Growing up with seven brothers and sisters was always interesting, sometimes enjoyable, and often aggravating. We had tiffs and spats but also managed to play very well together frequently. I did not appreciate it at the time, but I realize that we were blessed to grow up in that environment. There were plenty of chores around the house and the dairy farm to keep us busy but we did find time for fun.
Sometimes all eight of us kids would play touch football, softball and wiffle ball with 4 person teams, but mostly the older boys didn’t want to play with us little kids.
We four or five youngest kids entertained ourselves in many imaginative ways. The family moved when I was in first grade and our new farm offered new opportunities. The entire farm was our playground. We had an old quonset hut on the farm that mom had outfitted as a playhouse. It contained old pots and pans, dishes, and empty boxes of cereals and other food items, games, books and a variety of old furniture. We had dogs and cats, all of which were outside animals. My brother had a rabbit named Snowball.
Dairy farmers used powdery lime on barn alleys to absorb liquid, neutralize odors and prevent slipping. The powdered calcium carbonate was delivered by the truck load to the farm. We had a small outbuilding dubbed the lime shed used for storing the barn lime. Wheelbarrow loads would be hauled to the barn and kept in an old barrel for immediate use. But the large pile of lime in the lime shed was a play area for my little brothers and me. During hot summer days the lime remained cool. We could spend entire afternoons out of the sun in the coolness of the shed. We were road builders. We used my brothers’ Tonka trucks and various materials from around the farm like small sections of concrete drainage pipe, concrete blocks and bricks and built quite elaborate road systems in the lime. Were these roads precursors to the super highway system?
The farm had machine shed with an upstairs and a granary attached that we would play in. Lots of old, no longer used items were stored in the upstairs. There was an old work horse collar harnesses and reins which fascinated us because we did not have horses.
We played in the hay mow of the barn where we would climb on bales of hay or slide on piles of loose straw. Like other children we did not always know appropriate limits. My brother and I one day took buckets of water to the hay mow (for some unknown reason) and we threw the water at one another, getting ourselves wet and then coated with itchy hay chaff. We heard our mother come out of the house calling for us. Realizing we would be in big trouble we mutually decided that we would not let her find us. We decided to not answer her. She spent quite a bit of time looking for us, and had to enlist my other brothers and sisters and my dad to find us. As a result, we were in much more trouble than if we had just answered her immediately and confessed to what we were up to. I think most children have incidents of doing something that they weren’t suppose to do and then trying to avoid getting caught. In retrospect I would like my mother to know that she was indeed fortunate if that was the worst thing we ever did. However, at the time I knew enough that I had better hold my tongue at that moment.
There was a maple woods on the property to which we hiked or biked and in which we played. In the spring we would find wildflowers like Dutchman breeches and the rare trillium in the woods. Along with a cousin we built a “fort” out of branches and deadwood in the woods up against a hillside.
Our activities were limited only by the extent of our imaginations. We got in trouble together and tried to get out of it together. We were fiercely protective of each other. I know it hurt me when my little brothers were punished, perhaps not as much as when I myself was punished, but it hurt nonetheless.
More childhood memories, another thread of my life.
This is another in a series of Throwback Thursday posts where I discuss different childhood play activities. I referenced playing school in Childhood Memories. In Child’s Play, I discussed making mud pies, among other things. In Play is Child’s Work I discussed the importance of unstructured play and some of the popular games of the 50’s.