Sunday, September 23, 2012

One Man's Journey - Part XII


I mentioned above a note on the sand dunes that covered about 40 to 60 acres north of the school. These dunes moved around. One day they would be ten to twelve feet high and the next day they would be down to three to six feet high. These dunes were a favorite place for us guys to play and dig. It’s a wonder that someone didn’t get buried. Fox and Hound was one of the usual games played in the dunes.

The teachers supplied us with a volley ball, which they must have paid for out of their own pocket, and sent my friend Giles Bacon and me down to the river to get a couple of poles to hang the net on. The river is about 1-1/2 miles due south of the school and about one mile south of the Bacon farm. We asked Giles’ dad for a couple of horses and so outfitted we proceeded to the river and cut a couple of poles about six to eight inches diameter and about ten to twelve feet long I don’t know who dug the holes, but I know we didn’t. The following spring, the poles started to sprout and eventually grew into sizable trees.

When we had only one school building, we played Anti over. In winter, it was Fox and Hen and/or Turkey. Turkey was played by having one guy stoop over with his back toward the group. When someone hit him in the backside, he was supposed to guess who threw the snowball.

Giles and the horse

During this period, the teacher was in need of a shovel, so she asked Giles and me to go to the Bacon place and get one. We borrowed a horse from one of the students that regularly rode to school for the trip. One the way down, it was agreed that Giles would ride in the saddle and coming back, I would get the saddle and Giles would ride behind carrying the shovel. About half way to the school, we crossed an irrigation ditch which was about four feet across and running full of water. About the time we got onto the small bridge, Giles wondered what the horse would do if he nudged him in the flank with the top of the shovel. Well, the results were immediate. The first jump caused Giles to land in the ditch with the shovel. I grabbed for the saddle horn and hung on for dear life. I thought that horse would never stop bucking all over the place. Giles go himself out of the ditch and stood there laughing. I finally got the horse quieted down and we proceeded the rest of the way to school without incident. How Giles got dried out I can’t remember. It was springtime, so I assumed nature took a hand and dried him out automatically. Maybe more on Giles and horses later.

There were so many things happening during this period, three to four years. It was a growing up period as well as a learning period. As stated above, we were still partly living in the 19th century. I just doubt that things had changed much in the past 50 years. We got a newspaper once a week, but we did have some books and these were read and reread, and book reviews was probably one of the best things that happened. We were still using text books that my mother had used in her schooling. There was a small book case in the corner of the schoolroom containing six to ten volumes and a few geographic magazines. I think most of the material was there during the entire eight years.


Maybe superstitions is not the word, but at this point I’m thinking of “Asafetida.” My World Book Encyclopedia describes asafetida as follows:
“A gum-like drug with a strong disagreeable odor, was used in medicine as a sedative, also worn as an amulet about the neck to prevent contagious diseases, this proven to be superstition. Drugs made from it had an odor stronger than garlic.”

In view of the fact that our toilet facilities were the most primitive kind, with no washing possible or required, since we didn’t have anything to wash in or soap or towels, and everybody drank out of the same bucket with the same dipper (I mentioned this somewhere above), we were expected to wear the stinking stuff around our necks to prevent contagion. Those seated close to the pot-bellied stove in the center of the room were the biggest offenders, but they couldn’t help the situation since they were doomed to be martyrs for the sake of science and future generations. How we all managed to get by the age of 12 years is hard to understand; many didn’t.

[I’ve written quite a bit about school and our activities. There is more to come later, but for now, I must get back to the farm.]

As mentioned above, Colonel and I had chores to do, but Dad did not let us do real heavy work. During haying times, we drove derrick horse. On page 54 {One Man’s Journey – Part X, paragraph 19}, I mentioned our derrick. When haying, racks were placed on the wagons to contain as much hay (alfalfa) as possible. Men in the field pitched the shocked hay onto these racks and it was arranged on the rack by the team driver. When the load arrived at the stacking area, the team driver would position the four-tined Jackson in the load so about 25% of the hay was lifted from the wagon each time to the top of the stack where it was positioned by the stacker. Since we used a Jackson fork, only one horse was used to pull up the loaded fork to the top of the stack, so the derrick horse driver drove the horse out, stopped and held the load until positioned by the stacker. The man on the wagon would then trip the fork load. The derrick horse driver would then back up the horse so another load cold be taken aloft. There wasn’t much rest to the job since another wagon from the field would be standing by, ready to be unloaded. A young boy had his job cut out for him since the single tree and the cable had to be controlled on the way back to the starting point. He also had the responsibility to other persons, particularly to the man on the wagon since if the fork was lowered too far, some danger to the man existed.

Work – a dirty word

As we grew older, we were allowed to handle the horses, i.e. – harness and care for them, hitch them to mowers, rakes or wagons and buggies. Dad did most of the mowing, but Colonel and I both used the rake to place the hay in windrows so it could be dried before shocking. Only one team was used for this purpose. One day, I was raking hay on the north 40, as usual I was barefoot. The rake had a tripping mechanism that was tripped with the right foot, allowing the rake to dump the load when the devise returned to its working position. It smashed my right big toe. Boy, that hurt!

After the hay was dry, we went into the fields and shocked the windrows in to cone-shaped piles that could be handled by the wagon loaders later in the operation.

We didn’t do much in the irrigation department. Dad did that, but where possible or necessary, we did a lot of the cultivating and hoeing. Our cultivating was always done with a single horse and Dad would handle the cultivator. Later on, Colonel would ride and I would handle the machine. We also earned a little money by helping Mack Stocker doing the same type of work.

I nearly had a severe accident one time. I had finished the job and was riding the horse back to the place when she shied at a piece of hay alongside the road. The horse, Nell, weighed about 1800 pounds. She was as round as a barrel and sitting on her was like sitting on brother Gene’s oil tank. In any event, as she jumped to the left, I rolled to the right and my right leg hung up in the tug, and then she started to run. As I went over, I failed to grasp the hame. {hame (h m) n. One of the two curved wooden or metal pieces of a harness that fits around the neck of a draft animal and to which the traces are attached.} As a result, my head was inches from the ground and less than that from flying hooves. I did have a good hold on the right line so I could pull her head to the right, so she only ran about 100 feet and I was able to pull her into the fence. No damage done, but a scared kid.

The sheep and me

This is kind of a “funny.” As I told you earlier, we had to go about three to four miles to pick up our mail, at the point I told you about when we first entered the valley on the curve {One Man's Journey - Part VI, paragraph 4}. Whenever anyone living in the area happened to be near the mail boxes, he would bring all of the mail to his home. The rest of us would then pick it up there. On this day, Mr. Meyer had picked up the mail and I was chosen to get ours from the Meyer residence which was about a mile from our house. A corner of their field was just about across the road from our house. I went around the road going, but coming back I took a shortcut through the Meyer’s pasture, no knowing that Mr. Meyer had pastured a couple of rams in the field. It probably wouldn’t have made any difference if I had known, since being raised around animals, I didn’t have any particular fear of them.

About halfway across the field, I heard the freight train coming, and I’m telling [you], that sheep meant business. Of course, I took off at a dead gallop with the sheep gaining every second. Of course, I was hollering my head off. Dad heard. Mr. Meyer heard me and both armed with pitchforks, started in opposite directions. I really don’t know what stopped the ram. Whether it was the racket I was making or if it was the noise that Dad and Mr. Meyer were making. Anyway, he stopped a very short time before I met Dad. That sheep was a lot bigger than I was. There was one other time that I ran faster and longer and was more frightened. That experience will be told in due course.

to be continued...

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