Summer Sunday afternoons passed us by too fast.
It was when married brothers and sisters, nieces, nephews, and cousins came to visit and play ball on the make-shift pasture field. We children shared our dreams about what we would become — farmers, doctors, ball players and astronauts one and all.
After-church, work was done to make the farmstead ready. Chairs from the basement and garage were hauled out and arranged in a circle on the lawn and in the shade from an old maple tree. Engagement, pregnancy and illness news were shared, along with memories of barn dances, the Great Depression, and the World War II era. Politics —even then a sore point for many — were avoided lest the pleasant atmosphere be polluted.
The pasture ball field was made ready. Stones, sticks and fresh cow patties (at least most of them) were removed. Gunny sacks and wood were made into bases. Teams were picked. Winning was important for bragging rights, but fun was most important. Dad — despite his flaw of refusing to call strikes — was the umpire.
Other than the cow patties, participants played a clean game. Sister Jean, who was the best player in the family, fell victim to a broken arm when she slipped on a paddy while running from second base to third. She was told to tough it out because the injury was nothing serious.
While we played, Mother worked in the kitchen. When it was hot, the menu included sandwiches, dill pickles, cake, and sometimes even watermelon made ice cold in the milk can cooler. It was unfair that she worked so hard while we had fun — a reality that received little attention at the time.
It was inevitable that summer Sundays would not last long. Families grew, and with more disposable income came other pursuits that included golf, camping and fishing. Too soon there weren't enough people to play ball or to chat. In retrospect, it would have been great to capture on a tape recorder what was said. Only bits and pieces of conversations remain.
A widow who spoke about a husband who died too young, and children left without a father; uncles so money-tight that hired kids were paid 10 cents an hour to cut thistles; and a veteran who briefly talked about Korean Conflict horror.
It wasn’t good when the outside world intruded. Barefoot summers spent catching fish in the creek, capturing fireflies, and playing pasture ball could not be expected to last forever.
It’s just a shame they ended so quickly.
The hometown that was filled with people banking and shopping on Friday nights lost out to the bright lights and chain stores in bigger cities. The small dairy herds that were the economic backbone were broken; the small hog herds departed; and the chicken flocks dispersed.
Dad, who often spoke and argued about such things, said all was lost because of the nation’s demand for cheap food so that more disposable income could be spent on cars and luxuries. His friends — and there were many —
blamed Franklin Roosevelt and the government for sticking its nose in farming for the loss. All agreed that corporate takeover of agriculture would mean financial disaster.
Our summer Sunday gatherings served the important purpose of bonding us together — a unity that beneath the surface remains. Now it seems the only time we get together is at wakes and funerals. We catch up on mileposts, lament illnesses, and promise to get together again soon.
We seldom do, which is to be expected since time and distance keep us apart.
Summer Sundays were a product of simpler times, when what was important could be heard and seen from the front porch.
Mychal Wilmes is the retired managing editor of Agri News. He lives in West Concord, Minn., with his wife, Kathy.