I was a farm boy once

WHAT I've got to say is prejudiced, jaundiced, refined into a sample so heavy and yellow that it is not transportable. Too often the issues of the farm sector deal with the quaint version of the farm family and the blessed nature of life on the land. Or if grudge is carried, it's the grist of grownups, machinery costs, the interest rates for the falling land values. This is a kid's rendition of the farm story; I was a farm boy once. Those who were understand the inference. To be a child of the American farm is to be a veteran of something if not unique at least rarefied.

The comparison most farm kids find applicable is the venue otherwise reserved for war veterans or hostages -- the suspension of the innocent among unleashed and often uncontrolled forces.

When the veteran of the legendary wars sits on his stump and tells in tones of reverence the tales of Guadalcanal and of D-Day in the mist and rotten water off the coast of France, those who are or ever were farm kids know the world is unfair. Besides, they got Vet benefits and national holidays, J. P. Sousa, and the respect of the national treasury.

Ain't fair. The thought, at least, goes through the mind of the farm kid, the past, present, and forever-after farm kid. The problem is farm kids are just too plain polite. They are so accustomed to being quiet and just doing their chores, yet they know, they must know. That it is on the backs of farm kids that the agricultural enterprise has loaded a real, often unfair, and probably unavoidable weight.

If an army crawls on its stomach, then agriculture is loaded on the kids, the thousand million kids who in the last millennium have carried more weight than all the Peterbilts and Kenworths combined. The productivity of the land was child-borne. It wasn't Clydes and Percherons, neither was it oxen in elmwood yokes that broke the land, it was the child.

This is not meant to be a complaint, rather a witness. A rounding of the circle to equalize the rose-scented version of the farm family. The unsaid story of every kid ever raised in the wide confines of farmdom. The child sent on every chore imaginable. The child doing every low-paying and low-esteem job in the agricultural wilderness.

Was not the boy David minding sheep in some Judean waste, one of the dreariest, most mind-numbing tasks to fall to children? If he talked with angels, who can blame him? What farm bairn has not? Lost to all other civility, lost to all friends and companionship whether hoeing pickles, tending cattle, mending fence, picking potatoes, cleaning barns or sweeping sheds whose length was infinity itself.

Did a government commission rise and ask the pertinent question? Ask whether this economy should be child-borne? It did not. Such commissions did get the village kids out of the knitting mills, took the street urchins from the mines, the slaughterhouses, the hop fields, the button factories and saved them for better things. Did they once think to so favor the farm imp?

What farm child doesn't know the leaden eternity spent candling eggs, painting and whitewashing the forever length of barns and machine sheds, feeding the everlasting hunger of pullets and heifers and pigs?

For a half dozen millenniums the farm kid stood in the stead of mechanical advantage. Before mankind invented augers and binders, mechanical knotters and conveyor belts, link chain and traction wheels, the service was the child's. Six thousand years the farm child carried the weight of furrow and the seed-bed. What child needed to be shown how to pull weeds? They know instinctively.

The farm kid ought to have a national holiday, a memorial to the multitudes who picked and hoed and feathered chickens.

A day reserved to turn the thoughts of the world to the conduct of every chore, every rotten thing adults did not want to do and found the exact tool in the child. If they were unionized into an efficient wage-claiming throng, the world would be brought to an immediate standstill. Ideology would fall into market slump from which it could not recover. Civilization would unravel and cities collapse without the child to tend its chores.

So put away the silly honor of war and instead turn to the emissary of every errand, the hoer, raker, piler, and sweeper of every addled whim. Admire the kid.

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