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
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.