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Spring stirs memories of life on family farm

Resourcefulness appears to be one of the common threads that runs through the tapestry of life. Throughout the year, but especially in the spring season, resourcefulness, renewal and reawakening characterize the memories I have as a young farm boy.

The setting was our family farm in the Boston hills south of Buffalo in the Depression years of the 1930s. We had a dairy and vegetable farm in this rural region. The harsh winds and heavy snows of winter had departed and were replaced by refreshing spring breezes. The buds on the trees and shrubs were awaiting nature's call for opening. The rolling hillsides and wooded landscapes were ready to burst forth with a carpet of emerging wild flowers.

On the farm, our family of five was very much aware of the arrival of a new growing season. Our white farmhouse and red dairy barn were surrounded by soon-to-be-cultivated acreage. The beauty of a typical spring morning sun rising over the Colden Hills to the east was a gleaming picture of splendor. And at dusk, a glimpse over the rolling hills toward the western horizon would often display a glistening sunset streaming brilliantly across the clear waters of Lake Erie. It was breathtaking beauty at its best!

Farming chores filled the daylight hours with the hustle and bustle of spring plowing, disking, planting and weeding. The chores were a family affair and each member had a job to do from predawn to evening twilight. Of course, school days found the three of us in the one-room country school. But there were chores to do before and after school. School work and farm chores made for a busy day.

Every year, the spring mail-order seeds arrived. Corn, cabbage, cauliflower, beans, peas, squash, cucumbers and maybe a new variety of "surprise" would be included. The first order of business was spring plowing, pulled by our two faithful horses, Jimmy and Babe. At the end of a row, I would often give Jimmy and Babe a lump of sugar stored in the pocket of my farm overalls. The aroma of freshly turned soil leaves a memory you just do not forget.

Spring fence mending was on the "must do" list. The dairy cattle were eager to get to pasture and feed on the first sprouts of lush grass. And we would see the arrival of a thousand hatched, peeping baby chicks. They required close attention in the brooder house, with a heater set to keep them warm at room temperature. There seemed to be a gentle quietness at nighttime on the farm, but the peeping of a thousand baby chicks just before sunrise let all the other farm animals know that a new day was beginning.

The hibernating wildlife was awakening, spring flowers were beginning to bloom and returning birds were staking out their nesting territory. All this was happening as we began to plant the first crops of the season: potatoes, peas and grain. Soon, the other seeds would be planted as well.

Much has changed over these past years: the status of family farms, farm tools, living styles and the normal affairs of life. However, what remains are those wonderful memories of spring, woven in the tapestry of life of this farm boy. The threads of resourcefulness, renewal and reawakening remain firmly in place. This tapestry of memory lives on, not for just a season but for a lifetime.


Robert L. Heichberger, of Gowanda, is professor emeritus at Fredonia State College and distinguished professor at Capella University.