Sunday, June 08, 2008

Animal Friends on the Johnson Farm

From the 1920s-1930s, the formative years my mother spent with her grandparents in rural Minnesota, there were always many pets and working animals on the farm. There was hardly a story-telling that did not include a funny or poignant bit about one of those animals, such as the time when little Birdy, a cherished pet dog, was an unwitting participant in teaching some naughty children a lesson.

My mother and her cousins were in the habit of mercilessly teasing a hired man, Ingemon Thompson, as he tried to carry out his daily chores. They teased him in part because they liked him so much, but also because he was so patient and never scolded them for misbehavior. One day, Ingemon felt he'd had enough. Not one to mince words, he grabbed the unsuspecting Birdy, climbed the ladder to the top of the water tank, and dropped her in.

Shocked by the action, my mother and her companions began to yell and cry, begging Ingemon to get their precious Birdy out of the tank before she drowned. After giving the children a couple of minutes to consider the consequences of their actions, Ingemon again climbed the ladder to retrieve Birdy, who had been confidently paddling around and around. The children were frightened and angry, but they had to laugh when they saw Birdy looking so drenched, and saw that she was none the worse for her unfortunate experience. But, the harsh lesson took, and the children never teased Ingeman with quite the same abandon after that.

Doris Johnson (my mother), age 14, holding "Speedy," a cat who never became indignant about being dressed in doll clothes, and Birdy, a beloved family dog. Leonard, Minnesota, 1934.

Here are some other members of the Ole M. Johnson family with animal friends over the years:

Uncle Frank Johnson with his dog and a calf he raised.
Fosston, Minnesota, ca. 1915.

Mom's cousin, George Johnson on "Colonel": a special horse that belonged to their grandfather, Ole M. Johnson. Colonel was an exceptional horse that lived a very long time and was fondly remembered by the entire family. Leonard, Minnesota, ca.1929.

Uncle Bennett Johnson with farm puppies and a cat.
Fosston, Minnesota, ca.1910.

1 comment:

wendy said...

Thanks for posting & showing photos of the pets and animals your family had!