One of my grandfathers enjoyed spring most of all. As a youngster, I borrowed his preference at face value. But now that I’m the age he was when I knew him best, I’ve come to realize he, a farmer, viewed the world differently than others might see it. He didn’t own a television. His five-tube table-model radio announced the morning’s ever changing livestock and grain markets. His favorite publication was The Drover’s Telegram. He was a content man.
The winter I turned fourteen I helped him build a rock fence in front of his log house and I watched him scribe on one panel words left by William Shakespeare, words I failed to fully grasp:
And this our life, exempt from public haunt,
Finds tongues in trees, books in running brooks,
Sermons in stones, and good in everything.
I would not change it
He loved flowers, any variety, any color. So in the early days of spring he shoe-horned the time between feeding four hundred hogs and counting his cattle numbering more than one hundred head and preparing the soil for planting corn, wheat, oats, and barley.
In spite of the extra workload, the activities beginning before dawn and continued until daylight was only a memory, he enjoyed spring most of all, or so it seemed. But the turn of seasons provided a change of venue. It was a time when he stood from his rocker visions of a bumper crops, fat hogs, and healthy cattle. Then summer arrived.
He didn’t spray chemicals for weeds in those days. Corn, which left space for those unwanted plants required cultivating. In so doing, his motorized cultivator shovels buried the weeds time and again, or until mid-June when the crop was too tall, and could no longer tolerate the passing of a tractor. By mid-summer, July, wheat and oats were usually harvested. Each morning he watched the greenish tint give way to gold, the indication that the grain was ripe and ready. And then there came the cutting and bailing of alfalfa.
Missouri summers were often hot, the temperatures surpassing the century mark. Evening, after a sweltering day, he often stepped to the edge of a corn field and listened to the growth, the squeaking as the stalks reacted to the heat they loved so dearly. In spite of summer being such a busy season, autumn was usually slow in arriving. But by the time it had arrived his straw hat was showing signs of wear.
During the early days of autumn he cut a portion of the corn for silage, winter cattle feed, and stored it in a silo. That which was left standing in the field was ear corn, harvested for winter hog feed. However, in order for it to keep throughout the winter months the “milk” had to set. That was accomplished at the first hard frost. Anytime after that occurred it was shucked or picked and taken to the crib. However, it would keep just as well on the stalks in the fielod, as was sometimes necessary, when other work was pressing – fence mending and such.
And then winter came. It was a time when the soil rested as did he.
But by Christmas he’d grown weary of the inactivity. If it was a dry winter he often plowed the fields, hoping to get a jump when spring, the planting season, returned.
Viewing an entirely through his eyes, deciding which season he enjoyed most is a tall order. However, thinking back some sixty-five years, recalling his comments, his ignoring of the screaming muscles, sunburns, frostbites, mud, dust, heat, rain, snow, and blazing sunshine I have to say each season was his favorite.