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Randy’s pandemic II
JOHN GIBBS is a resident of Gays Mills, Wisconsin. He is an award-winning weekly columnist for the Crawford County Independent newspaper in Gays Mills, Wisconsin.

GAYS MILLS - Last week’s column was about our hero, 14-year-old city-dweller Randy, going to live for the summer with his Aunt Judy on her small farm during the Covid-19 pandemic of 2020.  Let’s see how he’s getting along.

Randy woke up that first morning at the farm after the best night’s sleep he’d had in months.  It was so quiet and peaceful in the country compared to his city home. No hum of traffic, horns, sirens, buses, trucks, commuter trains, neighbor noise. What he heard was just peace and quiet and birdsong, and the occasional whinny of a horse and a lowing cow every once in a while.

Aunt Judy was ready with breakfast early that morning and the hearty smells that reached his sleeping loft were part of the reason Randy was awake two hours ahead of the time he usually got up. He immediately thought of checking his phone and using his computer until he remembered that none of that technology worked here at Judy’s.

With no digital distractions, Randy and Judy talked over breakfast about what the day would entail. Randy enjoyed the fact that Judy was treating him and talking with him as an adult. She patiently explained all of the enterprises involved on her diversified farm. She answered questions that Randy asked about how she got started farming, what was her favorite parts, what else did she plan on expanding into, and, most importantly, how he would fit in with the operation.

Judy referred to Randy as her hired man, her partner, her intern, her trainee, and all of these made Randy feel accepted and part of a team. He followed Judy around as she did the morning chores: feeding the chickens and letting them out to free-range for the day, putting the small flock of sheep into a new pasture, cleaning out the horse corral, and checking on and feeding the three young calves that were still being bottle fed.

They wound up at Judy’s garden, or, actually, gardens, where she spent much of her time.  She pointed out all the numerous things she had growing: an eclectic flower garden, a small kitchen garden near the cabin, a large traditional vegetable garden, fenced against intruders, and a massive garden where young squash and melons were beginning to make vines and spread out.

It was all new to Randy. He had never worked with animals and never had a garden at home. He found himself interested in everything; maybe it was just because he had been housebound for so long, but he didn’t think so. He was discovering the natural world and had many questions for Judy.

The summer flew by. Every day was filled with simple routines and much learning for Randy. He made friends with a few neighbor kids and found them to be friendly, helpful, and down to earth. He barely missed his city life, its conveniences and distractions. He surprised himself by becoming quite a reader over the summer and had several favorite authors, a previously unthinkable situation. It was surprising how much he enjoyed the simple life on the farm.

Judy gradually increased Randy’s responsibilities around the farm and he leaned into the challenges that were presented to him. He filled in for Judy, proudly and capably, when one of her part-time jobs demanded her to be away.  

As the summer drew to a close, Randy, his mother and Judy discussed whether he could stay on the farm and attend school for the coming year. Randy was wholeheartedly in favor of that notion.