“Many a farmer has been taken behind the woodshed.”
The Dictionary for New Farmers, 1st edition
Most older farms have a woodshed. Woodsheds were a common place to store wood on rural homesteads across this country when heating was commonly done totally by wood. Woodsheds were a safe place to store wood out of the rain where it could be dried for burning in the winter. It also took the wood away from the house where it might attract unwanted insects like carpenter ants. If you look carefully, there are still many woodsheds remaining today in the county where I live.
Sometime in the 1900s, the term “taken out behind the woodshed” became popular. It is here where “Pa” might take his wayward son to apply, in a pri-vate setting, corrective action for some misbehavior. Although I could find no real historical reference to it, I did see Andy Griffith use the phrase in at least one episode of “The Andy Griffith Show” which, of course, makes it official.
The first reference I could find where it was used in a political sense, was when David Stockman, director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Reagan, reported that he had been “taken to the wood-shed” by President Reagan for criticizing policy. Stockman, who grew up on a farm, was quite familiar with the expression.
For the record, I must admit that I have never been “taken to the wood-shed” in the literal sense. I did, in my early youth, have my mouth washed out with Ivory soap (for its purity) a time or two for saying inappropriate things. Apparently, this was a common practice in the 1950s and refer-ences to it abound. Even President George W. Bush reported having his mouth washed out a time or two.
Although I suspect this is not a practice much used today because it can be considered abuse, it did me no harm and I rarely, if ever, foam at the mouth any more. I still think the practice might have application for our politicians in Washington, D.C. Instead of a censure, this could be considered a cleansing for using inappropriate and mean language. Apparently, the phrase, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothin’ at all” (as said by Thumper in the movie “Bambi”) is unfortunately no longer in fashion with many politicians today.
There is another use by musicians when they reference the woodshed. It is to the “woodshed” that music teachers and directors suggest their students or orchestra members go in order to practice difficult music passages. I can assure you that my wife is grateful when I go into isolation to practice my violin on a regular basis.
We have no actual woodshed on our farm, although we do stack our fire-wood adjacent to the garage. With the cold weather lately, the ground has been frozen and perfect for getting to the more isolated parts of the farm for firewood. I actually enjoy the exercise I get in splitting the firewood for the next year. I try to make sure that, when my wife is around, I have pieces of straight-grained wood that split easily so that she will be impressed. My bi-ceps as I swing the axe are not quite like Popeye’s after a can of spinach, but a little more like Olive Oyl’s after she might have eaten an artichoke or two, but that’s okay. Fortunately for my self-esteem, my arms are covered by a coat in this cold weather anyway.
Jeff and Kathy Crisler own a farm in Hocking County where they raise bees, berries and blisters. They are both retired and have two children and six grandchildren. Jeff wrote this column to be published in The Logan Daily News. The views of this column may not necessarily reflect that of the newspaper.