What Work Does for Kids

Mother’s Day has come and gone for another year and for mothers of young children, it’s back to work to get the kids to work. Teaching kids how to work is one of the most valuable things our kids can learn. Every Mother’s Day my gratitude turns to the mothers in our family, our daughters and daughters-in-law who are tackling the hardest job known to mothers…getting kids to get up every morning and expecting them to get things done!

My heart also turns to my own Mother, Hazel Clark Jacobson, who was especially good at work because it was part of her fiber as a child. This noble woman was born in 1905, the third child of ten children who lived on a big farm in Star Valley, Wyoming. Then the world of work for children was almost unfathomable in the context of what our kids do today. My mother was full of life and learned so much from her childhood experiences of hard work mixed with play that was fun and free. Recently I found a document that I had typed years ago from her handwritten journal that I want to share with you.

As you read you will find that she was a delightful writer. She recorded these beautiful entertaining and amazing stories about her childhood (from about ages five to thirteen) having no notion in her wildest dreams that her progeny would spend much of their time staring at a computer. Still, I love that her genes flow in all our veins and her children and grandchildren have learned the value of hard work…in their own way.  I love that she underlined the last sentence because she realized the great value of what she learned as a child in her later life. She became a truly remarkable woman! The next time you have a hard time getting your child to empty the dishwasher, you might want to refer them to the stories below: 

I was born at Freedom, Wyoming October 13, 1905 so they tell me, but I remember the four room house we lived in when we still belonged to the Freedom Ward.  One of the earliest things I can remember is working in the fields with Hilda and Wilford, disking (this was a machine to plant wheat and barley with little round metal disks attached to an iron machine). Our dad built a box on the disk and we stood up in it driving the horses. Hilda was 8, Wilford 6 and I was 5.  That’s what they said anyway.  WE drove the horses round and round the field.  Our chins just fit over the top of the box. 

 Another thing I remember well…Mother left Florence and I home to do the work.  We hated cleaning up that dirty house.  We had an argument about who should do what.  We got so mad that I slapped her hard right in the face.  She slapped me just as hard right back and at that we went right into the house madder than two hornets and flew into the work.  In about 45 minutes to an hour we were all done.  We came outside about the same time, one from the front door and one from the back.  We met by the side of the house and had such a good feeling realizing it was all done that we ran into each other’s arms. She was 8. I was 9. 

 We always worked hard.  Coming in from the hay field at noon we would ask our dad is we could run down to the canal ¼ of a mile away for a swim and he would say, “yes, if you can do that, eat dinner and get the horses ready to go in one hour.”  That was easy so away we ran.  In this same canal during irrigation times we would catch white fish. When the headgate was shut off, there was quite a deep gully in front of it filled with fish.  I remember Florence suggested we wade in and catch them with our hands.  I didn’t want those slimy things around my legs, but she went in first and I didn’t want her being braver than me.  Quite a sport, once we got into it.  We caught 40 and cleaned them and took them home to Mother.  She was very glad to have something different for dinner.  We were 9 and 10 then.

We were herding cows one day.  I told Florence to get up on the fence and I came along on the horse behind the saddle and told her to get on.  She started to get into the saddle thinking that it was strange to get that privilege, but I said, “No get behind me,” which she did.  The little pony didn’t like that.  She started bucking very hard.  Florence had her arms around me holding tight to the saddle, but I yanked them loose so I could get into the saddle so the pony would stop bucking and of course she fell off.  Such a smart trick!  Didn’t hurt her much, but could have.  We were always working in the fields or herding cows or milking them.  But there were a lot of us and we had many good laughs and some bad times in the process. 

 Going back a little to our 4 room house…as our family grew there wasn’t room for all of us.  So Dad built a stair on the outside so we could get up to the loft, as we called it, to sleep.  Later he built 2 rooms on the top of the cellar.  We thought that was the greatest yet and to this day I think of the nice smell of new boards and the feeling of sleeping there with my sisters away from everybody.  One night (we didn’t have light out there) as I was stepping in the door into the darkened room a big tom cat came out of there so fast he nearly knocked me down.  That was the worst scare I ever had up to that time.  We had a nice board walk from our house out to the pump house as we called it.  One night Walter lay down by the side of the walk and grabbed my foot as I walked by.  I screamed as I thought the devil had me for sure!  He had to grab hold of me and reassure me it was just my brother before I could stop screaming.  In the summer time we slept on the hay stacks in the barn or in the field.  Really was great fun!

 Florence and I were leveling in a beautiful field.  I guess we played quite a bit because we didn’t get done before dark one day.  Suddenly we looked up and saw two young coyotes and their mother playing about 50 feet from us.  We quickly jumped on our horses expecting them to attack us.  Just as we did so, here came Wilford on a young colt he had been breaking.  As usual we got scolded for not getting done faster and then Dad came and we all went home.  Wilford chased the coyotes on his horse but as soon as he stopped so did they

 I used to go with Wilford everywhere.  When I was about 13 and he 15 we went to get the cows after dark, as usual, up in the hills about two miles above our place.  In those trees after dark was no place to be really.  Every time a twig snapped my heart flipped.  To be close to Wilford was OK but he said, “You go that way and I’ll go around this way.  It will be a quicker way to get them rounded up.”   I thought that was the end of the world for me.  I said “OK” and went.  He was never going to brand me a coward.  I was really surprised when we came out alive.  The walk home in the open behind the cows and close by Wilford in the dark was like icing on the cake.

 We went to school by crossing two slews and a river on horses….summer and winter.  Hilda, Wilford and I rode this little trusty pony.  We were nine and a half, seven and a half and six years old.  When we went through the deep waters of the river, especially in the spring we held each other’s feet up so we wouldn’t get wet.  In the winter we chopped the ice so the horses would dare to go in the water.  Wilford dropped his ice skates in on morning.  We tried to fish them out but couldn’t so we left them there until night.

 All this happened when we went to Freedom, Idaho in a one room school, all eight grades.  Later we went to Etna, Wyoming.  Then we traveled in a buggy in the nice weather and in a little two runner sleight with a cover over the top in the winter.  While we were going to this school our happiest time were playing ball at recess and noon.  Also we used to go across the road and play basketball all the time, every free minute.  It tried to get other girls to go but none of them would so  I went alone with all the boys.  I would go after that ball like a tiger…fall on my knees and slide into it to get it first so my knees and all around my knees were black and blue all the time.  But I never noticed that very much….just went at it again.

 One other thing I remember while going to that school there was a big bully who was after Wilford all the time.  He would lay for him after school and we were afraid to go home.  He was in the 8th grade and Wilford was in the 6th.  Anyway, Wilford said to me, “He’s got a big ring on his finger with the set out…he said he was going to make me bleed with that.”  Wilford told me if he ever tacked him that I should run up behind him and grab him by the hair and pull him over backwards.  Then he would pound him good.  Sure enough, it happened right up town.  Before I could collect my wits he had beaten Wilford right in the face and it was all bloody.  He was sitting on top of him just going after it.  I ran at him from the front and crashed into him.  And said, “Get off of him you big bully!”  I guess he was done anyway, but it ended there.

 One day when we were living in our new house we thought the house was on fire.  Hilda said, “Jump on a horse and go get papa!”  I did and did I ever travel. The horse jumped the canal and why I didn’t land in the middle is beyond me.  But I came back with the men.  It was the soot that was on fire in the chimney but papa said it was a good thing we got them there because it could have gotten the house.

 I think I must have been about ten when one Saturday night my parents suddenly realized that I didn’t have any shoes for church the next day. (We did go barefooted a lot).  So they sent me to the Freedom store to get some on a horse after dark.  I can still hear the clomp clomp plop plop of this trusty old horses’ hooves as he lumbered along….walked all the way….You’d have thought they’d have sent someone along with me wouldn’t you? Every post and all the bushes of sagebrush looked like some big animal ready to jump out at me. It was two and a half miles.  Round trip five miles of course.  Oh you do so many things you just don’t want to do when there is a big family and everyone is busy doing some other thing.

 One day Dad told me to take his sweep rake up to this field to buck some hay. In order to get into the field, I had to go along this route with the fence on one side and a deep gully on the other side.  I had two trusty Belgian mares.  As I went along I could see that we barely could make it…the spread between horses being about 20-25 feet.  No possible way to crowd in any farther.  As I was going along and holding my breath, I thought to myself, “I wonder if Papa has been up here and measured the distance between the fence and the deep ravine, as he seemed so sure I could make it.  I’m still wondering.  Then when I got to the gate I was supposed to undo one horse from the sweep and rake and swing her around to pull the rake sideways thru the gate keeping a light reign on the other mare so she would come sideways.  Made it!  Now that was a sample of many many nearly impossible things we all did all the time. But when you master the seemingly impossible it does something for you that fits into your very character for a life time and makes the next impossible thing seem that much easier.

Food for thought!


Leave a comment

DeseretNews.com encourages a civil dialogue among its readers. We welcome your thoughtful comments.