Farm life back in the "dirty thirties" wasn't all bad. There were some moments of gaiety and hilarity that made life a little more bearable on my grandparents' farm in northern Kansas.
Grandpa usually had one or more hired hands to help him with his three farms. Ben was often one of them. He was a genial Irishman with dark, curly hair, a bewitching smile and flashing blue eyes. He came from a large Irish family that lived down on Irish Creek. He very nearly classified as a ne’r-do-well. He would work a few months and then disappear for several months, until he ran out of money. He could charm the paper off the wall, make friends with the most vicious dog and quiet a fussy baby --- all with his charm. But he had a definite aversion for anything that resembled hard labor. My cousin Marsh and I adored him and were usually dogging his footsteps everywhere he went Cousin Marsh lived in town but usually spent most all summer on our grandparents’ farm. We were nearly the same age and were more like brothers than cousins.
Grandma also kept someone to help her with the household chores. This particular summer, Annie was helping Grandma. She was a sixteen year old neighbor girl, with reddish blond braids and many freckles. She could be shy and demure, or bold as brass, depending on her mood and the present circumstances. She had a terrible crush on Ben.
After long, hot, dry days during the drought period, the cool of evening was the time for farm chores. Annie sometimes lent a hand, and on this particular evening, she helped Marsh and me gather the eggs. Annie was carrying one basket of eggs while Marsh and I followed, lugging a second basket. Ben had just finished carrying the skim milk back to the barn to feed the baby calves and the pigs. As he rinsed out the milk bucket, he accidentally (on purpose) doused Annie with some cold, milky water. Annie reacted with screams of protest. Ben laughed as he aimed a second shot of cold water her way. Annie's immediate reaction was war-like. She selected an egg from her basket and sailed it at Ben. The first egg missed, so she deposited the basket in front of her and launched a barrage of egg missiles at Ben, as he retreated down the sidewalk towards the kitchen door. Grandma appeared just in time to catch an egg on top of her head. Then she exploded!
"Stop that right now, you two. Those eggs are worth 18 cents a dozen. Now stop it!" That stopped the egg fight, but it didn't end the matter. "Annie, you get yourself inside and out of those wet clothes. Ben, you get a bucket of water and a broom and wash those eggs off the sidewalk --- right now! And you boys bring both those baskets of eggs to the back porch and put them in the egg case. George (that was Grandpa's name, too), you get those milk buckets washed up." Grandma was only about five feet tall and weighed ninety pounds, soaking wet, but she sure knew how to put things in order in a hurry.
Marsh and I were still laughing about the whole thing when Grandpa came in to help us with the eggs. "You boys better be careful not to rile up Grandma any more if you want any supper," he said in a serious voice, but with a twinkle in his eye. "She can be real testy at times."
Annie soon emerged in a clean smock and trudged down the lane to her home a little way down the road. She made a wide detour around Ben, who was cleaning up the mess on the sidewalk. He called to her tauntingly, flashing his infectious smile, "Next time I'll drown you." "You wouldn't dare," shouted Annie, secretly hoping that he would try.
Ben started it, Annie fueled it, Marsh and I enjoyed it, Grandpa tolerated it, but it was Grandma that settled it.
So ended another bit of self-made entertainment in which nobody got hurt or maimed, and that didn't cost very much.