Mom and Dad went to the fair. They left us home alone. Amazing!
The Minnesota State Fair is about upon us. The weather has turned August hot. I can almost smell those cheese curds from 160 miles north.
The fair I'm going to write about in this column happened when I was 14 years old and living on that small Iowa farm that I've written about so many times. It was a memorable day.
Working a farm has never been an easy task or one that most people would seek out. The work is never-ending. One growing up there learns early on that from sunup to sundown and sometimes in between there is labor waiting. It never ceases.
Lately I'm feeling for those who are farming today with all the stresses that are being endured on a daily basis, both on a labor and a financial level. Farming is not for the weak of heart. It never has been.
My parents were no different than any of those who farmed those small acreage farms of the 1950s and '60s. The coffee pot went on the stove at 5 a.m. and there was not much rest until the lights went out at 9 p.m.
Both of my parents were involved in the everyday labor on the farm. It started with milking cows and ended with milking cows, and the balance of the time was spent fixing, planting, cooking and everything else that made a farm tick.
And so it was with some surprise that one early morning in August that my parents informed my siblings and me that they were going to go to the Plymouth County Fair in LeMars. Alone!
I, being the oldest of the brood, stood in disbelief when I heard that we would not be attending with them. Instead we were given instructions as to how to watch over things until they returned before evening milking. I and my sisters and brothers stared at each other wondering why they were leaving us.
After all, it had only been 14 years since my birth that they enjoyed a childless day! There had never been a "fun" off day for the two of them in those 14 years. But, there we stood in the middle of the farmyard as they drove off in a cloud of summer dust feeling like we'd just been kicked out of the nest.
We could only imagine that they couldn't possibly have much of a good time without all us kids tagging along. What fun would it be for them to stroll down the midway without us pulling on their pant legs and skirts asking for a dime to throw a dart? How could they possibly enjoy cotton candy without us getting the sticky stuff all over our hands and faces? They certainly wouldn't take advantage of a ride on the Ferris wheel, would they?
No, we kids knew that it would not be much fun for them to be at the fair without us.
All day long we moped around the farm wondering what they could possibly be doing at the fair. We knew they would not be enjoying themselves.
Milking time began around 5:30 in the afternoon and the Chevy turned into the farm lane at around 5. We all ran out to the car sure that we would find the two totally spent and bored.
Instead we witnessed our mother climb out of the car with an armload of stuffed toys. There was a teddy bear, a long-eared dog and a fuzzy white kitten cuddled in her arms and she was wearing a wide grin like we hadn't seen in awhile.
"Dad won me all these things!" she exclaimed.
Our dad stood close by with his chest puffed out a bit, smiling at her remarks. I hadn't seen that look on his face since I was old enough to remember.
"We had a good time," he said.
I guess my siblings and I didn't realize that our folks did have a relationship before any of us were born. They actually did have fun one time together before the family came and farming took all of their time.
I remember thinking how good they both looked with just that one day of relief. After most of us were raised and some of us were able to do the daily farm work, Mom and Dad were able to drive north to Minnesota and spend a bit more time in that relaxed mode.
Seeing the Minnesota State Fair advertised recently, I got to thinking how good it must be for a human to take a break. Mom and Dad proved it. They went to the fair without us.
See you next time. Okay?