Boys baling hay, drinking beer and babysitting, too

The old barn in the background is one in which the Steinbach brothers many years ago helped the Bauer family store bales of hay.

Do today’s parents — especially those with little girls — ever hire boys as babysitters?

Or does the question itself just address folly?

On Facebook a few days ago, a friend asked: “Do any of my friends have a teen or younger adult who would want to make $30 by watching two little girls while they sleep at night and a couple of hours before bedtime? The babysitter can sleep while they are sleeping. PM me. Would be for tomorrow night. Thanks.”

It didn’t take long before someone raised a virtual hand and offered to help. But enough time passed in the interim for my mind to start asking questions while also recalling a time when at least a couple of farm boys did occasionally babysit some of the neighbor kids.

Today, there is so much news about the horrible things people do to one another that it’d be irresponsible for parents to not be very picky when choosing someone to watch their children.  It sometimes seems as if even the people we think we know, or those who live just down the street, are capable of actions that surprise, disappoint, even horrify.

It’s why stories like this wind up on the 6:00 news.

This sort of thing makes me glad to have grown up 50 years ago in Newbern, an unincorporated country crossroads community where Lucas, Marion and Warren counties intersect in Southern Iowa. It was here, as teenagers, that my brother, Scott, and I and maybe even my youngest brother, Doug, (I don’t remember for sure) sometimes watched Michelle, Jeff and Chris — the younger neighbor kids a mile or two down the road.

It was sort of a natural progression.

The Steinbach brothers often helped the Bauer kids’ parents, Mike and Mary Lynne, when it was time to bale hay or other such farm chores that required a crew. It was during one of these summers, after helping bale hay all afternoon, that I drank some of the first beer I ever had where I didn’t have to be sneaky about it. Mike’s attitude was that I had worked alongside the older men who had helped. It was a hot summer day. The work was done. Everyone else was drinking beer. I could have some, too, if I wanted it.

And so I did. Maybe that’s how the babysitting happened. I don’t know for sure. All I remember is the Bauers needing a babysitter on short notice when none of their regular girls were available. Mike or Mary Lynne (I don’t remember which one) called and asked if Scott or I would do it. One of us did. I don’t remember if it was him or me. The Bauer kids — I’d guess maybe Jeff and Chris, especially — must have liked it because I remember additional adventures in babysitting at their house.

Looking back at it now, I’m sure it was a good learning experience even if it wasn’t the sort of thing we bragged about to our buddies. It may have even been kind of fun. Something else I would have never admitted back then.

Best of all, it was a way to make a little extra money, which we were always looking to do. I don’t remember getting paid $30, although we probably received the inflation-adjusted equivalent of about $12. Maybe.

How we spent the babysitting money, however, would have been a good example of the dictionary definition for folly.



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