Even if they’ve never lived on a farm, I’m going to take the bull by the horns and suggest that most readers will get a chuckle (and perhaps a nostalgic lump in the throat) from Fun on the Farm … True Tales of Farm Life!, a light-hearted anthology concerning the trials, tribulations, and tricks (including many practical jokes) inherent in farm living. DriverWorks Ink publisher, editor, and writer, Deana J. Driver asked for submissions of “stories, poems, and memories,” and two dozen folks responded-including published writers Bryce Burnett, Jean F. Fahlman, Mary Harelkin Bishop, Ed Olfert, and Marion Mutala-to recount the good old days back on the farm. Other writers I’m unfamiliar with also made generous contributions: Peter Foster (Craven, SK) has four accounts, Regina’s Keith Foster’s work is found six times, and Laurie Lynn Muirhead, from Shellbrook, appears seven times.
Many of the writers shared shenanigans in which they did something foolish, innocently or otherwise. Jean Tiefenbach and her brother thought it a wise idea to tip the outhouse over and wash it for their mom on Mother’s Day. Eleanor Sinclair was showing off her (underaged) pickup driving skills to a friend and sunk the truck up to its running boards in the mud of a slough bottom while a threshing crew looked on. Leo Moline was adept at playing practical jokes on the threshers who came to his farm, and they got even by nailing him to the granary. “They nailed my wristband through my shirt and stretched me out spread-eagle on the west side of the granary wall, in the sun and dust.”
Cow pies, machinery mishaps, animal high-jinks, and outhouses are common threads, the latter I suppose because they are particularly unforgettable. In his poem, “Cat in the Can,” Keith Foster admits that “We were terrible kids,” but fortunately the cat in question survived the outhouse adventure. Muirhead shares an outhouse story via poetry: “we girls stuck it out together/through nightmares and thunderstorms,” she writes. In her comical prose piece, “You Waved, My Lord,” Fahlman also gets poetic: “One of the prettiest sights on earth is watching the sun go down in a red blaze, harvest dust hanging in the air, shimmering, as twilight settles over the field.”
Clearly most of these stories concern decades-old experiences, and that’s one of the values of a book like this. We’re reminded of the hard work, large families, and the ingenious thriftiness of our rural friends, ie: manure banking around a home’s foundation to help keep drafts out. And then there are the characters, like Mrs. Anderson, an independent elderly woman who lived in a refurbished granary. She “canned” her pony after he’d done the summer work of hauling firewood out of the grove.
The book’s contributors seem to agree with Marlene Hunter, who writes that the farm “was a wonderful place to grow up”. As one who grew up in town, it’s also pretty wonderful to read about how the kids who took the bus made their fun.
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