THE FARM: Growing Up Rural
I mentioned in my blog, Faded Lines: My love of Backroads, that my dad drove us out to a piece of property off a backroad on the outskirts of Hendersonville, TN, that would become our new home. I reminisce a lot about those days. So, step back with me, into the 1980's for a few moments as we visit The Farm and the valuable lessons I learned.
I remember riding backroads everyday to the 15 acres and watching my parents sweat and bleed as they followed their dream of stick building a house with their bare hands. My brother was old enough to lend a hand in the construction, while my sister and I caught frogs and played in the mounds of sand and dirt. It was the biggest adventure we had ever known. Turning over rocks to find our next victim of love and naming our frogs. I recall "Pull-up" because the poor frog would do a hard pull up trying to escape his new home in the wheelbarrow. Climbing the dirt hills, making mud pies, and getting dirtier than we've ever been. As a parent, I admire my mother for her never ending patience back then. She would work hard all day, along side my dad, hammering nails and cutting timber with a skill saw. After the sun set, we would drive back to our rental house in town, where she would get us dirty kids in the tub, fix dinner and still have enough energy to wake up the next day and do it all again.
When the house was finished, we packed up our lives in a U-Haul and left civilization to live on The Farm. We built coops and raised little baby chickens and when they were old enough to lay eggs, my sister and I would go down and gather the eggs for breakfast. We planted every vegetable you can imagine in our small garden and every day after school, we would go pick the offerings of our labor. We built fences and a barn to raise cattle. When the cows were ready to become meat for our family, my sister learned the lesson of letting go. She had named and made friends with one of them and just by chance, he was the easiest one for my father to catch when that time came.
We were living a different kind of life than the one we lived in the city. There was always something to be done, a tree struck by lightening had to be cut and split into firewood to sell in the winter. A broken fence had to be mended so the cows didn't get out. The fields of grass had to be mowed and the hill that was our driveway had to be weedeated. We had horses that needed care and poop that had to be scooped from the stalls. Our little family of five did it all.
Dad bought us three-wheelers and motorcycles and cut out trails on our land for us to ride. We learned about safety, just as much as we learned to rebel against it. Jumping ramps, building new ones, going places we were restricted by dad to ride. Crashing and getting back up again. In the winter, tying a sled to a rope attached to the back of the three-wheeler and pulling each other through the wintery wonderland. Every friend that stayed the night got to enjoy both sides of the life we lived. Dad wasn't a bit shy about making them work with us, picking up limbs from the yard but afterwards, they got to ride the bikes and horses and have a little glimpse of what it felt like to live on The Farm.
In the front of the house around the gravel circle driveway, there was a field with four trees almost perfectly aligned for bases. It was on The Farm that my love for softball was born. I would spend hours hitting a tree in the front yard to level my swing - don't worry the tree survived. Days of throwing the ball back and forth between my siblings and my father were spent in that front yard. Every time I drive down the 1800 ft driveway, I still see him out there, coaching us to so many victories . . . on and off the field.
As a teenager, The Farm became my nemesis. It was so far out that I had to leave our in-town hangouts early to make curfew. I can't tell you how many times I heard "You live in BFE" from classmates and friends. (Look that up if you don't know what it means). Plus all the work that was kind of fun as a kid still had to be done. So, before we could do anything, we had to do our chores or work on some project that dad had for us. None of my friends who lived in neighborhoods had the list of things to do like we did, so while they cleaned their rooms or maybe mowed less than a 1/2 acre of land . . . We were spending all day building another workshop, painting the barn, putting up barb wire fences, splitting wood and the never ending weeding of grass.
It's funny how things comes in waves. As a kid I loved The Farm, as a teenager it turned to detestation, but as an adult it turned to respect. See, I understand picking vegetables just to see them on our plate to nourish us in the evenings. I understand raising meat and practicing organic farming, before it became popular. I understand that bruises and scraps from digging holes for fence posts and running barbwire will heal. I also understand that all of that hard work meant my parents had money to spend buying us nice things as well as giving us time to enjoy them. I often tell a story of how my dad operated as a father. He would tell us "We have a lot of work to do on the farm, but if we get it done before the sun sets, you kids can ride your motorcycles." We worked twice as hard to get it done knowing what came next. A lot of times the work wasn't always completed when he let us go because he understood that working hard needed to be rewarded.
Now in my 40's, I may never experience a place like The Farm again, but I hold tight to the lessons I learned and I hope they are passed down to every generation of our family.
Until next time,
(all pictures are family photos)