I’m positive that I have told before that my cousin Walt and I farmed together and for five years we batched together also. From the time we had our drivers licenses forward we spent almost all our time together either farming or when the chance would come about we would batch in his parent’s farm home. They lived in Cincinnati and stayed almost all of their time at that home. In the summer when school was out they would move to the farm house that was on the farm next to ours and for a short time I would have neighbors.
Once we were driving and when his parents didn’t come up to the farm we would occupy it and enjoyed having an unchaperoned weekend. This meant we could eat what we wanted and stay up as late as we wanted etc… There really isn’t a better feeling than to make your own decisions and call your own shots. Especially when you are sixteen. Looking back now I realize we really didn’t have big decisions or shots to make. So what we did wasn’t monumental to a parent for the most part, but thought it was.
By the time we both graduated high school and had decided to put together a plan to expand the farming size where we both could make a living out of it. I graduated in May and Walt graduated in June. So the day after he graduated he loaded up the green pickup truck he had bought and moved to the farm with the plans to never return to Cincinnati to live. As we began moving his clothes and some pieces of furniture into the house Walt smiled and ask me if I wanted to see his graduation present from his parents? Of course I did and he pulled a blanked off of a brand new stereo! It was the best one money could get at that time and for two teenagers a gift that would be used almost continuously.
Here is where I need to point out one item that neither of us had moved into the house with them. That was our parents! Yep we had a large farm house fully furnished and equipped to not only house the two of us but also it was designed to hold many friends and even if they might happen to show up all at once would accommodate them. It is safe to say the word spread around Felicity that the Houser cousins had a house all to their selves and they were accepting company. This was huge news to the guys our age as there wasn’t really anywhere to gather except the pool halls. Also at that age staying up late and still going to work early were still easy to do. (That changes with age you know?)
We both enjoyed having lots of guys come to the farm and hang out. This meant after a long day in the fields we didn’t have to drive to get where the gang was at. We also got to approve or disapprove the events that would take place. Since my parents lived approximately five hundred yards away some volume control was needed. Since we had the stereo playing all the time and we played it loudly of course, we muffled some of the noise. Most folks would show up about dark and head for home by midnight as there was work to do the next day. Some of the guys however had yet to land employment and seemed to be in no rush to find a job, wanted to stay later. We would discourage this but sometimes I have seen my cousin turn most of the lights out and head towards his bedroom. He would stop at the door and tell the guests that when they left to please turn off the lights and lock the door when they left? To my surprise this would work almost every time. For some we would have hay to bale or tobacco to put into the barn and we could really use their help. Rarely did anyone stay as it was known that we did hit the fields early and we wouldn’t make them an exception as to getting to sleep late.
Two things we had to keep an eye on were that his parents could show up unannounced or my parents could stop by also. So we had to make sure we had the place in what we felt was a clean and tidy home. (You do understand that we didn’t really know the true meaning of tidy don’t you?) The other thing was Walt’s’ grand pa who was my great uncle Roy. No matter how hard we tried to keep the house locked up tight we have awoke to see him setting on the couch staring at us with a full load of questions to ask and if some of the guys did stay he also wanted to know just who are they? We were loving the arrangement of having the house and didn’t want to have it jeopardized where they felt the need to take it away from us.
Before the first summer was over the gang knew the directions down Fruit Ridge Road to what was fondly known as Walt’s’ place. It got to the point where our group would meet at the farm and make plans for coming events that might be there or elsewhere. Eventually we settled that on Monday nights we held a poker game. There was between six to eight that made up this gathering. The stakes were high. A nickel to put into the pot and raises had to be minimum of a nickel and no higher than a dime. It is safe to say nobody left wealthy but we had a lot of fun. We could gamble and cuss or just talk loudly or even tell dirty jokes. Yes, these were great times once we removed the parents from the crowd. (Real party-poopers they were!)
We did live in a time when this country was in a very turbulent way. Between the changes in our culture, a very unwanted war, civil rights and the distrust of the establishment were buzzing all around us. However down on Fruit Ridge Road little if any of this was spoke of. We just enjoyed the simple freedom and our first taste of being an adult. Folks I am here to tell you that first taste tasted pretty good!
Rick Houser grew up on a farm near Moscow in Clermont County and loves to share stories about his youth and other topics. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.