The Mud Bowl

One sunny day in July, we were out in the field with our boys, weeding. Jim, who was ten years old at the time, turned to his dad and asked, “What day can I have for my summer holidays?”
In farming, good weather is almost always accompanied by hard work. You really do have to make hay while the sun shines, as the saying goes. Since we didn’t have much hired help back then, we couldn’t afford to waste time. So when we did get a good rain, it was cause for both celebration and relaxation.

While the city folks sat inside lamenting all their spoiled fun, we thought about our thirsty crops. Rain is a make-or-break proposition for farmers. If, as the legend goes, the Inuit have twenty different words for snow, farmers have almost as many names for rain. There’s drizzle, soaking rain, pounding rain, and the highly coveted three-day-soaker, to name just a few.
Anytime the right kind of rain came at just the right time, Ted would gaze out of the window and say, “That’s a million dollar rain.” He wasn’t just thinking about our place, but about all the farms in our area.

A good rain was our signal for an impromptu holiday. Since there was no work we could do out there in the muck, we gave ourselves permission to take a break and have fun.

When the boys were young and the first truly rainy morning came along each summer, I’d turn to them and say, “Hey boys, it’s your birthday today!” Now Bill’s real birthday is in August and Jim’s is in early October, both very hectic times on our farm. It’s not that they didn’t know the truth. As far as they were concerned, though, their birthdays were on the same day. They never asked, “How come you didn’t say yesterday that tomorrow was our birthday?” or “Why does it always rain on our birthday?” They just accepted the arrangement.

We’d have an instant party. I’d whip together a cake, and they’d invite their friends from down the road. If my mom and dad had time, they’d come out and join the celebration.

I used the same strategy with the annual Klondike Days festival in Edmonton. If the weather was sunny all that week, we wouldn’t get the chance to go to the Exhibition. However, there was almost always at least one wonderfully rainy day. We’d put on our rubber boots and raincoats, and off we’d go. With practically the entire fairgrounds to ourselves, we’d have an absolute ball.

I remember one rainy afternoon when the boys were quite a bit older. A downpour turned a summer fallow field into a sea of mud. The boys had a brilliant idea. They called up their football buddies from high school and a whole crowd came over. Out they went, into the field. Although they started out playing an actual game, it quickly dissolved into chaos. The boys were slipping and sliding all over the place, tackling each other and diving face-first to make spectacular catches. I’ve never heard so much whooping and laughing in all my life. When it was over, we actually had to hose them all down. The “Mud Bowl” remains a neighbourhood legend to this day.

Yes, rainy days certainly provided us with some of our best times and fondest memories on the farm. Maybe that’s why I still enjoy splashing through a mud puddle now and then.

-Lois Hole I'll Never Marry A Farmer