It’s Amazing We Survived Childhood

One of my co-workers said Friday that growing up on a farm was like surviving a death trap.

The comment came after I and another former farm kid shared stories of electric fences, PTO shafts and broken bones.

Laura, our resident city slicker (she grew up in South St. Paul), started off the conversation by saying, “When you guys were growing up, kids actually played outside.”

Well, of course we did. What else was there to do? (Back then we didn’t have home computers, video games, cell phones and iPods to keep us entertained.)

Our farm south of Worthington was a jungle gym, race course, torture chamber and adventure land all rolled into one. Add my three brothers to the mix and yes, I suppose one could say we did survive a death trap.

As a kid, I remember thinking it was fun to put my fingers on the smooth PTO shaft as it ran at full speed. I’m sure I had no idea it could lead to multiple broken bones in my hand or the loss of an arm. Then again, maybe I was just one of those kids who thought it wouldn’t happen to me.

So many of the things we did as kids on the farm probably weren’t well thought-out. Today, I cringe when I think about all the things that could have happened.

Oh sure, there was that episode when one of my brothers got bucked off a Holstein calf and hurt both his rear-end and his pride; and the multitude of times we held back giggles when we told each other the electric fence had been switched off when indeed it hadn’t. There’s also that episode I’ve mentioned a time or two before about breaking my arm and spending two weeks in traction in a Sioux Falls hospital all because of a pedal John Deere tractor.

Then I think about the times when something really nasty could have happened and didn’t — like when a Holstein calf took me for a ride down the pasture lane as a kid, or when we speared carp with pitchforks in our bare feet after the Ocheyedan Creek overflowed its banks and created a pond in our back pasture.

And what was the deal with the electric fence — I’m pretty sure none of us were ever standing in a puddle of water when the zap stole our breath away.

I guess the greatest lesson the electric fence taught us kids was never to trust anyone — especially not a sibling!

We also learned not to trust horses and siblings operating motorized vehicles.

My oldest brother was taken for a ride through the evergreens by a spooked Shetland pony (that was the end of the horse, not the brother!), and another brother ran into the corner of the garage with the go-cart (again, that was the end of the go-cart, not the brother!)

Lest you think my parents had some kind of trend going on here, I’ll just say there’s an old, heavy duty John Deere pedal tractor still lingering around on the farm — the very one that led to a metal rod being put in my left elbow for a while. My mother refuses to part with it.

I’m reminded of that mean green tractor every time the weather changes and my elbow pops.

6 Responses

  1. Julie-I have been enjoying reading your postings lately. It has been nice since they are also featured on the side bar of the West Central Tribune, Willmar newspaper which is also a Forum Communications paper. Your posts are a good reminder of growing up on the farm. I had many a 4-H calves drag me…my dad would always say that if I let go then the calf would be forever wild. I did my best but I think each and every one of the heifers would always drag me several times and most often get away. I had a wire go through the skin on my ankle when working in the garden. Those are all memories though and I can’t say I am too “damaged”!! 🙂 The goats only arrived on the farm when Gretchen really got going in the 4-H program since she was the small sister.

    1. Julie Buntjer

      Megan, Thanks for reading! It’s exciting to have my blog appear on the WCT site – my mom’s family hails from Kandiyohi County.
      I sympathize with your calf experiences. That’s actually how I got into the goat project in 4-H. I hated limping around at the fair my first two years as a 4-H’er … all because those Holstein heifer calves would step on my feet while I practiced leading them around the yard prior to the fair.

  2. blondie

    Oh, Julie, I have many of the same memories of the farm in Minnesota!
    I remember jumping off the pumphouse roof and landing on a pitchfork-came right up through my foot (which does sort of bother me now, in later years). And riding in a home-made go-cart with no brakes!!! My brother and I had trails through the trees with our truck and tractor toys, and we maintained those trails perfectly.
    My brother and I also helped to milk the cows (many moons ago) and we would squirt milk into the dishes for the barn cats, and squirt each other! Ha!
    My kids remember playing in the snow on ‘blizzard’ days, and shoveling lots of __it out of the pig barns, etc. And, I must say, it has made them all a better person, to have worked hard and enjoyed the fruits and labors of a farm. I still miss it.
    Thanks for a great article, I will be looking up your column in the Worthington paper.
    Sincerely, a former farmer, always a farmer, at heart.

    1. Julie Buntjer

      To Blondie,
      I enjoyed hearing your tales of farm life. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, right? =)
      Your pitch fork incident sounds very painful.
      Instead of cows, I milked goats on the farm. One time I squirted my younger brother as he was walking through the alley – hit him right in the nose! Needless to say, I ended up with a bucket of water in my lap, followed by the bucket of milk after the goat was spooked! Oh, fun times on the farm though!

  3. shannon Baas

    Gee, what happened to those days? We went outside after breakfast and didn’t come except to eat until dark. I remember thinking nothing of jumping on my bike and riding 3 miles to a friends house. Days were spent swimming and fishing and making up adventures, not playing video games, on the computer or watching tv(no computers or video games and only 2 channels on tv). Lets get back to that.

    1. Julie Buntjer

      Thanks for commenting, Shannon. It kind of makes we want to be a kid again, or at least get the nieces and nephews out to the grove on the family farm for a grand adventure!

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