When you give a farmer his money’s worth and maybe even more for a day’s labor, you will always be in demand. When I wasn’t working for my Dad, I was working for the farmers in our neighborhood to earn some extra pocket money and also to help those farmers out. Dad always said that a person never knew when someone might need their help. He of course was right and there were times I was helped out. From the time I was about 14 until my early 30’s I worked as a hired hand in hay, tobacco, and a lot of other chores on a farm that couldn’t be managed single-handed.
From 1963 on for the next few years, the farmers in our neighborhood were blessed and I’m not overstating this at all. Besides myself, there were the Marshall Brothers (Herb and Charlie) and my cousin Walt who were the best hired hands a farmer could ask for. We worked hard and well together and delivered not only a large quantity of production, but we did with high quality delivery. Farmers often looked for the sons of other farmers since they had already learned how to work and probably had learned a lot from the experience.
Herb and Charlie Marshall moved from the city to the country and their home set smack dab between a lot of farmers who immediately recognized their raw talent and taught them well how to work on a farm. My cousin Walt lived in the city in the winter and on their farm in the summer. Since the only boys his age to play with were working and he was learning from his grandfather, who was a very good farmer, he learned quickly and caught on fast.
So when Walter Reichel or Alfred Weber or Ed Maus stopped and ask if we were available to work and we were, they knew they had their crew to get the crops in the barns. Reichel custom baled all over the country side and he supplied the crew to farmers to take their hay from the field to the barn and stack it in the mow. In Mr. Reichel’s case he figured that at the rate we were paid and for him not to lose money, we had to move 100 bales from the field and stack them in the barn every hour. It didn’t matter the distance between the field and the barn and the hay had to be stacked with each layer of hay criss-crossed and with the stings on the sides and what he referred to as “pressed side up.” We felt he had challenged us and not only did we meet the 100 bales per hour but most times surpassed it. We were proud of this and he was tickled to have made a few dollars extra.
The other large hay farmer was Alfred Weber who owned a large dairy farm and baled thousands of bales per year. This was steady work for a few weeks at a time and we enjoyed it even more because Mr. Weber had eight very pretty daughters that worked in the fields with us. They were much nicer to look at than Herb, Charlie or Walt to say the least. Sometimes we helped Ed and Chris Maus and others. They always seemed to help my Dad first for which I was glad since I knew we had top notch help and we would get whatever we had to do completed as quickly as possible. This allowed more free time for us to take all those large bundles of money that we had earned to Felicity in the evenings, if we weren’t completely tired out.
We worked on just about every farm in the township and in just about every condition and situation a person could imagine and a few that probably couldn’t be imagined. I don’t know about the other guys but I took pride in being the first person asked to help. Taking pride in the job was what separated us from a lot of good workers. Please understand that before and after our years of being available, there have been many good fellows to get the job done, but I will stand by what I have said about when we were the hired hands of choice. We were way better than good.
The four of us spent a lot of time together, not just in the fields and barns, but we spent many days playing as kids together. We got to know each other so well that we could anticipate each other’s actions. We got a lot of good farmer’s wives meals along the way, but we also got the treat of bologna and cheese on white bread with some chips and a warm bottle of Pepsi. Some days we didn’t finish until after 11 p.m. and started right up again the next morning. We could tell when a season was about to end as the knees in our jeans were wearing out and our work gloves had more holes in them than there was material left. About the only thing left in decent condition was the hat we chose to wear that summer, still in one piece but very sweat stained. ( Yuck!)
Yes, Herb, Charlie Walt and I were the work force of choice if we were available. (We were in demand you know.) Hard, sweaty, dirty and somewhat dangerous at times, I know we were proud of our achievements then and we still are today. Oh, and by the way we raised the bar to where we earned the very top dollar in wages. We got $1 per hour! I think somebody got their money’s worth.
Rick Houser was raised on a farm near Moscow in Clermont County and loves to share stories about his youth and other topics. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.