Recollections of My Life and Reflections on Times and Events During It: A Memoir by Father W. J. Howlett

Page 24

improvements have so increased the profession of farming as to put it beyond the reach of a poor man, and anyone who has the means to set up a self-supporting business in farming today is rich enough to live without farming. In fact, the farm and especially the small farm, has been improved out of existence. That is, the cost of the improved machinery in purchase and upkeep is greater than the ordinary revenue of a small farm.

          But, as the French would say: “Let us return to our muttons.” 

          On the farms the chores were the little things that came regularly and were parceled out among the children. I had the cows to bring home in the summer evenings and the fires to make in the winter mornings. Six o'clock seemed early on a dark cold morning, but if I did not rise promptly at that hour I was called to make the fires in the living room and in the kitchen and to put the kettle on the stove, and at night I often heard the question: “Ill, have you the kindling ready of the morning?”

          In the summer the cows ranged anywhere within a mile radius, but one of them carried a bell and thus gave us the direction. It was not hard to drive them home but they need to be reminded that it was time to go home. If it rained, they often stayed out all night and had to be looked for next morning. On one such occasion that I remember, I went out to look for them taking with me a younger sister. We found the cows lying down in a patch of rich wet grass in a small opening surrounded by heavy woods. I roused them up and tried to drive in the direction that I thought was home. But the perversity of them - they were in the woods and, it seemed to me, they would go nowhere but deeper into the woods. In vain I tried to turn them until I was disheartened, and leaving them to their stubbornness, I took my little sister and started for home without them. At least I thought I started for home, but soon I found that I did not know where home was myself. We kept moving but the woods kept growing thicker and thicker. We went up hills and down great hollows for what seemed hours, and really was, under dripping trees and bushes with not a ray of sunshine to guide us. At last we came to a field which I thought I recognized. From that point I could gauge directions. Again in the woods I lost all sense of direction and we wandered on at random as before. Again we came to a fence, and this time I followed until I saw a house. Then I perceived that it was the very same fence we had left some time before. I did not know then that lost people are apt to travel in circles, but such was the fact, for here we were again, where we were an hour or so before. This time I had no confidence in  myself, although I knew where we were, but I went to the house to inquire where we lived and how we could get there. I was put on a sort of a road and told to follow it and that it would lead us to our own fence. A walk of a mile and a half brought us home, but the cows had been there and were milked and gone hours before; and here we were just home at noon without breakfast yet, wet and being scolded for not having sense enough to follow the cows who would have brought us in safe. That was once I lacked horse sense or cow sense, and the only time I remember when I was lost in the woods.

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