” I mean … deliver a litter of baby piglets.

Raising hogs also teachers you tolerance.  A pig is an animal.  A pretty smart animal.  But still an animal.  Yoy might start to think that the mean old sow that always grunts and squeals when you get near her is purposely waiting to deliver her piglets at 3 AM  just to piss you off.  I assure you that is not the case.  Those piglets are born when nature says they should be born.  And you might think that that mean old sow who delivered her piglets at 4:30 AM  (30 minutes after you checked on her and then went back to bed)  is intentionally waiting for you to leave.  Not so.  You might even be paranoid enough to think she laid on top of 4 (or more) of her piglets just to cut into your profit margins.  Not true, either.  She is tired from delivering anywhere from 8-14 baby pigs and then being available for every single one of them to nurse right away.  She needs to lie down and if those pigs get in the way… well, too bad, she’s tired.  Doesn’t she love her pigs?   I don’t know what emotions pigs can feel.  She is protective as most animal mothers are, but she is also oblivious to the fact that her babies are underneath her and can’t survive.  Its really nothing personal.

Raising hogs will teach you about working conditions.  You will get dirty.  If you don’t, well, you’re not doing it right.  You will wade through deep “stuff”  and it will saturate the bottoms of your jeans.  You will learn to set aside certain chore clothing.  Because a distinctive odor will permeate your clothing and it never really goes away.  You will learn to shampoo your hair after being in the hog barn, because no amount of hair spray can cover the odors your hair absorbs.  There is a reason why male farmers don’t sport mustaches.

Raising hogs can be rewarding.  I’m not talking about how much money you make from selling your hogs, although that is important.   I’m talking about intrinsic rewards.  At the end of the day, when you are dirty and tired you will hopefully develop a sense of pride in the work you are doing.  As in any job or career, when you know you have done your best and you can take pride in a job well done.  And… those baby pigs are awfully cute…. for awhile.

So now dear readers, I am  setting forth a challenge.  Tell me what your jobs have taught you.  Tell me your story about why everyone should ******once in their lives.  Everyone has a story.  Tell me yours.

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On Being Seventy

I closed out my 69th year by taking a short trip to Walmart and wearing my T shirt inside out. I wouldn’t even have noticed if the cashier hadn’t yelled across the store after checking me out….”Hey Ruth! Did you know that your shirt is inside out?” I looked down and saw the seams that should have been inside. My first thought was “Great… now everyone who was behind me knows that I wear a size Mammoth Petite.”

Years ago, I remember watching a movie called “Splash”. One of the supporting characters was an absent-minded, aging secretary who one day wore her bra on the outside of her blouse to work. It was a ridiculously funny moment in the movie. Obviously one of the writers of the script was an aging woman like me. I can also remember going to work and laughing with a coworker about wearing unmatching shoes. We chalked it up to getting dressed in the dark amidst the confusion of getting ourselves and 3 kids out the door on time.

There are days that I feel seventy and days that I do not. At this point I would say its about 50/50. There are also days I forget that I am seventy and that’s where things can get a little dangerous. Climbing into the back of a pickup truck and then jumping down from the tailgate. Trying to lift a bag of softener salt. Bending over to pick something off the floor. My body screams at me… Don’t do that anymore!

I find that I am not so good at realizing where I am in position to other things. I open the refrigerator door and bonk my forehead while the cereal boxes on top of the refrigerator fall on my head because I hadn’t pushed them back far enough from the door. A gallon of milk falls out of my hand to the floor because my arthritic hands cannot grasp as they used to. Coming up from the basement, I put both feet on each step like a toddler learning to walk.

Being seventy also means that in any survey you decide to take you are in the last age category listed in the drop-down box, or sometimes even in a category labeled “other”. I am always afraid the year I was born (in a similar drop-down box) will no longer appear at all.

I’m thankful to be beginning my seventies. It certainly has it drawbacks, but there are a lot of things I can still do on my own. I can still do housework (what fun!) although not as fast as I used to. I have a lot of common sense knowledge that I would gladly share with younger folks, but they better hurry because some days I forget most of it. And while there are times when I may wear my shirt inside out or backwards or have shoes on that aren’t quite matching, I have not yet worn any underwear on the outside of my clothes.

At least, not that I know of.

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Kent State

As a college freshman in 1968, there was still an air of formality involved in classrooms and organizations. We dressed up for class, wearing skirts and pantsuits. I remember wearing my graduation dress to freshman orientation the previous summer and my parents were dressed in church attire… heels and hose, suit and a tie.

By May of 1970 when I was a sophomore, changes had taken place. The Hippie look was now part of even the Midwest conservative college scene. Bell bottom trousers and jeans, tie dye, and lots of fringe and leather. Most of us had long hair and we had now reached the point where the guys hair was just as long as the girls.

Those of us who were students in May 1970, at Bowling Green State University, remembered vividly the assassinations of JFK, Martin Luther King, and Robert Kennedy… we were just junior high and high school students when that horror began.

As I walked across campus on May 4, I remember it being sunny and warm, with the promise of summer break approaching. As I approached the Student Union I was surprised to hear shouting and chanting and as I read the flyers that were being handed out describing briefly what had happened, it brought all those terrible feelings back again. Following a weekend of disruption and demonstrations about the Vietnam War and other issues, students had been shot and killed by National Guardsmen at a demonstration at Kent State University…. just a couple of hours away from our campus.

By the time I got back to my dorm, everyone was talking about it, many were crying, many were also packing their bags to head home. I felt afraid, shocked. It was unbelievable to think this had happened. I kept thinking about my fiance who was a member of the Army Reserve. How could this happen?

Later that afternoon an assembly on the lawn of campus in front of Williams Hall began and student speakers were ready to organize our own type of protest to what was happening. Like magic, microphones were set up on the steps and students began to gather.

Classes were forgotten. Everything was forgotten except the tragedy that had just happened and we waited eagerly for more news. Each floor in our dorm had only one TV in the common room near the pay phones and there was not continuous coverage like there is today. We waited for the evening news. We listened to radio to find out anything we could.

Parents were desperately trying to call in and find out if everything was ok at BGSU. There were rumors that there were demonstrations at all campuses and one rumor was that BGSU students had formed a human chain to block the traffic on Interstate 75 which ran east of campus. My parents said they were coming to get me, but I said no. I wanted to stay and be a part of campus at that moment. It seemed like where I should be.

Just hours after hearing the news, a group of students briefly occupied the BGSU Administration Building on the west end of campus, demanding that classes be cancelled and demanding to talk to Dr William Jerome, President of BGSU. He agreed to speak at Williams Hall where a meeting was planned. Eventually classes were cancelled and a memorial service was planned for the students who were killed.

Later that week a candlelight march was held. We walked from campus to the downtown area in eery silence as others lined the streets and watched. When classes resumed, there was much discussion about the incident.

Campuses changed after that. Its hard to explain. We realized how vulnerable we were. We realized that having a voice could be dangerous. We were the generation who would be in charge in a few years. The simple, fun-loving, carefree days of youth were quickly disappearing. Sometimes I look back and think of all the violence and disruption that was part of my world growing up. Each generation has a fair amount of that. My parents’ generation dealt with the Great Depression and WWII and all the baggage that came with it. I think of college students today learning to live with a pandemic, having their lives disrupted at a time in their life where everything should be exciting and challenging, and just plain fun.

Its important to remember the tragedies that have been a part of our history. We should have learned from them. We seldom have control of them. And we can’t forget the ones that didn’t get to grow up with the rest of us, the soldiers, the victims of violence, and four students lost that May.

Student vigil at BGSU May 6, 1970. From the BGSU library collection permission to use for non commercial use

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