Winter was tough on the farm. Most mornings Mom would struggle to rustle us from sleep. It would begin gently enough with a song and a gentle carress. Then it would move to a ‘Let’s go’ shout up the stairs, which would lead to the blanket snatch leaving a spastic boy flopping into the fetal position to escape the cold air.
In the basement we would slip our hands awkwardly into two pairs of old Wells Lamont chore gloves. Zip up a sweater and jacket, pull on a stocking cap and cinch down the hood. Feet – clad in two pairs of heavy socks – were jammed into old rubber boots.
Gripping the doorknob, your hands would slip a bit before it would turn, a crunch of frost in the doorjamb, and with that you plunged into the cold. And while chores were about the last thing I wanted to do nearly every single day, once outside, it all seemed to melt.
There’s a stillness once it gets in the range of -10˚where sound seems to slow down. The putt-putt of the milk pump as Dad slipped machines onto the cows barely even made it to the house just a 100 feet away.
My mind was flooded with similar memories while reading ‘Gaining Ground’ by Forrest Pritchard, the story of how the author saved his family farm through a combination of persistence and ignorance, optimism and good humor. The story tracks his lurch against the grain to make small, family farming work in a world dominated by industrial-scale ag.