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Childhood memories on the farm

Written by Tom R. Whiteley
Submitted by his dad, Roy D. Whiteley
Ogallala, Neb.
Grandma Helen and Grandpa Roy A. Whiteley lived on a farm in rural Benkelmen, Neb. This photo was taken in 1970.

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When I started thinking about memories at the farm, a lot of different times came to mind. As soon as I would think of one, it would remind me of another. When our family first moved to Nebraska, my brother Jerry, sister Teresa and I spent part of the summer at the farm while our home was being finished in Ogallala. So many of those times blend in together. It’s hard to separate the years, but the memories are very clear.

Who knows how much ice cream we ate out of the Tiger Hut, but it was always a favorite place of mine to go. It seemed everyone knew our Grandma and Grandpa and I remember how proud it made me to be seen with them.

I’ll always remember Grandma’s great cooking too … especially her cherry pies. Whenever all of the families would get together for a holiday, all of the girls would be busy in the kitchen, and the aroma from all of the great food would fill the house.

Then there were the times we would set up the card tables and play round robin pitch. Ever since that I’ve always loved to play cards.

One nice thing about being out in the country was all of the room we had to play and run. When I think back on it now, I bet it was really noisy when we were all there. I remember the day Kim Rickards and I were going to have a foot race over to Floyd and Beth’s. We ran down the lane and onto the road and a skunk jumped up in the ditch. To this day I still don’t know why, but I took off chasing the skunk! Well, it took “Ole Flower” about ten feet of me chasing it when it decided to let me know I wasn’t appreciated. But did that make me stop … no! I guess I thought they ran out of ‘perfume’ after the first squirt. After about three of four blasts, I figured it wouldn’t make much difference anyway.

When Dad finally came down to the pasture and ‘rescued’ me, you could smell me clear to Imperial. As I walked up to the yard it felt like I was going to the firing squad. Everyone was lined up outside and Mom and Teresa with their noses pinched and their mouths twisted like they just ate a rotten egg.

I knew then that I wasn’t the most popular kid on the block. After all the women went inside, I was stripped to my underwear and put in the horse tank. Then as all the men stood there laughing, they took turns dumping everything they could on me that had a scent. Two smells really stuck in my mind … vinegar and Avon cologne. As they brought out the little bottles shaped like anything from cars to dogs, I remember not really liking it that Aunt Twila sold Avon.

That night I wasn’t allowed to sleep in a bed. Grandma came up with an old sheet that was my bedding on the floor for the night. Talk about feeling like an outcast! Ever since that day, I always felt sorry for the kid on the playground that no one ever hung around with.

The hunting was always good at the farm, from the time Dad shot the buck with all the points down by the river, to all the pheasants, rabbits and even a skunk or two. I especially remember a funny photo taken of one of those times of Jerry, Teresa and I holding a pheasant and the shotgun. We look like we’re straight out of “Little House on the Prairie.”

Every summer for a few years, we would pair up with the Einspahr girls and spend a couple of weeks at the farm. Since Gail and I were the oldest, we usually went at the same time. When her and I went horseback riding, she always rode Prince and I rode Little Horse.

Once in awhile we would have a leadership confrontation. My little hobby was to collect these box turtles and have them in a little pen. I’ll never forget the time we were having one of our ‘debates’ and Gail picked up one of my turtles, held him way above her head, and threatened to smash him on the cement. All I had was the horsewhip and I swore to her I’d beat her like mashed potatoes if she so much as put a scratch on my turtle. Somehow, we settled things and no one came out of it worse for wear.

There was one thing I could never beat Gail at though. At nighttime we would stand in the kitchen, put both our hands on our cheeks, and pull the skin down while we were smiling. I remember Grandma laughing so hard she had to hold her sides. Gail and I would be laughing so hard, tears would run down our faces, but she always had the funniest face. Boy, I wish I had pictures of that!

Another thing we used to do was fill up empty pop bottles with water and have chugging contests. We’d have so much water in our bellies, it looked like we had swallowed a watermelon. Entertainment sure was cheap back then.

Then there was that little shack on the hill that looked over the pasture. We turned it into a playhouse. As Kim and Jerry came to stay, and then Teresa and Kay, everyone added their own little touch to it.

Jerry and I then got interested in rodeo. The farm sure was a great place to go. We would go down to the bottom pen where the hog house used to be, and when no one was watching we would rope the calves. Now catching them didn’t seem to be so hard, but Jerry and I were both pretty little back then and getting the rope off was difficult.

There was a pole in the middle of the pen, and we would hurry and run around it a couple of times after we got one caught. Then the trouble really started! The calves would strain against that rope so hard, they would choke themselves down. One of us leaned on the end of the rope for all we were worth, trying to keep the dally from slipping, and the other trying to move this choked-down calf toward the pole so we could slip the rope off its neck. If my face looked as worried as Jerry’s did when he would glance up the hill to see if we had been caught yet, then I bet we looked like a couple of scared cats!

We then discovered a safer thing to rope … the chickens. We would close the hen house door, and take tosses at the chickens with these little baling string ropes we had made. The big problem was that there was always a lot of racket going on in there when we were ‘practicing.’

One time I caught one of those pretty little roosters around the neck, and he flapped up over one of the rafters and hung on the other side. Now you have to understand that this was all a matter of timing, but there was about one second there where I didn’t quite know what to do. That’s when Grandpa opened the door. Here I am holding onto a piece of twine that was strung tight above my head, over a rafter, with one of Grandpa’s prime roosters beating its wings like crazy with the other end of the twine around its neck. I let my end of the twine go, the chicken came down and ran off, and then I had to look at Grandpa. That was the only time I remember him getting mad, and I knew he sure had a right to be.

One time we stayed up and waited for the Einspahrs to show up from Denver. Our bedtime came and Boyd and Twila hadn’t shown up yet. I was sleeping upstairs in Dad’s old bed and Gail was in the next room. I remember waking up and it was real dark. Something heavy was on my legs, and I had no idea what it was. Now, I’d seen some scary movies by this time, and everything I could imagine came to mind.

I tried moving my legs, and whatever it was on my legs moved a little bit. Now, I was very scared! After laying there as still as I could for what seemed like hours, but was probably only a few minutes, I did the only reasonable thing to do … I started screaming at the top of my lungs!

When the lights came on I know my eyes were as big as saucers. Gail was at the doorway to the bedroom, and Grandma and Twila were at the top of the stairs and sitting on my legs, looking just about as scared as I was sat their dog, Fifi. I’ve never been so glad to see a dog in my life!

When I started thinking about memories at the farm with Grandma and Grandpa, hundreds of things came to mind. While writing this I laughed, cried, and thought how lucky we were to have gotten to spend time there with them and how very lucky we were to have grandparents like them.

When I started thinking about memories at the farm, a lot of different times came to mind. As soon as I would think of one, it would remind me of another. When our family first moved to Nebraska, my brother Jerry, sister Teresa and I spent part of the summer at the farm while our home was being finished in Ogallala. So many of those times blend in together. It’s hard to separate the years, but the memories are very clear.

Who knows how much ice cream we ate out of the Tiger Hut, but it was always a favorite place of mine to go. It seemed everyone knew our Grandma and Grandpa and I remember how proud it made me to be seen with them.

I’ll always remember Grandma’s great cooking too … especially her cherry pies. Whenever all of the families would get together for a holiday, all of the girls would be busy in the kitchen, and the aroma from all of the great food would fill the house.

Then there were the times we would set up the card tables and play round robin pitch. Ever since that I’ve always loved to play cards.

One nice thing about being out in the country was all of the room we had to play and run. When I think back on it now, I bet it was really noisy when we were all there. I remember the day Kim Rickards and I were going to have a foot race over to Floyd and Beth’s. We ran down the lane and onto the road and a skunk jumped up in the ditch. To this day I still don’t know why, but I took off chasing the skunk! Well, it took “Ole Flower” about ten feet of me chasing it when it decided to let me know I wasn’t appreciated. But did that make me stop … no! I guess I thought they ran out of ‘perfume’ after the first squirt. After about three of four blasts, I figured it wouldn’t make much difference anyway.

When Dad finally came down to the pasture and ‘rescued’ me, you could smell me clear to Imperial. As I walked up to the yard it felt like I was going to the firing squad. Everyone was lined up outside and Mom and Teresa with their noses pinched and their mouths twisted like they just ate a rotten egg.

I knew then that I wasn’t the most popular kid on the block. After all the women went inside, I was stripped to my underwear and put in the horse tank. Then as all the men stood there laughing, they took turns dumping everything they could on me that had a scent. Two smells really stuck in my mind … vinegar and Avon cologne. As they brought out the little bottles shaped like anything from cars to dogs, I remember not really liking it that Aunt Twila sold Avon.

That night I wasn’t allowed to sleep in a bed. Grandma came up with an old sheet that was my bedding on the floor for the night. Talk about feeling like an outcast! Ever since that day, I always felt sorry for the kid on the playground that no one ever hung around with.

The hunting was always good at the farm, from the time Dad shot the buck with all the points down by the river, to all the pheasants, rabbits and even a skunk or two. I especially remember a funny photo taken of one of those times of Jerry, Teresa and I holding a pheasant and the shotgun. We look like we’re straight out of “Little House on the Prairie.”

Every summer for a few years, we would pair up with the Einspahr girls and spend a couple of weeks at the farm. Since Gail and I were the oldest, we usually went at the same time. When her and I went horseback riding, she always rode Prince and I rode Little Horse.

Once in awhile we would have a leadership confrontation. My little hobby was to collect these box turtles and have them in a little pen. I’ll never forget the time we were having one of our ‘debates’ and Gail picked up one of my turtles, held him way above her head, and threatened to smash him on the cement. All I had was the horsewhip and I swore to her I’d beat her like mashed potatoes if she so much as put a scratch on my turtle. Somehow, we settled things and no one came out of it worse for wear.

There was one thing I could never beat Gail at though. At nighttime we would stand in the kitchen, put both our hands on our cheeks, and pull the skin down while we were smiling. I remember Grandma laughing so hard she had to hold her sides. Gail and I would be laughing so hard, tears would run down our faces, but she always had the funniest face. Boy, I wish I had pictures of that!

Another thing we used to do was fill up empty pop bottles with water and have chugging contests. We’d have so much water in our bellies, it looked like we had swallowed a watermelon. Entertainment sure was cheap back then.

Then there was that little shack on the hill that looked over the pasture. We turned it into a playhouse. As Kim and Jerry came to stay, and then Teresa and Kay, everyone added their own little touch to it.

Jerry and I then got interested in rodeo. The farm sure was a great place to go. We would go down to the bottom pen where the hog house used to be, and when no one was watching we would rope the calves. Now catching them didn’t seem to be so hard, but Jerry and I were both pretty little back then and getting the rope off was difficult.

There was a pole in the middle of the pen, and we would hurry and run around it a couple of times after we got one caught. Then the trouble really started! The calves would strain against that rope so hard, they would choke themselves down. One of us leaned on the end of the rope for all we were worth, trying to keep the dally from slipping, and the other trying to move this choked-down calf toward the pole so we could slip the rope off its neck. If my face looked as worried as Jerry’s did when he would glance up the hill to see if we had been caught yet, then I bet we looked like a couple of scared cats!

We then discovered a safer thing to rope … the chickens. We would close the hen house door, and take tosses at the chickens with these little baling string ropes we had made. The big problem was that there was always a lot of racket going on in there when we were ‘practicing.’

One time I caught one of those pretty little roosters around the neck, and he flapped up over one of the rafters and hung on the other side. Now you have to understand that this was all a matter of timing, but there was about one second there where I didn’t quite know what to do. That’s when Grandpa opened the door. Here I am holding onto a piece of twine that was strung tight above my head, over a rafter, with one of Grandpa’s prime roosters beating its wings like crazy with the other end of the twine around its neck. I let my end of the twine go, the chicken came down and ran off, and then I had to look at Grandpa. That was the only time I remember him getting mad, and I knew he sure had a right to be.

One time we stayed up and waited for the Einspahrs to show up from Denver. Our bedtime came and Boyd and Twila hadn’t shown up yet. I was sleeping upstairs in Dad’s old bed and Gail was in the next room. I remember waking up and it was real dark. Something heavy was on my legs, and I had no idea what it was. Now, I’d seen some scary movies by this time, and everything I could imagine came to mind.

I tried moving my legs, and whatever it was on my legs moved a little bit. Now, I was very scared! After laying there as still as I could for what seemed like hours, but was probably only a few minutes, I did the only reasonable thing to do … I started screaming at the top of my lungs!

When the lights came on I know my eyes were as big as saucers. Gail was at the doorway to the bedroom, and Grandma and Twila were at the top of the stairs and sitting on my legs, looking just about as scared as I was sat their dog, Fifi. I’ve never been so glad to see a dog in my life!

When I started thinking about memories at the farm with Grandma and Grandpa, hundreds of things came to mind. While writing this I laughed, cried, and thought how lucky we were to have gotten to spend time there with them and how very lucky we were to have grandparents like them.


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