Thursday, March 22, 2012

What Goes Around...

You don't really understand human nature unless you know why a child on a merry-go-round will wave at his parents every time around - and why his parents will always wave back.  
William D. Tammeus

About twenty years ago, I volunteered at a living history farm. I had joined a natural science guild and had the option of working at a nature center or at Pioneer Farm. The farm depicted 1880 in Texas. As the mother of three young boys, that sounded like the best escape for me. Besides, at the nature center, you had to take out the snakes and show the visiting children. Not my thing.

I had two boys in elementary school at the time and my neighbor looked after my youngest while I enjoyed four hours a month dressing up in a long dress and apron. I milked the cow, collected the eggs, fed slop to the pigs, started a fire in the old stove and made pies or chicken stew while showing off chamber pots and corn cob toilet paper to the visiting school children.

Very peaceful for me, those four hours once a month. Loved it.

But, as mothers often discover, peace is a misnomer. Due to the illness of my neighbor, I found myself at the farm with Ian, then two years old. We were at the Tenant Farm that day. A place where the original farmer and his wife raised 12 children. The farmer's mother got to sleep in the only bed. Outdoor kitchen.

On this particular day of volunteering, I was getting the fire going and Ian was washing clothes in a washtub. He'd rinse out the towels and hang them on the clothes line. He had to climb a stool to reach the clothes line and between washing, rinsing, wringing, climbing and hanging up, he was quite busy.

About 9 weeks earlier, eight piglets came into the world and for the past three weeks running with wild abandon around the farm had become their bane. Sort of like a pack of teenagers with nothing structured in their lives. This day they decided to help Ian with the laundry.

As soon as he'd climb the stool to hang a shirt or towel, the pigs would gather at his wash bucket and pull out the item soaking and run off. At first he tried to chase them, but the group of eight ran in circles around him. One could almost hear them laughing as they played Keep Away.

At home, one of the books I was currently reading to Ian was Caps for Sale by Esphyr Solobodkina. In the story, a peddler who sells caps that he carries stacked on his head decides to take a nap under a tree. While he sleeps, a group of monkeys steal his colorful caps and arrange themselves in the branches above. When the peddler awakes, he stands with hands clenched in frustration, berating the wild group to give him back his hats.

Ian resorted to the same tactic, shaking his hands at the mischievious crew. "You pigs you! You give me back my clothes."

Memories. As he relayed the story to his older brothers, so it came that my days of going to the farm alone became a time of volunteering more often, with three boys in tow. Amazingly enough, on one of our visits, the bluebonnets were in bloom and even more amazing, I had a camera in the car. (I know I put this at the beginning, but just had to show it again.)

My kids loved the farm. They planted crops, collected eggs, made cookies, stacked wood, played hide and seek in the barn, fed the pigs, cows, horses and baby chicks while interpreting for crowds of visiting children. They had the run of the place, right along with the pigs. When my parents came for Christmas, we would all volunteer. We depicted a multi-generational family at the Homestead on Christmas Eve. My husband and dad welcomed the walking crowds and my mom played the pump organ while those visiting sang carols.

When she grew tired of pumping, the boys would take turns sitting on the floor pushing the pumps up and down. Somewhere I have a photo of all of us (of course can't find it now.)

And so we come to the point of this tale. Many of you have followed my stories of middle son, Jordan, the Fisheries and Wildlife major on his treks through the world of job hunting. From raising baby deer in south Texas to the wilds of Wyoming and West Texas and trading substitute teaching jobs with me.

A few Saturdays ago, my husband and I returned to Pioneer Farms after quite a few years of absence. Not much had changed other than further improvements on more farm scenes and the addition of a town square.

And some new animals.

While we wandered, guess who showed up walking from town square?

 Yup. That's Jordan. The farm hired him three days a week. 

He spends the other days of the week subbing or working landscape. Such is the life for many of our young college graduates. Several jobs. But, oh, how he enjoys this one, nurtured in childhood. Perhaps one good thing I did.


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