Friday, April 30, 2010

A Trip Down Memory Lane

In acknowledgment of the reminiscences of a friend of mine about her childhood home in "The Valley," I decided I'd venture writing my own blog post on the subject. During the last few weeks I have heard a song on the radio that brought back some good memories from my childhood, and although the song has a melancholy tune that doesn't quite match my attitude, I think it captures the nostalgic feelings that many of us may have for the "good old days," days in which your home life protected you from many of the ugly blights of society and the bitter political wrangling over just about anything you can think of.

While life on a farm definitely had its challenges, it was a simpler life that taught the value of hard work and integrity. On a small family farm in south-eastern Idaho, my family of nine shared the responsibility of running approximately 1,400 acres of land. The chores were always suited to my age. I fed the chickens and gathered the eggs, or I would help make cracked wheat for the dogs and cats. Other chores included weeding a large garden, mowing an equally large lawn, or working in the fields. We would pull wild rye out of the crops, haul rocks off the fields, drive grain trucks, plow and weed the ground, thresh the seed grain for planting, etc. We even went hunting once a year to provide us with meat until the following hunt the next fall.

Looking back at those years, we probably could have gotten by without doing quite that much work! I can't think of a single farmer in the whole county that put as much time into hauling rocks or pulling rye as our family, but the older I got, the more I appreciated a good day's work and the the things that can be accomplished in that time.

About nine years ago, a little after my grandpa passed away, the farm that had been in my dad's family for generations was sold, the proceeds divvied up among his children as part of the inheritance. He had wanted to keep the farm in the family, but as often happens with inheritance, another small family farm became a statistic.

I will always look back on my childhood years with fondness because of the values I learned. While I would have liked to have raised my children under similar circumstances, the family farm served its purpose in my life. Physically the farm has changed since it was sold, as evidenced in this video, but in my memory, it will always be the farm where I grew up. And when times get hard I can think back to the lessons learned on the farm.

Paraphrasing the words of the Scottish poet, James Barrie, one author writes, "God gave us memories, that we might have June roses in the December of our lives."

Sunday, April 25, 2010

County Fair

For the third consecutive year we had a great evening at the Pima County Fair. I've written about our past experiences at the fair, so I've already said most everything there is to say on the subject with just a few exceptions.

We rode on many of the rides that we rode on last year--thanks to the promotional discounts they give for the rides in the weeks leading up to the fair.

One of the recurring themes of this year's experience seems to be the boar or the pig!

A nice addition to this year's fair was the petting zoo. Within minutes of our entering, one of the many goats found Deb's pant-leg and peed all over it. Truth be told, the goats were rather obnoxious. One man who was wearing a solid green shirt had the goats swarming around him, apparently thinking his shirt was food! Sorry, no pictures of this phenomenon!

This critter was fairly skittish, but the girls managed to get close to it.

The excellent sea lion show was one of the highlights of our evening!

Can I see your ID?

A week ago after dark I noticed a few police cars parked across the street from us. I pointed this out to my wife, and she had a brilliant idea to pop some popcorn and see what neighbor was getting busted this time! When we didn't see anything going on, we went back to cleaning grapes for our trip to Mesa, Arizona the following day. A few minutes later I opened the back door to go outside and noticed that the door to the Arizona room was open, which occasionally happens when the kids play outside. I stepped inside just to make sure some thief hadn't come in our backyard to try to steal anything from the Arizona room. As I looked down the length of the room I noticed a couple of flashlights through the windows that look into the back yard. As I turned to look at them, they both came up to shine in my face. It's amazing how many things can run through your mind in a split second! Frozen in place, all I could do was say, "Hi! Can I help you?" Fortunately, they identified themselves immediately as the Tucson police.

I turned on the lights to the back yard and they informed me that a neighbor had called to report that our van door was open and it looked like someone may have broken into it. I went over and checked it out, but everything was still there. It looks like the kids left the van door open too! I closed the door and resolved to lock the back gate more often to better ensure against theft--since we have been the victims of it since moving to Tucson. It was at that point that the police officers asked me for identification. It almost made me laugh, since the thought passed through my mind to say, "Do you know who I am?", and then belligerently badger them all the way to their vehicle. Okay, so I didn't give the thought serious consideration, but the question did bring to mind the incident between Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and a Massachusetts' police officer last summer. I respect the job the police have to do and I'm sure they've probably heard enough people give them that line since the Gates' incident.

I was thankful that we had a vigilant neighbor that was willing to call the police when he saw something that looked suspicious.

My wife, who had been inside, had a different experience. When she heard me say, "Hi! Can I help you?", she thought someone hiding from the police, whose vehicles were parked out front, had hidden in our back yard. Some of the thoughts passing through her mind were, "Should I call the police? Should I close and lock the back door?" etc.

In the end, we were relieved that nothing had happened, but we found it somewhat ironic that the police had come for us and not for the drug-dealing neighbor across the street.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Trap Restoration

The other day I was getting something out of our laundry closet when I noticed some rust sticking out of a mess of garden tools and paint cans. The rusty objects were two traps that I kept from the farm where I grew up. Like the license plates I have written about in an earlier post, I initially found these traps in the old homestead that served as my great grandparents' home before 1916. I have hung onto them with the hopes of one day being able to clean them up without damaging them too much.

I recently started looking for different rust removers that might help me clean the traps, realizing that in order to get what is probably more than a half century's worth of rust off the traps, I would have to fully submerse the traps in the solution for an extended period of time. I found most rust removers that sell in large quantities end up running about $20 per gallon, which is a little out of my budget. My wife suggested I try vinegar, so I went to the store and bought a gallon of vinegar and gave it a try. I didn't soak the first trap long enough, but it still came out better than I had expected. This picture shows one of the traps in the vinegar. The other bucket is a bucket of water. In order to keep the vinegar as clean as possible, I worked on the trap in the water bucket, only using the vinegar to soak the traps. I had to keep them submersed as much as I could since the iron would quickly begin to discolor again with rust if it started to dry. Consequently, I had to empty and refill the water bucket numerous times. When I had finished cleaning it, I had to quickly run a cloth over it to clean it and then, with another cloth covered in oil, I oiled the trap before it could rust again.

This picture shows the difference between an uncleaned trap by a cleaned one. Gabs wanted to see how they worked, so I set one of them and sprang it with the metal rod used to anchor the trap. They still work as well as ever.

I soaked the second trap in the vinegar a little longer than the first, and it cleaned up even better.

The traps' pans, which were almost completely illegible when covered in rust, revealed that the traps date back to 1917 or 1918 based on the patent dates. Debs probably thinks I'm crazy to spend so much time repairing traps that I will never use, but it's a lot of fun preserving pieces of family history!