Before the age of beepers, cell phones, telephones and all the other communication gadgets we use today, there was another method of communication.

On almost every farm, close to the house, was a cast iron bell mounted on a high post with a rope attached to the handle.  When dinner was near done, the bell was rung by the farmer’s wife.  Its loud ringing could be heard to the farthest field – there was less acreage farmed in those bygone days!  No loud rumbling tractors or combines drowned out the welcome tones of the dinner bell.

Now, the old bells are mounted as antique curiosities, painted black and rarely rung unless a little one wants to hear the loud clang.  We have one outside the back door and it’s handy for getting John’s attention when he’s out in the far shed.  But that is a far cry from its being used daily.  One of those outmoded pieces of equipment from bygone days, it shows workmanship that reveals the craftsmen’s love of detail and beauty.  If you get a chance, look at old floor grates, and doorknobs; run your hand over the carving on drawer pulls and even radiators.  No mass production there.  No straight and unadorned connections.  They lie before us as constant reminders of past beauty.

And, if you come visit our farm, you are welcome to give a pull on the dinner bell rope.  (Might be a good idea to check for wasp nests, first, of course.)




It rang them in from nearby fields

when dinnertime was near.

It rang them in to tables filled

with bounty and good cheer.

It rang them in when set of sun

proclaimed a day of work well done

The Dinner Bell, with its clarion call

rang out a welcome to one and all.


But there were days when the Bell was rung

by frantic hands

and men turned back.

Had it called them in to fight a flame?

Or had a child been hurt or maimed?

With flying feet and pounding hearts,

the men returned to home and hearth.


To sons who went away to war,

to those whose illness

kept a core of longing

for the bell they could not hear;

There came a day when the chime rang out

and welcomed those who

with grateful shout

returned again from the gates of hell

and listened for the Dinner Bell.



From Splinters of Light/Donna Swanson c.2006



About dswan2

Poet, author, columnist, lyricist, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, wife of 50 years. Born and raised in America's Heartland
This entry was posted in Country and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. bendedspoon says:

    We had no bells at home back then but now we have it — I love the sound of the bell! 🙂

  2. Jingle says:

    profound piece.


  3. Thanks, Jingle,
    I thought this was listed under another person’s url. We have my grandmother’s dinner bell and it rang for many, many years. The only thing louder was my mother’s whistle!

  4. Samanthamj says:

    wonderful. This reminded me of my great Aunt and Uncles farm growing up… one of my favorite places…

  5. lunawitch15 says:

    oh the memories! they came flooding back so fast reading this!
    I could be on my horse a couple miles away and could hear that bell.
    oh, thank you so much! you have no idea….


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