When I was 14 my father told me I had to take over the family farm. He was leaving for Bangor, Maine to make money for the older kids to go to college. We brought in over 1000 bushels of potatoes from the farm; some we stored for the winter and some we used to barter for things in town. But college could not be paid for this way and there were five children in our family to educate. So Dad got a job at the Farm Bureau Administration during the week and came home on the weekends.
So there I was with the responsibility of the farm. My instructions the first week Dad was away were ‘Build a barn door.’ ‘But how?’ I asked. ‘Figure it out!’ was the answer. I did indeed figure it out and this was a lesson in ingenuity and confidence that lasted me all my life.
My cousin Lad came to help me run the farm for two or three summers in those years before the war. I was pretty young and Lad was three years older than me. We each had something to teach the other. I had learned a lot about farming and crop rotation from my father who had taken two years study of Agricultural Engineering. I taught Lad what I knew.
Lad, being older and from the city of Boston, knew a lot about girls. He tried to tutor me in the ways of dating. He was a quick learner on the farm. However, despite his best efforts at teaching me how to handle myself around the opposite sex, I remained a bit of a clueless farm boy. Our first double date occurred when I was fifteen. It made such an impression on me that I remember it to this day.
Most of our time in the summers was spent in the fields. In the rotating of crops our habit was to put down at the same time oats, clover, and timothy. Dad had taught me the fine art of sowing the seeds. He would sing a song as he sowed so the rhythm of the song kept the seeds even. So there were no bare spots or skips in the fields and everything came up good.
Now the first year, oats came up and when you cut the oats you left a six-inch stubble so you didn’t hurt the clover and the timothy. They were coming but just started.
The second year you had thick clover and that summer we cut four acres. The clover is so heavy it is a lot of work. Pitch it in the hay rack. Go to the barn, pitch it off. It seemed like tons and tons of clover.
Lad and I worked hard day after day and when Sunday came we were ready for a day off. Lad had arranged a double date for us. We were to take out two girls from Greenville and I listened to Lad as he gave me the do’s and don’ts of dating once again. He often said, ‘Just watch me and do what I do.’ He was in the front seat with his date while I was in the back seat with mine. Trouble was, he was in high gear while I was in neutral or reverse.
On this particular day, we headed downtown in our 1927 Chevrolet four door hatbox. We picked up Lad’s date, Octavia Sanders, who was the prettiest girl in school. Then we stopped by my date’s house. Her name was Hortense Graham, known in high school by her nickname, Hot Pants Graham. (I have no idea why.)
We then went up to Squaw Brook to see the fish hatchery run by Archie Buldoc. It was nothing new – just someplace to go. We got out to watch the little fishes being hatched. Then we got back in the car and rode the square one way, then the other. It was a pleasant summer evening.
Lad and I were extremely tired because we had worked so hard on the clover. At the end of the date, which was way too long, I was exhausted. Lad stayed in the Sanders home in front of the fireplace with Tavie while I walked my date down Prospect Street, left onto Washington Street to her home. Now I was dragging my feet; I was dead tired, barely keeping my eyes open.
So, as we neared her house at the bottom of Washington Street, I suddenly and quite unexpectedly and loudly broke wind – it came upon me without warning and I was as surprised as Hortense. Red faced, I saw her to her door and walked back to Octavia’s house to pick up Lad and head home.
As we drove home in our hatbox Chevrolet, we exchanged stories and between gales of laughter, I told how my date had ended.
‘ Oh, man’, he said when I got to the unfortunate part of the night. ‘ Was it audible?’
‘ Audible?’ I replied, ’It was almost edible.’
Obviously, his lessons on dating, manners and behavior toward the fairer sex had not taken.
By Gramps Walden and Viv Walden