Summer vacation has begun for scores of young people around the state and it won’t be very long until someone starts to talk about how bored they are. That statement usually comes about three hours after an ugly sibling war which leaves someone crying and most everyone either banished out doors or into their rooms. It has been a long time since I was young enough to have been afforded the joy of a summer off, except that one year that I was unemployed.
Most of my summers involved taking care of livestock in preparation for county fair and the nerve wracking few days before when Mom would ride my every move trying to keep me on task so I could complete all the 4-H projects I selected.
A lost art that took up the rest of my time was walking beans. Unfortunately for millions of small town and country kids, Roundup herbicide has killed the industry. There was nothing quite like walking beans. Getting up before daylight and riding out to the fields in the cool chill of a summer morning where we entered the field with bread sacks on our shoes as our pants would soon be soaking wet from the knees down from the dew that had set overnight on the leaves. It wouldn’t take long and you would find the back of the truck covered in sweatshirts and wet clothing as the mercury started to climb higher and higher. By the middle of the day we were headed home before the heat really set it. It wasn’t hard work, but it took a good eye, a little care around a sharp bean hook and it put a bit of money in our pockets.
Obviously as farm kids there wasn’t anything like a family vacation unless it was a day or two camping in the old burnt orange Bethany pop up camper that leaked so bad one year Mom had to replace all the canvas and yet we still used a giant blue tarp to string out on some tall poles for a sun shade. I guess maybe we were quite the rednecks back then but didn’t really realize it. We didn’t have a place to go swimming at home and there was no pool in town, but there was an old stock tank that got used a few times and a garden hose stuck in the top of a milk jug that we poked holes in it made an awesome sprinkler to run though.
There were summer baseball and football games played in the front yard and although we hated working in the garden and the smell of canning tomatoes, we were happy that it meant that the giant window air conditioner would be turned on to keep the downstairs of our house cool. On those dog days of August we would get up in the morning in our underwear and sit as quietly as we could in the house until we heard the button pushed on that old air unit and then we would all rush into the dining room to sit in chairs in front of the cold air. I’m sure we looked a little odd and it never seemed to take long before we were pushed to go play outside in the desert-like heat.
I don’t ever really remember being bored during the summer although I’m sure there were days when I couldn’t have been more excited to be growing up on the farm, especially when I stumbled across a wasp nest or a bumble bee home by accident. To all you parents out there maybe it might be fun to unplug the kids for a day or two and send them out into the streets to find something new to do. If you get really lucky maybe they won’t come back home until it’s time for school to start. See you next week, remember we’re all in this together.