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Lots of work was required to maintain and renew the various breeds. Feeding was reduced to what we called chores, performed twice daily, seven days a week and fifty-two weeks a year. When one considers the demands of each type of animal it is not hard to see that many hours were involved, especially during the winter months. In summer the sheep, cows and horses were out to pasture most or all of the time and could feed and water themselves. We always felt lucky with our farm and its generous supply of water. Very few of the fields we used for pasture didn't have access to water from a creek or a pond.
Other farmers had to haul water daily to animals in the pastures or drive a well for water, either pumping it by hand or by installing a windmill and a tank. Each week, Sunday usually, we took a small pail of salt to their pasture, dumped it into eight or ten small piles spaced a few feet apart and counted the groups of sheep as they came to eat the salt. The tally told us if thieves or dogs had been active that week to reduce numbers of the flock. Also during the very hot weather we checked to be sure maggots weren't bothering some of them which had bled somehow and attracted blowflies.
Those in trouble had to be caught and doused with medicine to kill the maggots. We used a strong mixture of creosote dip to kill them. The resulting mass exodus of struggling maggots as they came out of a wound remains a strong image in my memory. Some of our chores were quite seasonal while most went on the year round. Baby chicks from the hatchery took a lot of care the first few weeks.
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These broods were usually put in a hen coop and had to be fed and watered several times a day. The hen coop was an a-frame large enough to hold the hen. Slats kept the mother in the coop while the chicks could go in and out during the day. At night in the coop the hen kept her chicks warm and protected from predators.
During the lambing season Dad practically lived in the barn, often going out eight or ten times to separate ewes from the flock as they were about to give birth and thus assure fewer orphans which resulted when a new mother lost her newborn among the flock and then refused to own it, that is, let it nurse. Such orphans would have to be bottle fed several times a day to keep them alive and to add to the lamb crop, a chore to be avoided if possible.
Sows about to farrow had to be separated from other pigs because often the newborn piglets became food for adults. Cows about to calve were not a major item when they calved in the barnyard or a box stall. But at pasture a cow would hide herself to calve and then leave the calf hidden. We had to search for the newborn and be sure the dog wasn't around, for the new mother would fight to protect her offspring. Mother Nature must have left this instinct in domesticated cows which normally paid little attention to the dog shepherding them as they went from barnyard to pasture.
Part of doing chores was the job of toting from house to barn and back again. Milk caused most of this work. The cycle started with milking twice a day. Milking was done by hand and four or five milk pails were needed to hold the fresh milk. These had to be carried to the house where milk was processed in the back room.
Milk was strained as it was poured into the cream separator. The separator was turned by hand to spin the skim milk away from the lighter cream. Skim milk was collected in swill pails to be later carried back to the barn to feed the pigs. Sometimes some of it was saved in clean containers for cottage cheese. The cream was collected in one of many small crocks we used to hold cream until there were about 3 gallons to churn. We had two churns--a crock churn with a wooden dasher to pound dash the cream until "butter came", which could take 20 minutes.
The other one was a barrel churn made like a wooden barrel and hung on a frame so it could be spun slowly with a crank. The trick with this churn was to turn it slowly enough to slosh the cream on each turn. If it went too fast, centrifugal force held it in one end and it wouldn't churn. From either churn the fresh butter was carefully lifted by hand out of the churn, placed in a wooden butter bowl and worked with a ladle to extract excess whey. Then salt was worked into it before packing it in crocks of various sizes or made into rolls to be sold.
Buttermilk left over after churning was dumped into the swill pails for hog feed unless needed for cooking. With a little salt and the tiny butter flecks still remaining, it made a refreshing, cool drink; it also made wonderful pancakes and biscuits. Each time we headed for the barn for chores we had to check to see what pails were full enough to carry along.
The empties had to come back eventually and since we couldn't put milk in them, they were always an extra, not unlike the empty milk pails which had to be carried out when we went to milk. Eggs were easier and could be collected once a day unless it was zero weather when we had to do it oftener to keep them from freezing.
In summer they had to be candled, that is checked over a light, to be sure they weren't spoiled. Though it was not a part of the farm work itself, the household chore of washing milk pails and the separator had to be done. Pails and the strainer were washed once a day and the separator every other day in summer and perhaps less often in winter. In addition to the farm products we had to carry all drinking water from the well tank into the house. If the cistern was dry we had to bring all our water in this way adding greatly to the toting we usually had to do.
For various reasons I had to help with the milk dishes when Mom couldn't do them--which wasn't very often. I hated the separator especially since the bowl had to be disassembled, carefully rinsed in cold water before being washed in homemade soap water which didn't cut the grease very well. Also, the 20 or so discs which separated the milk from the cream in the bowl of the machine couldn't be rearranged during cleaning. They had to be carefully strung on a device that reminds me of a very large safety pin. After washing and scalding we used boiling water generously on all milk dishes to purify them they had to be replaced in the clean bowl.
Unless they had been kept in the order set by the factory, they wouldn't balance and the separator was inoperable. An extra large dishpan had to be used to wash the milk pails and the separator parts. We had a 16 quart pail, some qt. Lastly, the clean separator had to be put back together. Our farm work year started in the spring when land could be tilled for planting and the growing season began in this part of the country.
Chores were done before and after field work, thus extending the working day as long as it took to get the work done. Vacations and regular work hours weren't part of the farmer's life in those days. Animals, the weather, and the unfolding growing season provided unrelenting demands on the farmer who wanted to be successful. The cycle of our day-to-day farm work as the year went by was typical of most diversified farmers at the time. When there was enough pasture for the sheep in the spring, they went out on pasture so the winter's accumulation of manure in the sheep barn was the first major job to be done.
The manure spreader was driven in the basement and the packed, heavy manure was dug out by hand and pitched into it. Manure was spread on a field being readied for corn—usually an old hay field where the seeding had run out. This first heavy work with manure forks often raised blisters as the steady pulling and lifting took its toll on soft, winter hands. We didn't spend money on gloves and let hardening of our hands develop as it would. It might take a week to empty the basement which often had a 3 or 4 foot packed layer of manure on it.
The first crop to be planted was oats. Sometimes a field had been plowed the fall before, so only dragging and final fitting were necessary before planting. Otherwise, the field s for oats was plowed and fitted as soon as possible. Oats grows best in cooler weather and benefits from extra spring rain. This was especially true on our sandy, lighter soil. As soon as the oats were planted, fields for corn were plowed, fitted and planted. Plowing old hay field sod was hard, slow work with 12 or 16 inch single bottom plows pulled by horses.
Ground was then dragged once or twice before planting which was done two rows at a time with planter. Fitting a field could be dirty work as one walked behind a drag all day when it was dusty. By the time the oats and corn had been planted, the first hay field was ready to be mowed.
Mowers cut five foot swaths as the horses walked along. After some curing in the swath, the side delivery rake was used to produce windrows of hay which were left until the hay was ready for the mow. If it rained on them, they had to be turned to stir them enough to dry again. A hay loader picked up a windrow and delivered it to the hay wagon where a man loaded it as it came to him. Full loads went to the barn and the hay mow for storage.
Bulk hay loads were off-loaded one third at a time with harpoon forks or slings attached by a rope and pulled by horses. It's no wonder we often said, "You have to make hay while the sun shines. First cutting haying was followed closely by the first cultivating of corn.
Small sprouts of corn were vulnerable as the cultivator moved by them. Special shields were attached to help prevent dirt from covering the small sprouts. Should some be covered, one had to stop and uncover them. Again, all this work was done at the pace of walking horses. Second cultivating of corn followed haying and second hay cutting followed that when there was any. Weather had much to do with this work so it had no fixed schedule. Wheat was usually ripe by the Fourth of July. When threshing began in our neighborhood, our work schedules had to be adjusted to let us help those who exchanged work with us.
We hauled our grain shocks to the buildings and built stacks there for threshing. Wheat and rye were stacked separately near the west barn and oats stacked outside the east barn so the straw could be blown into a mow for sheep feed. The sheep ate more oats so that granary was closer and only part of the oats had to be hauled to the main granary. Some neighbors chose to haul grain shocks directly to the threshing machine on threshing day. We felt it took less help to work from stacks; we also could thresh on days after rain when field shocks were still too wet. I take time here to describe threshing day on our farm which might begin by because our stacks were not affected by morning dew.
Fourteen or fifteen neighbors came to help, to be repaid with our help when they threshed. Two men came with the rig, one to tend the engine and oversee operations and one to tend the blower and help build the straw stack. It took one man to bag the grain and four or five to load and unload the grain wagon. Four or five more men pitched bundles to feed the separator and one man stacked the straw. Dad always did this dirty work because he wouldn't ask anyone else to do it. I was drafted into setting up washing facilities out by the windmill. The wash bench was carried out and held two washtubs partially filled with water.
Water was pumped in them early so the sun would warm it by noon. Soap and wash basins were set out. Towels were hung on the windmill along with a mirror and combs, so men could finish cleaning up for each meal. The threshing season provided one of a young man's first experiences at working in a crew with strangers. One learned how to take orders and observed how others responded during this period of two or three weeks. In addition to our neighborhood, we helped Grandpa and Uncle Lowell as we also did with silo filling and wood buzzing.
The slack time between threshing and corn harvest was used for special tasks such as painting the barns or fence building or repair. It was also a good time to clean out the several drainage tile lines in the marshy parts of the lower fields. The potato patch needed hoeing and de-bugging at times.
Weeding and hoeing in the garden came along with harvesting as beans and tomatoes ripened. We could slip away to the swimming hole in the nearby river. Sometimes Grandpa Mattern would come out and take us fishing, often in the River Raisin that ran through Grandpa Parr's farm. The resulting fish fry was a special treat. School started in time to keep us boys out of the heavy work of corn harvest. Just before or soon after the first heavy frost it was time to fill silo.
The green corn was cut just before the silo fillers hauled it to the silo. It took four or five hours to fill the wood silo and more to fill the larger cement one that replaced it. Two or three teams were needed to keep the filler going as one bundle at a time was fed into it to be chopped and blown up a pipe to spill into the silo. Handling corn was heavy work starting with the binder which had to be pulled on its steel wheels along relatively fresh worked ground.
The bundles were heavy and unbalanced to load and unload and had to be picked up by hand rather than a pitchfork. Large corn stalks were welcome, but more difficult to handle. After the silo was full, the rest of the crop was cut later and cured in shocks. Cutting corn was faster with the binder, but much heavier work, lifting and shocking bundles of tall cornstalks laden with full ears.
Corn could be shocked one stalk at a time, cut with a corn knife, though we normally used the binder. In either event after drying a spell, about half the shocks were taken down so each ear could be husked and crated for the haul to the corn crib. In the field the stalks were rebundled with the recycled twine and reshocked. Shocks of these stalks as well as those with ears were taken down during the winter as needed and fed to the sheep in the field.
Others were hauled to barns and stacked for feed. All of the leaves in the shocks stayed green and valuable as feed. While school kept us from field work with corn, we did get to unload wagon loads of crated corn into the crib. We also had to pick up dug potatoes in the potato patch and carry them from the wagon to the basement potato bin. Squash, pumpkins and cabbage came to the house on wagons for us to carry downstairs. Such was Saturday and after school work for us in autumn. Sometimes it could be planted in a harvested corn field to avoid plowing. Most of the time a separate field s was prepared for planting after the fall rains came and planting could take place while it was still warm enough for germination.
The end of the growing season on the land had come, and the barns, granaries, and basement were full of a winter's supply of food. All of our work was done with these implements and four horses. Some of the heavier work was done with three or four horses, but most of it was done with a team, either heavy or light, depending on the work to be done. Mowing, raking, cultivating, and some wagon pulling were best done by a smaller, faster team.
We did not have fancy horses or equipment for them but we did take good care of them to be sure we could get our work done on time. Hoofs were kept trimmed but we didn't put horseshoes on our teams. We kept some ointments around the barn to treat sores that might develop under the harness collars. Also at times we put powder under the collars to keep sores from breaking open. A brush or currycomb might be used occasionally.
Every day a horse was expected to work it was fed a few quarts of oats at noon and again at night. Horses got fed hay three times daily and were kept in straw bedding to keep them clean in their stalls. Since they were needed almost every day they were not turned out to pasture regularly as were cows and sheep. Periodically they were turned out to pasture where they could frolic and roll to clean their hides. As winter approached our thoughts turned to fuel for cooking and heating. Dad might cut wood alone during the day when we were in school.
But on good winter Saturdays all of us went to the woods. By spring the pile of buzz wood would be big enough to give us face cords of fire wood, our year's supply. In March it took a five-man crew 5 or 6 hours to bring the pieces of split wood the size of fence posts and the longer poles to the buzz saw to be cut into 16inch sections. The buzz saw was moved a couple times to shorten the distance to the shrinking pile.
Later, the resulting mound of firewood was worked over to split some chunks into smaller pieces for the cook stove. The wood was burned from the pile; we didn't spend time or effort building cords of wood. By the time the last of the old woodpile was gone, the fresh wood was seasoned enough to burn. Late winter was the time to turn bucks in with the ewes so lambs would come in spring. Sheep were sheared then or soon after the lambs came. We butchered a couple lambs during the winter. Hogs and our beef were butchered while it remained cold enough to refrigerate the meat outside until it could be processed.
These major efforts kept farmers busy during what is now called a workday. Chores and animal care went on regardless of all else in this agrarian world. It is easy to see why farms were rented beginning March 1st. The previous material relates to how I remember life in our small farm, but almost all farms then were the same type. Together, those living that way made up the agrarian society powering America as it moved onward to grow into an industrial nation, concentrated in urban areas.
It became a matter of the survival of the fittest, where the unsuccessful fell by the wayside to become day laborers, renters, or share croppers on someone else's land. We produced most of what we ate and traded grain for flour and wool for yard goods to make clothes. Extra eggs were traded for groceries we didn't produce, e. Extra milk, cream and butter were sold to produce cash for day-to-day needs. We had to buy fresh meat to feed crews for threshing, silo filling, and wood buzzing, otherwise we lived on our own fresh, canned or smoked meat supplemented by wild game in season.
The annual sale of wool and lambs produced enough cash to meet property taxes and the land contract. In lean years there might not be enough to repay any principal on that. Dad often said if it hadn't been for our ewes, we would have joined those who lost their farms during the Depression.
The story of farming has been spelled out, but life continued for us on the farm as we grew up. Prosperity turned into the deep depression and although profits and prices plunged or disappeared, the work and life went on and the farm continued to take care of our basic needs. We never were hungry and even sent some of the surpluses that couldn't be sold to Detroit to help Uncle Orrin's family. I can see bags of potatoes in his Studebaker and remember stories of Aunt Bertha preserving eggs in Water Glass a heavy solution with glycerin, poured over them in a large crock to seal away the air and keep them from spoiling without refrigeration, I believe.
There probably were garden vegetables and sweet corn in season, too. The farm was in the Manchester School District so all of us completed grade and high school there. I made history walking home at noon after my first day in kindergarten, arriving there in tears with messy pants because I hadn't asked to go to the bathroom at my regular 10 a. I turn now to list key events extending beyond in sentence form, with only occasional details. The list should provide perspective to the story. With some of her small amount of cash a new furnace is installed and the archway to the old parlor closed with doors to provide her own quarters.
She may have helped provide our first refrigerator which was used in the woodshed for milk products, not as a kitchen appliance. She brought us our first radio, a cathedral style on its own stand, and we had to wire in a floor plug for it in the living room. Canned foods and baked goods are sent to her the first year at a rooming house.
The next year he works for Herman Wiedman. Hazel and Jesse Walker are married and set up housekeeping on his Lamb Road farm. He is rejected by the Army for physical reasons. Uncle Walter comes to live with Mom and Dad. When Dad started farming he needed a hired man to help. As we came along he didn't. By the time we had all left, electric power, tractors, and new machinery were available to permit him to get most of the work done alone. Uncle Walter was available to help with chores and work that didn't involve machinery. He never adapted to its use or learned to drive a car.
Farming continued as before but was easier as changes came along. Dad's first tractor was a John Deere H Model which could do the work of a team of light horses and had a pulley for belt work. Horse drawn tools were pulled by a shorter tongue usually sawed off old ones fitted with a tractor hitch. Horses were kept for some work and to be used at times by Uncle Walter because he preferred not to run machines and continued to do things the old way. But, this had to be purchased, unlike the "fuel" for horses.
The Fairbanks and Morse engine was no longer needed as the "H" ground grain and buzzed the wood. Attachments for the tractor made cultivating corn easier and faster even though they had to be manually controlled. Stanley provided a humorous cultivating story when he worked for Hoelzers. In the monotony of cultivating with their John Deere, he overran the fence at the end of a row as he yelled frantically to the "horses" to stop, forgetting to pull the clutch. The effect of modernization slowly crept into many aspects of farming that had required many workers and long hours.
A John Deere B Model tractor was bought later because it was larger. The Surge Milking Machine allowed one man to do what had been done by four or five of us. The Galloway Separator was electrified to replace the person who once cranked it. Eventually there was an electric churn. An electric pump delivered water to a spigot in the house, doing away with trips to the well with a pail. Armfuls of wood weren't required for the bottled gas range, though the old stove was kept for heavy duty work.
The vacuum sweeper eliminated carrying rugs outdoors to be hung on the clothesline and beaten with a rug beater. Mom couldn't resist the salesman who came along selling small Hamilton Beech electric motors to be hooked onto her sewing machine and eliminate the need for pedal power. The economic effect of these changes eroded the independence of the small farmer as more cash became necessary to purchase supplies no longer produced on the farm.
The independence of a farmer also was slipping away as federal government programs began to control production and prices. Allocations for wheat and corn were introduced in an attempt to limit surpluses, and selected subsidies were set up to support basic prices. Farms were measured, allocations assigned for crops like corn and wheat, and surpluses purchased by the government to create shortages intended to raise prices.
Dad worked for a time with the Agricultural Adjustment Administration AAA set up for farms, but never was a supporter of government involvement in farming. He was better than some who could then get away with simply ordering government men off their farms. Increased efficiency gave him time to spend on other activities. He became a Justice of the Peace, holding court in the living room at times as he tried the small cases assigned to Justices.
He was elected to the school board. He served as secretary to the M. Church Board for 40 years. He was also elected as Manchester Township Supervisor, serving in that position for nearly 20 years. As Supervisor he visited every farm in the Township annually to assess property for taxes, including personal property and a livestock census. Township Supervisors also met as a group to manage county affairs at monthly meetings in Ann Arbor.
He took the time to get this outside work done as he continued farming. As the years went on and major machinery changes took place, tractors and farming methods changed, but our farm stayed the same size and kind. The horse drawn equipment first modified for a small tractor was replaced by larger, more complex equipment. The grain binder and threshing were combined hence today's term Combine in one field machine.
Grain could be cut and threshed in the field. In the hayfield, swaths of hay were picked up and baled in one operation, eliminating bulk hay handling. Hayloaders, slings, and hot haymows became a thing of the past. Corn started to be husked in the field and thrown into wagon boxes called bang boarding because as men walked down the rows picking corn, the ears were thrown against a wide board above one side of the wagon box before falling back into the box.
Soon this slow process was followed by corn picking machines which picked and husked the ears of corn and elevated them to a towed wagon. Gone were corn binders, corn shocks, and corn husking by hand in the field, as well as hauling crates of corn to corn cribs. With the introduction of hydraulics and its mechanical advantages, much larger and more powerful machinery was possible, to come into use on the larger fields which came as fences were removed from diversified farms as they changed into the cash crop farms of today.
In Mom and Dad celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary at home. In March the same year they decided to retire and bought a house in town. Instead of building a new one, they found an old one on Main Street. Dad said he liked it especially because when he left town, he turned the same way to go to their new home as he had when he went to the farm. He also picked an old house because he didn't have to wait for Maple trees to grow around a new one; he loved the ones he'd always had at the farm.
Though this portion of the farm story doesn't describe the kind of farming I grew up with and have tried to describe earlier, it does involve the farm as well as Dad's plan for passing it on to his heirs. Income taxes, which started about the time the Folks were married, had grown to a major item. Land alone now was probably worth several hundred dollars an acre and there were acres, including his purchases, as well as the buildings.
All increase in value would be subject to heavy taxes. He wanted the highest amount possible to go to his kids, and came up with this plan to do it. In his words, "Your Mother and I didn't work fifty years to give what we earned to the government. He picked an amount close to what he felt might be left after real estate commissions and the taxes on a market price, and sold it to his boys on a land contract at this lower price.
This kept the amount owed the government the lowest he could. When we started paying off the land contract and he realized he owed all or most of our payments to the government as income taxes, he halted that process. Three thousand per year was the maximum "gift" allowed without taxes under the IRS rules. When the contract was paid off that way, his heirs had been treated equally and his sons had the farm. Taxes had been kept at a minimum. That's the way he wanted it and it was Justice of the Peace legal. Ownership was split into three equal parts.
It was a simple, flexible way for us to operate because each year's activity could be summarized, divided, and added to our individual tax returns. Parr III carried on, replacing Dad as we now paid taxes, filed government papers, used the house, which became a family club house, and took charge of what farming we undertook with the auction leftovers and what we bought or borrowed.
Dad even left Bobby on the farm to be our watch dog, taking table scraps to him each day as he went to the farm to check things out. He couldn't see him as a "town" dog after so many years by his side on the farm. To those driving by, things looked much the same as they had in recent years.
No new names went on the mailbox or the barn, and a lot of Dad's stuff was still in evidence. The sheep, cows and horses were gone, but the garden was planted as usual and the house looked the same with the same curtains in the windows, wood smoke rising from the chimneys, and no new additions or alterations.
But underneath many changes took place. The place was empty most of the time during the week, but filled with activity on weekends. Les and his boys came almost every Friday and settled in. Floyd and his boys stopped in more often during the week to work some fields or check on things.
We came less often partly because of our family style and the fact that I wasn't as interested in farming. Also, there wasn't as much for our girls to do on the farm and Clayton was much younger than his male cousins. Dad and Mom only took from the old house what they wanted for their town house so it too looked almost the same inside. Stoves and refrigerator stayed along with a smattering of furniture in almost every room.
Even the canning jars and crocks were left. We gradually added what I call "eclectic recycle, auction, yard-sale items", whatever we could or thought we might need that cost very little or nothing. Later after the shack was built by the lake, there was another relocation of some of this collection for use there. The same kind of thing happened in the out buildings. Dad didn't strip them at the auction, but sold only major items, leaving many others behind. Slings and harpoon forks stayed in the barns along with harness surpluses and many others. There, too, we began collecting "bargains" we could use.
It was a motley collection of farm tools and equipment, but served our needs most of the time. I turn now to a list of events taking place on Parr III, rather than a detailed account of direct experiences I took part in. They are gone in 30 minutes on a morning when there was a strong west wind. Granary with scorched north wall and other buildings saved. We build a shack on Lake Someday out of recycled railroad ties, poles from the woods, and some sheet metal roofing.
Complete with lofts, well, wood range and furnace, 12 volt lights run from car batteries, and outhouse. Concrete floor made by rototilling cement and water into the gravel floor. We buy 20 acres on the SW corner along Austin Rd. See p. The west boundary of the farm now runs l mile north from Austin Rd. Hunting Club formed. Fields planted with cover for the birds. Membership corn roasts by the lake to start the season; afterglows in the house after hunts. Game dressed for a fee during afterglows. Start planting low cost pine seedlings on open ground near wooded areas.
Eventually there were 10, of them Hunt deer and small game in season, frog giggin' around the new lake, stock it with fish and start fishing, trapping in season, sucker catches in the spring in the creek. Rebuild the dam when the first one washes out. Record catch in first lake—a 42" Northern Pike. Skating parties on the lake, tobogganing on the hills, doodle bug rides, demolition derbies, euchre parties and liver fries in the shack. The list has been compiled as items came to memory. There are no recorded dates for most of them, but I have tried to place them in a semblance of order.
All in all the Parr III years served to pull the Clayton and Willo Parr family together as few are, during these longer periods of time spent together at the farm. It was an excellent place for boys to grow up and let them experience nature directly as participation and opportunities came to them. The direct work experienced on the farm wasn't available in town. Mistakes of adolescence there weren't as likely to be police matters as they might have been in the city.
Girls could plant trees, experience the natural settings as they wished, or just pick an oak tree to climb as they read a book or "get away from it all for a while". One of our girls just enjoyed being alone back on the farm where she could yell her head off and know no one was bothered by it. Shared experience by the older set pulled them together, too, and probably wouldn't have happened otherwise.
Hazel's farm was close by enabling her and her family to mingle and become a part of the group. Once more Parr reasonableness came forward to preserve what we had grown to love on our native farmland. We were again faced with the impact of inflation and taxes on what had happened since Mom and Dad left. Floyd found a promising developer who could be negotiated with directly, again avoiding real estate fees. Developer Beck worked out a plan to build roads to serve the 24 plots he laid out on the acres.
These lots had deed restrictions preventing subdividing, clear cutting and hunting. Eight of them were lake front lots and they ranged in size from 6 to 34 acres, many in the deep woods. Les's house was included. The farm house and dooryard were sold off. The new roads were blacktopped and all utilities were buried. As a result when one drives through the area today, it still looks very much the way it did before development. Most of the houses are hidden in the woods and can't be seen as you drive along.
Before the deal was closed, we harvested native trees from the woods. Skillful cutters were able to remove that many trees and not produce an atmosphere of devastation so usual with careless loggers. We couldn't escape the tax man this time, but our "farm" should remain indefinitely, still to be enjoyed in memory by those remaining to take sentimental journeys along its new roads. Thus ends what started as my farm story and grew to cover , eighty Parr years on one farm. As family members read this material, many recollections should come to their minds based on experiences at the farm.
If these can be added to what has been set down from one person's viewpoint, the story will be broadened and improved. In this enlarged form it can become truly the story of a family for eighty years. I think here of Lenora's credo about the written record: "The material things given our children can be lost or perish, but what you give them in writing can last forever. In due time, an unusual family collection will be complete. Four generations of Parrs and their spouses 17 in all will rest on that Oakgrove Cemetery hillside overlooking the small, insignificant Clayton Parr farm and farmhouse which became birthplace to all of us, and such a large and lasting part of the lives we lived out " If I hadn't ruptured myself when I had whooping cough as a baby, I probably wouldn't be writing about helping raise chicks on our farm.
My three brothers worked with Dad helping with the heavy farm work, but I had to help with lighter things, like baby chicks. We ordered baby chicks from the hatchery so they would arrive in late March. Many things had to be done before they came and there could be no hitches or delay. We were always ready for them. Our brooder house was portable and could be pulled around with a team of horses. Dad believed new ground was free from disease and each year picked a new site on the edge of a hayfield abutting the door yard to minimize the chore of carrying feed and water.
The brooder house was a frame building about 10 feet square made of home-sawed lumber with a sloping roof almost high enough to let one stand up at the low end. There was one door, one window and a stovepipe hole through the metal roof in the corner. Each year all of the old dirt had to be cleaned out before we could use it.
Old wash water with added lye was used to clean the floor and lower walls as they were scrubbed white. Once it dried out, the floor was covered with layers of clean newspaper and we were ready for chicks. During the off-season the brooder stove was stored in the granary. We uncovered it and carried it out to be set up in the center of the brooder house. It was in two parts — the stove and the hood. The stove was cast iron the size of a five gallon pail. The galvanized sheet iron hood in the shape of a Chinese coolie hat sat on top of the stove.
The tight fit at the top combined with its shape kept chicks as warm from the stove as a brood hen. The stove burned hard anthracite coal which we bought in bags to store in the brooder house with some kindling.
A thermostat opened and closed the draft and check draft opened enough to keep the fire going. In milder weather the damper might stay closed too long and let the fire go out. That meant starting the fire all over again. We lived in constant dread that the fire would "get away from us" and "cook" the chicks or go out and let them chill. Either way the chicks might suffer injury from which they would never recover. After the brooder house and stove were ready, the feeders and watering cans had to be scrubbed and scalded to clean away last year's dirt. We fed our chicks milk so there was a special gallon cock feeder to be cleaned, too.
At last we were ready for that card in the mailbox which said, "Your baby chicks are in". We had to go either to the post office or the freight office, pay the freight cost and bring them home in the car. At that season both the post office and the freight office were filled with boxes of chicks in shipment, accompanied by their chirps.
Baby chicks were shipped in special heavy cardboard boxes, punched with rows of dime-shaped holes for ventilation. Each square box was fitted with a cover that had inch wood blocks glued on top to permit stacking and ensure ventilation during shipment. The interior was divided into 4 sections which held 25 chicks each. I liked to lift the cover and hear them chirp as I gently nabbed the downy fuzzballs, but there never seemed to be much time to do this. Water in saucers was nearby and as each chick was taken out of the box, its beak was dipped in water and held there for a moment to start the drinking process, I guess.
I brood. We counted the chicks as they taken from the box and usually found an extra one in each section of the box — good hatchery men gave customers extra measure in case a chick or two might be injured in shipment. When we were through there were chicks staggering around our feet and we stepped very carefully moving to the door so that none were crushed under foot.
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Now the steady grind began. Heat, water and food were needed each day and more were consumed with each passing day. All of it had to be carried to them. We started our chicks on oatmeal and then converted to commercial chick starter. MasterMix feeds came in lb. When we went for more food we had to get the right kind as well as match the calico of the last bag, or find a better pattern, if possible. After a month the chicks were ready to be let outside. During the day they frisked about and preened in the spring sunshine and began to eat grass.
I had to watch the skies for a sudden rainstorm to be sure they're back inside before it hit. If they got wet a new fire was started to dry them out so they didn't crowd together for warmth and possibly smother some in the process. No matter what the weather was, they had to be shut in at night to protect them from predators. Mother never forgot to check with me at bedtime to be sure the chicks were shut in. I had to make that trip before going to bed even if it were dark and I had washed my feet. We aimed to raise chicks each year. Chicks were not separated by sex in those days so half were pullets and the rest roosters.
Roosters were for eating and pullets added to our laying flock. We didn't mind brown eggs and settled for fewer of them than the white eggs Leghorns laid. Our laying flock produced more than enough eggs for our use. Extras were either sold at the farm or traded in town for groceries. Stores allowed us less than their retail price for the balance against our purchase. Sometimes you received cash back and at other times you paid the difference. At the time I was caring for baby chicks it was difficult to remember all the good things our chickens did for us. Dad usually was the one to call us each morning just in time to get the chores done before it was time to leave for school—we didn't get up any earlier than we needed to.
I was a light sleeper and could hear Dad's joints crack as he got out of bed downstairs, moved around to dress before going to the kitchen. I could hear him shake the range grates, open the top of the range and stuff a few sheets of crumpled newspaper into the firebox. Then he used the butcher knife to shave several slivers of kindling from a chunk of an old cedar fence post which always stood next to the woodbox. When the wind was right during summer months, some smoke perfumed with burning cedar drifted through our upstairs bedroom window.
After filling the tea kettle and setting it on the range, Dad went to the back room called woodshed in spite of the fact that nearly everything but wood was kept there. There he picked up a five gallon pail of swill usually skimmed milk, potato peelings and dishwater and a couple clean milk pails. With his hands full, he had to kick the screen door open; at that point he called my name and I had to arouse my three sound sleeping brothers. If Mother called us, it was out of the ordinary and always a half an hour earlier. She only did it when Dad was sick or in the early spring when he fiddled alfalfa.
An exact day for fiddling alfalfa could not be chosen in advance because fiddling had to be done when the ground froze and thawed just right and there was absolutely no wind. When Dad found these conditions at dawn, he set the day and would be at work in the field by the time Mother called us. The fiddle and alfalfa seed from the granary were picked up by Dad before he walked to the field of wheat which had been planted the previous September and was starting its spring growth.
A fiddle was a hand seeding tool consisting of a couple suspenders holding a canvas bag on a board fastened to a crank driven disc. The bottom of the bag was a six inch square board with an adjustable hole with a shutoff in the center of it; the canvas was tacked round the edge of this board to seal it.
The metal disc had four ribs atop it and could be spun with the crank. About a peck of seed alfalfa, clover, timothy was placed in the bag after the size of the bottom hole had been adjusted for the seed to be sown. To fiddle, the operator had to open the hole, spin the crank at a uniform rate and move straight back and forth across the field at a brisk walk.
At the edge of the field, the seed was shut off while he paced the distance for the right point for the return walk. This distance had to be just enough to assure there would be neither gaps nor overlaps in the seeding. The disc threw seeds evenly over an area 25 feet wide, as the operator walked, cranked steadily and there was no wind.
It didn't take Dad long to finish one of our fields 5 to 10 acres and join us as we were finishing the chores. Mother Nature finished the rest of the seeding. As the soil thawed and re-froze each day there was enough soil movement solifluction to cover the tiny seeds. A gentle rain at the right time helped. Drought or flooding complicated germination so there was lots of checking to see if there was a "good catch". The seedlings grew along with the new grain crop. When we didn't get a good catch, the seed had been wasted and an old hay field might have to be used another year before we could fiddle again to start a new one.
I'm sure Dad had a lot of personal pride when he got a perfect catch—especially in fields along the road for neighbors to see. The uniformity of his new seedlings always amazed me. How did he know the right distances, walking speeds, fan speeds and seed quantities to use? He still protected new seedlings at harvest time. Shocks of grain were not left on a new field long enough to kill young plants under them. Rather than leaving them there until we could get a rig to thresh them from the field as many others did, we took them to the barn as soon as they were dry enough and put them in the barn or stacked them outside to await threshing day.
The most complex machine used on our farm in the '30s was the Deering grain binder we used to cut oats, rye, barley, or wheat. Like most of our equipment it probably was purchased at some farm auction when Dad started farming. As long as a used piece of equipment was in running order and the price was right, brand names didn't make much difference. Each inventor-builder felt his design and performance was best and said so in his advertising, but there were no standards for farm machines and for both new and second owners, reasonable performance at an affordable price became the rule of the day.
Grain binders were built for use under widely varying conditions. Some grain stood six feet tall in the field while another variety might be 18 inches high when it was ready to cut. Height of the cutting knife from the ground was adjustable by cranking the wheels up or down as the machine was set up. While grain was being cut, minor adjustments could be made with a lever which tilted the machine forward or backward when going up or down hills. The purpose of all this flexibility was to enable the grain operator to cut all the grain stalks long enough to be bound into bundles and to keep from digging into the ground when going uphill or being above the stalks when going down hill.
Even more adjustments were needed to adjust for variations in the length of the different stalks as they accumulated to form a bundle. Packing arms and a butter were used to form and tie bundles—the end product of the binder. Bundles needed to be tied mid length of the stalks or they wouldn't shock well and some of the grain stalks might fall out. A different lever controlled this and could move the butter closer or further away from the needle and knotter which tied each bundle with binder twine. The size weight of bundles could be changed by adjustments in tension on the springs which tripped the knotter when the desired number of stalks had been packed into the butter.
Usually all bundles for any type of grain were the same size and settings weren't changed until a different type of grain was to be cut. A slow moving reel hanging just above the cutter bar nudged the newly cut stalks back onto moving canvasses which carried the grain away and into the butter. This reel could be lowered or raised as the length of the grain changed or when going up or down hill to be sure the cut grain always fell on the canvass in about the same spot. What has been described above takes place when grain is being cut in a field. However, to get one into a field to cut took a different kind of adjustment.
Ours was a five foot binder, that is, it cut a swath that wide. In the cutting position a binder was too wide for the gates. One might think that it would be easier to make wider gates than to make changes in the binder, but that didn't happen. While in storage and when traveling to a harvest field, the binder tongue was attached to the end of the machine—90 degrees different from the wide operating side of the binder but narrow enough to go through a gate.
In this position, on special utility wheels called trucks, the binder could only be moved along its path—it could not operate to cut grain. The 8 fenced fields we tilled ranged in size from 5 to 18 acres so we had to go through this process each time we moved to a field and each time we went from one field to another.
In addition, two railroads cut through the farm and each crossing had two standard gates. Binder work was done with three horses that needed to be hitched and unhitched to move to the field and to set up for cutting grain. The tongue was so long that it was removed from the binder in storage and hung on the shed wall. When the binder was needed, the tongue had to be removed from the wall, fitted with the three horse evener and whiffletrees and attached to the binder.
Then the binder could be pulled out of the shed and parked under the Maple trees to be prepped for use. There it was possible to install the three canvasses which moved cut grain from the table and up where it could fall into the butter binder section of the machine which also had packer arms, a needle, and a knotter. Canvasses were about 40 inches wide with wood slats riveted to them every inches. Leather straps bound the ends together to make them into a conveyor. A single canvass on the platform moved cut grain toward the pair used to move the grain up to where it fell into the packers.
Canvasses had to be protected from mice and usually were stored hanging on wires from the ceiling of the granary. When repairs were needed it was rough on Mother's Singer sewing machine to patch them, but it had to be done in spite of the needles that might be broken. Straps and buckles were stitched with the awl and riveted as necessary. Canvasses had to be tight in order to move on the driving rollers, so tight that unless loosened at the end of each day in the field, night moisture would shrink them and pull the rivets from the straps. After the canvasses were in place, the reel was checked for any loose or broken slats, the cutting blade was inspected for loose or missing sections or guards, and the knotter lubricated and threaded with twine from a fresh ball.
With a special crank the action of the binder's chains could be operated manually and all points requiring it be lubricated. When everything worked as it should, we were ready to hitch up the team and head for the field. We usually did this late in the afternoon in order to "open out" the field because everything was at its driest then and cut easier. But before the binder could cut grain it had to be changed from the trucks to the traction and operating wheels and this had to be done as soon as you were through the gate in the standing grain. Horses were unhitched, the tongue removed and placed on the long side of the binder.
When the "bull" wheel traction wheel was cranked down, it picked up the weight of the binder and helped set the height of the cutting bar. The tongue could then be reattached and used as a lever to get the remaining non-traction wheel in place. When the horses were hooked to the tongue, the floating weight of the machine was on their necks and the bull wheel took the rest.
It took a lot of human muscle to lift the tongue up and snap it onto the harness straps. After the canvasses were tightened, the reel set, and the butter adjusted for the height of the grain, we were ready to cut again. Opening out a field was the hardest work to be done.
To do this it was necessary to cut around the field at the very outside edge of the grain. The horses and the binder were in standing grain, a full five feet of grain was being cut, the reel was likely to strike branches sticking out from the fence row and the binder action was sluggish from storage. Often there were horse flies in the bushes which irritated the horsed more than usual. Someone had to follow the binder and throw every bundle into the cut area out of the way for the next round which would go the opposite way so you drove in the cut stubble.
We were always glad to get this round behind us after many stops and much prodding of the team in its first experience with this most demanding work. He crawled out, shivering. He pulled on his trousers and waist, and ran downstairs to button up by the kitchen stove. Father and Royal had gone to the barns. Almanzo took the milk pails and hurried out. The night seemed very large and still, and the stars sparkled like frost in the black sky.
When the chores were done and he came back with Father and Royal to the warm kitchen, breakfast was almost ready. How good it smelled! Almanzo washed as quickly as he could, and combed his hair. As soon as Mother finished straining the milk, they all sat down and Father asked the blessing for breakfast. There was oatmeal with plenty of thick cream and maple sugar. There were fried potatoes, and the golden buckwheat cakes, as many as Almanzo wanted to eat, with sausages and gravy or with butter and maple syrup.
There were preserves and jams and jellies and doughnuts. But best of all Almanzo liked the spicy apple pie, with its thick, rich juice and its crumbly crust. He ate two big wedges of the pie. He did not want to go. He did not want to be there when the big boys thrashed Mr. But he had to go to school because he was almost nine years old. But they went only a little way, and came back in time. Corse tried to punish them. One day they were gone until after recess.
When they came tramping into the schoolhouse they all grinned impudently at Mr. He waited until they were in their seats. Then he stood up, pale, and he said:. Everybody knew what would happen next day. When Royal and Almanzo reached home that night, they told Father. He undertook it. All next morning, while he sat holding up his primer, he could not study.
He was dreading what was going to happen to Mr. When the primer class was called, he could not read the lesson. He had to stay in with the girls at recess, and he wished he could lick Bill Ritchie. At noon he went out to play, and he saw Mr. All the boys stood where they were and watched Mr. He was a big, rough man, with a loud voice and a loud laugh. He was proud of Bill because Bill could thrash school-teachers and break up the school. Nobody ran to fasten a sled behind Mr. They rode, loudly talking, around the bend of the road and out of sight.
The other boys did not play any more; they stood and talked about what would happen. That afternoon nobody knew the lessons. Corse called up class after class, and they lined up with their toes on a crack in the floor, but they could not answer his questions. Corse did not punish anybody. He said:. Everybody knew that Mr. Corse would not be there tomorrow. One of the little girls began tocry, then three or four of them put their heads down on their desks and sobbed.
Almanzo had to sit still in his seat and look at his primer. After a long time Mr. Corse called him to the desk, to see if he could read the lesson now. Almanzo knew every word of it, but there was a lump in his throat that would not let the words out. He stood looking at the page while Mr. Corse waited. Then they heard the big boys coming. He turned him around and said:. The room was still. Everybody was waiting.
The big boys came up the path and clattered into the entry, hooting and jostling one another. The door banged open, and Big Bill Ritchie swaggered in. The other big boys were behind him. Corse looked at them and did not say anything. Bill Ritchie laughed in his face, and still he did not speak. The big boys jostled Bill, and he jeered again at Mr. Then he led them all tramping loudly down the aisle to their seats. Corse lifted the lid of his desk and dropped one hand out of sight behind the raised lid.
Corse stepped away from his desk. His hand came from behind the desk lid, and a long, thin, black streak hissed through the air. It was a blacksnake ox-whip fifteen feet long. Corse held the short handle, loaded with iron, that could kill an ox. Corse jerked. Bill lurched and almost fell. Quick as black lightening the lash circled and stuck and coiled again, and again Mr.
Bill could not reach him. Faster and faster the lash was hissing and crackling, coiling and jerking, and more and more quickly Mr. Corse backed away, jerking Bill almost off his feet. Up and down they went in the open space in front of the desk. The lash kept coiling and tripping Bill, Mr. Corse kept running backward and striking. It came and went, hissing, too fast to be seen. Bill rushed, and the floor shook when the whiplash jerked him over backward. The lash jerked him around. He began to bawl like a calf. He blubbered and begged. The lash kept on hissing, circling, jerking. Bit by bit it jerked Bill to the door.
Corse threw him headlong into the entry and slammed and locked the door. John was in the aisle, staring. He whirled around and tried to get away, but Mr. Corse took a quick step, caught him with the whiplash and jerked him forward. Corse did not answer. He was panting and sweat trickled down his cheek. The whiplash was coiling and hissing, jerking John to the door. Corse threw him out and slammed the door, and turned.
The other big boys had got the window open. One, two, three, they jumped out into the deep snow and floundered away. Corse coiled the whip neatly and laid it in his desk. He wiped his face with his handkerchief, straightened his collar, and said:. Royal tiptoed to the window and shut it.
Corse called the arithmetic class. Nobody knew the lesson. All the rest of the afternoon, no one knew a lesson. And there was no recess that afternoon. Everybody had forgotten it. Almanzo could hardly wait till school was dismissed and he could rush out with the other boys and yell. The big boys were licked! But Almanzo did not know the best part of it till he listened to his father talking to Mr. Corse that night at supper. Almanzo stopped eating.
He sat and looked at Father. Father had known, all the time. Almanzo was sure that Father was the smartest man in the world, as well as the biggest and strongest. Father was talking. He said that while the big boys were riding on Mr. Ritchie that they were going to thrash the teacher that afternoon.
Ritchie thought it was a good joke. He was so sure the boys would do it that he told everyone in town they had done it, and on his way home he had stopped to tell Father that Bill had thrashed Mr. Corse and broken up the school again. Almanzo had forgotten it. He was nine years old, that cold winter morning. Almanzo wanted to see it right away. But Mother said if he did not eat his breakfast he was sick, and must take medicine.
Then he ate as fast as he could, and she said:. Mothers always fuss about the way you eat. You can hardly eat any way that pleases them. But at last breakfast was over and Almanzo got to the woodshed. There was a little calf yoke! Father had made it of red cedar, so it was strong and yet light. Almanzo did not go to school that day.
He did not have to go to school when there were more important things to do. He carried the little yoke to the barn, and Father went with him. Almanzo thought that if he handled the calves perfectly, perhaps Father might let him help with the colts next year. Star and Bright were in their warm stall in the South Barn. Their little red sides were sleek and silky from all the curryings Almanzo had given them. They crowded against him when he went into the stall, and licked at him with their wet, rough tongues. They thought he had brought them carrots. They did not know he was going to teach them how to behave like big oxen.
Father showed him how to fit the yoke carefully to their soft necks. He must scrape its inside curves with a bit of broken glass, till the yoke fitted perfectly and the wood was silky smooth. Then Almanzo let down the bars of the stall, and the wondering calves followed him into the dazzling, cold, snowy barnyard. He slipped a wooden bow-pin through one end of the bow, above the yoke, and it held the bow in place. Bright kept twisting his head and trying to see the strange thing on his neck.
But Almanzo had made him so gentle that he stood quietly, and Almanzo gave him a piece of carrot. Star heard him crunching it and came to get his share. Father pushed him around beside Bright, under the other end of the yoke, and Almanzo pushed the other bow up under his throat and fastened it with its bow-pin.
There, already, he had his little yoke of oxen. He stood in front of the calves and shouted:. Almanzo pulled, till finally Star stepped forward. Bright snorted and pulled back. Father helped Almanzo push them, till they stood properly side by side again. Then Almanzo knew that he was really old enough to do important things all by himself. He stood in the snow and looked at the calves, and they stared innocently at him.
But he must find some way to tell them:. He came back and stood as far in front of the calves as he could, holding the rope in his left hand. He put his right hand into the pocket of his barn jumper. They came eagerly. He gave each of them a piece, and when they had eaten it he backed away again, and putting his hand in his pocket he shouted:. They were behaving as well as grown-up oxen when Father came to the barn door and said:. Almanzo did not think it was enough, but of course he could not contradict Father.
Almanzo could hardly believe it. The whole morning had gone in a minute. He put Star and Bright in their warm stall. Then Father showed him how to wipe the bows and yoke with wisps of clean hay, and hang them on their pegs. He must always clean them and keep them dry, or the calves would have sore necks. In the Horse-Barn he stopped just a minute to look at the colts.
He liked Star and Bright, but calves were clumsy and awkward compared with the slender, fine, quick colts. Their nostrils fluttered when they breathed, their ears moved as swiftly as birds. They tossed their heads with a flutter of manes, and daintily pawed with their slender legs and little hoofs, and their eyes were full of spirit.
It was strange to be eating all alone with Father and Mother. They ate at the table in the kitchen, because there was no company today. The kitchen was bright with the glitter of snow outside. The floor and the tables were scrubbed bone white with lye and sand. Almanzo was very hungry. He ate in silence, busily filling the big emptiness inside him, while Father and Mother talked. When they finished eating, Mother jumped up and began putting the dishes into the dishpan. There, right before him, was a new handsled! He could hardly believe it was for him.
The calf-yoke was his birthday present. He asked:. It was a beautiful sled. Father had made it of hickory. It was long and slim and swift-looking; the hickory runners had been soaked and bent into long, clean curves that seemed ready to fly. Almanzo stroked the shiny-smooth wood. It was polished so perfectly that he could not feel even the tops of the wooden pegs that held it together.
There was a bar between the runners, for his feet. At the top of the hill, Almanzo started the sled and flung himself on it, and away he went. Only the track was curving and narrow, so sooner or later he spilled into the drifts. End over end went the flying sled, and headlong went Almanzo. But he floundered out, and climbed the hill again. Several times he went into the house for apples and doughnuts and cookies.
Downstairs was still warm and empty. Almanzo opened the woodshed door and heard the slithery, soft sound of a shaving-knife, and the flap of a turned shingle. His snowy mittens hung by their string around his neck; in his right hand he held a doughnut, and in his left hand two cookies. He took a bite of doughnut and then a bite of cookie. Father sat astraddle on the end of the shaving-bench, by the window. The bench slanted upward toward him, and at the top of the slant two pegs stood up. At his right hand was a pile of rough shingles which he had split with his ax from short lengths of oak logs.
One stroke smoothed it, another stroke shaved the upper end thinner than the lower end. Father flipped the shingle over. Two strokes on that side, and it was done. Father laid it on the pile of finished shingles, and set another rough one against the pegs. His hands moved smoothly and quickly. They did not stop even when he looked up and twinkled at Almanzo. Almanzo straddled it, and crammed the rest of the doughnut into his mouth.
He took the handles of the long knife in his hands and shaved carefully up the shingle. Then Almanzo turned it over, and they shaved the other side. That was all he wanted to do. He got off the bench and went in to see Mother. Her hands were flying and her right foot was tapping on the treadle of the loom. Back and forth the shuttle flew from her right hand to her left and back again, between the even threads of warp, and swiftly the threads of warp crisscrossed each other, catching fast the thread that the shuttle left behind it.
In a corner stood the idle spinning-wheel. All along one wall were shelves full of hanks of red and brown and blue and yellow yarn, which Mother had dyed last summer. Mother was weaving undyed wool from a white sheep and wool from a black sheep, twisted together. Royal was going to the Academy in Malone next winter, and Mother was weaving the cloth for his new suit. So everything was snug and comfortable in the house, and Almanzo went downstairs and took two more doughnuts from the doughnut-jar, and then he played outdoors again with his sled. Too soon the shadows slanted down the eastward slopes, and he had to put his sled away and help water the stock, for it was chore-time.
The well was quite a long way from the barns. A little house stood over the pump, and the water ran down a trough through the wall and into the big watering-trough outside. The troughs were coated with ice, and the pump handle was so cold that it burned like fire if you touched it with a bare finger.
Boys sometimes dared other boys to lick a pump handle in cold weather. Almanzo knew better than to take the dare. Your tongue would freeze to the iron, and you must either starve to death or pull away and leave part of your tongue there. Almanzo stood in the icy pumphouse and he pumped with all his might while Father led the horses to the trough outside. First Father led out the teams, with the young colts following their mothers.
Then he led out the older colts, one at a time. They were not yet well broken, and they pranced and jumped and jerked at the halter-rope, because of the cold. But Father hung on and did not let them get away. All the time Almanzo was pumping as fast as he could. The water gushed from the pump with a chilly sound, and the horses thrust their shivering noses into it and drank it up quickly. Then Father took the pump handle. He pumped the big trough full, and he went to the barns and turned out all the cattle. Cattle did not have to be led to water. They came eagerly to the trough and drank while Almanzo pumped, then they hurried back to the warm barns, and each went to its own place.
Each cow turned into her own stall and put her head between her own stanchions. They never made a mistake. Whether this was because they had more sense than horses, or because they had so little sense that they did everything by habit, Father did not know. Now Almanzo took the pitchfork and began to clean the stalls, while Father measured oats and peas into the feed-boxes.
Royal came from school, and they all finished chores together as usual. He thought he must go to school next day. But that night Father said it was time to cut ice. Almanzo could stay at home to help, and so could Royal. A little water thrown into the air came down as tiny balls of ice. Even on the south side of the house at noon the snow did not soften. This was perfect weather for cutting ice, because when the blocks were lifted from the pond, no water would drip; it would instantly freeze.
The sun was rising, and all the eastern slopes of the snowdrifts were rosy in its light, when Almanzo snuggled under the fur robes between Father and Royal in the big bobsled, and they set out to the pond on Trout River. The horses trotted briskly, shaking jingles from their bells. Their breaths had frozen over their nostrils, making it hard for them to breathe.
French Joe and Lazy John were waiting on the pond when the bobsled drove up. They were Frenchmen who lived in little log houses in the woods. They had no farms. They hunted and trapped and fished, they sang and joked and danced, and they drank red wine instead of cider. When Father needed a hired man, they worked for him and he paid them with salt pork from the barrels down cellar.
They stood on the snowy pond, in their tall boots and plaid jackets and fur caps with fur earmuffs, and the frost of their breaths was on their long mustaches. Each had an ax on his shoulder, and they carried cross-cut saws. A cross-cut saw has a long, narrow blade, with wooden handles at the ends. Two men must pull it back and forth across the edge of whatever they want to saw in two. But they could not saw ice that way, because the ice was solid underfoot, like a floor. It had no edge to saw across. Everybody laughed but Almanzo.
He did not know the joke. They had never sawed ice before. They looked at the ice and they looked at the saw, till at last Pat took a penny out of his pocket and he says, says he:. Then Almanzo laughed, to think of anyone going down into the dark, cold water under the ice, to pull one end of the cross-cut saw. He trudged with the others across the ice to the middle of the pond.
A sharp wind blew there, driving wisps of snow before it. Above the deep water the ice was smooth and dark, swept almost bare of snow. Almanzo watched while Joe and John chopped a big, three cornered hole in it. They lifted out the broken pieces of ice and carried them away, leaving the hole full of open water. Lazy John and French Joe knelt at the edge of the hole. They lowered their cross-cut saws into the water and began to saw. Nobody pulled the ends of the saws under the water.
Side by side, they sawed two straight cracks through the ice, twenty inches apart, and twenty feet long. Then with the ax John broke the ice across, and a slab twenty inches wide, twenty inches thick, and twenty feet long rose a little and floated free. Father picked up the cubes with the big iron ice-tongs, and loaded them on the bobsleds. Almanzo ran to the edge of the hole, watching the saw. Suddenly, right on the very edge, he slipped.
He felt himself falling headlong into the dark water. He knew he would sink and be drawn under the solid ice. The swift current would pull him under the ice, where nobody could find him. French Joe grabbed him just in time. He heard a shout and felt a rough hand jerk him by one leg, he felt a terrific crash, and then he was lying on his stomach on the good, solid ice. He got up on his feet.
Father was coming, running. He knew it. He knew he should have been more careful. Almanzo knew that, and felt ashamed. He shrank up small inside his clothes and his legs shivered, afraid of the whipping. But he knew he deserved to be whipped. The whip was on the bobsled. He went away from the hole, and did not go near it again. Father finished loading the bobsled. Then he spread the lap robes on top of the ice, and Almanzo rode on them with Father and Royal, back to the ice-house near the barns.
The ice-house was built of boards with wide cracks between. It was set high from the ground on wooden blocks, and looked like a big cage. Only the floor and the roof were solid. On the floor was a huge mound of sawdust, which Father had hauled from the lumber-mill. With a shovel Father spread the sawdust three inches thick on the floor. On this he laid the cubes of ice, three inches apart. Then he drove back to the pond, and Almanzo went to work with Royal in the ice-house. They filled every crack between the cubes with sawdust, and tamped it down tightly with sticks.
Then they shoveled the whole mound of sawdust on top of the ice, in a corner, and where it had been they covered the floor with cubes of ice and packed them in sawdust. Then they covered it all with sawdust three inches thick. They worked as fast as they could, but before they finished, Father came with another load of ice. He laid down another layer of ice cubes three inches apart, and drove away, leaving them to fill every crevice tightly with sawdust, and spread sawdust over the top, and shovel the rest of the mound of sawdust up again.
They worked so hard that the exercise kept them warm, but long before noon Almanzo was hungrier than wolves. All of his middle was hollow, with a gnawing inside it. He knelt on the ice, pushing sawdust into the cracks with his mittened hands, and pounding it down with a stick as fast as he could, and he asked Royal:. They talked about spareribs, and turkey with dressing, and baked beans, and crackling cornbread, and other good things. When, at last, they went in to dinner, there on the table was a big dish of them! Mother knew what he liked best, and she had cooked it for him.
He ate roast beef and brown gravy, and mashed potatoes and creamed carrots and boiled turnips, and countless slices of buttered bread with crab-apple jelly. Almanzo poured the heavy cream over the apples nested in the fluffy crust. The syrupy brown juice curled up around the edges of the cream. Almanzo took up his spoon and ate every bit. Then until chore-time he and Royal worked in the ice-house. All next day they worked, and all the next day. Just at dusk on the third day, Father helped them spread the last layer of sawdust over the topmost cubes of ice, in the peak of the icehouse roof.
And that job was done. Buried in sawdust, the blocks of ice would not melt in the hottest summer weather. One at a time they would be dug out, and Mother would make ice-cream and lemonade and cold egg nog. All day long Mother had been baking, and when Almanzo went into the kitchen for the milk-pails, she was still frying doughnuts.
The place was full of their hot, brown smell, and the wheaty smell of new bread, the spicy smell of cakes, and the syrupy smell of pies. Almanzo took the biggest doughnut from the pan and bit off its crisp end. Mother was rolling out the golden dough, slashing it into long strips, rolling and doubling and twisting the strips.
Her fingers flew; you could hardly see them. The strips seemed to twist themselves under her hands, and to leap into the big copper kettle of swirling hot fat. Then quickly they came popping up, to float and slowly swell, till they rolled themselves over, their pale golden backs going into the fat and their plump brown bellies rising out of it. They rolled over, Mother said, because they were twisted. Some women made a new fangled shape, round, with a hole in the middle.
Almanzo liked baking-day. On Saturday night there was no cosy evening by the heater, with apples, popcorn, and cider. Saturday night was bath night. After supper Almanzo and Royal again put on their coats and caps and mufflers and mittens. They carried a tub from the washtub outdoors to the rain-water barrel.
Everything was ghostly with snow. The stars were frosty in the sky, and only a little faint light came from the candle in the kitchen. The inside of the rain-water barrel was coated thick with ice, and in the center, where the ice was chopped every day to keep the barrel from bursting, the hole had grown smaller and smaller. Royal chopped at it, and when his hatchet went through with an oosy thud, the water welled up quickly, because the ice was squeezing it from all sides.
Everything else gets smaller in the cold. Almanzo began dipping water and floating pieces of ice into the washtub. It was cold, slow work, dipping through the small hole, and he had an idea. Long icicles hung from the kitchen eaves. At the top they were a solid piece of ice, then their pointed tips hung down almost to the snow. Almanzo took hold of one and jerked, but only the tip broke off.
The hatchet had frozen to the porch floor where Royal had laid it, but Almanzo tugged it loose. He lifted it up in both hands and hit the icicles. An avalanche of ice came down with a splintering crash. It was a glorious noise. So Royal hit the icicles with both his fists; Almanzo hit them again with the hatchet. The noise was immense. Almanzo yelled and Royal yelled and they hit more and more icicles. Big pieces of ice were flying all over the porch floor, and flying pieces pitted the snow.
Along the eaves there was a gap as though the roof had lost some teeth. Almanzo felt guilty. But they had not really been playing when they had work to do. Almanzo and Royal silently picked up the fallen icicles and silently filled the tub. It was so heavy they staggered when they carried it, and Father had to lift it onto the kitchen stove.
The ice melted while Almanzo greased his moccasins and Royal greased his boots. In the pantry Mother was filling the six-quart pan with boiled beans, putting in onions and peppers and the piece of fat pork, and pouring scrolls of molasses over all. Then Almanzo saw her open the flour barrels. Father opened the big doors of the oven in the heater, and Mother slid the beans and the bread inside.
They would slowly bake there, till Sunday dinner-time. Then Almanzo was left alone in the kitchen, to take his bath. His clean underwear was hanging on a chair-back to air and warm. The washcloth and towel and the small wooden pannikin of soft-soap were on another chair. He brought another washtub from the woodshed and put it on the floor in front of the open oven-door. He took off his waist and one pair of socks and his pants. Then he dipped some warm water from the tub on the stove into the tub on the floor.
He took off his other pair of socks and his underwear, and his bare skin felt good in the heat from the oven. He toasted in the heat, and he thought he might just put on his clean underwear and not take a bath at all. But Mother would look, when he went into the dining-room. So he stepped into the water. It covered his feet. With his fingers he dug some of the brown, slimy soft-soap from the pannikin and smeared it on the washcloth. Then he scrubbed himself well all over. The water was warm around his toes, but it felt cold on his body.
His wet belly steamed in the heat from the oven, but his wet back shivered. And when he turned around, his back seemed to blister, but his front was very cold. So he washed as quickly as he could, and he dried himself and got into his warm underwaist and his woolly long drawers, and he put on his long woolen nightshirt.
Then he remembered his ears.
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He took the washcloth again, and he scrubbed his ears and the back of his neck. He put on his nightcap. He felt very clean and good, and his skin felt sleek in the fresh, warm clothes. It was the Saturday-night feeling. He did not have to empty his tub, because if he went outdoors after taking a bath he would catch cold.
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Alice would empty the tub and wash it before she bathed in it. Almanzo went into the dining-room in his clean, creamy-white underwear and socks and night-shirt and cap. Mother looked at him, and he went to her to be inspected. She laid down her knitting and she looked at his ears and the back of his neck and she looked at his soapy-clean face, and she gave him a hug and a squeeze. Run along with you to bed! He lighted a candle and he padded quickly up the cold stairs and blew out the candle and jumped into the soft, cold feather-bed. He began to say his prayers, but went to sleep before he finished them.
Chapter 8: Sunday. But the little blue platter stood hot on the back of the stove, and ten stacks of pancakes rose in tall towers on it. Ten pancakes cooked on the smoking griddle, and as fast as they were done Mother added another cake to each stack and buttered it lavishly and covered it with maple sugar. Butter and sugar melted together and soaked the fluffy pancakes and dripped all down their crisp edges.
That was stacked pancakes. Almanzo liked them better than any other kind of pancakes. Mother kept on frying them till the others had eaten their oatmeal. She could never make too many stacked pancakes. They all ate pile after pile of them, and Almanzo was still eating when Mother pushed back her chair and said:.
Mother always flew. Her feet went pattering, her hands moved so fast you could hardly watch them. She never sat down in the daytime, except at her spinning-wheel or loom, and then her hands flew, her feet tapped, the spinning-wheel was a blur or the loom was clattering, thump! But on Sunday morning she made everybody else hurry, too. Father curried and brushed the sleek brown driving-horses till they shone. Almanzo dusted the sleigh and Royal wiped the silver-mounted harness. They hitched up the horses, and then they went to the house to put on their Sunday clothes.
Mother was in the pantry, setting the top crust on the Sunday chicken pie. Three fat hens were in the pie, under the bubbling gravy. Mother spread the crust and crimped the edges, and the gravy showed through the two pine-trees she had cut in the dough.
Father filled the stove with hickory logs and closed the dampers, while Mother flew to lay out his clothes and dress herself. Poor people had to wear homespun on Sundays, and Royal and Almanzo wore fullcloth. But Father and Mother and the girls were very fine, in clothes that Mother had made of store boughten cloth, woven by machines.
The coat had a velvet collar, and his shirt was made of French calico. His stock was black silk, and on Sundays he did not wear boots; he wore shoes of thin calfskin. Mother was dressed in brown Merino, with a white lace collar, and white lace frills at her wrists, under the big, bell-shaped sleeves. She had knitted the lace of finest thread, and it was like cobwebs. There were rows of brown velvet around her sleeves and down the front of her basque, and she had made her bonnet of the same brown velvet, with brown velvet strings tied under her chin.
Almanzo was proud of Mother in her fine Sunday clothes. The girls were very fine, too, but he did not feel the same about them. Their hoopskirts were so big that Royal and Almanzo could hardly get into the sleigh. They had to scrooge down and let those hoops bulge over their knees. But when they were all tucked under the buffalo-skin robes, with hot bricks at their feet, Father let the prancing horses go, and Almanzo forgot everything else. The sleigh went like the wind. The beautiful horses shone in the sun; their necks were arched and their heads were up and their slender legs spurned the snowy road.
They seemed to be flying, their glossy long manes and tails blown back in the wind of their speed. He never used the whip; his horses were gentle and perfectly trained. He had only to tighten or slacken the reins, and they obeyed him. His horses were the best horses in New York State, or maybe in the whole world. Malone was five miles away, but Father never started till thirty minutes before church-time.
That team would trot the whole five miles, and he would stable them and blanket them and be on the church steps when the bell rang. When Almanzo thought that it would be years and years before he could hold reins and drive horses like that, he could hardly bear it. In no time at all, Father was driving into the church sheds in Malone.
The sheds were one long, low building, all around the four sides of a square. You drove into the square through a gate. Every man who belonged to the church paid rent for a shed, according to his means, and Father had the best one. It was so large that he drove inside it to unhitch, and there was a manger with feedboxes, and space for hay and oats.
Father let Almanzo help put blankets on the horses, while Mother and the girls shook out their skirts and smoothed their ribbons. Then they all walked sedately into the church. The first clang of the bell rang out when they were on the steps. After that there was nothing to do but sit still till the sermon was over. It was two hours long. But Father always did know. At last it was over.
In the sunshine outside the church, Almanzo felt better. He did not have a farm. So Frank was only a town boy and he played with town boys. But this Sunday morning he was wearing a store-boughten cap. It was made of plaid cloth, machine-woven, and it had ear-flaps that buttoned under the chin. He said the cap came from New York City. His father had bought it in Mr. Nobody has ears on top of hishead.
Almanzo knew he could not have one. The caps that Mother made were snug and warm, and it would be a foolish waste of money to buy a cap. Fifty cents was a lot of money. Almanzo got soberly into the sleigh. He wondered if he would ever be big enough to have anything he wanted.
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When he was younger, Father sometimes let him hold the ends of the reins while Father drove, but he was not a baby now. He wanted to drive the horses, himself.
THE LOST WAGON
Father allowed him to brush and currycomb and rub down the gentle old work-horses, and to drive them on the harrow. But he could not even go into the stalls with the spirited driving-horses or the colts. He hardly dared stroke their soft noses through the bars, and scratch a little on their foreheads under the forelocks. Father said:. In five minutes you can teach them tricks it will take me months to gentle out of them. He felt a little better when he sat down to the good Sunday dinner. He poured gravy over them; he dipped up big pieces of tender chicken, dark meat and white meat sliding from the bones.
He added a mound of baked beans and topped it with a quivering slice of fat pork. At the edge of the plate he piled dark red beet pickles. And he handed the plate to Almanzo. Silently Almanzo ate it all. Then he ate a piece of pumpkin pie, and he felt very full inside. But he ate a piece of apple pie with cheese. The whole afternoon they sat in the drowsy warm dining-room.
Royal fingered the wooden chain that he could not whittle, and Alice looked for a long time out of the window. But Almanzo just sat. He had to. He was not allowed to do anything else, for Sunday was not a day for working or playing. It was a day for going to church and for sitting still. So on Monday morning he said:.
So Almanzo went to the barn and called the little calves out into the frosty air. He did this all by himself. Now and then he ate a piece of raw carrot, himself. The outside part is best. It comes off in a thick, solid ring, and it is sweet. The inside part is juicier, and clear like yellow ice, but it has a thin, sharp taste. At noon, Father said the calves had been worked enough for one day, and that afternoon he would show Almanzo how to make a whip.
They went into the woods, and Father cut some moosewood boughs. First he tied the ends of five strips together, and then he braided them in a round, solid braid. Father shaved shingles and Almanzo carefully braided his whip, just as Father braided the big blacksnake whips of leather. While he turned and twisted the strips, the thin outer bark fell off in flakes, leaving the soft, white, inside bark. He could not finish it before chore-time, and the next day he had to go to school.
But he braided his whip every evening by the heater, till the lash was five feet long. Then Father lent him his jack-knife, and Almanzo whittled a wooden handle, and bound the lash to it with strips of moosewood bark. The whip was done. It would be a perfectly good whip until it dried brittle in the hot summer. Almanzo could crack it almost as loudly as Father cracked a blacksnake whip. And he did not finish it a minute too soon, for already he needed it to give the calves their next lesson. As soon as the whip was ready, he began.
Every Saturday morning he spent in the barnyard, teaching Star and Bright. He never whipped them; he only cracked the whip. He knew you could never teach an animal anything if you struck it, or even shouted at itangrily. He must always be gentle, and quiet, and patient, even when they made mistakes. Star and Bright must like him and trust him and know he would never hurt them, for if they were once afraid of him they would never be good, willing, hard working oxen.