Thursday, September 29, 2016

Pedro Comes to the Farm

THE SUMMER OF 1971 {est.}

After my last post, "Grafted Into the Family", I received so many comments. (YOu need to go read them) Pedro De Los Santos offered me an excerpt from his memoirs. The next two posts are from him ...

{an excerpt from the Memoirs of Pedro De Los Santos}

As soon as school was out, I packed my bags and went to Louisville, Ohio to live and work with the Dawson family at Elgendale Farms. I forget who took me there but I remember mom and dad went along to see what kind of conditions and what kind of people I was going to live with for the rest of the summer.

 Mr. Vergara, my Spanish teacher, went along also to introduce everybody. Mr. Gene Dawson and his family struck me as very friendly and eager to take me in. Mom and dad were pleased to see that the farm was clean and orderly and that the Dawsons were good people. 

The only thing I know my dad was not happy with was that the Dawsons were Protestants and they insisted I should accompany them to church every Sunday. We considered ourselves a Catholic family and dad was not too happy about allowing them to brainwash me into changing my religion. Mom was a little more understanding and practical. She said “As long as he is worshiping God and staying out of trouble, it doesn’t matter what church he does it in.” 

Dad reluctantly agreed but I could tell he was not too happy about it. My dad practiced his religion a lot more than anybody else in the family. Right or wrong he had his little altar in the basement and prayed every day for God’s blessings on his family. He taught all of us about the importance of having faith and relying on God for everything. Unfortunately, he never read the Bible and was unaware of the many discrepancies between the teachings of the Catholic Church and what the Bible actually says.


THE FAITH OF THE DAWSONS


I quickly realized that religion played a big role in the Dawson household. They prayed before every meal, something I was not really accustomed to, and they prayed every time there was some major or important decision to be made. They were sincere and humble people and not at all like the religious fanatics I had been taught to believe all Protestants were. 

They were not forceful about their religion but they were also not ashamed of it. They gladly explained anything I was confused about but never tried to shove their religion down my throat.

More than anything, they lived the Christian life rather than just talk about it. Slowly but surely I began to realize that what they had was real and that it was something that I wanted in my life. But I did not jump right into it; instead I decided to wait to see what would happen.

THE FAMILY

The Dawson family consisted of Mr. Gene Dawson and his wife Elaine, plus
five children; Doug, Kandy, Mandy, Alex and Marcie. Two years later, the last year I spent with them before I left for college, they had another baby
whom they named LeAdam.



Doug was a year or two younger than me but about 30 pounds heavier. It was all muscle, the result of growing up on the farm. I weighed about 143 pounds but by the end of the summer, I was about 150 pounds and not an ounce of fat on me.

LIFE ON THE FARM

Life and work on the farm was hard. My daily routine began by getting up at 4 o’clock in the morning to chase the 80-plus cows into the barn for milking. The cow pastures were anywhere from one-quarter of a mile to one-half a mile away from the house. I had to walk in the dark and avoid all the electric wire fences that surrounded the pasture fields.

This was no easy task, because we changed their location regularly to
give the cows fresh pastures to graze in. The cows had developed the
uncanny ability to know exactly where these wire fences were located,
even in the dark. I knew that we were getting close to an electric fence
because the cows would shy away from that area and avoid it at all costs.



I learned to follow the cows to the barn to avoid getting electrocuted. Later on I learned that the same cow was always the last one to go in. Mr. Dawson had named all the cows and could recognize them at first sight. 

After a while, I began to recognize the cows not only by their spots, but also by their behavior. Each one of them had a distinct personality and always behaved a certain way. I learned that the last cow to walk to the barn for milking would always be “Rita”. She would wait for all the cows to walk by and then she would get at the end of the line. This helped me out because I knew that if Rita was on her way in, all the cows had been accounted for and I did not have to go looking for them. Another advantage to having Rita go in last was that she was the only cow that allowed me to touch her and even ride her into the barn.

All the other cows would shy away and not let me touch them if they could help it. So once all the cows had begun walking toward the barn, all I had to do was to jump on Rita and she would take me all the way into the barn. I did not ride Rita cowboy style. Instead, I would lie on my stomach across her back like a sack of potatoes.

After the cows came into the barn, I had to turn on the auger That extracted the cow feed from the silo and into a long trough so the cows could have their breakfast. 

Then I had to go into another barn and feed the young calves, clean out their stalls, and place fresh straw down in their stalls. I also had to feed the cows fresh hay. By then, Mr. Dawson was already up and getting ready to milk all the cows. He had four milking machines and eight spaces for cows to stand while they were getting milked, four on each side of the milking pit. I had to help him bring in the cows and plug in the next milking machine on the cows, after washing their utters, of course. It took us close to 3 hours to get all the cows milked. By 8 o’clock in the morning I had already done a half-a-day’s worth of work (4 hours) and I hadn’t even had breakfast yet.

Mrs. Dawson would prepare breakfast and call us all in between 8 and 8:30. By that time everybody was already up and doing their respective chores. During breakfast, Mr. Dawson would lay out the plans for the entire day. 

Depending on how early or late it was in the summer, we would either have to plow, plant, rake, or harvest the fields which consisted of corn, hay, alfalfa, wheat, or anything else Mr. Dawson had planted that spring. We also had to mend fences, build new fences, clear out fields by picking up all the stones that were dug up by the plows, mow and bail hay, and any other farm chore that Mr. Dawson could think of. There was always something to do and rarely did we sit around saying,

 “Well, there’s nothing else to do .... 
so we might as well go back to the house to watch TV.” 


FREE TIME?

The Dawson’s owned a TV set but I really don’t remember ever sitting down to watch a TV show in that house, especially when Mary the Amish girl came around to help clean up the house.

Mary was another hired hand who came around regularly to clean the house, wash and iron clothes, and do other household chores that needed to be done when Mrs. Dawson was busy with other farm chores.

Mary, like most Amish in the area, did not watch TV and considered it a
sin. However, she would ride in modern automobiles, unlike most other
Amish in the area. 

Like I said before, there was always something that needed to be done and not enough hours in the day to do them. Sometimes we still had chores to do after dinner and we would not get done and ready for bed until past 9:00 pm. Lights out was at 10:00 pm every night and we were all glad to see it come. We would all gladly go to bed at 10:00 pm to get the much needed rest. That only gave me 6 hours of sleep, so most of the time I would try to go to sleep earlier if I had finished my chores. Four o’clock came very early in the morning.

Saturday was just like any other day and we worked our regular 11-12 hours. The cows had to be milked every day so even on Sundays I had 
to get up at 4 in the morning and do all my morning chores before breakfast. 

After breakfast we went to church and had the rest of the day off until it was time to do the second milking. The cows were milked twice each day so we didn’t really get much of a break. 

Pedro's 16th Birthday
with Dan B., and Doug D.
We did get a little break on Tuesdays because that’s when we had 4-H club meetings and square dancing. Mandy, Kandy, Doug, and I had joined the 4-H club. We had a regular meeting every Tuesday night around 5 pm and it 
was always followed by square dancing. I liked it because it was the only chance we had to meet girls outside of church and have some fun.

In spite of all the work, I consider those summers spent on the farm as 
the healthiest and best summers of my teenage years. I had no time or energy to get in any trouble and everything I did there helped me get strong and healthy not only physically, but spiritually as well.

Watch for our next post ...Big, Bad, Pedro