For the past eight months, I have been reminiscing about my childhood on the farm and the various life lessons I learned along the way. When I started this series, I indicated that some life lessons result from a positive occurrence, but (unscientifically) my life has demonstrated many times the power of the “negative” in teaching a person. As I sit here and ponder the word “negative”, I find that I no longer view those experiences as negative. Fortunately, time has a way of adjusting one’s perspective (and dulling the pain).
I must confess, part of my hope has been to draft something that I could use to influence the choices my kids make in the future. Now, if I could only figure out how to get the kids to read the Cooperator! Perhaps I should just put these life lessons in a lockbox /time vault for opening in 25 years when these kids of ours are attempting to influence, direct, teach their own children. I can picture the group of kids and grandkids huddled around the rusty box pulling out a dusty, dated and yellowing copy of the Cooperator (Holy Cow, I suddenly had an all new image of me as a grandpa! Yikes!). After discussing what a newspaper “is”, perhaps the conversation would go as follows…
“You don’t want to turn out like your grandpa, do you?” or “Wasn’t your grandpa handsome man before he allowed time to devastate his appearance?” or “Yes, people really did dress that way back in the old days” or “We sure wish grandpa would have left us treasure rather than this crappy scrap of newspaper”.
Lesson 10: Essentials of a kid’s farm life…Water and Mud
Life on the farm provided a wealth of time to dream and I was a Masters student in daydreaming class. Unfortunately for my siblings, I did not keep all of my thoughts to myself including some of the bigger dreams.
One of my dreams that I passed on to my siblings was that we would have a swimming pool. Most kids with that type of dream would try to figure out how to purchase a swimming pool or better yet, have dad purchase one. Knowing my father, I knew that he would not be purchasing a swimming pool and even “pooling” our piggy banks (actually my piggy bank was a ceramic baseball glove and ball), the Rohrer kids could not afford a bucket, let alone a pool.
Rather than accept this non-swimming pool destiny, we tried to come up with alternative solutions. The various hog water tanks around the farm were a bit too small to serve our purpose. Digging a big enough hole to fill with water for a pool reminded me of work. Area farm ponds covered in algae seemed a bit too slimy for quality enjoyment.
However, beavers (being quite busy) were very inspirational… Beavers make pools all the time! I thought that if a beaver could do it, so could we. Heck, we even have opposable thumbs! Beavers seem to do their best work in creeks…perhaps that’s their secret!
To the creek we went to create the swimming pool of a lifetime complete with rope swing, mudslide, and ultimate water sports. We even dreamed that we could add a boat if we work hard enough!
We analyzed the creek, the water flow, and the creek bank, and the localized building materials and determined the perfect spot to build a dam. A natural deeper portion of the stream would decrease the work with the water moving slowly would prevent erosion and washing away of the dam.
I assigned tasks to my siblings…rock mining (finding rocks we could move), timber harvest (picking up sticks), and clay/mud gathering (chinking for the holes). We were certainly impressed by our hunting and gathering abilities! I saved the hardest job for myself…supervising and engineering construction. Sometimes the weight of responsibility is nearly overwhelming…
We went at it hard, accumulating piles of big and small rocks, limbs and branches, blue clay, yellow clay, and mud. At first, construction went quickly as we placed our rocks and branches in carefully selected spots. The Mudding Team followed with the piles of clay being placed in holes to prevent water leaks from flowing through the cracks between rocks and sticks.
Making the “pool” increase its depth by a foot was not difficult…The water seem to magically back up behind the dam. We started to get cocky truly skilled “beavers”. However, we quickly learned three things as the water rose…
1. Water has this amazing ability to find the weakest point (or points) of a dam.
2. An earthen dam erodes quite easily with moving water…the faster the moving water and the greater the water pressure, the more the erosion occurs.
3. Our building materials were apparently substandard (as opposed to our technical expertise).
We were also covered from head to toe in mud!
We stuck at dam building construction with a lot of determination…I credit my leadership and motivational skills (it could have been my “oldest brother” traits of guilt trips and anger) to battling that stream…working side-by-side to conquer nature, gravity and hydraulic principles. Shouting phrases of “plug that leak!”…” I need clay!”…” More rocks quick!”…” We have a problem here!”…” What’s your problem!”…” We are losing the battle, people!” and some less kind words surrounded the project.
At some point, we all came to the realization that the water was winning the battle and so we had to be content splashing, skipping rocks, tackling one another, and letting the water flow over our bodies in the not swimming pool.
We never did accomplish the construction of the ultimate swimming pool of our dreams. However, the “wading pool” that we created provided lasting memories for all of my brothers and sisters (and not all were scarring memories).
1. I am no beaver nor engineer… Choose another line of work, young man.
2. Sometimes the journey can be as fun as the result!
3. Leadership is an elusive trait that requires more than a self proclamation label and chest pounding.
4. Water is powerful. Water has a mind of its own. Water can control its own destiny.
Last month, I announced that I was nearing the end of the life lessons series because I was running out of material and because the number 10 seems like a nice round number to conclude. However, when I started writing the above story about water and mud, a whole new “flood” of new, embarrassing memories came to mind (and I haven’t even gotten to the insects and reptiles). So I guess that the series will continue for now…
Next month: Essentials of the kid’s farm life…more water and mud.