Herald and Journal, May 3, 1999

Little farm hands are at it again


During most of the 21 years we have been dairy farming here in Hennepin County, our children have been our "farm helpers."

It didn't matter that we had five daughters and one son. The girls milked cows, stacked hay, and unloaded wagon loads of hay right alongside their brother.

I have to admit they were reluctant participants in the day-to-day chores of the farm. Jason was the first to be indoctrinated into the milking routine.

He might have avoided it longer, but he just had to pester his sisters.

Imagine it. Here was one boy, the second oldest, left alone in the house with his four sisters. At the time, Jason was 9 years old. Sara was the oldest at 10, then came Gina 8, Maria 6, and Lisa 2.

All the kids had to do was stay in the house and behave while Dad and Mom did the feeding and milked the cows.

Every evening we headed for the house, seeking a break and just a little peace and quiet. Instead we immediately heard a litany of complaints about Jason."

"Mom, Jason is bugging me!" the girls chorused.

It was true. Jason could not keep his hands off his sisters. If they were sitting quietly, playing or watching TV, he just had to do something to bother them. Usually it would be a little yank of the hair or a push.

Sometimes he would resort to hitting them, if they ignored him.

In his defense, part of the problem was boredom. Jason is hard-of-hearing and depends a lot on lip reading. It was hard for him to watch TV because he missed so much of what was being said. It was much more entertaining to irritate his sisters until they just couldn't take it any more.

I know you guys out there are thinking that the girls probably asked for it. I am not so easily fooled. I have four brothers of my own.

Lisa summed the problem up pretty well when she got a little older.

She asked, "Mom, why didn't they just leave out the "r" and call them bothers?"

We finally decided to ease Jason's boredom by having him come down to the barn with us at night. He was not at all happy about having to get the cows ready for milking.

At first, he was afraid of the cows, but learned to go in by them and wash off their udders. Before long, Jason was out in the barn morning and night.

One night after milking, Tom and I went back outside to work on a tractor. He had pulled the tractor apart in the shed attached to the old barn. The electricity in that barn wasn't working, so I had to provide the light.

Usually, one of us was in the house with the kids at night. Our instructions were that if they needed us they should flip the light switch to let us know, and we would come up to the house right away.

There we were. I held the trouble light and handed Tom tools as he worked intently on the tractor. Suddenly, the lights went out. They stayed out! Of course, we had just assumed that the kids would flip the switch back up and turn the lights on again.

We groped and stumbled our way out of the shed.

"What happened? What's wrong?" we shouted as we burst through the door.

"Jason hit me!" Sara cried.

Tom and I looked at each other and wondered, should we spank the one who hit or the one who turned the lights off? We were relieved that nothing was seriously wrong. They both got a scolding.

"The next time you turn the lights out, make sure it is an emergency. Then turn it back on right away so we don't kill ourselves getting out of the shed," we warned.

It was very quiet in the Fink household the rest of the night.

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