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submitted by Gene Hanselman
Member #135067, Chapter OH-B

Growing up as a young boy in the Midwest states on a farm with German descendants meant hard work, long hours, few friends and high parental expectations. It also meant intense activities and religious holiday extravaganzas. New Years, Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations meant surprises, food and family togetherness.

January 1st was just another day of work and chores on the farm. Usually it was the cold and wind that caused any and all problems. We had to make sure all the animals had food, water and plenty of straw for warmth and cover. Our family lunch menu consisted of roast pork, bar-b-q ribs with sauerkraut and mashed potatoes. I was fortunate if I got to watch the parades and bowl games until chore time came. At least we stayed at home and did not have to hustle around to go somewhere.

Easter Sunday was anything but a day of rest. Dad and I were up and in the barn milking at least 40 head of Holsteins by 5:00 am. That meant I had to be up by 4:00 am, saddle the horse and be on the way back to get the cows a mile away in the back pasture across the road. We had to get the herd milked, feed and water the sheep, hogs and beef cattle, bathe and be at Church by 7:00 am for Sunrise Services. Ham, eggs, fried potatoes and homemade biscuits was the breakfast feast for all that attended the service. After a short time of fellowship and coffee or juice, Sunday School and Church Service would last till noon. Our family would arrive home long enough to change our Sunday meeting clothes to every day duds and off to Grandma and Grandpa's for lunch with all the Uncles, Aunts, Cousin's and other family members. At this gala event we always knew the main meat was to be fresh smoked ham surrounded by garden veggies, including candied yams in thick syrup. Around 4ish we left for home and the second half of milking and chores.

Thanksgiving was always fun and exciting to me. We didn't have to get up as early because the cows were kept in the barn during the Winter months. We headed out to whomever in the family was having Thanksgiving Dinner. Upon arriving and after a little social talk the men, every male over 12 years old, headed to the fields and woods to hunt pheasants and rabbits. Hunting with all the guys was one of the greatest activities ever. Each man would try to out do the other. I soon picked up on this right of passage and within a couple of years, I led in the challenge and continued for many years. After eating roast turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy, homemade noodles, green bean casserole and Aunt Hilma's honey bread, we settled into easy chairs and watched football on TV. It was a wonderful time of the year.

Christmas was the only holiday that went by way too fast. As always, we got up early and milked and did the chores. It was my family's ritual to eat a hardy breakfast on Christmas that included fried oysters, eggs, hash browns and toast. After that we gathered around the Christmas tree and opened the gifts. From the time I was 3, I received great presents - train sets, animals for pets and all kind of toys were the norm for me each Christmas. As I grew older shotguns, rifles and pistols, along with tools, were left by Santa. The one gift I always wanted and desired was never there, a bicycle.

At age 6, I shot my first wild animal, 7, I drove the tractor to the baler and by age 9, I could keep up working with most men including my father. I was running our farm operation at age 12, due to an accident to Dad while cutting down a tree. I had always been infatuated with two-wheeled machines, with or without engines, but my parents were worried I might get hit on the road or fall off and injure myself. They felt a boy in the country did not need a bicycle. I enjoyed watching our farm hands riding their Cushman scooters to and from work and always talked with them about how they looked and ran. On my 13th Christmas my brother-in-law and sister gave me a shiny blue bike. It was cold and snowy, but I immediately took it for a spin and I remember that crisp December morning like it was yesterday. As always though, it was off to Grandpa's for Christmas dinner of roast goose, and all the trimmings. I was rushed away from my STUFF and would have to wait until another day to enjoy my presents. I have to thank my sister and brother-in-law for that special gift on Christmas 1961, two wheels were introduced to me and it changed my life forever.

Throughout my adult life, I remember those yesteryears of my youth, even though I write of them as if they were a terrible time in my childhood. They instilled within me great ethics and principles that helped me be successful in all that life had to offer. I learned how to conserve and be conservative. I know how to appreciate the things you work hard for and to never take anything for granted that you have earned or that has been given to you. I learned to understand that if you are patient and do your best, you will be rewarded in God's time with His best. I realize that family values are not a system you learn in school or from a friend; they are mentored through family participation and year after year of tiring activities during Holidays and Religious Events.

Thanks, Mom and Dad.

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