This was my first experience on a farm – the dairy next door to the house we had had just moved into in Williamsburg, MA. I was two years old when this photo was taken, and was bawling my eyes out. I was obviously uncomfortable with my proximity to the farmer – Mervin Clark – who had been generous enough to give me the gift of the helmet I am wearing in the photo. I think it’s hilarious that he was pretending to be just as upset as I was, because that’s the kind of guy Mervin was. He taught me a lot in subsequent years, about farming and about life. He had a great sense of humor, but had little tolerance or sympathy for squeamishness, lack of toughness, or ambiguous “thank you’s”. Not from a two year old, or from anyone else. According to my father he thought this whole interaction was absolutely hilarious.
Though I don’t remember the encounter pictured above, I now imagine it’s possible that my emotions may have had something to do with the location my two year old brain suspected he had been storing the helmet (see photo on left), prior to it becoming a gift to me. He would have appreciated this facetious suggestion very much. I owe him much – from my career choice to my sense of humor (for better or worse). He was a true old time farmer. He trusted “The Almanac” and the stars more than meteorologists. And he could fix virtually anything that broke with stuff he had collected during his life on the farm. He never threw anything out, a propensity that often proved useful, but occasionally caused problems. My father and I spent many evenings with Mervin and his son Linwood in “the sugar shack”, boiling sap and listening to their tales and jokes. The former were almost always “tall”, and the latter almost always “dirty”. There are few farmers like him left. A fact I often lament.