Growing up on a farm meant living in close quarters with various livestock, including cows, horses, goats, turkeys, and feisty roosters. Rural life also meant more interactions with wildlife such as deer, coyotes, and skunk.
Longtime residents of the Cuyahoga Valley have many memories about their adventures with animals on the farm. Listen to the following heartwarming stories about children and their beloved animals, as well as tales of the farm's scariest creatures.
For Carol Haramis, of Heritage Farms, taking care of and exercising horses was never a chore.
We had a huge maple tree that was right outside our kitchen door. And I would climb up the maple tree, probably three-quarters of the way up, and from that spot, you could see the entire farm. And so if Mom needed to get a message to Dad, because of course there were no cell phones then, I’d climb up the tree, find out where Dad was, come back down, saddle up my horse, and I’d ride out to get him. You know, that was always kinda fun because that meant I got to use my horse, you know, at different times. And the fun thing about growing up on a farm was, I mean, it was a different era. You didn’t have to worry about your kids being out by themselves. We’d get up on a Saturday morning and pack our peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich and go hiking in the woods, or get on the horses and go wherever. And the rule was, you were home, washed, in your seat at six o’clock for dinner, and if you’d been out on the horses, you were back in time that the horses were groomed, and they were cooled down and they were fed before you were in your seat.
First Riding Horse
Rena Fiedler, who grew up at Stanford House, talks about how she loved her small riding horse.
And I had all sorts of pets, of course, and Grandpa at one time got me a little riding horse, which was great. We just had great fun with that. Horse was named Ginger, and she was a small horse. I used an English saddle. We just rode all over, everywhere. It was wonderful! ~laughs~
Dogs, Goats, and Pony
Philip Urbank recounts how his dog and goat pulled a homemade cart before he got his first real pony.
And if you look my name up in the dictionary, it says “a lover of horses.” So I kinda got started out early, and I got to likin’ to foolin’ with teams. So we had a cocker spaniel and a pointer dog, and with rags I made up a harness and I used them as a team. And then later on, Mrs. Durr gave me a small goat. And I took and got it so I could lead it. And I made a cart out of baby buggy wheels and an old crate and shafts. And I would lead it up way into the orchard and get in the cart, and the goat would run home. And one evening I just about wiped out one of my dad’s friends. And he says, “Phil, do you want a pony?” And I couldn’t even speak. I never even thought about wantin’ a pony.
I used to play with my neighbor kid, and I went over there one night and I stayed too long and it got dark. I was scared to go home! ~laughs~ We went across a man’s pasture that had the cows in it. It was in the summertime. They was a black cow layin’ in that pasture, and you couldn’t see her ‘til you fell over the top of her—that’s when you’d know she was there. And I started home, and I was runnin’ just as hard as I could run ‘cause I was scared, and this cow was a’layin’ down there and I fell right over the top of her. And when I did, she jumped up. And boy, from then on… The next fence was four foot high and I think I just cleared that when I went over it, I was scared so bad!
Sprayed by a Skunk
Willis Meyers shares stories about running into a cow at night and about being sprayed by a skunk before going to school.
Kids used to like to do trappin’ in the wintertime, you know. I walked cross-lots over there, and on the way over I’d check my traps to see if I caught anything. And this morning I had a skunk. You know what they smell like. I stepped on the trap with my foot to release him out of that trap, and of course I got the smell out of that skunk on my shoe. Well then I went to school, and we got in there, and after the school warmed up a little, the warmer it got the more that skunk was startin’ to stink. The teacher, she was tryin’ to find out who it was, you know. It was me, but I was the only one that knowed it. She’d walk around the room, you know, sniffin’, ~laughs~ tryin’ to find out who had that skunk on ‘em. The kid in the seat next me, she kept a’gettin’ in close to him, and close to him, and she finally decide it was him. ~laughs~ She made him get up and sit in the hall the whole rest of the day. And it was me. ~laughs~
Chickens in a Tree
Pat Morse, who grew up across from Hale Farm, remember encountering a scary rooster, searching for eggs, and cleaning up after roosting chickens.
Now, the ideal thing is to have free range chickens? Well, the Wilson’s chickens were strictly free range. ~laughs~ And our biggest sport with the chickens was to find the eggs. They laid ‘em all over. And we’d crawl under the barn and all over the place, looking for eggs, and then we’d have an egg fight because—well, the boys were always throwing it at the girls. ~laughs~ So that, we thought, was great sport.
One time—which was, as I look back, was absolute stupidity but—as kids there were quite a few of us, and we decided we wanted this one tree. It was small enough that we could climb it but it was good in size. I should say, the limbs were low. Well, the chickens roosted in that tree. So our job was to clean up after the chickens. ~laughs~ Nobody else did, so we wanted that for our tree. So we cleaned up. ~laughs~ Kids today wouldn’t even give that a second look. They’d run the other way. ~laughs~
In the yard, oh gosh – My favorite thing was to go next door to the twelve kids next door, and the barn was between the two houses, and there was a mean rooster in there! ~laughs~ And he was really mean! He’d attack you with his sharp beak. And one time I didn’t go out to the road—we’d usually go out to the road to get around the rooster. One time I did not go out there. I thought, “I’m not afraid of that rooster.” Well, he came a’chasing me, and chased me in the barn and I was against the wall. I knew I was gonna die! I just knew I was gonna die! ~laughs~ And Don Wilson came along, and he said, “Oh no! That rooster!” And he slung it clear across the hay mow and he saved my life! ~laughs~ I just thought he was the greatest in the world. ~laughs~