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  • Writer's pictureleann hileman

Farm Ways

Yesterday I had the opportunity to re-connect with childhood friends. Our two families were farm neighbors and neighbors in a very specific way, with people's lives intertwining in ways that I can only identify as farm ways.

I think people who live by the produce of their land are just different.... dirt is not such a big deal, manure is not just poop and there is a different appreciation for the people around you because, for one thing, there are fewer of them. Dear Audrey Olson, who is now 95, one of the people I got to see, was one of the few people who would drive by our farm during the daytime and generally she was on the way to town to pick something up for George, her farmer husband. We could very easily count on one hand the cars driving by our house in a week and you never, ever passed another person without a greeting.

When I first moved to Southern California I took with me the habit of greeting people and I was certainly an oddity until I learned that people in more densely populated areas don't always welcome that, and they often have an invisible screen around them. On the farm, I don't recall a time when a neighbor would drop by my parents' farm that they weren't invited to sit down and have coffee and cake at the kitchen table. Conversation was welcome.

Our little country school was run by and financed by this group of neighbors, with all of them chipping in for the teacher's salary. Toilets were outdoor toilets, and this was in Nebraska with its cold snowy winters, and the cellar was put into use when tornadoes were imminent. My friend Gwen Olson and I were two of the three children in our class. My older sister's best friend taught there and my older brothers were her students. Keeping that school going was a cooperative effort by very hard working farm families and these parents were involved but expected that teacher to do the job she was hired for while they were kept very busy working to keep the family fed and sheltered. Farm people work because that's how they live and that leaves less time for complaining.

So, when Daryl, who's nearly the same age as my younger brother, called me "neighbor", he meant it and when I said "always", so did I. It was a good day in my neighborhood.

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