I Probably Should Have Dug The Ditch

By O’Ceallaigh

The main part of our farm was about a hundred acres on the north side of Maple Grove Road with another seventy acres on the south side. Then, there was a peninsula of land extending to the east from the hundred acre plot from about half way from the road to the north line. It was called the “29 and a half acres.”

My Mother contracted breast cancer in 1952 and had a radical mastectomy followed by radiation. Radiation, in those days was probably nearly as bad as the disease. She toughed it out, though, and she and I virtually ran the farm while my two siblings were in boarding school.

My Dad worked nights as a night watchman and Shop Fireman at the Royal Upholstery Company to make ends meet. He would come home at 6:30 AM and bring the cattle into the barn and do the morning milking. Then he would come in and wake us then retire for the day.

Mom’s and my work would then begin. I would feed the cattle, clean the barn, feed the chickens then clean up and get ready for school. On Sundays, in late winter, Mom and I would tap maple trees in the woods off the “Third Big Field” and boil the sap in an open trench that I had dug for the fire and the fourteen foot pan.

That’s when Mom started limping.

The cancer was back.

There was much discussion, decisions about treatment, other methods – much theprocess as families go through today under similar circumstances.   Then Mom and Dad decided to sell the farm and keep four and a half acres on the very eastern most-end of the 29 and a half acres up on the Bellview Road and build a Log house for Mom.

Sap buckets are seen on maple trees in Canterbury, N.H., Wednesday, March 24,2010. Maple syrup producers are hoping for one last run of sap before the season ends. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

The plans we made, the project was begun.

I just can’t possibly tell the entire flood of memories that come to mind in the next few months. My Mother died in June, 1956. She was 46 years old. She signed my learners permit for my driver’s license in April. To my knowledge, that was the last thing she ever signed.

It was a tough summer for all of us. The house was not finished and she never got to live in her “Dream Log Home.” All she would ever do is “Camp Out.”

After having sold the farm, Dad had been employed by a Sawmill as a laborer. My brother worked for my cousin Clif, who was a partner in a new car dealership. My sister had just graduated from High School and was about to enter college.

I was just flopping around the house, accomplishing nothing.

Dad had dug a trench to drain the basement at the new house but, what with the rains of spring and the delays getting the tile in due to the upheaval of Mom’s death, the ditch had filled with about four inches of fine silt. Since water seeks its own level, it just wouldn’t do to lay tile on top of the silt and Dad wanted it removed.

He explained, somewhat, what he wanted but never told the “Flophouse Kid” the reason why and I was not smart enough, at that time, to figure it out.

I went out the next day to dig the four inches of muck out of this 200 foot ditch. It had rained the night before and the muck was sticky mud! I’d put the shovel in and the stuff would stick to it and wouldn’t let go. 2 digger

– I cleaned out about six feet!

Dad got back that night and as we sat at supper my sister had fixed, mashed potatoes, gravy, some kind of meat patty and a veggie, Dad said, “Did you get that ditch cleaned out?”

Well, I told him the truth. I told him it was too sticky and I would wait until it dried out some before I finished the job.

He said. “Tomorrow, you’re going to the sawmill with me and work!”

I immediately made it known that I wanted to get as job at Clif’s place working with cars!

Dad would have none of that!

“I think you’re just lazy!” He said.

I had had one mouthful of mashed potatoes! That was it.

I slammed my fork down into the remainder of the potatoes, stood up and went for the door!

As I was leaving Dad said, “If you walk out that door you don’t have to come back! — tonight!”

That was a watershed moment in my life.

2 leaving
I never went back.

Dad and I reconciled some years later and had a great relationship. For that I am very thankful. If you want to know the rest of the story, maybe I’ll write a sequel sometime.

May it suffice to say, for now, —

“—I probably should have dug the ditch.

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One Response to I Probably Should Have Dug The Ditch

  1. vinceeri109 says:

    Why are we so impetuous at that stage of our lives? You at least had a semblance of an excuse- you were a very young man, a momma’s boy if I understand correctly, and you were reeling from her death. When I read these stories of my family’s life on the farm, it sometimes nearly brings up emotions that I normally just don’t have at 52 years old. I love hearing of life back then, on the farm but it never fails to sadden me at the same time. I don’t even really know why. I remember doing a number of dumb things and being bull-headed like I knew what was best, always. My father later in life confided in someone that he was grateful that he had 3 good kids that never really gave them much trouble and in comparison of some others, I guess we were, but guess which one of us three was the most impetuous, impatient and stupid?

    Like

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