Later I earned 25 cents a week; that seemed like a lot. I was "wealthy." I earned a bit more when I was a teen.
When the corn was just out of the ground in the spring, Iíd go through the field with an old "chuck-a-luck" replanting device. Where there was a gap in the young plants, Iíd lift the planter and let it drop into the earth, and then Iíd pull the handles apart and push them back together, thus dropping seeds to the right depth. The chuck-a-luck was heavy, and it was hard work.
Iíd later thin out the sucker plants, those weaker ones that would sap nourishment and moisture from the strong ones. I chopped out a lot of weeds with a hoe, too. I learned that a lightweight, sharp, worn-down hoe was my favorite garden tool.
When the corn was too tall for our team and cultivator, Dad guided the one-row garden plow as I kept old Jake moving between the rows and prevented the horse from eating corn leaves.
Chores gave me a feeling of being a partner on the farm, of being capable of doing something that needed doing.
I worry about kids who donít have to do chores. My friends from town loved coming out to our farm to play in the hay or hike in the woods. We also loved to fish in the pond.
But they were always back in town before it was time for me to start my chores. There were chickens and cats to feed, eggs to gather, wood to bring in for the fireplace and coal to stoke the furnace in the basement.
Many years ago, I took my Christian College students on a field trip to the Amish country just north of Columbia.
The girls were surprised to see the children going about their routine chores.
A boy of about eight was carrying two buckets of water toward the chicken house. The older girls were washing dishes on the open back porch.
A boy of no more than 6 was sawing a 4-by-4-foot piece of scrap wood into short lengths.
I was puzzled by this. He wouldnít have been making a plane or car or train or anything relating to electricity - these things are not a part of the Amish life.
"What are you making, fella?" I asked.
"Firewood," he said and kept sawing.
A preschool-age girl was carefully washing hensí eggs and placing them in a crate to be hauled by buggy to the store five miles away. Iím guessing their chores gave them the same feeling of belonging to a team that I experienced so many years ago when I was their age.
I commented to the childrenís father, "You have a beautiful new patch of strawberries ready for next season."
He straightened up proudly, took hold of his overall straps and said, "Yes, if the weather helps us out."
I motioned to the children at work and said, "Youíll have good help with the picking."
The father straightened even more and smiled. "Actually, thatís why we put in such a large patch," he said, "to have something for the little ones to do."
Chores. Something for his 11 children to do. What a wise father, and what lucky kids! I wonder: Is that why my parents saw to it that I always had work to do?