I’ve had the “nature vs. nurture” discussion with many people and I’ve given it a lot of serious thought because of my occupation. I know that we choose our lifestyle. I know that we can’t use our background or childhood as an excuse for our choices. I know that many people “rise above” how they were raised. I know that the personality and intellect we are given have a lot to do with how we interpret and use our childhood experiences. I am living proof of that. However, there are some things that stay with you and continue to be part of your life no matter what you do or where you go or how old you get. There are profound differences between people raised in poverty vs. wealth, Christian vs. non-Christian homes, or the city vs. the country.
That rambling opening is my explanation for why the sight of the state guys mowing the highway median yesterday gave me that “warm and fuzzy” feeling most women associate with the memory of their favorite doll. Show me a tractor and I’m transported back to the arms of my father and the days when every problem could be solved by a good crop.
I was raised on a tractor; learned to drive one when I should have been playing with dolls. Did some things on a tractor that horrify me now! I sat on Dad’s knee while he drove. I even remember standing on the edge of some part of the tractor while Dad drove. Two or three of us often piled on the tractor to ride to the house. It’s a wonder none of us ever fell off.
I drove a tractor and pulled a wagon through the fields when I could barely steer and couldn’t step on the brakes at all. Dad would jump up at the end of the row and do that! One year I rode on the edge of a wagon pulled by the tractor and reached out and dropped tomato plants into holes. We even rode on a “ditch digger” for weight. Dad pulled it with the tractor and dug irrigation ditches, but if the ground was too hard he picked one, two, or three of us to ride on it to make it sink in.
As my brothers got older they took over tractor duty. Poor David often plowed for hours and I know he hated it.
There are other things that pop up in conversations that carry me back to my farm days. We were discussing Thanksgiving yesterday and I told my colleagues that I have an 1890 cookbook that explains why pioneer women never got far from the kitchen. Their lengthy recipes start with “kill chicken and pluck feathers…” There were several “oh, gross” comments and I was the only one who had actually plucked a chicken. I often went to the chicken yard with Dad and carried the dead chicken back to mom. Then I helped clean and prepare it for our table. It was a natural part of our life.
Those are the kinds of experiences that stay with you for a lifetime. You can take the girl off the farm, but you can’t escape the memories. And I wouldn’t want to.