Volume I, No. 3, Spring 1974




Chore Time

Story and photographs by Robert McKenzie

The similarities between the life of an Ozarkian farmer and that of a nine to five working man are only superficial. Although both men earn livings by working with their hands, the farmer's hands manipulate a totally different life style. There is no separation between his farm and his home, family and business. Since they are intertwined into one, this gives him many added responsibilities. He must be a business man, an economist, a veterinarian and a bit of a gambler.
He is reliable, ambitious, demanding and uncompromising with his schedule. The farmer must cope with the unpredictable Ozarkian weather when the crispness of an Indian summer at first of December can turn into a bitter sub-zero snowstorm by the end of the month. Even in better weather the acidic, rocky soil and the continuously rolling hills present problems.

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However, regardless of the weather and the terrain, the chores must be done. Grade A milk producers must milk twice a day, twelve hours apart. At each milking the cows come on call to wait patiently in line for their turn. Attaching the automatic milkers with care, the farmer carefully inspects each cow for signs of disease and injury. While he milks, his wife prepares warm milk for the calves being weaned from their mothers. After preparing the formula, she braces the bottles against the gate railing so that the calves will not pull off the nipples when they begin feeding.

Here it becomes apparent that farming is a family effort. Besides the wife, sons and daughters help with the feeding and other chores after returning from school. Even very young children take part in the farm chores.

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Even everyday farm scenes reflect a tremendous amount of work. As they drive by, few people give notice to the toil behind a long row of neatly stacked wood or hand stacked haystacks. Nor do many people realize the influence of the animals on the farm. The warning, disturbed crow of the rooster, the long, sad face of the mule and the waddling, quacking comedy of the ducks add light heartedness and flavor to the surroundings.

Some farmers hold regular jobs in addition to running their farms Many of them say they look forward to the day when they can return to full-time farming. Only then does one realize that for these industrious and independent people, farming in the Ozarks is the only way of life.

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Copyright © 1981 BITTERSWEET, INC.


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