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America At Her Best
Have you ever gotten stuck behind a huge tractor towing a disk or planter? Well, how about a new combine? I mean they have to use more than half the highway. Did I hear right that some of the big combines cost nearly a million dollars? It’s getting harder and harder to think of the new farmers in the same category as the family farmer of the 1930-1990 period. Now I’m not knocking the present-day farmer because if I was 50 as opposed to 90, I would be right out there with you. In fact, myself and Vernon Kuhl farmed 1200 acres in 1956 with a John Deere A and a JD70. That could only happen in a perfect farming year. It was also the year that Don Larson of the New York Yankees pitched a perfect World Series baseball game.
But what I want to talk about is a time when the word farmer had a clearer definition. Back when a farm was about 160-240 acres big. A time when the farmer felt a kindred with the animals he worked with and the ones he raised for sale. Be it eggs, cream, or meat. Yup, the farmer of 1940 lived much closer to the soil he tilled. He might have a team of horses and a riding horse which might double as a draft substitute should Old Maude come up lame.
By then he might have owned a WC Allis-Chalmers, an H or M Farmall, a B or A John Deere or perhaps a SC or DC Case. Most farmers owned a Ford, Chevy, or Dodge automobile. He had to milk those cows, and feed the hogs and chickens. Most had 4-5 children. Now, in addition to 3 horses and a tractor, he had 8-10 brood sows, 6-10 milk cows, 15-20 beef cows, and 200-300 laying hens. Then, he planted 40 acres of corn, 30 acres of soybeans, 20 acres of oats, and put-up hay on 20 acres of Timothy and Red Clover.
Mom made sure that the family would maintain a half-acre garden, which would provide a third to half the food the family would eat. Beside the garden, most farmers had a small orchard of cherries, plums, grapes, apples, and pears. At the same time farmers of yesterday harvested rabbits, squirrel, fish, frog, quail, prairie chicken, berries, nuts, and mushrooms. So, mom would can tons of veggies, fruits, and meats. Dad and the boys kept the forest looking neat by harvesting unwanted trees for firewood. Many planted an acre of white corn to make hominy and a winter supply of toilet paper. Neighbors would get together and butcher, each shared some of it with friends and neighbors. Almost all farmers planted watermelons, muskmelons, and pumpkins. I mean the melons which tasted really good and they were fresh. What fun we had at the school pie supper. An enjoyable way to raise money for the school.
When the week’s work is done it’s time to get out that old ice cream freezer and make ice cream from milk provided at home. Yes, we farmers of yesterday did a lot of hard work. But we ate the envy of kings. We knew our food was good and wholesome, clean, and delicious. STOP! I’m making myself hungry.
Contributed by Bill Lewis