The Last Windrow: Absolute freedom was missing school to plant corn

I never felt so free as on the first day of those excused absences. I thought it was a bit of heaven as I motored toward the now plowed field with our Allis Chalmers WD purring while pulling the disc or drag behind.

Photo illustration, Shutterstock, Inc.

I got to skip school for corn planting. That event was a highlight of my school year. Better than prom.

Back in the day, every kid on the farm had his or her tasks to complete. There was an unwritten rule among country kids that you never uttered the words, "There's nothing to do. I'm bored!"

If by chance one of my siblings actually uttered those words, some mundane task was instantly assigned. Things like pulling nails out of boards, painting the barn windows, cleaning the hen house or maybe hanging the clothes on the line.

It was amazing what parents could come up with to keep you from being "bored."

One of the important yearly events on our farm was that of planting corn in early May. One didn't simply put corn in the ground. First the plowing was done, then the disc, then the leveling and then finally the actual planting of the seed.


All of these tasks took time to accomplish and when I was old enough to reach the tractor's clutch and brakes, I was tagged with most of these activities. To take part in some of those duties, a call to my school was made and I was excused for a day or two to get the corn in the ground. My homework was sent home on the bus and it was expected that I wouldn't lose any learning ground while away from the classroom.

I never felt so free as on the first day of those excused absences. I thought it was a bit of heaven as I motored toward the now plowed field with our Allis Chalmers WD purring while pulling the disc or drag behind. The spring air smelled so clean and fresh as a slight southern breeze brushed my face.

A meadowlark tossed its feathered head skyward and sang its trill as I passed by its perch on a wooden fencepost. Rooster pheasants now wore their breeding colors and their faces turned bright red. They were ready for a fight with any other rooster in the area. I watched them a number of times at close range as they were focused eye to eye on each other and not me sitting on the tractor's seat just above them.

Even the dust I raised behind the tractor smelled good. Those who have never experienced the aroma of freshly turned soil have missed a human treat. There is a sweetness that rises from the soil almost telling you that it is ready to be planted.

My dad was the first in our area to practice contour planting of corn rows. Up until then, most farmers planted straight up and down hills, thus allowing erosion to take place. Small gullies formed between the corn rows as a result.

Our pasture was located below a neighbor's field and showed the signs of that erosion as his soil covered our pasture grass after a heavy rain. I found my dad's contour planning scheme to be quite artistic as he swirled the rows across the slightly rolling hills.

It wasn't long after he started that practice that our neighbors began using the same technique. Our pasture never experienced being covered with washed out soil after contour farming began.

Knowing that I was out in the open outdoors when my classmates were sitting at their desks provided a quiet pleasure to me. Instead of a teacher handing out a test or correcting my grammar, I only heard that WD Allis Chalmers chugging across the Iowa countryside, which by now was turning new green.


Our plum tree-blossomed fence line provided a smell so sweet it was almost sickening. Instead of cramming my head full of mathematical calculations, I was instead focusing on driving a straight line from one end of the field to the other. A form of geometry, I thought to myself.

As I was heading out to our future garden last week to begin preparing for this year's crop, those thoughts of skipping school this time of year came back. I never forgot that feeling of absolute freedom from the heavy yoke of my education!

That feeling is a farm memory.

See you next time. Okay?

John Wetrosky - Last Windrow.jpg

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