My family, along with my mother’s six siblings and their respective families, gathered at my grandfather’s farm most Sundays during my youth. Surely, my cousins also have plenty of cherished memories about our family congregations at “Gramps’ ” (his preferred moniker) Drumore Township farm, which undoubtedly include our exploration of the barns, meadows, fields and forests it offered.
My favorite memory occurred during the summer of 1992, when I spent two weeks as Gramps’ farmhand.
When I got my driver’s license mid-junior year of high school, my father purchased a 1982 Chevy Malibu Classic with the understanding that I would pay gas and insurance. I submitted applications everywhere that employed high schoolers in Lancaster County’s Southern End, but I had not received a single offer as summer approached.
Fortunately, Gramps offered me a job on the farm. This was not a permanent solution as the start of my senior year would render me unavailable. With no options, I gladly accepted his offer without discussing normal formalities such as wages or hours. I know that Gramps’ intention was to help me, but I contend that Gramps also benefited from the arrangement. I brought experience. From the time I was strong enough to push a hay bale across a wagon, I regularly helped during the busy baling season.
The farm had slowed considerably in recent years, with Gramps nearing 70. He no longer had milking cows and now focused on tending to the regular stable of Lancaster County crops. This may have been his way of easing into retirement, but needed property maintenance gave him plenty of work.
Our days started early, and we worked until whatever we set out to do was finished.
We always put in at least 10 hours and often worked past sunset.
When Gramps called it a day, he paid me $20. I did not mind that this was well under the prevailing minimum wage. No other employer could offer the benefit of spending time with my grandfather.
During my second week as farmhand, one of the many applications I submitted during the previous months led to a job offer. It was a longer-term solution that I needed, but I knew that I would miss working with Gramps. I would miss lugging rocks too big for the field onto the flatbed wagon that Gramps slowly towed via tractor as I followed on foot; making trips to the hardware store to grab whatever miscellaneous item we needed to complete the day’s required task; enjoying lunch at the local diner; and absolutely everything else.
Gramps passed in 2012, and the farm left the family shortly thereafter. Fortunately, before Gramps passed, my own family was able to see him in his element on the farm and experience part of what made my childhood a good one.
Each Halloween, my wife and I would take our kids to the farm to gather some pumpkins left behind in the fields following harvest, and Gramps would also pull a straw bale from the barn so that we could stuff a decorative scarecrow.
I miss the farm, but the farm was not special because it was a special place. Without Gramps, the farm was just a farm. It was special because of the special man who invested his entire life in it. He grew up on that farm, and he gave to it for as long as he possibly could.
Considering how interconnected Gramps was with the farm, it is little wonder that I miss it. When I am missing the farm, I am missing Gramps.
The author lives in Martic Township. His grandfather was Joseph Sinclair, and his farm was located in Drumore Township, near Susquehannock State Park.