Summer’s Tales 3
The Farm Adventure
By Tom Foster
Summertime on the farm was always a fun time! Her Grandpa Jack and Grandma Darlene had a small farm up in the hills just past Washougal and there was nothing Summer liked better than to go out back and help her Grandpa Jack tend to the animals. Sometimes she would help Grandma Darlene and her mom pick fruits and vegetables from the garden too, but she really liked helping with the animals, that was a lot of fun!
Grandpa Jack had told her about a lot of farms that were a lot bigger than his, but Summer thought his was fine, there was enough room to run around. During the school year she didn’t get as much time as she liked to play with the animals, she had homework to do most days and could only spend a little time when she was done. Sometimes she thought it might be fun just to be a farmer and not worry about school, but Grandpa Jack, her mom, and Grandma Darlene had all told Summer repeatedly that even farmers needed school. She knew they wanted her to learn and to have fun, but sometimes it didn’t seem like there was enough time for both. It was nice though that the farm was just outside, so she could go and play whenever she wanted, or when she had time.
Tending the farm in the summertime was fun since it meant that she had a lot time. They had to get up early, but that was okay since after an hour or two of working she was awake anyway, and after the hard stuff was all done it was time to run and play. Her mother and grandparents didn’t know how she managed to keep going after the work was done, but then Summer did what she could, which wasn’t quite as much as the adults. She liked to help, but she couldn’t lift certain things or even reach some things on the farm, so she was kind of limited to what she could do, which was help everyone when she could.
Her grandparents and mom enjoyed her help, in fact they often had her do some of the harder jobs, but with them right there to help. Summer liked to spend time on the farm, it gave her something to do and on top of that, it made her feel good. The rest of her family would come up to the farm sometimes, but they didn’t get into the farming mood all that often. Her Aunt Carrie and Uncle Eric weren’t farmers, but her mom had told her that when Aunt Carrie had been younger, she had been big into 4H, where she had shown the farm animals for something or other. Summer didn’t fully understand why anyone would want to award ribbons and trophies for a rabbit or a pig, but her Grandpa Jack had told her it was a big deal. Summer just liked having the animals close by, it was a lot of fun to feed them and watch them run around.
Grandpa Jack got up at five in the morning on the days he had off, which was what he called sleeping in. Summer thought this was kind of funny, but her grandpa got up a lot earlier on the days he worked, which meant he was gone to work before she got up sometimes. That was okay, Grandma Darlene was here most of the time, but she worked on some days too, which meant that Summer had to be up and off to school before her mother went to work. It was a hectic house as her grandparents had said before, but it worked.
Getting up early was hard sometimes, but since it always meant that she got to work on the farm it was worth it. All she had to do was wake up, brush her hair back into a ponytail and then change into what Grandpa Jack called her “grungies”. Those were clothes that were either almost worn out or had stains that Grandma Darlene couldn’t get out, so they were just fine for working on the farm or out in the garden. They were clean, but they were comfortable and worn out enough that she could use them to play outside on the farm. The best part about her grungies was that she could get mud and dirt on them and her mom wouldn’t get on her case about it. After all, like Summer had already figured out, farming could be hard work.
It was still a little cold in the house as Summer went about getting her socks on and shuffling her way out to the kitchen, rubbing at her eyes to get the sleepies out. Her tummy rumbled as she came into the kitchen, telling her that she was hungry as she went to the cupboard. She was just tall enough to reach the counters, and the cupboard holding the cereal and other food was at her level, the top of it was just a little higher than the top of her head.
Summer felt a little fuzzy, just she always did when she woke up, but she knew that would pass. A bowl or two of cereal, Cap’n Crunch with crunchberries, and some milk would help. Sugary cereal wasn’t always something her mom or grandma bought, but it was sure good when it was there. Taking the box of cereal out of the cupboard she closed it, Grandma Darlene didn’t like finding her cupboards open all over the place. Putting the box on the small table in the kitchen she then went to the sink, hoping to find a bowl that had been cleaned out. Her grandma didn’t always find room in the dishwasher for everything, but today the sink was empty.
Frowning slightly Summer looked up at the cupboards that she couldn’t reach, knowing that the bowls were in there. She picked a spoon out of the drawer just to the left of the sink, but she couldn’t very well eat cereal without a bowl! Summer’s eyebrows rose slightly as she thought of something, but she was almost sure her mother and grandma wouldn’t like it. But then again, she was hungry.
* * *
“Morning Summie, did you get-Summie!” Summer looked up from her breakfast as her grandma entered the room. Grandpa Jack and her mother had already gone to work, leaving her with Grandma Darlene today. While grandma didn’t have to go to work she’d been planning on doing some gardening, which was just fine with Summer. That meant she’d have a chance to go out and play with the animals sometime. Her mother and grandparents didn’t like her going out on the farm alone, but aside from telling her to leave some of the animals alone she didn’t know why. Grown-ups were weird sometimes.
Summer put her spoon down next to the pot she’d found to put her cereal in, milk dripping off of her chin as she quickly wiped it. Her grandma didn’t look angry, but as she closed her eyes Summer knew she was probably going to get a lecture. Sometimes when she did things she got a lecture, and that meant that she had to sit and listen to why whatever she’d done was wrong. Her mom and grandparents never yelled at her, but what they said usually made a lot of sense.
Grandma Darlene opened her eyes, “You could have come and gotten me Summie,” she said, shaking her head as she slowly put the cap back on the milk to put it away, “I would have gotten a bowl down for you.” Summer’s eyebrows rose, though she didn’t think she was off the hook that easy.
“I was hungry.” Summer said, her voice quiet as she expected a lecture at any moment.
“I can see that,” Grandma Darlene said, smiling as she closed the refrigerator, “But the pots and pans are for cooking with Summie, not eating out of.” Summer swallowed, wondering if Grandma Darlene was just getting warmed up to give a lecture.
“But we eat the stuff that gets cooked in them, isn’t that eating out of them?” Grandma Darlene shook her head, looking at Summer funny for a moment before answering.
“Yes, but we don’t dip our forks and spoons into the pans and pots now do we?” Summer had to admit that made sense, like always. Shaking her head she looked up at her grandma.
“I’m sorry grandma, I was just really hungry.”
Grandma Darlene smiled, “I know honey. Are you finished?” Summer looked down into her cereal, seeing only a few floating crunchberries that had gotten soggy. She wrinkled her nose, soggy stuff was kind of icky, which meant she wouldn’t eat it.
Nodding to her grandma she wiped her chin again as Grandma Darlene took the pot, smiling again as she placed it in the sink. “Are you ready to do some gardening today?”
Summer nodded as she smiled, sliding from the half-circle booth that sat around the kitchen table, her socks hitting the floor just before she grabbed the box of cereal. Her mom and grandparents had taught her how to clean up her messes and why it was important, so Summer always helped with the housework too.
“I think the carrots are ready to pull, and we can pull some corn to go with dinner tonight, and then we can pick some tomatoes and cucumbers too. After that we’ll go feed the pigs, see to the other animals and then we’ll kick back and relax. That sound good?” Summer had to nod as she smiled, thinking that that sounded just fine.
* * *
Summer wiped the sweat off of her forehead as she looked up to the sky, squinting in the sunlight. It was bright out today, and really, really warm, but she was still having a good time since she was with Grandma Darlene. Her grandma had brought out an old radio that ran on batteries and they were listening to the oldies station, sometimes singing along with their favorite songs while they worked in the garden.
It was easy to pretend that she was lost in a wide, wild jungle sometimes when she went out into the garden, especially when she went in between the rows of corn. Summer loved to wander around the many rows, peering here and there as though she were lost. The rows of corn were so tall that even Cousin Tommy couldn’t see over them when he was here, and he was a tall guy! For Summer they were really tall, and despite being only a few dozen rows, it was really easy to wander into them and just pretend that she was somewhere else.
She could still hear the radio in the distance, as well as the sound of Grandma Darlene’s gardening tools as she dug into the soil to get the vegetables loose. It was a lot of hard work to have a garden, but Grandma Darlene seemed to enjoy it. As Summer wandered into the corn rows she let her imagination take hold, pretending she was in a jungle far, far away, the waving cornstalks seeming more like some giant, green trees that towered over her with each step.
The sudden grunting and squealing she heard though from in front of her took away the illusion quickly as Summer stopped, her heart racing a little as the cornstalks just in front of her waved back and forth with more than just the wind. She stood absolutely still, uncertain of what was coming until a pink nose, followed by the rest of the animal, pushed through the rows to stand in front of her. Summer’s eyes widened as she took in the sight of a piglet standing in front of her, rooting in the dirt as he, or maybe it was a she, squealed once before running off into another row, where the piglet soon went out of sight.
“Grandma!” Summer called, not sure if she could be heard over the radio, “Grandma one of the piglets is out of its pen!” Summer went racing to where she’d seen the piglet go through the corn, pushing her way into the next row as she tried to see the animal. Her Grandma and Grandpa had told her that the big sow that they’d had for years had given birth to piglets just this last spring, and she’d gotten to see them. There were about six piglets, each one just as cute as the other. They were always hungry, always suckling on their mother’s belly, and they were rascals too, as her Grandma had said. This wasn’t the first time that one of them had gotten loose from the pen.
“Grandma!” Summer called again, this time a little louder.
“I heard you Summie!” Grandma Darlene called back, the rustling of the corn telling Summer that her grandma had come into the corn as well. “Just stay where you are Summie, don’t try to catch him by yourself okay?” Summer’s shoulders slumped, she never got to help with the pigs.
Her grandma and grandpa had told her that pigs were too big for her to take care of right now, they would knock her down and most likely hurt her if she wasn’t careful. Summer didn’t think the pigs would be that mean, but she had minded her elders as her mother had told her. But it was just a piglet, what could a piglet do?
Just at that moment the piglet came racing by her, only a few feet to the left as Summer’s mouth opened wide in excitement. Forgetting what Grandma Darlene had just said she took off after the piglet, racing through the corn until she finally exited the rows, well behind the piglet but still within sight as the little critter went bolting past the pigpen and further into the other areas of the farm. Summer heard Grandma Darlene thrashing around in the corn, she even had a mind to tell her grandma that the pig was out and running around, but then she heard the clucking and frenzied sounds of the chickens.
The piglet had just somehow entered the chicken coop, and the chickens didn’t seem too happy about it all. As Summer watched the big, red and black-feathered rooster that had been put into the coop began to chase after the piglet, his beak jabbing at the poor animal as the frightened piglet tried to get away, making a bigger mess of things as its hooves caught on the edge of a feed barrel, spilling grains and other foodstuffs all over the ground. That wasn’t bad really, Summer knew that the chickens ate right off of the ground, but the scared piglet was trampling their food all over as the rooster chased it, trying to get the piglet out of the coop.
Summer saw the gap in the chicken wire that made up the walls of the coop then, that was how the piglet had gotten in, and now as she watched, chickens were getting out! All the commotion had obviously upset the hens and they were hightailing it somewhere else! Summer raced toward the chicken coop, not sure what she could do but knowing that something had to be done.
“Summer don’t chase him!” Grandma Darlene said, raising her voice to be heard. Summer was about to stop when the piglet, with the rooster chasing after, went right in front of her, almost stepping on Summer’s feet as though she weren’t even there! All sense of minding her grandma seemed to go away in that moment as Summer tried to reach out for the rooster, trying to get the bird to stop chasing the piglet. The rooster was too fast for her though, determined to let the piglet know just what he thought about the intrusion.
Piglet, rooster, and Summer went running off across the farm, with Grandma Darlene trying to chase after them and the escaped hens at the same time. The scene might have been extremely funny had her grandma not been a little red-faced and out of breath. Summer wasn’t feeling funny either since she was determined to get the rooster to leave the poor piglet alone and get the little piggy back into his pen with his parents! As the piglet and the rooster zigzagged over the farm grounds, over broken stumps and around small grassy hillocks, Summer followed, almost tripping several times as the two animals changed directions, unable to follow a straight path until Summer saw them dart into a crack between the door and frame of the goat pen.
Summer didn’t expect what came next, though as she came near the pen the startled bleat of one of the three Billy goats her grandparents kept came from just behind the small dwelling that sat at the back of the pen. Watching curiously Summer’s eyes widened as she saw the piglet, again chased by the rooster, and now by a goat, coming straight towards her!
Moving out of the way Summer watched as again the piglet and the rooster passed right by her, escaping the pen through the gap between the door and the jamb as the Billy goat lowered his head, ramming hard into the doorframe as he could not break free. Summer almost laughed until the goat butted its head into the door again, startling her as she turned back to the piglet and the rooster, who were still running across the farm grounds, the rooster pecking the poor piglet in the behind again and again as the pig grunted and squealed, unable to outrun the cranky old bird.
Grandma Darlene was coming up behind her as Summer took off again, watching as the piglet and the rooster made their way up the slight hill that the farm lay on. She could see that they were headed towards the building where the rabbit hutches were kept, though as the two disappeared through the doorway she didn’t pause, running as fast as she could as she imagined how frightened the poor bunnies in their hutches would be to see a rooster harassing a piglet in such a manner. Bunnies were fragile creatures after all.
“Summer!” Grandma Darlene called.
“It’s okay grandma!” Summer called, “I’ll get them!”
She didn’t hear whatever Grandma Darlene said after that as she kept running, not stopping until she was inside the doorway, searching for the troublesome animals as she could hear the clinking and crashing of cages.
Grandma Darlene stopped just outside the rabbit hutch to catch her breath, leaning over slightly as she shook her head. She loved her granddaughter dearly, but sometimes the girl was just as much a handful as the animals.
As she straightened up though Grandma Darlene heard Summer squeal, a loud, high-pitched sound that was followed almost immediately by a loud crash and a banging sound. The cry of the rooster and the squealing of the piglet came next as the two came racing out of the dark room, the rooster hot on the piglet’s heels as Grandma Darlene watched.
Summer came next, waving her arms frantically and hopping about as Grandma Darlene watched. There was something big and fluffy on top of Summer’s dark hair, it’s almost snowy-white fur standing out against Summer’s hair as it held on somehow while the little girl danced about, screaming for her grandma to get it off. Grandma Darlene didn’t have a chance though as Summer came close, the bunny having other ideas as it leaped free of Summer’s head and landing squarely on Grandma Darlene’s face. She couldn’t even yell in surprise as the bunny almost adhered to her face, knocking her backward as she lost her balance, falling hard on her butt before the bunny went bouncing away, perhaps trying to find someplace safe where people and animals weren’t chasing one another.
The piglet, chased by the rooster, which was in turn chased by Summer, went bounding by again, Summer had taken up the chase once more, her dark hair flying behind her in tangles that had been caused by the bunny that had ridden atop her head for a moment. Grandma Darlene watched as the three made their way to the front of the farm, which was close to the driveway and close to the gravel road that served the many homes that lived along the lane. Her eyes widened as she saw Summer and the two animals race around the edge of the horse stables, presumably heading towards the interior. Getting to her feet quickly Grandma Darlene didn’t even worry about the other animals as she raced toward the horse stables, afraid that Summer might upset the horses and get herself hurt.
She’d just made it to the corner of the stables, breathing hard and feeling the redness in her cheeks, when one of the horses let out a loud and very upset-sounding whinny, the sound almost shaking the walls as Grandma Darlene kept going. Sure as she’d thought once she rounded the corner, the piglet and the rooster came bounding out, followed very quickly by Summer as the three then ran to the opposite corner of the stables, disappearing once more.
Grandma Darlene saw as one of the two horses came up to the doorway, snorting loudly as she shook her long, blocky head, her mane flying as though she were angry. As the horse, Strawberry her name was, pawed heavily at the ground Grandma Darlene knew that the mare was not happy. Still, she couldn’t help but smile at the horse’s antics as she passed by, wondering what sort of mischief Summer and the two animals might have gotten into by now.
As she came around the corner though Grandma Darlene could see just what had already transpired, and her eyes widened as her jaw dropped.
The rooster was still chasing the piglet, which was running back and forth across the small farm, still squealing and dodging the hens and other two Billy goats that had gotten free of their pen. He was trying his best to evade the rooster, which was still on a mission to catch the piglet and supposedly jab some sense into him, and the rooster was in turn being chased by Summer still, her small hands outstretched as though to pick up the bird. Even as she came close though Grandma Darlene had to stifle a laugh as she saw one of the Billy goats, the bearded one named Grumpy, chasing after Summer, trying to butt her in the backside with his head every chance he got. It was almost like watching a cartoon.
“Where’s the video camera when I need it?” Grandma Darlene said to herself, laughing before she went to help Summer out.
* * *
Somehow things got done, all the animals got put back in their pens, the holes in the chicken wire got fixed, and order got restored to the farm. It wasn’t easy, in fact it was the opposite of easy as Summer and Grandma Darlene found out. None of the animals wanted to go back into their pens willingly, the goats least of all. Summer and Grandma Darlene got butted more than once in the legs and stomach before the Billy goats were put back into their pen. The rabbits had to be found and rustled up into their cages once more, which was not easy since one of them was a biter when he got nervous. Grandma Darlene had the band-aid on her finger to prove it.
The rooster was one of the easiest animals to get back into his pen, and once he was back the hens seemed to follow, which was not too bad, but the piglet was difficult. Not only did he keep trying to get away once they got him, his parents didn’t seem too happy to have Grandma Darlene putting him back. Summer would have figured that the piglet’s mother would have been happy, but Grandma Darlene had said that mommy animals were really protective of their young, and when someone else handled them could be really easy to upset. The piglet went back into the pen though finally, and the sow stopped attacking the fence once the piglet went squealing back to her.
Somehow the gardening and even a bit of canning got done, though this left almost no time to do the housework that had to be done, like the laundry and the dishes and other things. That was okay Grandma Darlene said, everyone still had clean clothes and there were enough dishes for dinner. That was what really mattered.
Summer and Grandma Darlene were in the living room, enjoying a big bowl of buttered popcorn and soft drinks when they heard the gravel crunch under Grandpa Jack’s truck tires outside. Her mom would be coming home soon too, Grandpa Jack started earlier in the morning though, so he got to come home earlier. Taking a sip of her cola Summer kept her eyes upon the television, the movie that Grandma Darlene had put on showing the inside of a stable where a pig and a spider were currently having a conversation. Her eyes were getting heavy despite the fact that it was only five o’ clock in the evening, they’d both had a long day.
The screen door squealed as it was opened, and the small breeze that came in with Grandpa Jack felt nice as the sound of his boots meeting the hardwood floor made Summer smile. She liked when Grandpa Jack came home, it was nice to have her family there. Today though she just smiled, she didn’t get up to give him a hug as she normally did. She was tired.
Grandma Darlene was just as tired, but she at least had the energy to talk.
“Evening dear,” Grandma Darlene said, smiling at Grandpa Jack as he stood in the entryway looking at the two of them funny. He looked around the house then, stepping into the kitchen to see that the dishes weren’t done and then into the laundry room to see that the laundry wasn’t done. Coming back to the living room he smiled as he shook his head.
“You girls decide to have a lazy day?” Summer and Grandma Darlene looked at each other then, their eyes widening before they looked to Grandpa Jack. And then they laughed.