Adventures in Poverty-Childhood on the Farm

Guernseys in the Afternoon
Guernseys in the Afternoon

A typical dinner was grass-fed beef, new potatoes, fresh tomatoes, sweet corn and berries in season. We had so much milk we fed the cream to the pigs. Does this sound like poverty to you? During the season, we kids would whine, “Asparagus, again?” Yet locals lined up in the driveway waiting to buy the 40 pounds or so we cut daily while it lasted.

You have not eaten good food until you have eaten it fresh from the garden.

We also had a thirty acre playground (our farm) and 400 acres next door to wander around in. I had horses and sometimes entered horse shows. I even advanced to the point that I was studying dressage, you know, like Romney’s tax-deductible dancing horse?

What we did not have was money. But then neither did anyone else in our community and since the concept of rich and poor are inherently comparative, no one thought of them selves as poor. Even millionaires who hang out with billionaires feel poor by comparison. We had income equality; no one had much-and we did not have much equally.

We worked hard; really hard, but did not think of that as oppressive. Everyone worked hard. That’s why we had so much food. Food was the result of hard work and the generosity of Mother Nature. The work had a rhythm. Up at 5:00 AM to feed the horses while Pop milked the cow, breakfast, school, and after school chores. The rhythm accelerated in the summer when the hay was harvested, fences were repaired and all that produce was cultivated, picked and stored.

We had no money, but like the son of a Polish serf that he was, Pop knew you must have land. If you have land you will never starve.

This was intended to be the first in a series of stories about poor people. It is about poor people-my family and the neighboring farmer families. But then I felt so rich, so privileged. Sure, we had no disposable income, but Pop said you were rich if you had enough and enough to share. He was the son of a Polish serf, a construction worker by day and a farmer all the rest of the time. My daddy was rich and yes, my mom was even good-looking.

No visitor ever left the yard without being loaded up with whatever wonders the good earth was producing. It made Pop smile to be so rich he had enough and enough to share. You could be a millionaire and not have ENOUGH. John D. Rockefeller, when asked “How much money do you want? Replied, “Just a little more.” John D. Rockefeller did not have enough, but we did.


Note: My painting “Guernseys in the Afternoon” is from memory of the neighbor’s cows. We had one lovely, feisty Jersey cow named Ollie.

My art & standup philosophy page>


1 Comment

  1. I think it was true what your father said about land. Sadly, land and home ownership seems to be the most out of reach thing there is to the poor these days. The rich see land as an investment now, and having a home is seen as a luxury and not as a basic human right anymore. I would dearly love to be able to own a home with enough of a yard for even a small garden, but it’s early impossible to get a mortgage now, unless you are wealthy enough to not really need one to begin with.

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