The Leader-Post – Aug 13, 1948
Mr. Churchill has just been telling an audience of agriculturists that he has lately “taken to farming in a modest way—largely by proxy.”
“I think,” he added, “that if I had heard about it when I was young I probably should never have gone into politics at all.”
There are certainly few more attractive dreams than the dream of being a farmer. As a town child I looked on a farmer’s life as all but a perpetual holiday. I do not mean that I thought the farmer did no work, but he worked in what to me was a playground.
To have fields in which one could walk about all day—fields surrounded by hedges under which wild strawberries grew in July and in which a harvest of large and luscious blackberries hung later in the season—was my notion of a paradise on earth.
Here one could spend hour after hour strolling and looking at animals, many of which one knew by name—Moll, the black mare, with her foal and Footroot the lamb called after its affliction. Long-horned cows came to one at the gate at milking time in answer to the cry “chay-chay lady-chay.”
If the toys in the nursery were magical, these living models for the toys were more magical still.
And how beautiful were the crops in the cultivated fields—the beanfields with an odor fit to be bottled for an eastern princess, the long grass scented with clover, the flax flowering into a pool of delicate blue stirred by a silken breeze, the oats white under the moon waiting for the reaper!
Dull, indeed, were the daily surroundings of the townsman by comparison, whether the clergyman’s study or the long-desked classroom in which boys hungry for the cricket field were cooped up under the eye of a gaoler schoolmaster, or the shop with its drudgery of salesmanship.
The town has its compensations, but still what is it but a vast workroom in which one spends one’s pleasantest time looking forward to the next holiday or looking back to the holidays of the past?
From the point of view of the town child even the lot of the agricultural laborer who seldom got a holiday of any kind and who often had to do a number of jobs on Sunday itself was enviable.
I certainly thought of him as one of the happy people of the world as I walked beside him and his plough up and down the length of a long field. What better company was there than a horse with a friendly man at the plough handles behind it?
There were two things I always regretted as a small boy in the country—one, that I could not master the technique of guiding a plough along a furrow and the other, that I could not learn how to mow grass or corn with a scythe.
The farmer, however, can do most things of this sort, like Mr. Churchill, by proxy. Though I am sure that Mr. Churchill if he gave his mind to it, could achieve mastery of the plough and the scythe as he has achieved mastery of the paint brush and the trowel.
I, unfortunately, am by temperament a looker-on. I prefer to do even my gardening from a deck-chair.
Perhaps it was because the farmer is to so great an extent a looker-on, a director—or because I thought him so—that I wished I were a farmer. He often lent a hand, it is true, in forking the hay or the corn sheaves up to the men who were building the stacks in the haggard, but this was voluntary.
For the most part he merely watched other people work—men, women and children, for example lifting with their tomahawks the flax that had been soaked in the dams and spread to dry the field.
He was a kind of non-playing captain of a team occupied in the finest game on earth—a game played both against and with the help of nature for the fruits of the ground.
Still, it was for his life among animals that I admired him most—a man in possession of stables, a byre, a pig-sty, a hen house, a pond with ducks on it and a field of young calves.
I wonder, however, whether, if Mr. Churchill had been a farmer in early life, he would have been content with so turbulent a career. I fancy that, like the famous old Roman farmer Cincinnatus, he would sooner or later have heard the call of his country that apparently only he could save and would have deserted the cornfield for the battlefield.
There must be something magnetic about a farm, however, for we are told that after defeating the Aequians in a single day and “after entering Rome in triumph with large spoils,” Cincinnatus quietly returned to his farm. Perhaps, like me as a boy, he was fond of looking at pigs and cows and hens and horses.