Monthly Archives: February 2013

Growing Up On The Farm

A a child, Pa liked to play cowboys and indians.

Think about how much technology we use during the day. It’s working even before we wake up. Air conditioning, television, smart phones, computers, and running water; all these are things that the past generations lived without. These technological advances make life easier, but you don’t need them to be happy in life. We see this through the story of Paul Magnin, my grandpa’s, childhood.

Growing up near St. James, a small Missouri town, Paul (or Pa, as I may refer to him) lived on a farm outside of town with his family. They had no TV, no air conditioning, no telephone, and no indoor plumbing. They lived with what we think of today as the bare minimum, but they were happy, nonetheless. It was these aspects that influenced Pa’s childhood, and he wouldn’t have had it any other way.

On a normal school day, Pa and his siblings would wake up early in the morning, do morning farm chores, and walk one mile to their one room schoolhouse. There was one teacher for grades 1st through 8th. The school had only an outhouse. Pa recalled how they would have to hold up one finger if they had to “tinkle” and two fingers if they had to poop. Pa smiled as he recalled how he and his friends would always hold up two fingers, because the teacher wouldn’t always let them go if they held up one.  He spent one year in town school, but didn’t like it. It was from the one room schoolhouse that he had the fondest memories, because it was so unique.

The town school Pa went to for a year.

The town school Pa went to for a year.

Punishments at school were different than they are today. In schools today, teachers aren’t allowed to lay a hand on kids. When Pa was in elementary school, it was expected for children to be spanked on the hand with a ruler if they misbehaved. Pa said it was effective because the sharp pain would get kids to behave immediately. This was important to teachers like Pa’s because they were the only teacher in the school. They needed to spend more time on teaching and less time on punishing. With the development of bigger schools and smaller class sizes, teachers began to use other methods of punishment because they had more one on one time with the students.

In the mornings when they didn’t have school, Pa and his siblings would make PB and J sandwiches and high tail it for the creek. Not only was it cooler by the creek, but if they stayed in the house they would have to do chores. Kids those days were less likely to be cooped up inside since there was no air conditioning and no technology to keep them there. Instead of sitting around by themselves watching TV or playing video games, Pa and his siblings would play in the woods next to the farm and down by the creek, doing things like searching for cow patties and flinging them at each other.They would play war, cowboys and Indians, go looking for tadpoles and frogs, play on their stick horses, and chase headless chickens.

Pa and his siblings would chase headless chickens such as the one in this picture.

Pa and his siblings would chase headless chickens such as this one.

Every Saturday, Pa and his family would drive into town. While the grown ups ran errands, the kids would go to the movie theatre to see a show. Pa and his siblings could get in for a quarter each, and they could each get a Coke for a dime and popcorn for fifteen cents. Once they were in, they could spend all afternoon there. There was always a double feature, cartoons, and Movietone News (The news would be similar to the beginning of “Up,” when Carl is in the movie theaters.)

The atmosphere was different from today, especially in small towns like St. James. Everyone knew everyone, like Mayberry in the “Andy Griffith Show.” People would sit on their porches and talk to everyone who passed by. “Your whole world was right there in the town you lived in; that was your world.” Pa explained. “It was so different than the world today. It wasn’t as worldly, but it was clean.”

“Doing drugs” was stealing one of your dad’s cigarettes and smoking it behind the barn. One time, Pa recalls, his dad caught him trying a cigarette when he was five. His dad said, “So, you wanna smoke.” He then made Pa smoke a pipe until he was sick. Pa didn’t smoke again for 20 years.

Pa tried smoking as a child, only to be caught by his father.

Pa tried smoking as a child, only to be caught by his father.

Pa had a childhood much different than those of children today. He had no television, air conditioning, heating, phones, or running water. He lived without the technology common to today. Yet he had experiences that he could not have gotten anywhere else. Pa’s life was not what we today would call ideal, but he said he wouldn’t have had it any other way.


Magnin, Paul. Personal interview. 24 Nov. 2012
St. Jame’s Public School. 2011. Photograph. St. James. Waymarking. 2011. Web. 2 Dec. 2012. <>.
Headless Chicken. 1945. Photograph. Jay Noel, 2006. Web. 2 Dec. 2012. <>.

Farming: A Lifestyle

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Farming is not an easy profession. It takes much time, effort, and money. Work can often be taxing and strenuous with the farmer spending hours a day on the farm. Results will not come automatically, but the hard work pays off in the long run. Even if farming does not produce much money, it is something you can pour your heart into. This was the case for my grandparents Lee and Jane Kutz.

In November of 1968, Lee and Jane bought a property near Wentworth, Missouri. The original owners were Lee’s grandparents, but they were growing older and could no longer keep up with the all of the work that a farm required. So Lee and Jane began living their lives as farmers.

The original property that my grandparents purchased included about eighty acres of land. One acre is equal to approximately one thousand king-sized beds or four Olympic swimming pools. That is a lot of land! What do they do with all of that land? The majority of it is used for the cattle who stay in one pasture until they eat most of this grass in that  place. Then, they are moved to a new pasture. A few of the fields are reserved for growing hay. My grandparents let the hay grow for most of the year, so that when it is fully grown, they can cut it down and roll it into hay bales. They use the hay bales to feed the cows in the middle of winter when all of the grass dies.

Other animals that they used to raise were pigs and chickens. The pigs were kept in a pigpen, and the few chickens they had were kept in a small chicken house.

Raising all of these animals requires a lot of food, and buying that food costs a lot of money. It cost so much money that they could not stay in business solely on the profit from the farm. Because of this, Lee started an accounting business in Joplin and Jane began working as a high school science teacher at Sarcoxie High School.

As you can imagine, their lives were very busy, juggling three different jobs between the two of them. It couldn’t get much busier than that, right? Wrong. Together they raised 5 children in addition to farming, running an accounting business, and teaching at a high school.  How they managed all those years is amazing. My grandma told me, “It wasn’t easy. Sometimes keeping up with everything seemed impossible. We had to continually remind ourselves to focus on the good things in life, and that if we worked hard, no matter how difficult life got, it would all be worth it in the end.”

Today, my grandparents are still hard at work on their farm. They’ve expanded their land to almost two hundred and fifty acres. Although Jane retired from teaching about three years ago, Lee is still running his accounting business from Monday to Thursday. Every Friday they go fishing together and enjoy the life they’ve made for themselves.

Farming has become more than just a job for my grandparents. It is an essential part of their lives, just as it has with many other farmers. To be devoted to a job that requires so much work, one must truly love what they are doing.


Canning in Southwest Missouri

Canning in SW MO

Estel Stout grew up in southwest Missouri and still resides here. She was raised as a farm girl in a time when it was common for families to have a backyard garden and grow all the produce they ate. While today it’s nothing unusual to make a run to Walmart several times a week, when Estel was growing up, they were lucky to make it to the market once a month.

In Estel’s home, it was a necessity to know how to preserve foods. Canning was the most frequently used method to preserve fruits and vegetables for the harsh winters they endured. As she put it, it was to “make our favorite fruits and veggies available to have during the dead season, winter.”  Canning was also more cost effective, the food was healthier for them, and the food was good for a long time. Estel said, “Oh, our foods, they never went bad. Normally, we’d eat them before the year was up, but I’ve heard that canned foods are good for a very, very long time.”

“The whole purpose of canning our foods was to remove anything that would cause the foods to spoil,” Estel said. Canning is a preserving of harvested food so it can be prepared for later consumption. Making and preserving jam was also very popular. Mason jars were used as food containers and would be boiled in hot water to remove bacteria from the glass. The last step was placing the foods in the jars, wiping the rims, and tightly sealing the jars. Estel and all of her siblings knew how to can. Once the foods were canned, Estel would take them to a little building apart from the house, similar to a small shed, but which led to an underground room. This was the perfect storage compartment because it was dry and cool.

Up until around the second World War, canning was a common practice in every household. During this time period, the refrigerator was invented, and it replaced much of the canning. When Estel was asked when modern technology replaced the old method of canning, she answered, “Oh, I think it was about 1945 when we got our first refrigerator. Momma was a little reluctant to do anything differently. She had canned her entire life!” She added, “The community was a little nervous at first, due to the large change, but it soon became a necessity to everyday life.”

Estel was fond of their old ways of preservation, but was welcoming to new, more efficient ways. “Now, I know that my canning was a great method, but I do think that it was a good thing that the refrigerator came around. Canning worked, but a fridge did a much better job,” she said. “I will admit, canning was a great technique, and provided me with lots of memories as a kid, but technology is takin’ over the world! I think that the new methods are a very positive thing for this area.”

To this day, if someone were to walk out to a little shed in my grandmother’s front yard and open the old, weathered door and walk down the crumbling stone steps, they would find a small room full of old jars that she once used to feed a hungry family through winter months.

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