Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Twittering with Stamps and Envelopes

My parents have been living on the same central Iowa farm for the past 61 years, and even though they still don’t have internet access, they’ve been producing messages for their own “twitter group” since the 1970s. Dad types out letters for friends and relatives on a regular basis, so with mom’s help, they make copies of a down-on-the-farm newsletter and mass-mail it. Now they have access to a photocopy machine, and in an age when some young people hardly know what a stamp is, they mail out over 230 letters monthly. Dad likes to sprinkle his letters with “tweets” about days long gone on the farm. Some samples:

-School wasn’t trouble-free back then either. Like the Halloween when boys from Mud Swamp School tipped over the toilets at Grant No. 8 and tried to blame us. In town, Main Street looked like a war zone with manure spreaders and farm equipment blocking the streets.

-Dale said his high school graduation in 1931 was low-key because both banks in town closed a month earlier. After their banquet, the kids looked for jobs candling eggs or shocking oats.

- Stealing watermelons was the main form of entertainment then. Old man Jones’ 12-gauge sounded like a canon echoing across a moonlit melon patch.

- Bootleggers were the main law benders in the community according to Bill. Few got rich in the small town, but most managed to turn a profit, depending on how much they watered down the alcohol.

-One old timer in church used to chew a wad of tobacco which wasn’t a problem unless the sermon got lengthy. His cheeks got fuller and fuller and people often got splashed with tobacco juice if they followed too close as he left the church and let go with a big brown mouthful.

-In the days before health food, Uncle Berry ate gravy and fried mush and lived to be 92. During Prohibition, he also kept his cupboard well stocked with vanilla extract and other condiments containing a pinch of alcohol.

-Last week, a farmer nearby hooked two 24-row planters together to plant 800 acres in one day. Francis told me that years ago his neighbor was planting corn with a team of horses. A lightning strike traveled down the half-mile of planter wire and killed man and horse.

-Cousin Harold says he doesn’t enjoy winter as much as he did as a kid in Zearing. He and his pals used to skate down the Minerva Creek seven miles to St. Anthony then catch a ride back in the engine of the old M&St. L.

-Dale said they’d sell 50 to 75 cases of eggs at Madison’s store on a busy Saturday night. One customer occasionally stuffed a few “free eggs” in his overcoat pocket to take home, so Dale’s friend, Harold, used to bump against the egg-lifter so he had scrambled eggs for supper.

Some folks still enjoy the old-fashioned Twitter with stamps and envelopes, but like most people nowadays, farmers tweet, blog, and use Facebook at a steady pace. CAST stays actively involved with agricultural news and information through its Twitter account. Join us at http://twitter.com/#!/CASTagScience to keep up with the happenings “down on the farm” and throughout the world of agriculture.  Dan Gogerty, CAST Comm. Ed.

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