The Yonder Forty


Bonnie M. Wells

This story is part of the Pure Coincidence Book Series

and can be found in book #23 - Wasn't That a Party:

Our Farm

The farm that I grew up on is located about three miles from the four lane in Little Hocking, Ohio. Today, with the paved roads and easy travel it's not a great distance at all, but it was not always this way.

One of my strongest memories is my brother Mike and I walking the gravel road and going to visit some of our friends. In the summer months it was a long, hot journey that took the better part of the day. And we always tried to be home before dark because we were afraid of snakes!

The black snakes didn't concern us much, but oh, those Copperheads. We were definitely afraid of them. And we knew that after the sun went down, the snakes would come out and lay in the gravels of the road where it was warm. A kid walking along the road was easy prey for the varmints and dad had always told us to be home before dark, on those rare occasions that we were actually permitted to go very far from the house.

There were a few snakes on the farm too, but for some reason these didn't frighten us as much as those "out on the road," although we held a healthy respect for any that we saw anywhere.

Dad didn't pay much attention to snakes but his brother - Uncle Lloyd definitely didn't like them, and would kill a black snake as quickly as he'd kill a Copperhead.

About the only snakes that were reasonable safe from Uncle Lloyd were the water snakes, which we always called Water Moccasins, although I'm almost certain they were not. We swam with them in the creek! It took about a dozen of the slithering critters to dissuade us from jumping into the swimming hole. Any less and we ran them away!

Old Pet

Pet was the name of our work horse. To this day, I'm not certain what his breeding was, but he was a huge, brown horse that was used to plow the gardens and haul in wagons full of garden crops, hay or firewood.

Pet was gentle as a lamb - except once. He did bite a boy one time! It was a neighbor boy who kept throwing rocks at Pet and our cows. Dad told the boy repeatedly to stop throwing rocks at our animals, but it did little good.

One day the boy was at our house sleigh riding and playing in the snow with us, and Pet just meandered up and chomped down on his shoulder and took him right to the ground!

Dad saw what was happening and ran out of the house to yell at Pet to "back up Pet - back up," at which time he released the boy and promptly "backed up" as he'd been instructed.

Thankfully the boy had a heavy, winter coat on that day and the bite had not broken the skin, although you could see the teeth imprints in his skin!!!

I don't think he ever threw another rock at our livestock and I know for a fact that was the only time Pet ever did anything like that to anyone.

In the summertime, if Pet wasn't being used for work around the farm, Mike and I converted him to a "riding horse!"

Oh, we didn't have a saddle - they probably don't make a saddle that big - but we'd put the halter on him and lead him over to the calf holding area where we'd climb the boards on the front of the calf pen and get onto Pet's back. It was a long way down to the ground from up there, and sometimes we'd walk around sitting on the horses back for hours before he got close enough to a hay wagon, or some other tall structure so that we could "get off" his back!

There were times when we jumped, but none of us liked to jump off Pet's back because it really did seem like a mile or more to the ground!

My Cousins

Mary Jo lived closer to me than any other relative. Her mother was my mother's sister, and the family lived three miles from us .... out by the "hard road" as everyone said in those days.

The "hard road" was the old route 50 that ran from Belpre to Little Hocking and beyond. It was only a two lane road itself, but it was paved and you didn't eat dust every time a car passed you on it!

Cars didn't have air conditioners back in those days - or if they did - I didn't know anyone who owned one!! All you could do was roll your window up as quickly as possible if you saw a car coming at you. Then, depending on the temperature, you might suffer a heat stroke before the dust cleared enough to roll it back down!

It was rare for me to spend the night at Mary Jo's home because there were already so many children in the house, but usually once or twice a summer she would come over and spend the night at my home, and we'd go swimming in the creek or exploring around the farm. One of our favorite pastimes was looking for arrow heads. We had quite a collection of them already and could almost always find more by walking the creek.

I never knew what tribe had lived on the farm but whoever they were, they must have done a lot of hunting because there were lots of arrow heads.

Dad always said they washed out from the Indian burial mound that was located on the back of the farm - down in the "yonder forty," as he called it.

Mary Jo and I always wanted to dig into the mound, but dad was real quick to tell all of us to stay away from it because it was sacred ground and if we bothered it, then the Indians buried there would come back and haunt us!

Of course we weren't taking any chances of being haunted, so we left the mound alone. Today, I wonder if it really was a burial ground!

Another cousin was Rita. Her mother was also a sister to my mother. But I didn't get to see Rita very often as she and her family lived in Cleveland, Ohio... a "big city," as we called it.

Rita and Mary Jo were about the same age with me being a couple of years younger than them. Still, when it came to "farm life," I was the more experienced and knowledgeable .... or so they said!

Rita's family usually came to visit every summer because her grandparents on both sides lived in Belpre. And naturally, when they came to visit the grandparents Rita and I always wanted to spend some time together so I'd spend a night or two at Grandma Frazer's house with her and then she'd come down and spend a night or two on the farm with me and my family.

I'm sure we seemed like wild heathens to her, but she was kind enough to never let it show!!

The Hay Fields

The family gardens, berry patches and hay fields were all located to the rear of our farm. Dad referred to the area as the yonder forty, whereas Uncle Lloyd and Grandpa Martin always called it the "lower forty." They were both right.

It was about a forty acre tract of land that was "down in the valley" from where we lived and it was way out yonder from the house - about a mile or so.

The property was fenced off from the rest of the woods and grazing areas for the livestock because it was upon this property that the main gardens and hay fields were located, and the cattle would have ruined the crops had they been allowed into them.

Pet was the exception, but even he was not allowed to roam un-attended in the area.

At harvest time, dad always harnessed Pet and hitched him to the wagon and he'd walk along side of him and take him to the lower forty.

Uncle Lloyd usually hooked another wagon to the old Jeep that was used on the farm, and off the entire pack would go to plow out the potatoes, cut the hay, or whatever crop it was time to gather.

And so it was the day that Rita and I decided to look for arrowheads.

Dad and Uncle Lloyd were cutting hay that day, and they almost always forbade us kids from being around the fields when they were cutting hay, so we "had the day off!"

The Stubble

Rita and I began our search in the creek directly behind the house. We were barefooted {as usual} and wadded our way along the creek bed until we came to the one and only area that was deep enough to actually swim in. We splashed around in the water for awhile and then climbed out and walked the creek bank for a ways until we could get back into the water.

We could hear the jeep running as we worked our way on up the creek, passed the hay fields and gardens, so we knew we were not alone.

I don't know how long we'd been searching for arrowheads, none of which we found that day - before we came to the fence that cut across the creek, and I knew we were at the farthest point of our property.

Once we crossed that fence we would be on the MacIntire farm, and that was one thing Dad had always said - you don't go on other people's farms unless you ask permission. He always said they could have a mean bull or any kind of animal housed on the land and unless they knew someone was coming across the land, they would have no reason to move the animal and the person could be stomped to death and no one would even know it. I certainly didn't want to be stomped to death, so that fence was as far as I ever went!

"It's getting late Rita, and it sounds like the Jeep is going away from us, so we'd better go and see if we can catch a ride back to the house," I said as we came out of the creek and up onto the dry bank.

Rita agreed. The time had slipped away and it was starting to get dark! We hadn't noticed because we'd been so preoccupied, but if we didn't catch the Jeep, we either had to retrace our steps through the creek, which would take longer to get back to the house, or we had to cut across the hay fields and onto the Jeep road that led to the barn. Hopefully we could catch up to the workers and either get aboard the Jeep or on Pet's back, because if not, we had at least a mile walk through the dense woods where the jeep road was cutout. I didn't like those woods after dark, and I know Rita didn't like them at any time!

We came to the top of the hill from the creek and the sight before us nearly brought us to tears.

Where the hay had once stood so straight and tall, only stubble remained. The sight didn't bother us too much though until we tried to walk across the stubble with our bare feet! That's when the real pain sat in and we began getting a little nervous.

We could hear the Jeep pulling further and further away from us, and we knew that no one even knew we were left behind, so there was no reason for them to wait for us!

If You Can't Walk - Then Run!

It was a long old hay field, and I was praying the snakes had all been scared away by the cutting machines. I stepped gingerly onto the field. "Ouch, that hurts," I said after just a couple of steps. Rita tried it. Sure enough, it hurt! How in the world were we going to get across that field?

Long ago I'd noticed that I could run barefooted on the gravel road when it hurt my feet to walk on it! I couldn't explain it, but knew it was a fact. So I suggested that we "run" across the hay field!

Rita thought I'd lost what little mind I had, and said she didn't see how anyone could run on something that hurt their feet to walk on .... but, it was getting darker and darker and the sound of the Jeep was getting further and further away - so run we did!!

We backed off as far as the creek bank and began our sprint. We were in full gallop by the time we hit the hay field and sailed across the stubble with the greatest of ease .... for awhile! Then we tired out and had to stop to rest! It was very difficult to "take back off" without a sprint area, but we did the best we could. We sat down first, then laid down and rolled into the stubbles and caused them to fold down, and we made us a "take off pad!"

And it worked! Before we knew it we were racing across the stubbles again and they didn't hurt our feet at all.

I still remember Rita's words when we finally reached the cleared road {this was a dirt road cut out of the woods for the jeep. It was not paved or anything like a road of today. It was simply a dirt trail.}

"How can that be? How could we run across something that we couldn't walk across?" she asked.

I couldn't answer it then, and I honestly can't answer it today. All I know is - it worked, and by the time we caught up with the hay wagons, they were unloading them at the barn, and Rita and I had just put in about five miles! We were hungry and tired. A heaping helping of Mom's friend potatoes and home-made biscuits was in order!


Wasn't That A Party?

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This story is part of the Pure Coincidence Book Series by Bonnie M. Wells and Starlight Inner-Prizes. All rights are reserved and it cannot be used without permission:

Midi = I Had The Time Of My Life:

Posted: 1-17-05 / BMW

Re-Posted: 8-20-07 / BMW