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The Last Windrow: February on the farm

February was a boring month on the small farm where I grew up. The harvest was in. By this time most of the machinery had been fixed for the coming spring and all of the holidays had been spent.

No one I ever knew back then ever went south for the winter, they just hunkered down and waited the months away.

One thing a kid didn’t ever mention to his farmer father was that he was bored and there was nothing to do. If you actually uttered that phrase, you would soon find a pitchfork in your hand with directions to head for the barn and start cleaning it out. I grew very aware of that situation after only a time or two and never uttered those words again.

So, what was left to do? More than once I headed for the neighbor’s farm where I played a spirited game of Monopoly with my friends Norman and Leland. I soon learned that I didn’t have the knack of being cruel and inhuman in financial affairs and usually ended up broke and busted with either Norman or Leland ending up with all the buildings and all the cash. I then watched them duke it out until one was bloodied and beaten and he succumbed to the greater power.

We were all armed with rifles or shotguns and February was the time of year we headed for farm groves within reach. None of us had cars, hence we walked to neighboring farms armed to the teeth looking for the wary cottontail rabbit. No rabbit was safe as we raided their lairs located in woodpiles and under rusting machinery.

How we ever came away with nary a bullet hole is still amazing. It sounded like a war zone in the woods with lead flying in every direction and we always seemed to come away with a rabbit dinner. Cottontails are really tasty, fried with onions on a cold February night.

Every farm had a barn and in February much of the stored hay had been used, thus making space for a half-court basketball arena. Fouls were never called during games played in the hay mow. You took your life in your hands when you received a pass and headed for a lay-up. If you didn’t have substantial body mass, you learned early on to shoot from beyond the three-point line.

Some big bruiser was usually stationed under the basket and made no bones about doing you bodily injury if you tried to dunk it over his head. More than one tooth was lost on the way to the bucket and more than one giant sliver was pulled from a behind that had skidded across the slick floor.

We came away from those games fully exhausted, and that was a good thing.

The only ice to be found in that part of Iowa in the winter was located on the small creeks that flowed through the landscape. None of my friends owned a pair of ice skates, so it was with our four and five buckle overshoes that we skidded atop the frozen creeks playing hockey with a bent branch of a tree for a stick.

We didn’t have a hockey puck, so we used whatever was handy, including frozen cow pies. They have a perfect flat side and when frozen hard, they really do work. Heavy body checking was in vogue and you didn’t dare turn your back to an opposing player lest you end up with your nose speared into the icy creek-top.

There was no penalty box, thus the “enforcers” ran rampant.

February can be a dull month. Nothing much happening. But, somehow we farm kids with no money, no car and no Internet games found a way to pass the month and get on to March.

But you never, never told your dad that there was nothing to do and you were bored. That would be a big mistake.

See you next time. Okay?