City boy spends time on a farm
WEST FARMINGTON – The farmhouse is still there, albeit without its front porch. The barn, the chicken coop, the pig sty, the outhouse and the corn crib are gone.
It was 70 years ago, in the summer of 1945, when my sister and I were literally farmed out to this place in West Farmington while our parents went to Washington, D.C., on a business / vacation trip.
Dad was negotiating with the War Production Board for the allocation of eight new GM diesel buses for the bus company he managed. World War II was winding down, and prospects for getting approval were very bright.
I had never been anywhere for more than a day without my parents, and although we were to be with old family friends who once lived near us on Genesee with kids our age, the prospect of “Sheltered Me” to be away from my parents and Warren for any length of time was daunting.
My, what a wondrous place this was for a 9 -year- old! I could slop the hogs, try to milk the cows (couldn’t), gather eggs, play in the hayloft, ride bareback on Goldie – a 20-year-old Shetland pony – drink rusty iron-tasting well water using the old hand pump, swim (mostly wade) in the Grand River and collect lightning bugs (fireflies) in the early evenings.
My same age friend Ronnie and I would collect nearly a Mason jarful of lightning bugs and hang them on the bedpost at bedtime. You could almost read a comic book by their light.
One cold, early rainy morning, our host mother’s dad, who actually ran the farm, quietly shook Ronnie and me awake. We quickly slipped on our clothes and followed him to the steamy, warm hen house. There we witnessed the hatching of little yellow baby peeps. How those little guys knew how to peck through their shells, I’ll never know. It was an experience in the dawning of new life that I’ll never forget.
After dinner, kids from the neighboring farms would come over – having completed their chores for the day. In the barnyard we would play a little soft ball (never slide into second base), kick the can and hide and seek. Hide and seek was especially fun since there were so many places to hide.
One day, quite inexplicably, I fell ill. In spite of the fun things there were to do, I just couldn’t make myself do anything.
I spent the afternoon lying on the porch swing. Mrs. Moss, our host mother, didn’t know what to do. She gave me a couple of aspirin.
When our host dad – we called him “Mossie” – came home from work, he quickly diagnosed the problem. The next morning, a Saturday, he loaded Ronnie and me into the old Plymouth sedan, and drove into Warren. We stopped at a hobby shop located in a store front in the Reeves building across the Mahoning River from Second National. He gave Ronnie and me 50 cents each. I chose a balsa glider plane and was tickled with the idea of flying it when we got back to the farm. Ronnie purchased a plastic horse. We piled back into the car and Mossie drove us out East Market to Genesee where my home was. Slowly, he drove by my dark and empty house. He turned around and drove by again.
When we got back to the farm, I was back being my old self – somehow miraculously cured of my ailment. Mossie’s wife was astounded at my recovery. She asked, “Mossie, what did you do for that child?”
Mossie said, a bit smugly “I just cured him of a case of homesickness.”
Post script: Right then and there I decided that I would stay in Warren for the rest of my life. Ironically, for the most part, that decision has come true.
Mumford, of Warren, is a community columnist. Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org.