My parents, Hungarian immigrants, came to America in the early
part of the 20th century. (My father arrived in 1912, having just
missed sailing on the Titanic, and my mother in 1922.) They both
came from rural backgrounds and were anxious to have their own farm
in America. After my father worked in the coal mines of West
Virginia, the woods of northern Michigan, and in factories from Ohio
to Wisconsin, he finally saved enough money to buy a farm in
Pennsylvania. Their American dream was a reality.
But it took some getting used to. Farming in America was on a
much bigger scale than the small farms my mom and dad knew in rural
Hungary. The weather was different, as was the terrain and the
machinery. As my father told me about that first summer on their
farm, I could well realize the anxiety he must have felt.
"I probably cut down more hay than I should have," he told me.
"Your sister Mary was just a baby and your brother Joe was due to be
born in a couple of months. Although your mother tried to help me as
much as possible, I was very worried about her with the baby coming
due and all."
My father had bought some good horses. They pulled that mower as
if they knew what they were doing and even seemed to be enjoying
themselves, Father recalled. After the mowing, he took a dump rake
and started making piles where the hay could dry out, later to be
picked up with a wagon. But this was before hay balers or even hay
loaders. The hay had to be pitched on wagons by hand. This involved
a lot of hard work and, even more important, time. Depending on the
weather, time can be a crucial factor for farmers ... especially in
When it came time to bring the hay in and stack and cover it from
the elements, dark clouds started gathering on the horizon.
"I told your mother," my father said, " 'Those clouds don't look
good. I better get on that hay.' "
Mother wanted desperately to help, but Father wouldn't hear of
it. But as he started to pick up the hay, sweat pouring down his
brows, he knew he was in an uphill battle.
Then something wonderful happened. "As I drove the team out to
the hay fields for another load, I suddenly saw a team of horses and
a wagon come into my field. Then another team and a wagon! Then
another! Before long there were about six teams and wagons out
there. The neighbors had arrived!"
Since Father was new in the neighborhood, both pride and shyness,
plus the feeling of being an outsider, constrained him from asking
the neighbors for help. …