The Good Farm Wife

Reader Contribution by Sam Moore
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Sam Moore

In a 1955 issue of a farm magazine in my collection is an article by R.J. McGinnis titled, “The Farmer Takes a Wife,” from which I quote:

“When a farmer buys a cow he looks at her long and carefully, goes over her point by point and weighs his pocketbook against her virtues and her faults. He should be no less
calculating when he takes a wife. A young farmer should keep in mind that he will rise or fall on his choice of a wife.

“This flint-hearted approach to choosing a wife will appear to many, especially the female sex, as saying that a wife should be regarded as a piece of farm equipment. That is quite right. We’re going to be realistic about this and not let love or sentiment becloud the issue. Few farmers can afford love these days.

“Most farmers use very slipshod methods in picking a wife. The (young) farmer falls victim to a moonlit night, or a dulcet voice, or a sniff of perfume, never (thinking) whether the creature in his arms can strip a cow dry or lift the back end of a wagon. Farmers don’t usually fall in love with the deep bosomed, wide hipped, somewhat unimaginative women who make the best farm wives; instead they fall for the perfumed butterfly, marry her, and slowly repent.

“If the farmer should happen to marry the right kind of girl, love will likely come along, in the field while she is pitching hay up to him, or in the barn when she whacks Daisy for stepping on her foot. If love doesn’t come along, so much the better; his life will be much simpler without it. He’ll have companionship and a helpmate, and what more could a serious farmer want?

“Here are the qualifications for the wife of an ambitious young farmer:

  1. She should be sound of wind and limb, her legs sturdy, and her hands wide and strong.
  2. She should be fastidious about her person, but shouldn’t be disturbed by muddy boots in her kitchen, nor the dogs sleeping under the stove. She shouldn’t mind the breeze from a trench silo wafting into the house, nor the continuous parade of new-born pigs and lambs in bushel baskets by the kitchen stove.
  3. She should be farm reared so she won’t be shocked by little things, like finding a dead cat in the cistern or wheat chaff in the bed. She’ll take such things in stride and she’ll know how to do things. It takes a woman a long time to learn how to get her weight properly under a bale of hay.
  4. She shouldn’t have too much education, which is as dangerous as too little. If she goes to college, she’ll read books and learn how the other half lives, and she’ll likely not be satisfied with life on the farm, always wanting mink stoles and a new Olds 98.
  5. She must like and understand animals, and be willing to pamper them and work all night long during lambing and farrowing time. She shouldn’t be afraid of a bull or a mouse.
  6. She should love to cook and her greatest joy should be in loading down the table with food and then watching it disappear under the attack of her husband and the hands. She should be thrifty, filling the cellar with canned goods and the deep freeze with fryers, strawberries and corn on the cob.
  7. She should like being alone. If she is shy and doesn’t like people, so much the better. She won’t pine for the gay crowds, the tinkle of glasses and the sounds of empty laughter.
  8. She should be able to bear fine, large, husky sons who can handle a tractor at ten and level off silage at twelve.
  9. She should be willing to give up her egg money to help pay the mortgage or (buy) a new corn picker. She may have had her heart set on a new washing machine, but a corn picker brings in cash while a washer doesn’t.

“These women are as hard to find as a good five-cent cigar. They just aren’t turning them out on farms any more, for the farmer’s daughter isn’t what she used to be. Once she gets into high school, she becomes a drum majorette, or her calf takes first place at the county fair and she has delusions of grandeur, which spoils her for a good wife. If one can be captured young enough, she can sometimes be made over by a man who is patient and strong. Once in a while, a good woman comes from the Future Homemaker ranks, and there are rare cases where one is born and nothing can change her. Lucky is the man who finds one of these rare flowers.”

OK, before my female readers are all as mad as wet hens (heh, heh), I submit that the original article was written tongue-in-cheek and my quoting parts of it are in the same vein. Mr. McGinnis ends his piece by praising “the ordinary farm girl who takes her calf to the county fair and gets a blue ribbon, goes to college and dates the boy on the next farm.

“They go to dances, eat hotdogs and drink Cokes and, on some moonlit night, he pops the  question. They both know the score – hard work, babies, self-denial until a start is made, and having each other and laughing and having fun and a full life because they both want their own farm. These folks make farming the nation’s greatest industry, have the sons and daughters who staff the professions and trades, pay the taxes and fight the wars. God bless ’em!”

Happy Valentine’s Day, Ladies!

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