Despite the fact that my father, Verne Troutman, and his siblings learned to work on the farm at a young age, they had plenty of fun times. And even work could be full of fun—or at least, full of mischief.
The children were not above playing tricks on their mother. Verne recalls, “When I and Carl were real small about 4 or 5, Mother sent us to the cob house to get cobs for the cook stove to burn. Carl layed down in the cobs and told me he was going to die. I went back in the house, so mother said, and told her Carl died and like to scared her to death. She ran to the cob house and Carl was laying there pretending dead.”1 Mary was none too happy about that. I wonder if the boys got spanked? Like typical children, they argued about who would do the dishes, but the water fights were the most fun. They ran around the house with containers filled with water and tried to throw it on each other.2
Most of their play times were outdoors. Verne’s “favorite toys were a bike, a sled, and a wagon.”3 The Troutman kids also created makeshift toys from whatever they found lying around on the farm. Verne recalls, “We had an old horse buggy that we stripped down and would coast down hills on it.” Also, “we made swings out of rope hung in a tree. . . . I never had any roller skates or ice skates, but we skated on the pond without skates.”4 Who needs skates, after all? Just slide with your boots. “In the summer,” Neville recalls, “I would wade in the water in the ditches after a rain. We had play houses. We marked them off in the grove, and when the corn cribs were empty we had them there.”5 Anything can be made into a play house if your imagination allows it.
The children also never lacked for pets. They always had family dogs and cats and horses. The animals were part and parcel of a farm. The cats lived in the barn and kept the rodent population down. One or two cats might have been tamed to hang about the house, but Mary never would have allowed cats or dogs in the house. Neville and her cousin Wilma sometimes dressed the cats in clothes.6 Dogs assisted in hunting and farm work. Neville recalls, “We always had a dog that slept under the porch. The cats lived in the barn. The best pet we ever had was a light yellow dog named Rover. . . . I fed him scraps from the table. . . . We also had a dog named Rex. He was more like a police dog. We would go out on the porch, Carl could yodel and Rex would howl. . . . . We had a pony named Brownie. He was very smart. He would stop short and we would fly off over his head. He could unlock gates and let the horses out. We also had a canary in a cage. Carl let it out and it died.”7 Verne loved his dogs, but horses were his favorites. Around age ten, he and his friend Richard Moses began their horse back riding adventures together.8
|Verne, age 15, and Brownie, 1929.|
At these gatherings or during recess at school the children organized themselves to play games. Verne recalls, “Games we played included pump pump pull away, fox and goose in the snow, hide and seek, and ring around the rosie.”10
Virginia explaines the games in more detail:
Hide and Seek. During recess “there weren’t a lot of places to hide of course behind the school house, the outdoor toilets, the wood and cob or coal shed, the little barn for riding horses (some children rode to school) and a big boxelder tree.”
Anti Over. “The children were divided into sides. Side 1 was given a ball. The game began when one of the big boys or girls, or the teacher, would attempt to throw the ball over the roof of the school. When the ball was thrown, everyone on side 1 would yell, “Anti Over” to alert the team on the other side to watch for the ball. If the ball didn’t make it over the roof to the other side, everyone called out “Pig Tail.” When the ball was thrown over and caught by someone on the team of side 2, half of the team went one way around the school house and half the other way. The person with the ball tagged as many as he could that were on side 1. Those students then became a part of side 2. The game continued until all students were on one side or until recess was over. Our teacher often played this game with us.
Pom, Pom Pull Away. “The object was to run from the first base to the second base without getting caught by ‘It’ when he called “Pom, pom, pull-away, if you don’t come, I’ll pull you away.” Those tagged joined ‘It’ in the next shout and chase.”
New Orleans. “Side 1 decided what activity they would pantomime (churning butter, milking cows, frying pancakes, petting a dog, etc.,) and moved to the center . . . shouting: ‘Here we come.’
Side 2 moved to the center also and replied: ‘Where are you from?’
Side 1: ‘New Orleans.’
Side 2: ‘What’s your trade?’
Side 1: ‘Ice cream and lemonade.’
Side 2: ‘Get to work and show us some if you’re not afraid.’
At that time side 1 would begin their pantomime, and side 2 would try to guess it. If they guessed correctly, side 1 ran for their base, and all who were tagged joined side 2. If side 2 could not guess, they ‘gave up,’ and side 1 began again with a new pantomime.”
Shinny. “This was a (sometimes rough) game played by the older boys. Each player would search the groves or orchard for a branch that curved like a hockey stick. Both teams would have a home base and a lead-off man. In the center of the playing field, the two leads stood facing each other with the puck (a piece of wood or a tin can) between them. On the “one” and “two” they raised and clicked their sticks together. On “three,” each attempted to get the puck to his players so they could score (much like hockey).”11
1 Verne Troutman, “Grandpa Verne’s Story,” edited by Z. T. Noble, computer files, “Dad’s Story2.”
2 Neville Troutman, “Neville’s Memory Book with Virginia’s Memories of Country School,” compiled by Sharon Lamson, Troutman Family Newsletter: This One’s a Keeper!, 1998.
3 Verne Troutman, “Grandpa Verne’s Story.”
5 Neville Troutman, “Neville’s Memory Book.”
8Verne Troutman, “Grandpa Verne’s Story.”
11 Virginia Nelsen, “Virginia Remembers Country School,” Troutman Family Newsletter: This One’s a Keeper!, 1998, Troutman: Family Newsletters and Other Historical Info, binder, privately held, Z. T. Noble [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE] Anderson, Indiana, 2016.