Summer on the farm

As a child living in a valley in upstate New York on a 400-acre dairy farm, I explored the woods and played alongside the streams. I lived in a world where imaginations roamed free and had spots with an invisible sign that declared “No Adults Allowed.”
On the other side of the valley away from our home, my sister and I created moss gardens at the edge of the forest beside a babbling brook. We had own names for our plants: Soldier moss, tea cup moss, grass moss. The samples we pulled up and replanted re-rooted and prospered there in the forest as they did in the gallon glass jars we converted into terrariums filled with mosses and small plants to take back to the house.
We had moss gardens. My brothers had a tree platform. I won’t call it a tree house because it never had any walls, just a floor, with no guard rails, wedged in the spreading maple tree at the foot of the yard over the swing, near the barn with the milking machines.
Out back of the house, a stream bed directed the overflow of waters from melting snows and spring rains. Leafy trees lined the rocky, usually dry stream bed. Only flecks of blue sky peeked through the tunnel of green. We girls claimed a wide spot in the stream bed. All around us were rocks flattened by spring’s rush of water. True descendants of Wilma Flintstone we did not just see rocks we saw rocks big enough to be front door stoops, table tops, chairs and dishes for our house.
With so much building material on hand, all we had to do was stack stones until we had a half-circle, wall of rocks which doubled as a bench in our dining room. In front of it, we built a stack of rocks and topped it with the largest, flattest rock we could find. It took all of us to lift that rock and Jerry-rig it into place, but once in place, we had a stable, tea table befitting the little people who lived in the woods.
Trees shaded us from the summer sun and screened our activities from the adults. We pronounced it perfect and promptly forgot about it when the yellow school bus beckoned.
As the canopy over our tea table turned yellow, orange and red, we spent our days with homework, piano practice, band practice, basketball, winter sledding and skating.
We forgot about our table – but the stream bed did not.
In the spring as the winter snows melted and ran down hill our wonderful horse-shoe shaped alcove diverted the spring rush of water away from the stream bed.
Overnight the adjoining fields began flooding and cutting away at crop lands. Dad went to investigate and found our summer play house.
The father in him saw his children’s play house, but the farmer in him needed to rescue his fields. He heaved rocks off to the side, dissembling our dining room table and bench until once again the stream flowed in its bed.
When summer came, we did not return to the stream bed to rebuild. We pinned blankets up around the clothes line to make an overnight fort where we could camp out and sleep – until 4:30 a.m. when Dad’s voice woke us as it boomed in song across the yard from the barn where he milked the cows, “Have I told you lately that I love you?”
The cows also heard his singing question. They sang back a loud and mournful “mooooo” in response.
Tea parties under the canopy of trees entertained us for a summer, but the cows responding to daddy’s love-sick song tickled our funny bones for years.
(Joan Hershberger is a reporter at the News-Times.)

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