Appalachia children

Childhood Days on the Farm in Summer


Childhood Days on the Farm in Summer – written by Glenda Beall

Growing up on a farm was fun for a little tomboy like me. My sister, Gay, and I played under the big oak tree that sheltered our frame house from the south-west Georgia high temperatures. When we weren’t playing with the kittens we caught in the hay loft we played on the back porch. We played “farm” because that was what we knew.

Daddy smoked Bull Durham tobacco and rolled his own in white thin papers. The empty tobacco bag with a drawstring made a good wagon, and the empty match box became our horse. The string fitted perfectly around the box for a harness.

Store bought toys were scarce in our household. We only got them at Christmas time, but we never lacked for something to play with, even if our imagination created it.

I had four older brothers who worked in the fields with my father and in summer the sun burned them brown. They teased me and often made me angry, but I loved them.

One day when Gay and I were playing on the back porch, my brothers came out to go to the field. Max had a bright idea and talked me into going with him. He insisted I could drive the Farmall tractor while he, Daddy and his brothers pulled corn and tossed it into the wagon. I was only six and I thought it would be fun to drive a tractor.

Max lifted me up to the seat. He told me to push the clutch with my foot and only let it up when he told me to. He said when he yelled for me to stop, I should push the clutch again. The tractor moved so slowly a person could walk faster.  I also had to keep the tires on the front in the middle of the rows so I didn’t run over the corn stalks. It was a little harder than I had thought. I was too little to sit on the seat, so I leaned against it in order to reach the clutch with my foot.

At first it was an adventure. But the sun got really hot and grasshoppers flew up from the ground and hit me in the face. At the end of each row, Max climbed on the tractor and turned it around. Sometimes I accidently drove right over a row of corn and, boy, did I hear about it! I didn’t think about why it made my brothers mad for me to run over the corn stalks, but now I know. If I smashed the stalk to the ground, the men had to bend down and pick it up to pull the ears of corn. That took more time.

I was there to save time so they could get the job done quicker and everyone could go home. If I were not driving the tractor, one of the brothers had to drive and that was one less corn picker on the ground. Like any six-year-old, my mind wondered at times, and I heard a yell from behind me. One day they hurt my feelings when one of them hollered at me.  “Stay in the middles and stop running over the corn!”

I was tired and hot. I had enough of their yelling at me. I pushed in the clutch and turned off the engine. I climbed down and announced, “I’m going home.” My brothers began to cajole and sweet talk me, asking me to stay just a little while longer.

I heard Daddy laughing out loud. “You have to be nice to that little girl. She’s not gonna take your complaining.”

I walked home and got me a cold glass of water. Gay was happy to see me. We decided to play with our dolls inside for the rest of the afternoon.



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  • Reply
    Glenda Beall
    August 14, 2018 at 11:33 pm

    Thanks to those who read my story and left your comments. Thanks, Tipper, for publishing it. Rural life when I was a child was pretty near the same no matter where we lived in the south. It was a good area to raise kids, I think.

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    August 11, 2018 at 12:38 pm

    Hadn’t thought about driving the old tractor in the corn patch in years. I was a little older than Glenda. I hated it.

  • Reply
    August 11, 2018 at 12:37 pm

    Dad put me in the drivers seat of the little Massey Ferguson when I was around 8 (I think). I’ve always been a “big & tall” person but, even so, dad rigged the pedals by wiring blocks of wood on them so I could stay seated to reach the pedals. Originally I had been riding the planter, but Dad thought I wasn’t watching close enough to make sure the seed was going in thick enough so decided to put me on the tractor. My Dad and Granddad always had such perfectly straight rows – needless to say, mine early efforts were anything but . Made me the source for humor at the coffee shop.

  • Reply
    August 11, 2018 at 12:32 pm

    Well that was a good story. And it’s nice to know there’s someone else out there that has the same name as me. Now a days, they use it for other kind of people. It really means happy, joyful. And thats what it should mean instead of how people use it today. We didnt have no tractor when i was a little girl. You were behind a horse, holding reins and a plow. Those were the good ole days. GOD BLESS!

    • Reply
      August 11, 2018 at 7:22 pm

      The place where I worked had a truck driver named Gay Evans. He was a man. A manly man. He had a demeanor of someone you wouldn’t want to mess with but was as nice as anyone you would want to meet. In twenty some years I knew him nobody ever said anything or smirked about his name. Gay died in July of 2015.
      I looked at my family tree to see how many people were named Gay. Twenty one plus several Gayes and Gaynells. To beat all more than half were men, eleven.
      The name on the list was Gay Garland Yonce. He was drafted into the Army during WW2 and was killed in Belgium in 1945. He was married with 6 children. Gay was Ken Roper’s uncle.

  • Reply
    Rick Shepherd
    August 11, 2018 at 11:21 am

    My Dad and Mom had a residential tree service that they started in 1952…..By 1955, I was 8 years old and already swinging a double bladed axe cutting branches up to 3″ in diameter off the large limbs that Dad would rope down when he was trimming or cutting down trees that were damaged or unwanted…..By the age of 12, I was driving big dump trucks…..At 15, I was operating a John Deere 440 crawler loader, loading dump trucks with white gravel to pave roads……It was a wonderful work ethic that stood by me all my life……Now, at 71, I have been retired for 10 years from a 32 year career as an air traffic controller working for the Federal Aviation Administration and loving it……Soon, my wife Mary and I will be moving to the North Georgia Mountains from Central Ohio to enjoy our Golden Years!

  • Reply
    August 11, 2018 at 10:45 am

    We never had a tractor growing up. Hillside farming required a different method, and sometimes Dad had a horse and other times he hired those huge fields plowed. He always made certain it was plowed and planted, and then Mom and I handled it until harvest. The others sisters too were too young and hated garden work. I am so thankful I loved growing crops or I would have been miserable. Summers were spent working in the garden and my vacation was visiting different relatives. There were many to stay weeks with because there were twelve in each of their families.
    Looking back there were so many ways families saved money, and most did fine. Everybody had gardens, hung clothes on lines, ate meals cooked at home,, had well or spring water, and made much of their clothing. I recall the 10- 10-10 fertilizer with every tomato plant, nd nobody did soil tests. It was a great life, and we would really have enjoyed a tractor. I missed out on playing+ with dolls, because there were so many exciting tomboy things to do.
    Thanks so much Glenda for such a great story of life on the farm. I enjoy so much reading about the way things were, and also how children grew up in different parts of our Appalachia.

  • Reply
    August 11, 2018 at 10:40 am

    I am jealous! I’m almost 68 and have never driven a tractor. I have wanted to for as long as I can remember. We had a two wheeled garden tractor one time that I plowed with but that don’t count. You’re still walking behind it. I want to ride. I’ve spent time looking at the south end of a north bound horse while steering a plow but never have plowed with a tractor. I am jealous!

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    August 11, 2018 at 10:31 am

    I loved Glenda Beall’s story on Life on the Farm. I can relate to most of this story, except we never had a tractor. My uncle or grandpa would bring ole Alice when it was time to plow or harvest the crops. Daddy done all the plowing and I never could figure out how he made such straight rows. I had 5 brothers tho and they made those 300 foot long rows look easily. Harold was a couple years older than me, but I wasn’t much help, except to carry water for my Daddy and brothers. …Ken

  • Reply
    August 11, 2018 at 9:44 am

    I drove tractors on other farms but we used horses on ours. After I left home dad bought a tractor.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    August 11, 2018 at 8:54 am

    Precious story, yes, you have to be nice to that little girl!

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    August 11, 2018 at 8:50 am

    They sure started her young. But that is the farming life, takes all hands (and wish there were more). I’m convinced though that it makes young boys and girls responsible and mature beyond their years. When kids know their contribution is a vital part of the family’s life it builds self-worth and confidence.

  • Reply
    Gayle Larson
    August 11, 2018 at 8:30 am

    At about age 12 I learned to drive the tractor but I was pulling the hay wagon. My brother and cousins followed behind and threw the bales onto the wagon. When we got back to the barn and the hay was unloaded we each got a nickle for our days work. Come Sunday, after church, we would walk about 3/4 of a mile to the little general store and the boys would buy candy. I tried to save my nickle and talk the boys out of a piece of their candy. It usually worked but once in awhile I had to part with a penny or two.
    The lessons learned in those fields like working with others to get a job done, starting early and staying til the job was done no matter how hot or tired you were made for great work ethics later in life.
    I still, to this day, do the same.

  • Reply
    August 11, 2018 at 6:31 am

    I can remember the days when Daddy first started letting me drive the tractor, couldn’t have been much older than she was, made me a little nervous also, our old tractor H John Deere had a hand clutch, and if you pulled back to fast the front wheels would come off the ground, let me tell you that ain’t no fun, first time it happen we had a skid halling rocks on and it the tractor was kinda pointed up hill, Dad said now don’t pull back on that clutch to fast, Well, some where between my ears and my brain it got lost, and that tractors front end started coming up, thankfully I had enough sense to pull back on the clutch handle and it set back down, let me tell you that was a life lesson, I never did that again and I kept my hand on that clutch and easy does it until I seen it was gonna start without raring up. Dad sold that tractor years later and I bet still today there is a stain on that metal seat where a little boy got the —- scared out of him.

    • Reply
      August 11, 2018 at 6:36 am

      I need to drink my coffee before I comment, ( forgive me ) clutch on that old tractor was you pushed forward to engage and pulled back to disengage.

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