Second thoughts about “the good old days”

Second thoughts about “the good old days”

By Matt Clayton - Guest columnist

A little while back, (about 50 years ago) my grandparents on my mother’s side decided it was time to quit farming. They had farmed 80 acres southwest of Jackson Center for many years and decided they needed to slow down a little; in the process of making the transition to retirement, they held an auction sale before leaving the farm and moving to their new place.

Back in “the good old days” farm auctions were popular as locals and out-of-towners alike were always looking for a deal; there were no big-box stores so auctions provided a welcomed opportunity to pick up something useful without having to buy it new, order and pay expensive shipping, or travel a long distance to get it. My grandparents were sticklers for taking good care of everything they owned so the auction sale was well attended. It was a bittersweet day which netted them a welcomed profit, however, it was hard to see so many of the things they prized sell for little or nothing or the higher-priced things they sacrificed so much time and money for passed to a stranger at the sound of a gavel hitting the sounding block.

The day after the auction our family went to aid in tying up loose ends at the farm and help Grandpa and Grandma Harpest prepare for the move. While we were outside working, a tractor pulling a hay wagon rolled to a stop in the barnyard followed by a pickup truck with a few of the neighbors riding in the back; they had come to help move a brooder house or chicken shed to the new residence. Grandpa momentarily spoke to the man driving the tractor and opened a gate to the pasture where all concerned prepared to load the small building. The brooder house was round in shape, about 12 feet in diameter, and though not very tall one of those planning to load it said, “I’ll bet that thing weighs ton!” Grandpa was expecting to pry the building up and position it on stacks of wooden blocks until they got to the desired height, but the guy who came to haul it said, “We ain’t got time for all that. I brought enough guys; we’ll just pick her up and set it on the wagon.” Granddad just shook his head.

The brooder rested on four solid concrete blocks. The men slid two heavy, round poles underneath it and backed the wagon up as close as possible with one man remaining on the tractor to back the wagon under the shed when the others raised it up. There was a total of four men on each pole (two on each end) and though the weight of the building was never really determined it was obvious that no one was anxious for what lie ahead. I wanted to help but one of the older fellows said, “Git back sonny, you’ll only be in the way and might get hurt”… reluctantly I followed his command.

The men found their places, and on Granddad’s order there was a momentary hesitation followed by a chorus of loud grunts and moans as the men struggled to lift and hold the teetering building while the man on the tractor backed the wagon under it. Initially the end of the wagon banged against the poles under the bottom edge of the building as the men had not lifted it high enough; the men lost their footing and nearly fell. My Grandfather bellowed out “She’s got to go higher … raise it up!!!” Once again the men groaned as they strove to give it all they had and the group struggled to maintain their stance on trembling legs as the wagon moved under the shed. One old-timer swore loudly as they set the brooder house down; others milled around walking off the pain, swinging their arms and twisting their backs as they attempted to move their bones back into place. All agreed there would be a different method used to unload the shed.

After the task was completed most everyone left, but a couple of men stayed for a cool drink from the outside water hydrant, sat under a shade tree and talked a little before going home to milk their cows or do the evening chores. While they chatted, one of the neighbors, Harold Metz, repeatedly rubbed his left forearm and complained of a slight but sharp pain in his chest. “Are you alright Harold?” Grandad asked. Harold replied yes and said it was just a pulled muscle and that maybe he was getting too old for that kind of stuff. Later that week, Harold had more chest pains and went to see a doctor and was told it was probably “just his heart” and there wasn’t much he could do but try to take it easy from then on.

On Oct. 2, 1967, Harold suffered a stroke and heart attack while feeding his hogs and died at the ripe old age of 51. Grandpa always blamed himself in part for being in too much of a hurry to get that shed moved. Harold’s situation was common in those days, most anyone suffering from “a bad heart” was destined to die from it sooner than later, that’s just the way it was.

Yesterday I traveled to Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton and spent the afternoon in a waiting room while a dear friend went through by-pass surgery and had a valve replaced in this heart. His heart was removed from his body, placed on a table and repaired white Jim was kept alive with state-of-the-art medical equipment until the updated heart was reinstalled. In Harold’s day this procedure would have been impossible and considered unbelievable if anyone would have suggested it could ever happen in the future.

Though 82 years of age, Jim came through the operation with flying colors. After the procedure the surgeon stated he had high hopes for Jim, that his quality of life would be much better, and considering that Jim’s mother lived to be well over 100 years old it was a good decision.

Though life was a lot more simplistic years ago, there were some things about “the good old days” that were not so good.
Second thoughts about “the good old days”

By Matt Clayton

Guest columnist