Saturday, September 3, 2016


There's so much to relate:
In the normal run of a 
one-year period, farm-life
is crazy. There are animals
births, and deaths too. The 
little animals and cows,
even the crazy romping yard
chickens and roosters and 
such, they become familiar, 
get names, and you take 
favorites. Old cows start
wasting away or slowing 
down to nothing, and you 
know their time is coming.
It's rough. One time, at a
calfing, I pulled a calf out of
the mother with some rope
that was lying around. I was
alone, and the birthing wasn't 
going right. All that was out
were two legs, and everyone
was braying. I tied tight the
rope and leveraged all my 
weight, steadily, against it,
the resistance did give and the
calf slowly pulled out, to the
apparent great relief of the
moaning mother. 
Anyway, all these old farms
had old barns, and the old 
barns each had a silo or two. 
Silos are incredibly important, 
especially in the old ways 
of farming. Growing up in
New Jersey and all, as I had, 
it would have been, except 
for my seminary-farm years
(there was a farm there, but
then no one ever clued me
in on the working or the 
ideas of silos and harvest, 
etc.) easy to grow up 
completely unaware.
Silos are a massive 
undertaking. If you've 
ever seen or inspected 
one, there are numerous 
variations  -  old ones 
made of wood, twisted 
and flaked, others made 
of a glazed, brown brick, 
ones of red, regular brick 
(not often); they lean, 
they tilt, they fall down.
They have doors and 
trap doors. Running up
along the inside is a
cat-walk type step-ladder.
If the silage is in there,
and you stepped on it, 
thinking it would hold 
you  -  it might or might 
not. An air pocket of
some sort could give 
way, and you go down, 
right through it. It could 
kill you. Suffocation. Or
you could struggle, maybe, 
your way to the sidewall
step ladder. Warren had a
your son, Davy, about 11, 
not real heavy. Sometimes
he'd go in, with a pitchfork, 
to thrown some silage 
down. If your dumb friend, 
say, Harry, the farmer, went
missing, it wasn't without
recourse that you'd want
to check the silo hold.
When I was a kid, also about 
9 or 10, in Troop 73 Boy 
Scouts (I always remembered
this, on the farm), they took
us once to Camp Kilmer
or Raritan Arsenal  -  two
local-enough military
installations  -  and had 
the gall (as I saw it, in
hindsight), to show us,
in best 1957 Cold War
fashion, how, with the push 
of a button, NIKE or ICBM
missles (not sneakers) pop
up out of the ground,
slowly and royally, for
firing. Aimed towards
Russia too, he said. He
didn't know it, but 'Russians'
weren't the 'enemy'; it was 
the 'Soviets' who'd taken
over Russia  -  but that's 
a mere detail. Military 
guys skip all that when 
doing their big-talk 
to kids.They had the
audacity to call these 
things 'missle silos'. 
Fifteen years later, as I 
dealt with 'real' silos, that 
military hubris on their
part, really bothered me.
Most of the farmers around
were pretty piss-poor, just 
scraping by in that old 
Bradford County, PA 
manner  -  no one caring 
much about the present day
then  -  what was it, '71, '75.
It could have almost been 
1871  -  except for things
like cars and power, electric 
TV. They all liked that stuff
too much to give up; but 
still the feel that the places
gave off were of another
time. Not much occurred
that didn't have antecedents.
There was plenty of sex too;
I heard of it, but I never heard
more. There must have been
abortions or deaths, adulterous
betrayals, fights to the finish,
and quarrels. The high school
kids, mostly, seemed pretty
pre-occupied, or really, really
stealthy about it. I guess it's
like that everywhere. You
wake up with that thing in 
hand, you just don't always
know what to do  -  farm,
country or city, all the same.
99% of the farms were handed
down  -  first sons, or some
family deal. It was always
'Dad's old barn', the 'family
house  -  so a lot of stuff
was old and well-used. The
farm equipment was always
being updated  - farm-authority
loans, local bank-notes, etc., 
but the barns and buildings, 
silos and sheds, coops and
shanties, sometimes they got
pretty run-down, neglected.
It was always a danger 
something would give 
way or collapse. The silo 
was part of business, so
old or not so old, it was 
always somehow maintained. 
Maybe a new one would 
get built nearby, but the 
old one always stayed  - 
it was part of the honor 
and homage of the old. 
You never destroyed 
Dad's or Grandpa's this
or that until it fell. It was
just simple honor and pride.
Silos always managed to 
look as poor, or not so, 
as the farm and barn they 
were connected to. Dirt 
paths, through years of
use, would be trod down 
into the soil; piles of lumber 
or any other junk, just stayed. 
The old marks and scratchings
 on the silo stayed too. If a
picture postcard had to be
made of the farm itself, it 
would always include the 
silo, for sure and for 
nothing else as certain
in that picture somewhere.
Around about 1971, a 
company named 'Harvestore' 
began coming  around with
 their 'new' style silos. Every 
so often, you'd see one, on 
one of the richer farms. They 
were expensive, and demanded 
a lot; new concrete, footings, 
driveways. No one except the
big guys had that sort of outlay.
These Harvestore silos were
huge, always blue  -  some 
shined-up, glazed, tile like
solid sheets of a dark, rich 
blue. They towered over the
others, and were amply wider 
and rounder. And, in white, 
they had their logo-name
emblazoned on the side, large.
'Harvestore Silos, Minneapolis',
or whatever it was, I forget. 
I was surprised it didn't say, as
a slogan 'Store Your Harvest!'
They had a big, rounded, shiny
top too, that could rise or fall,
depending on silage capacity 
within. Nifty. Plus, as an added
inducement to pride, you'd get
your family or farm name
emblazoned on the side :
'Jenkinson's 4-A Sidewinder
Farm, Harry Jenkinson, Prop.'
It was all pretty stupid, I 
thought, and unneccesary 
and not very sightly either. 
But people went for it. 
No telling.

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