The hero in ANGEL OF THE L TRAIN grew up on a farm. I did not but my mother did. Every summer, we went out to stay on the farm for a few weeks with my grandparents. So, my experience with farm life comes from those visits. The photo on the left is an old one. My brother and I are in the foreground, while my mom is holding onto a calf.
My grandfather didn’t have a herd of cows. He usually had one or two, as far as I can remember. He tried to teach me how to milk the cow, but I didn’t get the hang of it. He taught me to use a scythe. I did well enough with that on the grass. I never tried it on wheat.
My grandmother had a garden and did a lot of canning. When we arrived during black raspberry season, we would pick raspberries. Then my mom would make jam and pies. To get to the woods up on the hill where the black raspberries grew, we had to duck under the electric cow fencing. Once, I was coming down the hill with a coffee can of berries and before I ducked under the electric fence, the can touched the wire. The shock vibrated through my body and fortunately the can fell out of my hands.
I was upset but physically fine and hurried back to the house for a hug—without my berries. Afterwards, I made sure to give the electric fence a wide berth.
We went to a farm auction and my grandfather told my mother to bid on a huge batch of eggs. She was the highest bidder and we came home with dozens of eggs. We ate eggs and everything else that could be made from eggs for quite a while.
My brother and I had fun with our cousins by jumping into the hay in the barn from the rafters. We visited all the aunts and uncles. Ducks nibbled at our hair. We watched heat lightning in the evening for our entertainment as the adults chatted. We listened to Grandma tell us stories.
My grandfather never had a car, but he used his tractor to go into town. That’s my dad, my sisters, my brother, and me posing with the tractor. As children, we didn’t have the responsibilities of farm chores—except for picking berries, hanging clothes on the line, setting the table, and doing the dishes. But it still seemed like a slower pace than we were used to when we were home.
My grandmother cooked up enormous amounts of food and there were always guests at the table.
I have many fond memories of those summers on the farm. My hero in ANGEL OF THE L TRAIN often thinks about his family back home on the farm. But he’s living in New York City and tries to convince himself how much better it is.
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