Friday, August 30, 2013

OUR SUMMER VACATION; by Milton O. Nelson; September 1912; Part 1 of 2

Did ever a farmer [or a farmer's wife!] have his work so well in hand that at each day's close he could say: "I have done nothing that I ought not to have done and have left nothing undone that I ought to have done and I feel as fresh and strong as a bull moose." I haven't yet met that farmer. I think Longfellow was on a farm when he wrote:

"Labor with what zeal we will
Something still remains undone;
Something unaccomplished still
Waits the rising of the sun."  

I think he wrote that along about July or August when haying, hoeing and harvest overlapped and sat in each other's laps.

Did you ever see a time during the summer school vacation when you could spare the boys--the boys that are just getting big enough to hoe their row and load the hay and milk? If any part of the year runs on winged feet it is the days between June and September when the children are home from school. According to my observation a vacation on a farm is a rare thing. It was on our old farm certainly.

We deliberately broke the old tradition this season. And this is the way it came about. Just before school closed the principal of our high school, who is a fine boy-man, invited the Little Boy of our farm to join a boy-camp in the mountains, there to spend a week. A week right out of the middle of weed-time leaves a big hold, and a Little Boy, (now nearly as tall as his mother) out of a family of three leaves a bigger hole. He had never been away as long as that. But it was inevitable. Sometime or other he would have to camp without his parents. It took about two weeks of deliberation to persuade us that this was the time.

When it was finally decided and the morning had come, we took him to the rendezvous of the expedition at the village, where a strong team [of horses] and a covered mountain wagon were in waiting. As the boys with their bundles of dunnage piled into the van, faces radiant with expectation, I'd have given a cookie to be a boy again for a week. For pure, unalloyed pleasure in large chunks just hand me the first day of an expedition of this kind. You don't get anything quite so high class in later years.

One of three things is essential to a first-class week's outing--water, woods, or high places. Clear, grove-rimmed lakes such as you find in Wisconsin and Minnesota are my choice. But lacking these, then high places with streams splashing down hill through tall, dark, leaf-carpeted woods will do pretty well. In any case it must be a place so different from the farm that weeds and skim milk won't occur to your mind once during the whole week. I have often thought this summer that if I could take a week at some quiet hotel in the city, get a room on the court where street noises don't intrude, sleep sixteen hours a day, eat once, and spend the rest of the time mousing round the city library, it would suit me. I don't know but I would recommend a city vacation for farmers' wives. It could be made much less strenuous than a week in the mountains or a camp in the mosquito-infested woods. Sue says she is going to try this next winter. But thus far this summer we have chosen the mountains.

Part two is planned for September 5th.