110. Summertime Solo Play

110.  Summertime Solo Play

Growing up in the country on Grandpa’s farm, especially when we didn’t do much farming, I had time to play; mostly by myself.  My grandparents had passed on, we had some chickens, but there were no cows to care for, and no TV.  Once in a while, we did put in a crop, or bring in hay from the fields, but Daddy worked in town and we had sharecroppers work the property.  Neighbor kids were not close by, and those my age were doing chores and helping with the farm work, and not available for play.

One activity I could do by myself was archery.  Mom had a wooden bow that was the perfect size for me.  I rolled the big round straw target out of the garage, and first set it up in front of the garage door.  But if I missed the target and hit the door, the arrow cracked.  Not good!  Archery was fun, but with the target in the driveway, I had to go retrieve the arrows both in, and way beyond the target.

I “borrowed” my sister’s tennis racquet and bounced a ball against the side of the house.  That was fun until I broke the side window in my bedroom.  Not good!  One of my favorite activities was shooting.  I set tin cans on the fence posts at the back of the yard by the garden, and plinked them off with my bee bee gun.  But then, I had to go and put the cans back up again to continue. Before I was smart enough to shoot tin cans on the fence posts, I used old light bulbs.  Not good!  Mom made me pick up all the broken glass.

I wanted to find something to do that didn’t have extra “work” or problems.  Finally, throwing the tennis ball up on the roof above the kitchen seemed perfect because it rolled back down to me.  It worked great until I threw the ball too hard and it went over the top of the house and was lost forever somewhere in the rock garden.  Oh well, it was all fun while it lasted!


I tossed the ball high in the air,
Expecting I would catch it.
But I almost always missed it,
And I’d have to go and fetch it.
I hit the ball against the house,
It bounced back really good.
But then I broke a window,
So I didn’t think I should.

I threw the ball up on the roof.
It rolled back down to me.
At last I’d found a ball game,
With no problem I could see!

I threw the ball up on the roof.
It rolled clear over the top.
That was the end of the ball game.
‘Cuz then I had to stop.

It wasn’t that I’d done a wrong.
No, it wasn’t that at all.
When I went around the house,
I couldn’t find the ball!


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 big hay barn, the animal 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.

In the big hay 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.

In the animal barn, 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.

In the south end of the animal part of the barn there were two box stalls where riding horses had been kept.   Huge sliding doors on the east and west walls opened so wagon loads of hay and straw could be brought in to pitch to the lofts above.  We got an old truck so Daddy, my sister Jan, and I could hand gather fresh cut hay, and then use pitchforks to toss it up into the loft.  I was too small to toss up the hay, but I could help move it back from the edge of the loft.



The big red barn was the biggest of all;
It was a wonder-filled castle five stories tall.
There were hidden doors; it was a mysterious place.
A boy could disappear without a trace.

There were three sections for animals, and one just for hay.
There were endless opportunities for a boy to play.
The big red barn was the place for me.
It was a place to set my imagination free.

Did Grandpa have sheep? There was a “sheep shed”.
And plenty of stalls where horses were fed.
There were many stanchions all in a row,
How did the cows know which place to go?

The big barn was painted red I’m told;
The paint was cheap and prevented mold.
The sheep shed was an unpainted grey;
It must have been built a different day.

I swung on the hay rope from side to side;
I hung from the trolly, and went for a ride.
I liked to jump and bounce in the hay.
The barn was a wonderful place to play!