Farm Frolic October 2, 1942
One distinctive characteristic of the eastern Pennsylvania countryside is rapidly disappearing, and, more is the pity. Time was when a group labor brought the neighbors together in social and industrial enterprise, on the fields during harvest, in cellars during butchering, in living rooms during quiltings, in barns during threshing, in orchards during apple-picking season. Some visitors to our farming sections are amazed to see women working in the fields alongside of the men during the busy harvest and husking seasons. Thoughtlessly some of them are inclined to write this fact down to a peasant economy, or even worse, a primitive survival by which husbands regard their wives as slaves. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The structure of the social pattern of the Pennsylvania farm is unlike that of New England or the semi-feudal plantation system of the south. Deftly the Pennsylvania Dutch farmer has learned how to integrate the social and economic factors of his life in such a way that work is fun and fun is found in working together, all ages and sexes. One might add, too, all classes, for the hired man shares all of the experiences of the family and the color line is not drawn when the hungry ones sit down to dine. To the social and economic we might also add the religious – all are blended together to form this unique pattern which has brought prosperity to succeeding generations of farm folk in our limestone valley.
Most of us are familiar with the husking bees and schnitzing parties. The community of effort is still preserved in quilting parties held in church basements and now and then a barn-raising will still draw the menfolk of the whole neighborhood together. Less common are the carpet-bag parties when nimble fingers sewed together long strands of narrow rags and clumsy male fingers wrapped these strands into huge balls, ready for the carpet weavers.
The apple-butter party or Lottwarrick Riehrer has become a thing of the past, except as it is revived by a group that features it as an attraction at the Allentown Fair. There was a time when it was considered quite a social event in the autumn season. The girls did the stirring of the electuary while the young men attended to keeping the huge fire blazing under the copper lined kettle. If the stirring was neglected there was danger of “Aabrenne,” Therefore young gallants would assist the damsels in continuing the rotary motion of the long handles. Others peeled apples and prepared the “Snitz.” And what fun could be had when the kettles were emptied and boys and girls together “licked the kettle clean.”
Gone, but not forgotten, are the old mowing parties when a squad or two of huskies invaded a field of timothy soldiers and cut them down in wide swats with lusty swings of their scythes. The practice is gone but the memory of it is preserved by Grumbline’s onomatopoeic peom “Der Dandelstock” and D.K. Hoch’s fine tribute to es “Nine Uhr Schtick.”
Gone and forgotten are the old time “Stone Frolics.” When a new piece of land was to be cleared the farmer employed a few men who were equipped with “Stee Ruppers,” stone pullers. Two men drilled holes in the sides of huge boulders, about one inch in diameter. Then the pulling instruments were affixed. These implements were supported on a strong frame. When the iron hooks were inserted into the drilled holes a wheel was turned until the rock loosened from its bed. Other strong men attending the frolic vied with each other in tests of strength in carrying huge stones to the edge of the field and placing them as the base stone for stone fences that surrounded the field. Women and children picked up smaller stones and carried them to the newly constructed fence where a “Maurer” placed them to form a wall of stone around the new field. Fun and frolic were found, a field was cleared and a fence was built.