by Dorothy Craft
In 1945 when I was an infant, my father took on the job of dairy herdsman at the Westfall Farm on M-106 a couple of miles east of Stockbridge. My family lived there until I turned 16. I have such wonderful memories of my childhood: Bottle feeding baby lambs who’d been rejected by their mammas; Letting baby chicks crawl over my legs as I sat inside their pen where we kept them warm under a brooder light until their fuzzy bodies grew feathers; Watching in amazement as a calf was born; Driving the tractor pulling the hay baler; Taking my dog, Pat, to the woods to build a fort when my cousins came to visit; Feeding the chickens and gathering the eggs without being pecked by an ornery hen; and, oh, the list goes on and on.
Pat loved to chase the mice out of the grain bin in the chicken coop, so I always made sure he was with me at feeding time. My brother, David, and I had the job of cleaning out the chicken coop. One day a skunk had been caught in a trap that my Dad had set hoping to catch the raccoon who’d been stealing the eggs. David was given the job of getting rid of the skunk.
My best childhood friend was Nancy McKim, a neighbor living on the Topping farm just east of us. We weren’t allowed to ride on M-106 so Nancy’s dad would bring her and her bike over so we could ride up the north lane or around the barns and the driveways. Riding my bike was always fun until one day I came down one driveway too fast, lost control of my bike in the loose gravel, and went head first into a rose hedge. Crying and bleeding, I managed to get to the house where Mom had plenty of Band-aids to patch my scratches.
The owner of the farm, Grace Cowan, took a nap in one of the guest cottages every afternoon. After her nap, she usually would go for a horseback ride. The man who took care of the horses, Sam Kuykendall, would have her horse saddled and ready to go.
One afternoon Mrs. Cowan invited me to ride with her, so Sam saddled another horse just for me. I felt like a queen riding that big horse with Mrs. Cowan. We crossed M-106 to the south lane and rode down the lane and through the woods to Craig Road and back. I remember one time falling off a horse when he stopped abruptly and I didn’t. I went flying right over his head. I now have a great respect for horses!
Another memorable event occurred one summer Saturday evening when Dad and Mom hosted a community square dance in the hayloft of one of the barns. All the neighboring farmers and their families came. We danced the night away as Wendell Abbott called the square dances. We ended the night with snacks, sandwiches, and drinks.
One particular hayloft was a great place to build forts out of bales and to swing out on the rope attached to a pulley and drop into a loose pile of hay. There were always plenty of cats in the barns and, it seemed, an endless supply of kittens. My dad loved to squirt them when he was hand-milking a cow.
I wouldn’t trade my childhood on the farm for anything.
Dorothy (Marshall) Craft