February 22, 2013

The Good Earth…

Category: News — Ira @ 6:48 pm


The sun flames red and bloody as it sets, there are old
red glintings on the battered pails, the great barn gets
the ancient light as the boy slops homeward with warm
foaming milk…

—Thomas Wolfe

It flashed through the Facebook world earlier this week. Another Amish study of some sort. Those things seem to pop up like magic, right along. And it might even have been an older study, because stuff like that gets recycled on Facebook all the time. I never bothered to check the date. And, yeah, I linked it and threw it out there to my world. The report was all breathless and excited. Concluding what should be common sense, really. Amish children are amazingly resistant to allergies, it proclaimed. A way lower percentage of them are afflicted than are children in mainstream society.

Oh my, I thought. What a surprise. Wonder what kind of genius came up with that. And how could it even be, such a thing? Those people are so primitive. Why would their children be healthier than mainstream children, at least when it comes to allergies? And why don’t their children get sick as much?

I knew the reason before I even read the story. The reason Amish children as a group are resistant to allergies and such is simple. One word. Dirt. They grow up in it. They play in it, they work in it. And some of it, no doubt, finds its way through the mouth into the digestive system, too, at times. It doesn’t seem to faze them one bit. There are exceptions, as always, of course. There are sickly Amish children. But I’m talking as a group. With all that exposure to whatever germs and other evils lurking about, those children develop a natural resistance. Tough, is what they are. And in an increasingly urban world, such a thing is now considered a wonder. An aberration, not the norm.

And nah, this is not an indictment of urbanization, or “sprawl,” as the statists love to call it (they won the language war with that one). Not a call to return to the land. Such things always sound nice and flowery, and logical almost, in theory. But mostly it’s just fluffy words, words that ignore the market and the division of labor. The simple fact is, people have to live somewhere, and not everyone can grow up on a farm. It’s not possible, or desirable, even. The best use for land, any land, is whatever the truly free market decides, be it houses or factories or shopping centers (yep, including Wal Marts) or crop fields. People have to live somewhere and they have to work somewhere, and they can’t all be on the farm.

I looked at the stock photo accompanying the article. A line of young Amish kids standing there, from toddlers to probably twelve years old. Plainly Lancaster County children. And I thought to myself, they look awfully clean. Slicked up. Compared to the world I grew up in, they were.

And I think back to how it was. I don’t think very many children on this Continent today, Amish or otherwise, see and live the things I saw and lived. If they did, the Children-and-Youth folks would have a heart attack. And a field day, with many arrests and interventions and tearing families apart, the kinds of things they do. All soothed over with sanctimonious press releases about abused children being rescued from unacceptable conditions. Such conditions, of course, always defined by them.

I grew up on the farm and I grew up dirty. Gloriously grimy. I’m not talking Pigpen in the Peanuts comic strip filthy, walking around with clouds of dust hovering like a tiny sandstorm. It wasn’t anything like that. But we were grimy. Still, some basic rules of sanitation applied. We were taught to always wash our faces and hands before coming to the table to eat. And we always had to wash our feet at bedtime, after running around barefoot all day in summer. Although sometimes our sisters forgot to check and we managed to slip through without endurng that little ordeal.

By today’s standards, well, if we stood before the world now as we were back then, we’d probably shock a lot of English people. And maybe some Amish people, too. I’m thinking we couldn’t have smelled that great, either. But we didn’t know any better. We took a bath once a week. I detested having my hair washed, that was done probably every couple of weeks or so. My curls got so tangled up that when my sisters cornered me of a Sunday morning and tried to comb my hair for church, I cried and cried and begged them to stop.

It was a different time, obviously. Even a different age, maybe. I don’t know. We were who we were, in that time and place. In Aylmer, as Amish children. The community was the world we knew. The farm was our home within that world. And I have a host of fond memories of the journey through my childhood.

I remember how it felt, as the bitter cold of winter receded and spring approached. The seething stormy days of March, as the snow banks settled into the earth and the ice slowly melted in the pond. Great flocks of geese and ducks swept northward in gigantic Vs. Then April, and rain. The warmth crept in, slowly, pushing back the memories of winter. To us, there was always a looming magical day. Sometime in May, usually, when Mom checked the thermometer. If it read around 70 degrees outside, she issued a very important proclamation. The children may go outside barefoot. We savored the delicious joy of the rush of that first moment, of running barefoot through the grass for the first time in spring. I can still feel it. And, gloriously barefoot, we ran everywhere, through the fields, through mud and manure and over rocks and gravel. And within weeks, the bare soles of our feet were as tough as the shoe leather they had replaced.

I give the adults in that world a lot of credit. They pretty much allowed us to run free. Not that we weren’t told what was what. The dangers to stay away from. We were told. Sternly admonished about a lot of things. And spanked, if we got caught not obeying. My sister Maggie, the most protective soul in the family, always imagined the very worst scenario that could possibly happen. She kept tabs on us, as much as possible, and because of her, we probably got into a bit less trouble than we would have otherwise.

And we ran as I wish all children would be allowed to run, into a world of real adventure. The cow paths winding through the pasture fields were our highways. The gloomy shadows of the south woods were our magical realms. The pond was our great sea. And the dry creek behind the barn was our raging river after a hard rain. We snuck up on groundhogs in the fields. Shot at sparrows with homemade slingshots and BB guns, and after age 12, with rifles.

Stephen, Titus and I built many a raft from old fence posts, cobbled together with rusty nails. And we poled our way across the pond, again and again, right over the deepest places. With no such thing as a life jacket. We didn’t even know what a life jacket was. We fished the pond and the gravel pits a half mile east. We went swimming with our friends. We salvaged old lumber and constructed a dam across the dry creek. It held up well, and years later we could still see remnants of it along the banks on each side.

It wasn’t all play, though. Far from it. We learned to work, and work hard, while very young. And I look back and marvel sometimes. It’s a wonder, if not a miracle, that we didn’t get seriously hurt somewhere along the way, or even killed. Not because the Amish are particularly careless or anything, but because farming is one of the most dangerous occupations in the world. You always hear about firefighters and cops, the dangers they face. Not saying they don’t. But that hand’s way overplayed, in my opinion. Farming is more dangerous.

Farms have animals. Big animals. And Amish farms have big horses instead of tractors. By the time I was nine or ten years old, it wasn’t at all unusual for me to take a team to a field by myself, hitch the horses to a disc harrow, and till the earth. I thought nothing of it. Our horses were generally a pretty shabby lot, but the teams I drove at that age were calm and tame. I don’t remember that I particularly liked or disliked horses at the time. It was just all I knew. There were no other options. No other possibilities.

We helped Mom in her large garden just west of the yard west of the house. At planting time, she called us to come help plant the seeds. She cut up potato chunks that we dropped in long shallow trenches, then covered with a hoe. One of my very earliest memories was in that garden, about mid morning one day. I was out there with my Mom and sisters, too small to work, just running about underfoot. Dark clouds roiled in the west as a thunderstorm approached. I heard the rumbles and thought it sounded like a steel-wheeled horse drawn farm wagon, the kind we had on the farm, bumping down the road. I hear a wagon coming, I told Mom. “No, no,” she said, smiling. “That’s not a wagon. That’s thunder, coming from those clouds. It’s going to rain. We have to go inside soon.” And that was my introduction to what approaching thunder sounds like.

At milking time, we trudged to the far pastures and herded home the cows. Milked by hand, and strained the milk into aluminum cans sitting in the concrete water tank in the milk house. And yeah, we drank that raw milk, too. You bet we did. We knew nothing else. And it’s one of the greatest outrages of our time, a symptom of far deeper issues, what the state is doing to Amish farmers who insist on providing raw milk for the market. They are prosecuted worse than real hardened criminals. Because of absolutely arbitrary and senseless state decrees, backed by the state’s blatantly criminal actions. One of these days, I will go off and write a blog about all that. And some readers wonder why I so deeply detest the state as an entity of pure evil. Raw milk is only one of the myriad reasons why.

We harvested loose hay from the fields, an ancient contraption of a hayloader hooked behind the wagon. Not many people alive today have ever seen a hayloader work. I remember trucks and cars slowing and even stopping along the road, the drivers gaping at this odd sight from another age. Often, my job was to drive the team as one of my brothers stacked the loose hay that came pouring on. And once, I hung on helplessly as a wild young team kind of took control and plunged away from the windrowed hay. The horses could feel a child’s hand, and decided to step out a bit. My brother Joseph was working at the back of the wagon, guiding and stacking the loose hay. As the team lunged forward, the hayloader lunged along with it. Poor Joseph was almost buried as great waves of hay suddenly cascaded onto the wagon from above.

“What’s going on?” he shouted. I can’t hold the horses, I hollered back.

He stabbed his fork into the hay and dropped down over the front of the one man rack. Strode in about two steps to the front of the wagon, where I was hanging helplessly on to the reins, pulling straight back with all my might. Joseph grabbed the reins from my locked-in fingers. He seesawed the reins back and forth rather savagely, speaking firmly to the team. The horses, sensing and feeling a real adult’s hands, instantly became docile. Joseph guided them back onto the hay row and stopped the team. Handed me the reins again. Then he instructed me, and I never forgot.

“When the horses are pulling at the bit like that, you can’t just hang on and pull straight back,” he said. “They’re way bigger and stronger than you. You have to yank the reins sideways, back and forth, to let them know you’re in control.” Oh, OK, I said, timidly taking the reins from him. And back we went, trundling down the hay row. His advice seemed to work very well.

It’s a dangerous place, the farm. And I remember the story that was always told in hushed tones, a story of how I almost lost an older brother. Not that I would ever have known, because it happened when I was an infant.

It was winter, and Dad had cut blocks of ice from the pond on the deep end. Maybe the neighbors came and helped, as they did years later in my memory. But that day, at dusk, there were still blocks of ice in the water. My sister Maggie was seventeen. And my brother Joseph was fifteen. The two of them were out on the pond just as darkness came creeping in, loading one more sleigh with ice to take to the icehouse. I’m not sure what Dad was thinking, sending his children out there unsupervised like that. But there they were.

Joseph was just a skinny kid. He leaned over with the ice tongs to pull the blocks from the water. Maggie held onto him as he did it, so he wouldn’t fall in. And things rolled right along. Joseph stepped onto a row of blocks that had not broken loose. He leaned over and stabled the tongs into a loose block in the water. And the blocks he was standing on gave way. He plunged straight down into the icy darkness.

Maggie screamed for help. Joseph slipped below the surface and came back up. Clawed at the solid ice Maggie was standing on. And slipped back in and under again. Slipped sideways, almost under the frozen solid ice. And Maggie moved without thinking. She knelt and reached down and grabbed her brother by the collar with one hand. And with that one hand and arm, she literally yanked him to the surface and safety. There’s no way she could have had the natural strength to do that. Not by a long shot. No way. But she did it.

Joseph was soaked and freezing. The two of them ran into the house, and told the others what had happened. And just that close, I might have had an older brother I never knew, except for his name. And just that close, his own children were never born.

And, of course, the farm was dangerous in many lesser ways. Not a summer went by that most of us children didn’t step onto a nail at least once outside somewhere, protruding from junk lumber. One day, we were hauling trash to be burned on the fire pile. I was riding Molly, an old gray mare so tame you could have fallen asleep on her back and not fallen off. Pulling a “sled,” a wooden contraption on runners, with sides for hauling things like firewood and trash. I guided Molly up to the fire pile and stopped. Flipped my one leg over her back and jumped to the ground. My right foot landed smack on a 16 penny spike protruding from an old piece of wood.

The nail didn’t stab quite all the way through my foot, but it sure was stuck in there pretty deep. I recoiled in horror, sat flat on the ground on my butt, and howled in pain. Molly the horse stood there placidly, switching her tail. My brother Stephen was right there, along with Rhoda, I think. He grabbed the piece of wood and tugged. The nail slid back out, and I hobbled, screaming, to the house. Mom met me with soothing words and did what she always did when we stepped on a nail. Filled a basin with hot water and mixed in a handful of Epsom Salt. I sat there and soaked my foot, and the salt extracted whatever poisons might have been clinging to the nail. Then she applied her homemade Union salve and bandaged my foot. In about a week, I was good as new.

To this day, I swear by Epsom Salt and Mom’s homemade salve. The salve isn’t available anymore, sadly, at least not Mom’s. Her’s was the best healing salve there ever was, simply because she made it. But the Epsom Salt is available. It’s the best thing on the market that you can use for puncture wounds and sprained muscles and such. I always keep a supply in store. And I use it once or twice a year.

All of us had our share of accidents, of cuts and scrapes and bruises. From falling off wagons, struggling with runaway horses, dodging charging cows that had just calved, stepping on nails, falling into the pond, whatever. One summer evening, right at dusk, my brother Titus, barefoot as usual, stepped on the prong of a manure fork in the barn. The prong went into the bottom of his foot and came out in the back, above the heel. I was right there with him. He let out a startled yelp and sprinted to the house, leaving a spotted trail of blood behind him. I don’t remember if that incident required a visit to the doctor or not. I think it might have, to get some sort of shot of vaccine or penicillin. We figured Titus got the best of the deal, because he got to go to town.

Through it all, we strode forward into life, because it was the only life we knew. There is one thing I don’t recall. I don’t remember being sick a lot. Sure, we all got the chicken pox and the measles, as young children. And once in a blue moon, a fever swept through, a flu or a cold or some such thing. But those were rare. We just never got sick much. I still don’t, to this day. Knocking on wood, here. I’ve done some hard living since those days. Some real hard living. I still live pretty intensely, now and then.

Life is risk. So is freedom. And it doesn’t work, to attempt to remove every conceivable risk from your children, by decree or by legislation. Sure, there will be accidents. Sure, sometimes there will be tragedies. And sometimes, there will be loss. But it’s far better to live in a world with risks, and really live, than it is to trudge along in the bleak dreariness of smothering protection from every imaginable ill that might befall us.

And that’s why Amish children are more resilient and resistant to allergies. Because of how they are raised, close to the earth. Because they play in the dirt and drink raw milk and work the soil that sustains them. In a world where they are taught to work when very young, a world of risks that are simply accepted as a factor of daily life. As are the consequences of those risks.

That’s how I see it, anyway. But what do I know? I have no children. I remember what it was to be one, though. And I do know this much. From what I’ve seen of the English world around me, I am grateful that my childhood world was just exactly what it was.

My memories of that world greatly impact the way I choose to live in this one.

To me, March has always been the endless month. The month of transition from one season to the next. I’ve even called it the cruelest month in the past. But this year, I think, the title of “endless month” must be awarded to February. Of course, March hasn’t arrived yet, and may prove worse. If it does, I figure I’ll call it something like “the eternal month.”

Anyway, this month has been blah. February. Blech. I don’t know why. It just seems to drag on and on, and it’s even the shortest month in actual days, yet. One thing, it’s the month of sports drought for me. I’m used to writing with some sort of game going on off to one side, on TV. Now I don’t have my normal noise to work with. (If this blog was sub par, blame it on that.) Football passed on after the Super Bowl. I don’t consider basketball a sport, and I refuse to watch it. Hockey kicks in now and then, sporadically. But it’s not worth watching until the playoffs start. Baseball won’t be here until April. Only good old Nascar is coming to the rescue, with the Daytona 500 this weekend. But that’s only one day a week. It’s enough to drive me to distraction.

Oh, well. Whatever March turns out to be, one thing will happen. Spring and baseball will come soon after. And this year, I am way beyond ready for that.



  1. This brought back many fond memories.

    Comment by Reuben Wagler — February 22, 2013 @ 7:28 pm

  2. Thanks for the walk down memory lane! Minus all the farming activity, my childhood was remarkably similar. If more of America’s children could spend their childhood grubbing in the dirt, learning to work at a young age, eating a diet of wholesome food (and yes, drinking raw milk) we’d see a decrease in a host of physical and social problems that plague society. The very ones that should be providing our children with protection and a safe place to grow up into adulthood are the ones hurting them the most. My heart aches for our lost children.

    Comment by Amy — February 22, 2013 @ 7:38 pm

  3. Sub-par? I don’t think so. Another great post.

    Comment by LLJ — February 22, 2013 @ 8:48 pm

  4. I loved this post. Here I am a child again.
    I can feel the stubbed toes from walking to school on the paved roads. We didn’t have to wear shoes to school till we were 12.
    And I can feel how cold my feet were sometimes when we played till after dark and the grass cold and dewy in this Spring. Mother never made us wear shoes if we didn’t want to. “They know where their shoes are.” She’d say.

    Comment by Rhonda — February 22, 2013 @ 9:30 pm

  5. This is one of my favorite posts of yours; it reminds me of your book. I also love the Thomas Wolfe quote on top, it sets the tone for the rest of the piece. Thanks to you, I have started to read Thomas Wolfe. Now I will have to read all your “no game” February posts. I doubt any of them will be ‘sub-par”. This one was great!

    Comment by Susan M — February 22, 2013 @ 10:32 pm

  6. Thank you for painting the picture of your Amish childhood. You brought back many memories for me, although I am not Amish, I did grow up on a farm in the 1950’s and it appears that my country childhood was not so much different from yours. The warm foamy milk, being chased by an angry cow, stepping on rusty nails; yes, I can recall all of those things and I survived!

    Comment by Sandra Neel Hutchins — February 22, 2013 @ 10:57 pm

  7. Back in Mom’s time fresh cow manure was used as a Drawing Salve. You first had to have an open wound or festering infection. Then walk out into the pasture to a cow that was laying down and give her orders to get up. Every time a cow gets up it poops and so as soon as the cow patty is on the ground fill a small container of fresh, hot steaming poop. And either stick your finger or toe into the container or apply it to the wound. According to Mom it worked by drawing out the infection etc. I never tried it.

    Comment by Katie Troyer — February 22, 2013 @ 11:05 pm

  8. Great, great story, again; reminds me of the stories of living in the country that my Momma tells us, the dirt, grime, hard work, accidents, etc, except hers go back 80+ years, not in the 60’s like yours. When people tell her about the “good ole days,” she says, “I never want to go through those hard times again.”

    Comment by pizzalady — February 23, 2013 @ 1:29 am

  9. Very well written. There is such a contrast to the world you and me grew up in; even we ourselves sometimes forget. It is well to take pause and remember those glorious days. The kids of this generation would be so much better off if they had some of what we took for granted each day.

    Comment by Lester Graber — February 23, 2013 @ 4:46 am

  10. Another reason for fewer allergies among the Amish: exposure to farm animals of all kinds.

    Comment by cynthia r chase — February 23, 2013 @ 6:55 am

  11. Ira,
    I Can Definitely Relate To This Article. Having Grown Up In Amish Country, On A HUGE Muck Farm, I NEVER EVER Suffered From Allergies. Sure I Got The Usual Bronchitis Every Winter…But Not Until I Moved To Columbus, Ohio Did I Ever Have Such Huge Problems With Allergies Of Every Sort!!

    Like You Said, We Grew Up Playing In Dirt, Working In Dirt, And Probably Even Ingesting A Bit Of Dirt…My Grandfather Was Probably Correct When He Once Said, “God Made Dirt, And Dirt Don’t Hurt.” :) Thanks For The Trip down Memory Lane!! :)

    Comment by B.J. Miller — February 23, 2013 @ 8:52 am

  12. I, too, want to thank you for the trip down memory lane. I may not be Amish, but our childhood sounds similar. In writing my ” life stories” for my children I find my best ones were when we lived on the farm in the 1950’s.

    I recently saw a headline about Amish children being resistant to allergies also. I didn’t read the story because I knew the answer already, it’s due to the earthy lifestyle. I am pleased to hear that you agree.

    As always I enjoyed the post and sports or not, they are always good.
    Doris H.

    Comment by Doris H — February 23, 2013 @ 9:45 am

  13. I enjoyed reading this. I didn’t grow up Amish, but Conservative Mennonite, and my dad had been raised Amish. We took took once a week baths and washed our hair every couple of weeks. Now I kinda shudder at that, but it’s just the way it was. And when we kids got older, and started showering oftener, my dad just couldn’t understand how that could be necessary. We also had the “tseek schmeer” that my mom and aunts made. I still have quite a supply on hand, although my mom and one of my aunts are gone now. I don’t think the recipe got passed on to any of us.

    Comment by twila — February 23, 2013 @ 9:47 am

  14. I enjoy your writings. Thank you.

    Comment by Martha Staton — February 23, 2013 @ 2:39 pm

  15. Some of the kids I see every day are ones I REALLY want to take home with me and just let them be kids… let them play outside, splash in the creek, roll in the mud and then come inside at the end of the day and have to wash their feet before bed. They would be so much better off.

    The sad thing is…they are living a life in the dirt. Just not the kind of dirt that we grew up with. They live in filthy houses where no one takes the responsibility to cook much less clean, dust and run a sweeper. They sleep on the couch or floor because their beds are full of stuff that no one has ever taught them how put away. They have no concept of sitting down to eat a meal with family, much less having to wash ones hands and face before doing so. They miss school consistently due to lice. They wear the same dirty clothes for days at a time. My heart breaks for them. And yet…their parents choose to live that way. Breaks my heart and makes me mad, all at the same time!

    We never had much growing up. In many ways, we were poor, but I never knew it. I always had clean clothes, food to eat and room to play, to grow, to be a child. The way we were raised used to be the norm. It no longer is. I never understood that until I started teaching. Now, I am SO grateful for the way I was raised. Thanks for the reminder :)

    PS< I agree. February has been one LONG, gray blah month…

    Comment by Eileen — February 23, 2013 @ 4:54 pm

  16. Ira,
    I certainly enjoyed your writing today. I agree with you about the health benefits of living close to the earth.

    When I was a young girl and in the summer when a gentle rain would come down on the dry ground, it would smell so good that I would get a spoon and eat a big dip of the earth. Very rarely get sick even today at 71 years young.

    Thanks for letting me comment on your writing.
    God Bless

    Comment by Linda Morris — February 23, 2013 @ 6:23 pm

  17. That’s the main reason I look forward to reading your post; it usually brings back so many memories from my own similar childhood. Something I think of all to infrequently.

    Did you lose a load of loose hay and then quickly help each other clean it up before Dad found out about? Know that you would have some explaining to do. Something that needed to be avoided at all costs. Great memories, but I suspect that time has erased much of the negative from our minds as well.

    Comment by Phil Miller — February 23, 2013 @ 6:59 pm

  18. Thanks for writing honestly, and about things that matter to down to earth real people in the actual world. It helps pop the “family myth” balloons of my imagination, and helps me think of others outside of religious boxes – as real people with hopes, desires, and needs like me.

    (Hope this is not too off the wall: Would you consider a larger typeface? I have to copy and paste into another document in order to read it without eyestrain. I understand you may want to keep a look. Just a thought.)

    Comment by LeRoy — February 23, 2013 @ 7:15 pm

  19. What a wonderfully written view into your world! I found myself smiling. There are many people who will never be able to understand the wonders of being a country kid, or a country adult for that matter. We live in a world full of antibacterial hand soaps, hand sanitizers, laundry soaps, bath soaps…on and on. A world so full of germaphobia that society can barely control the onslaught of new infections. Antibiotics, which most people don’t really need, no longer work.

    I am proud to say I have lived 44 years being unconcerned about such matters and I refuse to buy antibacterial anything. I work in a barn daily, pat my horses without concern for acquiring some odd equine related disorder. I usually pick up a barn cat daily and give it a some attention without putting it down and pulling out my bottle of hand sanitizer. I am more than willing to snack on a sandwich while holding the lines of a team of draft horses as I spread manure. Yup…I said manure. Not afraid of that either. Matter of fact, I think every pitchfork full that I toss into the spreader might even be contributing to my health. Not sure, waiting for some study to come out on that to confirm my suspicions.

    I sit my coffee down daily in the barn and I’ve never thought too much about what “toxins” might be on it when I pick it back up for a sip. I’m still kickin’ so I must be immune to the little creatures that might be hiding in wait.

    I just find it rather funny that intelligent society has to have a study come out on the fairly healthy lives of Amish children and yet nobody seems to get the connection as they buy yet another bottle of hand sanitizer because they might get a germ off the handle of a shopping cart. Good grief!

    Anyway…your writing was beautiful and so vivid it was like being in a storybook. Thank you for sharing!!!

    Comment by Gutjahr68 — February 23, 2013 @ 9:34 pm

  20. Memory Lane is right! My kids think I’m a hog if I don’t shower twice a day (OK, slight exaggeration, but you get the point). But, once a week baths used to be the norm. In a galvanized tub.

    And I remember warming my feet in a fresh cow pie (ooze up between the toes…).

    But the best memory you jogged in my mind was one I almost forgot! A nail in the foot was worth it if you got to go to town!

    Great post, as usual.

    P.S. I have been blessed with very little sickness. Coincidence?

    Comment by John Schmid — February 23, 2013 @ 10:48 pm

  21. Interesting post but I can’t let you get away with the comment on basketball. Perhaps a post is needed on this subject (or maybe you’ve expounded on it before?). To me, basketball is the best sport of all and I’m curious to hear why someone else would be thoroughly turned off by it.

    Comment by Byran Smucker — February 23, 2013 @ 11:39 pm

  22. And that’s the truth, Ira! Back in the ’60s nobody I knew showered more than once weekly. That was the case on the farm where I worked as well as anyone else. We smelled like farm folk and nobody complained. Well, at least not to us. Amish practice today was common practice not so long ago.

    As for allergies, they were not unheard of. We called them “hay fever”. In those days, there was no relief available at the pharmacy. You put up with the sneezing and runny nose until the pollen went away.

    As for dirt, it was not uncommon to pick up a spoon that had dropped on the kitchen floor. After all mother had washed the floor. Doesn’t that count for something?

    Yep, it was memories, all injuries included plus axe accidents that went through the shoe and put Yoni out of order for a while. But he may yet outlive many of us. Loved your post.

    Comment by Eli Stutzman — February 24, 2013 @ 3:48 pm

  23. “Country Road, take me home, to a place I belong.” ~ John Denver

    What an excellent article! Thanks for bringing memories back to the surface that have long lain dormant. I sure did not think so at the time but looking back, those were actually some of the freest days of my life.

    Comment by Ed Yoder — February 25, 2013 @ 7:34 am

  24. Relived my growing up days being Amish. Stepped on a big nail while helping a friend cook apple butter outside in a copper kettle. I had to soak my foot in kerosene, which was a common practice, as well as, epson salts. Drank raw milk..sometimes before it ever cooled. Baths on Sat. night and lots of good dirt all around. Don’t live that way now, but like you, I am glad I had that oppotunity and know that it did not harm me. Thanks for the memories.

    Comment by Mary (Young) McKnight — February 26, 2013 @ 2:11 pm

  25. Ira, I love that the blogs you write are random and yet, somehow, so relevant to everything happening in our world. You capture from your imagination thoughts that we all can relate to, and feel passionate about.

    Your topics are never the same, yet always inspiring. Even talking about the months….I always feel a month has its own vibe, and February’s vibe is often brutally stark and forboding….harboring the stillness of winter bleakness. But being a February born, I have to love/hate it. I hope your blogs never end, for they are unique and so full of life—past and present. Thanks so much!

    Comment by Pam — February 26, 2013 @ 10:28 pm

  26. Like many of the other commenters this post brought back a lot of good memories. I grew up in the cities but we found the woods wherever we could. I remember spending aftenoons looking for mushrooms, leaves, bugs and whatever else I might dig up. I remember making tunnels through snow drifts never thinking that the whole thing might collapse and bury me. And the exploration. The wonder of exploring, of adventure, and imagining. Times outdoors with nature are some of the best memories I have from childhood.

    Now I enjoy taking my boys to the woods and setting them free to get as dirty as they like. And I love the sound of their voice calling, “Daddy, come see what I found!” You’re right. It is a good earth.

    Comment by Eric — February 27, 2013 @ 2:39 pm

  27. Yes, that’s exactly what #26 does. Our boys are soaked through to their underware with mud from sitting in some stream. A few pair I had to toss, but how can I be upset? And why should I be? They simply soak in a nice warm bath til their finger and toe nails are clean and that’s the sign that they can get out after a good soap down.
    I don’t ever remember wearing shoes in the summer. My feet were filthy at the end of the day, but I didn’t worry about it. I knew when I woke up my feet would be pink and pretty waiting for another day of delightful exploration. I can’t imagine what my bed sheets looked like, but I never thought to look. It was simply something magical that happened in the night.
    My dear mother, the cowboy that she is, still takes a bath once a week. Sometimes my sister and I have to get honest with her. She poo-poos us, but eventually makes her way to the tub. She’d kill me if she knew I wrote this.
    Call me crazy but a man that bathes regularly, like daily, depending on what work he does and what season it is, can be very appealing.

    Comment by Francine Shultis — March 2, 2013 @ 2:35 am

  28. Wow! This brought back childhood memories. I remember well the bath routine… or lack thereof… and trying to sneak past anyone checking the bottom of our feet. I loved the dirt and grunge back then. And the dangers, well, let’s just say we would all be removed from our home for all the wrong reasons! (There were plenty valid ones that would be overlooked… ) Thanks for the trip down memory lane!

    Comment by Trudy Metzger — March 4, 2013 @ 11:39 pm

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