109. Bunnies in the Garden

109.  Bunnies in the Garden

Each spring, our neighbor on the farm south of us drove his tractor up to plow a patch for us to plant a garden.  It would be about 100 feet long beyond the back yard from the chicken coop to the field by the old orchard.  I always enjoyed working with Mom and Daddy in the garden because I felt like I was really contributing to the project.

First, we had to rake the dirt to flatten the humps left by the plow.  Then we staked out rows with strings.  I would punch holes in the ground under the strings with a stick, then rake the dirt over the holes after Mom put the seeds in.

It was fascinating to watch the green leaves pop up out of the ground, almost overnight, and that those tiny seeds would soon be bright red radishes or lettuce.  I would hoe the dirt between rows to keep the ground from getting hard.  We had lettuce, carrots, green onions, tomatoes, string beans, and flowers.  Mom loved the flowers.

We planted rows of corn at the south end of the garden.  At the other end by the chicken coop, Daddy always made a mound of dirt and compost to plant a vine crop of cucumbers, watermelons, or pumpkins. Daddy loved the cucumbers, and I would take a big one and make a cucumber boat to float in the lily pool.

It was a challenge to have an open garden plot where wild animals could come.  Occasionally, deer would eat the corn before it was big enough to pick.  The rabbits were the biggest problem.  There was no way to keep them out, and they would nibble on the lettuce and carrot tops.  One summer, I found a picture of a rabbit trap in an old Boy Scout manual, and made a trap out of an apple basket in an attempt to catch them.


There are bunnies in the garden.
Oh my, what shall we do?
They’ve nibbled on the lettuce,
And on the carrots too.

I’ll get my trusty popgun,
And shoot them all on sight!
But they come way past my bedtime,
In the middle of the night.

The bunnies in the garden,
Are so cuddly and so cute.
With twitchy nose and wiggly ears,
I guess I couldn’t shoot.

I think I’ve got a better plan,
That will surely save the day.
I’ll trap the little bunnies,
And take them far away.

I propped a basket up,
With a carrot set for bait.
I put my trap in the garden,
Then I went to bed to wait.

I dashed out to the garden,
In the morning’s early light.
The trap was sprung, the carrot gone,
But no bunny was in sight.

I set the trap again, and again,
The results were still the same.
All summer long, they ate my bait,
And we played our little game.

The garden was a big success!
That summer was the best.
The bunnies ate their carrots,
And we enjoyed the rest.

Did the bunnies understand the game?
I guess I’ll never know.
But I’m glad I didn’t catch them.
I love tracks across the snow.

108. Smokey

108.  Smokey

When I got home from school one day, Daddy was there, home early from work.  “Let’s go to the barn,” he said, with that twinkle in his eye when he had something special.  Mom and Daddy and I walked to the barn where I was directed to a box stall.  I opened the top door and looked inside.  “A pony! For me?  My very own pony?”  “He’s a Shetland pony,” Mom said. “His name is Smokey, from the gray streaks on his sides.”

Daddy put a small pony saddle on Smokey, and Mom showed me how to thread the cinch strap and tighten it.  I was boosted up, and I was riding! I was thrilled, and scared, but they walked Smokey around the barn entry until I got more comfortable.  Mom told me that I’d be responsible for feeding Smokey, and, to fork the manure out of the stall and put in fresh straw.  I was too excited to take in that part, but it worked out okay.

Eventually, I would saddle up Smokey myself and ride around the farm.  When I mounted up, I was a cowboy!  I was Roy Rogers, Wyatt Earp, and Gene Autry, all rolled into one!  I was a Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman!  I was the Sheriff and the fastest draw in the West!  What wonderful times Smokey and I had together!

One day when I was feeling adventurous, I packed a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in a paper bag, saddled up Smokey and rode across the highway all the way down the lane to the back of the farm.  What an adventurous outing!  I tied Smoky to a small tree, and sat on the grass to eat my lunch, then started riding back to the barn.  When Smokey saw the barn, he took the bit in his mouth and took off running!

My pulling on the reins and shouting had no effect on his rush to get home and get something to eat.  Thank God there were no cars on Michigan Highway 66 as we crossed.  Smokey scraped against the barn door, tearing my blue jeans as he rushed to get to the oat bin.

After my scary ride, I started using the two-wheeled pony cart which I really liked.  I felt safe driving Mom up the lane to the house and back, and with Mom riding “shotgun,” I would have help if Smoky started acting up.


I’m the Cowboy Kid from way out West,
With fancy boots and buckskin vest.
My six-gun strapped on my waist for show,
Up on my horse and away we go!

Been out punching cows all day long,
“My hands are sore,” the cowpoke’s song.
I’ve been riding the range, rounding up cattle,
I’ve got so many blisters, I’m tall in the saddle.

The big blue sky all day overhead,
The stars at night, and the ground for my bed,
The howl of a coyote in the still of the night,
As he serenades his love in the pale moonlight.

I love my life on the lone prairie,
As free and happy as a man can be.
My horse, the herd, and me on the range,
With a peaceful life that I hope won’t change.


107. The Big Red Barn

107.  The Big Red Barn

At first, the big barn past the granary was a huge mysterious empty red building to a boy of seven, but it eventually became a dreamer’s playground and a giant five-story-high castle where adventure waited just beyond the door of imagination.  Mom said the barn was the biggest in the county when Grandpa built it around 1903.

The barn was a three-part structure: the animal barn, the big hay barn, and the sheep shed on the north end.  The sheep shed looked like an add-on because it was accessible only through one open end in the barnyard and a small door cut through the wall at the bottom of the hayloft.  Just outside the sheep shed opening in the barnyard, there was a pump with a tin cup and a pail for water for priming the pump.

In the south end of the animal part there were two box stalls where riding horses had been kept. Tackle hung on the opposite wall by the oat bin.  Huge sliding doors on the east and west walls opened so wagon loads of hay and straw could be brought in to throw to the lofts above.  A small open doorway led into the cattle section where Grandpa had four stalls for the big workhorses.

I could sense the ghosts of cows standing placidly with their necks trapped in the wooden stanchions as I walked along the long rows where the milk cows would have waited for Grandpa to come with his one-legged stool and milk pail.  At the end of the row, a small waist-high door swung into the bottom of the large hayloft in the big part of the barn.  This door was covered when there was hay in the barn.

Great hand-hewn beams framed the haylofts.  The floor of the barn could accommodate a tractor and wagonload of hay, which would be lifted by a rope with large hooks from a trolley on a track high in the top of the barn.  With hardly any imagination at all, that rope also became a jungle vine for “Tarzan” to swing across the beams and drop into the hay.