Over the Back Fence

Reader Contribution by Sam Moore
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Here are a few odds and ends I’ve run across while reading the old books and magazines in my collection.

Pray tell me how would man exist without the cow?
No milk or cream, nor any cheese; no butter for the spuds or peas.
No chocolate sundaes or parfaits; no fish or fowl with hollandaise.
No easy source of calcium, to build the bones and please the tum.
No ice cream cones or cheese fondue, and no Welsh rarebit, pas le tout!
No baby’s formula or bottle, no dishes loved by Aristotle.
No steaming stews with oysters swimmin’; no big strong men or lissome wimmin.
Pray tell how man could live at all – without the cow?

I found the following tongue-in-cheek (I think) story in a 1958 issue of The Farm magazine in a feature titled “Over the Back Fence.”

“I was over at Debbs Craig’s place, who lives a mile from my Johnson grass farm, last night watching television and the type of program got me to thinking. The program was a give-away show and I’ll admit all the winners’ faces glowed with pleasure when they won, in fact they were hysterical, but I have an idea they may not be quite as happy when they find they have to pay income tax on all that loot, especially the stenographer who won a $10,000 mink coat and will have to pay at least $2,000 tax, which is a lot for a coat, even a $10,000 one.

“But what I was thinking about is that there are other ways to make people happy. For example, take the television set at Debbs’ house. He bought it last year during the drouth.

“Crops were burning up, grass was turning brown, ground cracking open.  Debbs had been affected by the drouth. He wasn’t broke – he’s got money in the bank, owns his farm, has a two-year supply of silage in the ground, drives a good car, and got good equipment, but the drouth was getting him down. He’d get up every morning, take a look at the cloudless sky and the baked earth, and shake his head and decide to cut down on expenses even more.

“Then one night in August, we got a rain. It started raining about 11:30 and kept it up off and on all night. As any farmer knows, there’s nothing sweeter-sounding than a rain on the roof after a long dry spell. I thought it was going to be a real drouth-breaker, but actually when I got up about daybreak I noticed my rain gauge showed only an inch and two tenths. Enough to help out, but not nearly enough to break a drouth.

“I emptied my gauge, and then I thought, Debbs is not going to like this. He’ll be up in an hour or so and he’ll head for his gauge, and he’d feel a lot better if he had at least 2-1/2 inches.

“So I took a fruit jar full of water from my well over to his place and in the dawn’s early light added an extra inch and three tenths to his gauge.

“It was one of the nicest, most neighborly things I’ve ever done. Debbs glowed all over when he came out a little later on and saw the two and a half inches registered on his gauge, and he went into town and bought the television set his family had been after him to get, and the one I was looking at last night.

“A man should never get too busy to help his neighbor.”

And I do know what the following is about, as we didn’t get indoor plumbing in our western Pennsylvania farmhouse until I was a high school senior.


As far back in childhood as memory may go, one vessel greets me that wasn’t for show.
Kept ‘neath the bed where no one could see, it served the family with equal privacy.
Some called it “Peg” or “Thundermug,” others called it “The Pot,” and a few “The Jug.”
Bringing it in was a chore, no doubt, but woe betide the one who had to take it out!
Ours was enormous and could accommodate, at least six or seven or eight.
On cold rainy nights ‘twas a most useful urn, on cold winter mornings that rim would burn.
When business was rushing and extra good, each took his turn and did the best he could.
Sometimes in darkness, to our disgust and shame, we fumbled and slightly missed our aim.
The one for company was decorated well, but still had the old familiar smell.
Today I live modern and like it a lot, and yet I regret the passing of the pot.
For often I dream and it gives me a start, how it sweetens my memory and squeezes my heart.

– Sam Moore

A group of Guernsey cows feeding. (Illustration from a 1961 issue of Farm Quarterly magazine in the author’s collection.)

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