Growing Up In Missouri


Linda Rasmussen grew up on a farm in Missouri. She lived in McDonald County until 1958, when her parents bought the property east of Neosho, where she still lives today. It is where the old county “poor farm” used to be, but it was just a normal farm when Linda and her family moved there. Before America had welfare, individual counties had a “poor farm” and were  saddled with the cost of providing care for their poor, their elderly, and many of those with mental illnesses. There is a cemetery in the field of what was once the “poor farm,” but there are no gravestones. Several outbuildings are still on the property.

The “poor farm” used to consist of a twenty-five-room house that was built on the property in the late 1800s. The farm closed around 1950 or 1951, and the house was later torn down. Linda’s father then built the house where she and her family lived. As a kid growing up on the property, Linda always had something to explore.

Even though Linda grew up on a farm, she wasn’t much of a farm girl. Her dad, Dewey, did most of the work. She says that when she helped she mostly got in the way and slowed down his routine. Linda’s favorite thing about living on a farm was the summer haying weather. She got to watch the teenage boys that were on hay hauling crews as they put the hay up into the barn. Besides raising hay, the family also raised cattle on the farm. It wasn’t like today’s big dairy farm operations, but her father did have automatic milkers. The cows had to be milked twice daily. The milkman came daily or every other day and took the cans of milk off for processing. One cow thought that she was a pet–her name was Pansy–and she would follow Dewey everywhere he went. Pansy would even let kids ride her. Linda didn’t really like chickens, but she had a pet chicken named Penny.
When Linda was about six or seven she would go down to the wash-house. She didn’t do much at the wash house, but she liked going down there because she got to hang out with other kids her age. One time in particular, she went down in her little brown coat and matching hat. She was playing outside with some other children when a rooster came running at her. The rooster attacked her and pecked her in the head over and over again. He knocked her little brown hat right off. Some parents came out to see what all the screaming was about, and a man kicked the rooster off of my grandmother. A women scooped her up and rushed her into the house. Linda still remembers lying in her mother’s lap, her blood dripping into the Enamelware dishpan, like it was yesterday. It was a bad day for Linda, but it was also a bad day for the rooster. For dinner that night the family had a big pot of fresh rooster and dumplings.
Linda sewed a lot of her own clothes. She learned to sew at a very early age and was very good at it. She made most of her clothes, as did many girls.  During the mid 60s, “pegged” leg jeans were the style. They are what we would call “skinny jeans.” Even though they didn’t have skinny jeans like we do today, they had to peg their jeans on the sides to make them so skinny they could barely pull them on. To make the jeans even more skinny, they would sit in a bathtub full of water to get them wet, then they would get out and let them dry on their bodies. Linda had it down to a science, and she used to be known for having the skinniest jeans in school.

Linda had two brothers. Since she was the only girl, she wasn’t expected to do as much work as the boys. Although she didn’t do as much farm work, she still learned how to work and she learned morals. She knows the sacrifices that her parents made for the family. Unlike many of the youth today, she was taught that food doesn’t magically appear on the shelves of Wal-Mart. Linda was taught that we need to be grateful for farmers.

When Linda was growing up, most kids didn’t have their own car and didn’t expect one. They drove their parents’ cars. A lot of the boys had jobs working on farms, grocery stores, and feed stores. A few girls had babysitting jobs, but most didn’t work. Linda was never allowed to work when she was younger: “I suppose that was a means of control, but mostly it was due to a high school girl named Cathy. She worked as a carhop at a hamburger joint and my dad said I wasn’t going to work at a place like that and get the reputation she had with boys.” Linda got her first job when she was older, during the summer between her Junior and Senior year. She babysat two boys for $20.00 a week.

Today is a lot different from when Linda grew up. They didn’t have cell phones. In fact, almost everyone had party line home phones. That means they had to share the telephone line with several of their neighbors. They would pick up the phone to use it and someone might already be on it. Or they’d be talking to their friend and the nosey, grumpy old neighbor down the road would either listen in on their conversation or tell them to get off. They didn’t have computers either. People heard rumors about computers as big as a house, owned by government entities, and how they would take over the world. Computers were something to fear. The first television that Linda’s family bought was black and white only. The family didn’t have colored televisions until Linda was in junior high. When she was really young and living in Pineville, they only had two stations. They got ABC and NBC, and that’s if they were lucky!

Microwave ovens were something that no one could have ever imagined. “To be able to cook a baked potato in a matter of a few minutes… impossible!” She didn’t grow up with air conditioning, either. The family got their first window air conditioner when Linda was in high school. Dishwashers were new, too. Linda was the dishwasher until she was in high school when the family got their first real dishwasher. She still had to pre-wash everything before putting it in the dishwasher. Growing up, they had metal ice trays. The kind that had a lever that they had to pull to break the ice into cubes. Linda hated those metal ice trays. “Sometimes, if your fingers were at all wet when you were trying to get the ice out, your fingers would stick to the metal and it hurt!” Ice was something that they pretty much rationed. “I’m sure there’s some other things that I didn’t have growing up that I have now, but I wouldn’t trade the era in which I grew up for anything!” declares Linda.

Linda grew up right here in Missouri on a farm in Neosho, the only girl of three kids. Even though she wasn’t much of a farm girl, she still learned good farm work ethics. The times are a lot different now than when Linda grew up. Her childhood was very interesting, and she said she wouldn’t trade it for the world. My grandmother loved growing up in Missouri in the ‘50s and the ‘60s.

One Response to Growing Up In Missouri

  1. Diane Dillinger says:

    Loved your story. It contained a very interesting mix of fact and personal stories about Linda – the poor house, the rooster, the “skinny jeans” and more. Thanks for some excellent research and great storytelling!

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