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Mothers of steel

May 12, 2017
By KAREN SCHWALLER - Editorial board (kschwaller@evertek.net) , Farm News

As Mother's Day approaches, I am often caught up in the nostalgia the day brings, and the notion that mothers have held families together ever since, well, the invention of mothers.

For some mothers it's no big deal, we see that even out in the barns. Those moms lie around like it's just another day, chewing their cud and digging in the manure. But then, many of those moms can stand up and have their babies, turn around to see what just went on back there, sniff them, lick them off, then go somewhere else to see what there is to eat.

I totally get that.

Farm mothers are truly mothers of steel-they have to be for the kind of lives they live. Her life involves many different seasons, not just the usual four, and they all have to do with the work that has to be done outside. She can't plan a thing more than a day or two in advance, and some times of the year that's too much advanced notice. Darn weather, anyway.

And meals, not only are they served at unlikely times of the day and night, but every now and then she'll have a kid that squawks about what's on the menu. If you were me, you would be told by your busy mother, "If you don't like it, supper's over." (And mean it.)

We all learned to eat what she put in front of us, and ate it without even sniffing it first.

And when we would ask, "What's for supper?" She would reply, "Whatever you fix."

That's how my sisters and I learned to cook.

My mother, a city girl all of her childhood years had a lot to learn about being a farm wife and mother. She had to learn how to clean chickens-a necessary and stinky job that no one I know ever enjoyed. I'll bet she was reading the fine print in her wedding vows pretty hard after she did that job for the first time.

She had to mend blue jeans for a family of nine, and I don't know how she did it without an arm on her sewing machine. Maybe there was a reason why she needed to spend so much time out in the wash house when she was doing that job-maybe seeking liquid coping skills.

She would say to me, "Dad wears his denim shirts so long and they get so thin that you can almost read through them."

Great Depression-era kids never forgot what it was like.

She had to watch her sons learn how to use tractors and implements, and pray that they would be safe once they got going on their own following a few instructions from their dad. She closed the kitchen curtains on silo filling day because she couldn't stand watching my brothers walk around on top of the silo. She went head to head with my brother's knee that had been torn open by an angry sow. Yes, nerves of steel.

She fed hungry baling and corn shelling crews without so much as a microwave oven or a cake mix. Talk about gutsy.

Now and then my brothers would brawl it out on the living room floor. Mom would come in with a broom, give them a few good swats with it and holler, "Take your fight outside!" (Not that she asked them to stop fighting or anything ... she just didn't want her living room to look like a frat house on Sunday morning.)

And it may have been a subliminal message she sent me once as she fixed my well-loved Raggedy Ann doll that suffered an accidental leg-ectomy. When I got the doll back, the leg was sewn on backwards. (An extremely busy farm mother, or a subliminal message about possible consequences for my future behaviors? You decide.) The doll is still that way today, reminding me that I always need to keep my toes pointed in the same direction.

Happy Mother's Day to farm moms everywhere-whose hearts are made of both love...and steel.

 
 

 

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