I remember my Grandfather telling about how he and his brother went to a dance up in Broughton in Furness. This was a bike ride of seventeen miles there and seventeen miles back.
(I’ve done it myself, but didn’t dance when I got there!)
Anyway they were almost home and it was late (or early depending on how you look at these things.) My Grandfather commented to his brother that it was 4am, so they might get an hour in bed before their father woke them up to start milking.
They got home and found father sitting in the kitchen putting his boots on. His only comment was ‘well you’ll be no good for anything today so we’d better get a good start.’ So they didn’t actually get to bed that night.
Now I’ve no tales like that to recount, I was far too sensible, and soon discovered that ‘I’ve got to milk tomorrow morning’ was a perfectly acceptable excuse to leave early.
In fact, milking got me out of at least one school detention. The teacher who taught us French was keeping us in for an extra hour after the 3:45pm finish because some of the class had been messing about. Anyway I didn’t say anything, just packed my bag and quietly walked out. He stopped me at the door and asked where I was going. I replied “I’m going home to milk. My Dad has gone to a farm sale and I promised I’d get home in good time to make a start. So be so good as to take this up with him.” He stood opened mouthed as I bade him a courteous good day and left. I suppose it isn’t an excuse you get from many fourteen/fifteen year olds
Another time, way back when I was about eight, I remember my Dad collecting me from school. Now this just didn’t happen, and what’s more he turned with a tractor and trailer. ‘How cool is that!’ I mean anyone can travel by car.
It turns out that they were baling. The knotters on the baler were slightly out of alignment. The first bale was tied perfectly, the second well enough, but the third bale wasn’t tied at all. But if you hit the knotter ‘just there’ with a hammer, just after it had tied the second bale, then it tied the next bale perfectly.
Now Alan Armer would have had a mechanic out to fix it within minutes, but fixing them would have taken an hour and rain was promised. So the field was baled by having me sit on the back of the baler with a hammer. First bale tied perfectly, second bale tied well enough, clunk with the hammer, First bale tied perfectly, next bale tied well enough, clunk.
But thinking back this wasn’t my only contribution. In the same year, still aged about eight, I was sat on the seat of the MF135 when we were carting straw. Grandfather put the tractor in low gear, I was there to steer and men would throw bales up to my grandfather on top of the trailer. If he wanted the tractor to stop he’d show ‘Whoa’. I’d get off the seat and stand on the clutch (At the age of eight I couldn’t reach the clutch peddle from the seat.) When he wanted the tractor to move off again he’d shout ‘Hod’ and I’d get off the clutch, go back to the seat and concentrate on the technical details of steering.
Funnily enough when I tell some of these stories people look horrified. But think about it. How many eight year olds feel valued and part of the team? Feel they’re making a genuine contribution to the family business?
Anyway it was all worth it just for the expression on the face of the French master.