LIFE ON THE GIFFEN FARM
By Ralph Giffen

My memories are of the river, the swimming, skating, the big woods, the big

house, the crab apples, the garden, the wild plums and even the spring floods

that blocked us in every spring.

One of the worst things that happened there was when they dredged and

straightened the Joe. It doesn't have any character anymore. It doesn't

hold water through the year like it used to. It became one big drainage

ditch trying to get the water off in a hurry. It's too bad.

There's a lot I've forgotten. A lot of good and bad, and thanks for aging,

because it is the one thing that generally diminishes the bad before the

good. The toughest part was the work, day in and day out. We didn't get a

break in the winter, because we had the grain cleaning mill. So, while it

may have been a season of getting ready for the winter and the next springs

planting for most, it was the beginning of long cold hours milling grain,

sacking grain, and hauling it. Then there was the God-awful deep in the

middle of winter days when we would haul truck load after truck load of hay

to the cattle. We had a lot of haystacks around the area, and we would have

to shovel out around them to get the hay loaded onto the big grain trucks to

haul to the places where the cows were pastured. Cold, freezing, mind

numbing stuff. Often times we would haul the hay to Hallock to Don Stewart's

place there. If we were lucky, we would stop in at their house and Elsie

would have some pie of some other treats for us. I never drank coffee then,

but it sure smelled good when it was served to the others. How about those

endless hours on the tractors? The worst for me was after harvest and the

plowing had to be done. It was really slow, and it seemed to take forever to

do 100 acres. It was always cold, and at that time of year it was dark

early.

 

Although you said you liked harvest the least, I think I enjoyed it the most.

Once we got an enclosed combine it became something of a pleasure. We often

worked together with Hilson and Don Stewart. Therefore we always had lots of

combines and thank the lord lots of food. I can't help but think of the

wonderful spread my mom, Eleanor, and Elsie would make, and it was all in

picnic baskets or those Scotch jugs...the ones about 3 or more gallons. The

food tasted wonderful, but it probably tasted better only because we were

famished. Can you believe how much food we used to eat?!!! I'll bet there

were days when we ate 4-5000 calories of food. We had to. And we never got

fat!!! Not like now.

 

The first time I stayed late for harvesting was when I could barely see to

drive one of the big grain trucks. But at that time, I could drive them in

the field cause I didn't have to shift or worry about a lot of traffic.

Working both the peddles and the steering wheel took a lot of work with those

old things, especially when I had to slip off the seat to touch to peddles.

I remember being instructed to watch for blinking lights so that I knew

someone's hopper was full. I think I made it to about midnight before I fell

asleep. Someone finally woke me up about 2 AM when the grain finally got too

wet to combine anymore. One of the best times a combine would run was just at

dusk when the wind went down, then hum became a nice even drone, and the red

tinted sky made time seem like a dream.