This farm boy longed for a vacation while growing up

Jerry Apps

We never took a vacation when I was growing up on the farm. Cows had to be milked twice a day, every day, every season of the year.

Author Jerry Apps' favorite time at the lake is at sunset.

As a kid, I knew some people took vacations. I knew this because I saw vacationing people in Wild Rose, my hometown. They vacationed on the lakes east of the village. They were city people. Pa said. “You can tell because they wear short pants. No farmer would be caught dead wearing short pants.”

Pa had us believing that we should feel sorry for these city folk on vacation because they apparently did not have enough work to keep them busy throughout the summer. I thought about what Pa said as I hoed potatoes, helped make hay, shocked grain, and made fence to make sure our cows kept out of the neighbor’s cornfield. I wasn’t sure he was right.

Today, my family takes vacations. For the past 18 years, our kids, and their kids (our grandchildren) gather at a lake where we rent a cabin and enjoy a week away from our various occupations. Our family is scattered, as many families are these days. One Grandson in Denver, another grandson in Boulder, Co, a son and his family in Avon, Co, Another grandson in San Diego. A granddaughter and her family in Minneapolis plus several family members in Madison. 

These days not all can make it to the annual event, but most of them do. For the past three years, we have rented a place on Long Lake near Waupaca. It is a time for cousins to get to know cousins, for families to catch up on the happenings of the past year. A time for waterskiing and kayaking. A time for doing nothing but sitting and looking out over the lake.

My favorite time at the lake is at sunset—thus the photo. Oh, by the way, I do not wear short pants. My father’s words are still in my head.

THE OLD TIMER SAYS: Everyone needs a break. It is good for the body, but also good for the soul.

Jerry Apps, born and raised on a Wisconsin farm, is Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the author of more than 35 books, many of them on rural history and country life. For further information about Jerry's writing and TV work go to