Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Merle Widmer's Obituary - Well, Sort Of - Part Two of Many

Actually, life was not always boring on the farm. Our farm had a lot timber so Dad and I would spend time cleaning up and burning brush, cutting firewood and a few trees for lumber. On one hot summer day, I stepped on a ground hornets nest. I told Dad that hornets were crawling up my pants leg. He said, "take off your pants and shake them out". I was a modern boy way back then and seldom wore under shorts. When I shook the hornets out of my jeans, one of them stung me on the very end of my penis. By the time we got to the house and my Mom, I had a bubble near the size of a golf ball and was in extreme pain. What an embarrassment for an 11 year old boy to have his Mom medically treat it. Enough said.

Back in those days, we shucked corn by hand. My Mom and a couple of my sisters got stuck with a lot of the shucking.  I remember sitting in the horses pulled wagon; wagons with a buck board on one side. Corn ears would hit the board and fall in the wagon where I would be sitting freezing my little 4, 5, or 6 year old butt. Occasionally, I would get hit by a stray ear. I figured sometimes it was intentionally because the women were mad that they had to be shucking corn. Sometimes long after winter set in. I wrote before that we were poor but considered ourselves better off than some of our neighbors who had lost their farms during the Great Depression.

We were finally able to buy a tractor pulled corn shucker. This was how it worked; the tractor had a four or six sided steel drive post sticking out over the flat steel bars (the same pull assembly that pulled the shucker) we stood on when we needed to work the hand bar clutch that controlled the the drive post. A universal joint attached the drive post to a matching post sticking out from the shucker. When the corn stalks got stuck in the the rotating rollers that shucked the corn ears, we would try to dislodge them by hand and then use the hand clutch while standing on the the pull assembly. Modern boy that I tried to be, I wore regular belted blue jeans instead of the then popular bib overalls. These many times washed older jeans saved my 16 year old life as while I was standing on the pull bar working the hand clutch, I leaned to close to the the rapidly rotating universal joint and it grabbed my rear jeans pocket that held my handkerchief and before I could say 'whoa' all I had left of my jeans was the strip under my belt. The rest was wrapped around the universal joint. I still have slight scars under both knees. So many lives were lost or people left maimed to exposed  universal joints that manufacturers were forced to put a steel covers over these terribly dangerous devices.

That same year, our neighbor made the mistake of leaving the clutch engaged while he tried to dislodge the rotating roller jams and one hand got caught between the rollers. He used his other hand to free the caught hand and it got caught also. Fortunately, the jam killed the tractor motor. He was found hours later. Both arms had to amputated up to the elbow but he survived. Thousands of farmers each year were killed or maimed by poorly designed farm equipment.

Sometimes in a dry summer, the cattle would eat up all the pasture grass. So my sister Dorothy and I would get the job of herding them out on the gravel roadways where grass and weeds grew. To while the hours away, we would play cards and tell stories. Dorothy and I also made and painted yard ornaments. My older sister,  Loretta,wrote to the Chicago Prairie Farm Magazine and they sent a reporter out who  interviewed us, took pictures and published the story along with our pictures of us and our work.

Uncle Ben Witzig, whose only son, Richard, was killed in WW2, owned a summer cottage on the Mackinaw River and on occasion we were all invited to join he and my Aunt Ethel, Richard and Tevi and their friends. Kegs of beer along with copious amounts of food was SOP. I was too young to drink, but when no one was looking, I tapped a keg. On the way home, my Dad would notice I was talking more than I usually did. Little did he know that the kegs of wine in our basement equipped with testing tubes got me a little tipsy on more than one occasion. Fortunately, our grade school teachers warned us of the evil of liquors. In my entire life, I only once got really drunk and that was in college where we would on occasion, drink beer out of shot glasses after having a Happy Hour Martini.

No discretionary money and want a high on the cheap without drugs?  It worked for me.

Enough for this day.

6 comments:

Paula Clark said...

Very interesting Uncle Merle. Really enjoyed reading it.

Dana Hunt said...

This isn't an obituary. It's a life story... A Great one at that, but... Really? YOU Should NOT be the one to write it, but if you still want to; an obituary is kinda boring and says who they left behind and possibly what the good things you did in life. Which for you, will be a FULL page... But I think it's a little morbid, cuz YOU ARE GUNNA LIVE FOREVER!!!! Even if you don't... it's Not up to you to say what others say about you. It's what Others think and Love about you should be said... However, I understand if you want your OWN words to be said. Sadly, obituaries cost money & I guess it's ultimately How Much your family is willing to spend, no matter how much you leave to them....

Merle Widmer said...

Thanks Dana. I did want someone to write but as you now my life has not been an ordinary life and the last two years have been hectic. Someone is Journalism at Bradley U was interested in writing it but I believe that when she read my comments about this belligerent black group called "Black Lives Matter" i never heard from her again. Love

Merle Widmer said...

Sorry, "know" not now!!

Merle Widmer said...

Thanks, Paula. When I hit publish on your 2nd comment, it didn't print. Maybe you will try again. Love you.

Nancy Cripe said...

Dad I really enjoyed this post