First Farms: Grandpa's Dance


JenTo my children: Ehmar, Jaedy and Elcee,

Life is so good and beautiful here at the end of our cul-de-sac north of the city, and I truly have no reason to wish it any other way. But there’s a thin strand of regret, longing perhaps, about the fact that my children won’t know the joys of living on a farm. You’ve visited your great-grandfather’s homestead and Grammy’s county fair, and you’re quite comfortable picking up a chicken or toad or butterfly. All of that tickles me to no end! But the memories you’ll have are scant in comparison to the years of waking up and falling asleep to the hum of country rhythms that I have stored away in my mind, and I’m a bit sad that I have a gift I can’t pass down to you in full.  

I want to share with you some of my memories of growing up on our family farms, the ones that stand as the ballasts to my country upbringing. I want you to one day inherit the boxes of old family photos and be able to say as you sort through them, “I remember the story Mom told us about this one.” Just promise me you’ll tuck them away in a pocket of your affection so you’ll always carry a few bits of hay and a pinch of long dirt road with you, no matter what corner of the world you find yourselves in.

So where to begin? Perhaps at the beginning with my earliest farm memory.

Lane To Barn
The lane from Grandpa’s house to Great-Grandma’s barn.

It’s around 1978 or so, which makes me about 4 years old. I'm with my Grandpa Durandetta at his mother Louise's barn just a short walk down the lane from his house on Bloomington Hill. Though the farm was largely retired by then, Grandpa’s brother still pastured a herd of cows there, and since the barn was a stone's throw from his house, Grandpa regularly went down to feed them. On this particular day, Grandpa allowed me to follow him onto the barn floor and watch him push the hay flakes down to the racks below. I can still hear the lowing and cud-chewing sounds as the cows worked through their feed, but I was too afraid to get close enough to the chutes to actually see them. I do remember watching Grandpa straddle the holes in the floor as he dropped the hay down into what seemed a hundred-foot abyss. I watched with my heart pounding as he leaped from one beam to the next with the pitchfork in his grasp and thought how he must surely be the bravest man in the world.  

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