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Farm life is hard work and serious business. It requires planning, perseverance and constant attention to large jobs as well as to details.
Mingled with all the planning and hard work are those times of relief, some of it comic, and minor crises that keep life on the farm interesting.
All those who have lived or worked on the farm can cite numerous examples of people playing farm-related pranks — you know, the sort of antics that young people and some adults play on each other.
Several particular and deliberate pranks come to mind, some that I witnessed and others that I merely heard about, don’t you know.
One prank I have heard about for years happened in the chicken yard on a Wilson County farm, where the Sunday fried chicken and deviled eggs came from.
It seems that two city cousins were spending time during their summer vacation to work on their grandparents’ farm. The cousins liked to have a little fun between sessions of cropping tobacco and helping with other summer farm chores.
On one particular day, the cousins went into the chicken yard, grabbed a hen each, spun it around and around and then watched the poor things stagger and run around like chickens with their head cut off. Loud guffaws from the city cousins followed.
But there is more to this story. A couple of days later the boys heard their grandfather ask their grandmother, “What’s wrong with the hens? They ain’t layin’ right.” Excusing themselves from the living room, the cousins had another spell of guffawing in the yard at the cleverness of their prank.
Another successful but harmless prank took place right in the tobacco field. The tobacco croppers, usually men and boys, would crop the tobacco and put a handful of leaves into the clamp on the conveyor belt on the harvester as they rode down the tobacco rows. The loopers, usually women and girls, would grab the bundle of tobacco as the conveyor belt came by and loop the tobacco on the stick with twine.
On this particular day, one of the mischievous boys put a big old bullfrog that he had earlier found in the creek into the clasp, right along with the tobacco bundle. Of course, one of the women “took a holt” of the frog, as they used to say, and sparks flew — not a pretty scene in the tobacco field.
Other farm pranks include putting a cherry bomb in the goldfish pool in the backyard and watching the disoriented fish struggle and float to the top of the pool; putting a girl’s pet cat on the homeplace roof and watching it figure out how to get down; and two cousins making what is know as a “concoction” of various liquids in a Pepsi bottle and convincing a younger cousin take a swig of it.
This last prank backfired when the boys’ grandmother made the pranksters also take a swig of the concoction. They, of course, spit it out once their grandmother’s back was turned.
Minor crises of one kind of another are frequent occurrences on the farm. One minor crisis took place on the day the pigs got out. My sister and I were taking care of our 5-year-old cousin who had a bad burn on his foot and had to be carried around during the recuperation period.
We were looking after him one day when we decided to pull him around in the Radio Flyer wagon instead of carrying him in our arms. We pulled him up near the big barn and soon realized that some of the pigs had gotten out of the pigpen.
Scared out of our wits, my sister and I took off running, trying to get away from one of the runaway pigs and leaving our little cousin defenseless in the Radio Flyer.
After a short time, my sister had second thoughts, ran back to the war zone where the pigs were running amok, grabbed our little cousin and took him to safety.
She was the hero that day; I was the coward.
Another minor crisis, or major crisis, depending on one’s attitude about creepy-crawly things, involved my grandmother as she was taking a power nap on a hot summer day. She had been working in the yard all morning and was resting on the day bed after lunch when she felt something crawling on her neck.
She reached to remove whatever it was and discovered what she called a buck worm, a big, disgusting creature, attached to the back of her neck.
It might have been a tobacco horn worm or a tomato worm, but no matter what its name, it was a surprise, a minor crisis, as she struggled to get the thing away from her. She handled it reasonably well, she said later; I would have gone berserk!
All those who have spent time on the farm can recall numerous examples of pranks and minor crises, most of them causing little or no harm, but some aggravation and embarrassment.
Since farm life is not exactly like it was in the past, today’s pranks and minor crises might be horses of a different color.
Let us hope that all farm pranks remain harmless and that crises do not become major.
I just hope that I never find a big worm crawling on my neck when I am taking a power nap.
Sanda Baucom Hight is retired from Wilson County Schools after serving as an English teacher and is currently a substitute teacher in Wilson County. Her column focuses on the charms of home, school and country life.