The Musings of A Simple Country Man
By Hobie Morris
(Brookfield, NY – March 2013) This community recently paid tribute to the life and times of Helen Owens—a farmer’s wife. Helen was a widely loved farmer’s wife for most of her adult life. With a courageous and indomitable will and spirit she lived on into her 95th year. When the time came she quietly left her farm house and passed through the Pearly Gates into her long anticipated Heavenly home.
Helen’s long life began at the end of World War I. She grew to young adulthood in the “Roaring 20’s” and the somber and painful years of the greatest depression in American History. In 1938 she married a handsome Welshman named Azor, a union that would last over seven decades with three handsome, gifted children, many grandchildren and great grandchildren.
Azor and Helen (and later their son Dennis) farmed often unforgiving hills several miles west of the village of Brookfield. In all these years of daily toil there were cycles of good times, and hard, rivers of tears of sadness and those of incredible highs of almost magical joys. The years seemed to all too rapidly roll on with the unexplainable and mysterious arrival of new bodily aches and pains. They were slipping into old age. But neither Azor nor Helen ever faltered but doggedly pushed on in the great tradition of the toilers of the soil. “Quit” has never been a word in their family’s dictionary.
Indeed Helen’s roots grew deep and strong in the soil of this community and nation; first planted on the fringes of the East Coast in the early 17th Century. Her ancestors didn’t understand the meaning of giving up either. Both Helen and Azor possessed an unquenchable thirst for history. The life and times of many generations were carefully recorded in stories and an abundance of printed and pictorial memorabilia. A treasure trove of information they loved to share with others.
Helen (and Azor) took the time to love deeply and were widely loved in turn. Despite the incessant work of a farmer’s wife, Helen enjoyed all the fascinating delights in abundance that the seasons presented to one attuned to their surroundings; delights that have no price tag.
This simple country man has the greatest admiration for women like Helen Owens and all the women and wives whose menfolk depend of them in countless vital ways. As it’s been in the past, so it will be in the future.
Helen’s generation of farm wives, sadly, will soon all be gone. Only memories will remain to remind us of their prodigious work ethic before and in some cases during the transition years between hand and horse power to REA electric and increasing mechanization.
What must it have been like: hand pumps, privy, slop buckets, freezing nights, coal oil lamps, wash tubs, kitchen ranges with reservoirs, ice for refrigeration, washing, ironing, dusting, pushing brooms or sweepers, cooking, pumping, dumping, serving, mending, canning, toting coal, firewood, hand milking, straining milk, churning, filling lamps, trimming wicks, cleaning smoked chimneys, tending babies in arms–finding time to meet visitors, go to church–and this is just the tip of their daily effort! Amazing to try to comprehend, isn’t it, in 2013?
And they did all this—and much more—in quiet, unassuming ways. They needed no accolades, just a simple “thanks,” a peck on the cheek for a job they knew they did well—for the benefit of all.
Thank you Helen for being all you were. A remarkable lady of an exalted generation of farmers’ wives. Bon Voyage from a simple country man—and may we never forget all you meant.
Hobie Morris is a Brookfield resident and simple country man.