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    A Farmer's Son


       I was born on a farm, 2 miles from Curwensville, PA, on November 26, 1930. That fact alone says a lot about me. You know that at the time I was conceived, my parents didn't even know there was going to be a depression. A friend of my father's told him, "You should not have children. You would be better off raising a couple pigs."
      As it turned out, my parents had six children and a whole lot of pigs. Then there were the chickens, the sheep, the cows and the cats.  One year we had guinea hens. They roamed free but stayed near by to get fed. When we wanted a guinea chicken for a meal we had to shot it with the 22.
        I spent my first 18 years on the farm. I guess that's why I am what I am.
       A lot of things happened to me because I was a farmer's son that would never have happened for any other reason. The things I was able to do, and the things I did as an adult, can be traced to what I learned or didn't learn while growing up on a twenty-five acre farm in central Pennsylvania. I can't make a clear connection between the farm and
all my later experiences, but sometimes the connection seems obvious to me.  When you were a youngster on a small farm in the 1930s, more than likely you were affected by the prevailing depression like the rest of the poor folks. I thought we were poor but my parents didn't. One time one of our pigs got out and paid a visit to the farmer next door. Ned Spencer was an elderly bachelor farmer with about 140 acres. He farmed with a team of old horses named "Mike" and "Bill". When I left the farm at age 18, the horses were 23 years old. That means I knew them all my life. I never saw Ned abuse them, but every year when he plowed the top of the hill I could hear Ned yelling every name in the book to make them move. Ned's barn was twice the size of ours and he usually left the big door open. Just inside the door was a granary and burlap bags of grain. Well, lost piggy found his way to the bags of grain and ripped a couple open, spilling more than eating, but making a real mess. Ned wanted us to know about this, so he walked over and complained to the first person he saw. That was me. He said we owed him $3.00 damages. I was so struck by the serious magnitude of the calamity that with great feelings of despair, ran to the house and told my folks, "Well now we're really poor! Our pig ate a bag of Ned's grain and now we owe him $3.00"!  My dad laughed at my concern and assured me we were not poor. Just the same, mother and dad scrimped and saved for years because of the depression of the early 1930s.

       I'm a pack rat because of the depression.  If I can see some use in a broken tool or piece of junk, I build a bigger barn so there is room to store it. I know I'm recovering because I don't try to build a bigger barn anymore.   Now I look back and realize Ned was not so bad. When I got big enough to pitch hay and help with threshing, I worked for Ned. He paid me fifty cents for only one day's work pushing straw into the mow as it came out the dusty end of the thresher. One afternoon I pitched hay from the ground up to the wagon so Ned could build the load. On those Pennsylvania hills you had to "build" the load or lose it. He told me not to throw up big fork loads. I had to show my worth, so I pitched as hard as I could. He told me again, and on the third big fork full, Ned was ready. As it landed right in front of his feet he caught it on the first bounce and rolled it right off the other side of the wagon. I learned a few things working for Ned.
      One time Ned was binding grain at our farm, when he stopped at the kitchen for a drink of water and his team ran away with the binder. They didn't stop until they ran through Clarence Bell's garden!
       Clarence was married to my mother's sister, Grace. When he went to the outhouse he always liked to sing, "Oh He walks with me, and He talks with me, and He tells me I am His own". Clarence liked to sing at his local church, and the outhouse was a good place to practice.

Fred

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