Old McDonald’s Farm
By Clif Knight
Our farm looked a lot like the musical Old McDonald’s Farm in the 1940s and 1950s. It had mules, cows, hogs, chickens, two hound dogs and a barn cat. Amenities were a barn with three stables, three cribs, a hayloft, three chicken houses and a fenced pasture with running water, grass, shade trees and running room. A father, mother and seven children occupied its five-room frame house and accepted as part of the territory an occasional rooster’s crow, cow’s moo and mule’s bray.
While its animals were many in number, two breeds – goats and guineas –were missing, and for good reasons.
My father parted ways with goats in the winter of 1946 after two of them jumped into his wagon and ate a new pair of leather lines.
At that time, we were living in a sharecropper’s house, four miles from our newly purchased farm. The farm was not cultivated during World War II and needed a lot of work to prepare its land for a crop the following spring.
Our dad devoted much of his wintertime labor to that task, leaving early in his mule-drawn wagon and spending the day working in the fields.
On this particular day, he chose to attach a new pair of Sears & Roebuck leather wagon lines to the mules’ harness. When he unhitched the mules, he removed the leather lines and placed them in the wagon bed for safekeeping.
Later that day, he returned to the wagon and was shocked to find two goats, a nanny and a Billy, chewing on the lines. The only thing they left untouched were the metal fittings.
His dislike for goats left a bitter memory in his mind and removed any hope us boys had of someday having a goat wagon.
A flock of guineas joined the ranks of our farm animals a couple of years later after an invasion of boll weevils put cotton production in harm’s way. Guineas were recommended as an inexpensive way to get rid of the weevils before they attacked the tiny bolls of cotton.
The guineas did spend a lot of time roaming around in the cotton fields; however, they were pests and as noisy as a flock of blackbirds when they were strutting around in our yard.
They lost their welcome when they began congregating outside the bedroom window of my parents and waking them up with their chattering on Sunday mornings.
Subsequently, they were cooped up and sold to the peddler when he made his next stop at our house.