Things I Learned Growing Up On A Farm

My name is Marinda Annis Nash Ferrell, M.Ed; Nash is my maiden name, I am a native of Southern Illinois a transplanted Californian for fifteen years. Born in Saint Louis, Missouri many years ago. Attended both Public and Private Schools to obtain my education. My home is in Mehlville, Missouri population eleven thousand and forty miles south of Saint Louis.

I was ten years old when I experienced the farm life. It was on April 15, 1959 that my life drastically changed. My mother who had became to ill to care for her only daughter. My mother wanted a life for me that would allow me to discover my best self. The Family Service Social Workers got involved and decided a rural environment would be best for me. On that day all I was told “you will have a new family.” This new family and I had never met each other. The car trip took hours to drive from East Saint Louis, Illinois to a postage stamp size Pulaski, Illinois. I could see all the fields and cows as we drove down the gravel road.

 Pulling up into the gravel driveway where a red nice ranch style home stood and a woman was standing on the porch. I was introduced to her and she told me her name. She was an attractive lady and she led me into the house. The first time in my life I was sacred and wanted to go back home. One thing I did know I didn’t want to cry. My  home could be flooded with the tears left behind. 

A tall man in coveralls and boots came into the dining room and told me his name was Joe short for Joseph . Joe and Hattie Thompson from that day became my teachers of what living on a farm would be for me. I came to them not because of anything I done but because of a very ill single mother who couldn’t meet the demands of a very rambunctious girl. 

The social worker seem pleased that everything will work out for all of us and left me. I didn’t cry but wanted to run like the devil after her but stood there looking at the two people who would become parents and teachers. They told me of another child who hadn’t came in from school. She was orphan and had been with them for years. She was fourteen and we would be the farm team.

My first duty the next day was to go and opened the door to the hen house. Looking from the kitchen window; my new mom pointed out the building to me  I walked to the hen house released the bar off the door and ran because they came rushing out and it was many of them. I learned hens had to be protected from predators wolves and foxes.

  It was at the table that life lessons were taught and doing the work enforced the lessons. Mother was an excellent cook and her table was always set up properly for every meal. There was blessings to be said before eating and that was fine because I was doing that from the age of three, Didn’t eat without blessing the table.

I learned about the true meaning of  blessings because everything on that table came by hard long work. Work was the key principle of living. You worked at school, church, and at home. Worked surrounded me and within the work there were lessons to prepare me for living.  Mom would say “there isn’t to much difference between how a person and an animal would behave, If an animal is treated with decency before it is slaughtered, and put before you it taste differently than an abused animal. Always treat people regardless of their race the same way as you do the animals you eat; people will respond to you warmly.” 

This made me think of the two or three hundred chickens she raised all were of different colors and different in other ways too. When placed before me for food; they always had a sweetness about them. Mom would say “they were raised with love and care.” Working a hundred acre farm with cows, horses, and hogs, you can see their behavior and this made you to adjust your approach towards them. On the farm there was a Huge cow named Mulely. She had a very unpredictable behavior. Milking her was done at your risk. Her kicks are vicious and before milking her sometimes shackles were needed on her hind legs. She would try to bite you as you put hay into her feed box before milking her and sometimes would try to take a bite out of you while milking her. A muzzle would be placed around her mouth.  Other times she could be sweet and docile and you could pet her. Mom said ” Muley is a cow you wouldn’t eat. she produces more milk than the other cows and that is find, Her milk is processed. I wouldn’t eat her because she is bad to the bone and it’s in her blood. A mean bad animal like her; their flesh becomes a part of you if eaten. I don’t care how many times you go the toilet. you would never get rid of the meat because it is a part of you. People are the same way too. That is why you need to be very careful with the people you surround yourself with. They are bad to the bones and cannot be trusted.” 

I didn’t know I was a sinner until a year later. The first year I did attend the revival service but didn’t participate as a candidate for baptism.  In my eleventh year it was pressed upon me to be baptized because I was a person born into sin. Apparently, having devout parents as Christians who served in every position in church, going to church, working in church as a kid, going to bed with the chickens and getting up  before the rooster crowed, being an obedient child. and getting whippings when you are hardheaded and disobedient all of these things wasn’t going to save my sin filled soul.

Dad helped the minister dip me in Cache River and afterward back at the church there was a fellowship and I became a bonified member of Saint John Missionary Baptist Church in Pukaski, Illinois. People came up to me and said “I’m glad you are baptized.” I told them I hadn’t stole, killed,cursed my parents. Didn’t know what it really meant to be a Christian until I became much older. Life experiences has taught me you need faith based on the teachings of Jesus. Facing racism as a teenager, marriage, children, sickness and overcoming life threatening illnesses. Overcoming obstacles fraught with heartbreaking circumstances which are not spoken made me glad I am a Christian because I too could have become bad to the bone as Mulely.