Always kept busy

I have said before I was raised on a farm and in the 50’s and 60’s. My dad owned around 200 acres of rolling land of which all was well fenced around the perimeter and fenced on all interior fields. At that time most farmers rotated their crops and along with crops raised a good number of livestock. My dad took pride in his farm and worked hard at keeping his place as well kept and presentable as he could. I heard him say often that if a person can’t maintain and keep their place in good working condition, that person shouldn’t keep it. It would be best to sell it. At that time he was far from alone in that theory as all the farmers I knew did the samethings that my dad did. This gave an entirely different look to the farms in that time. A look that was one that passersby couldn’t overlook or not appreciate when viewed.

The look didn’t come easy by any means and it took a lot of extra hours to create the look and maintain it. My dad, as most farmers of that time did, had what was called a hired hand and we had a good man who lived on our farm and worked for us. In return he received a home, a garden, a beef and a hog for meat and a weekly salary. His name was Wilbur but he went by Web. He was honest and dependable but did like to grumble as he did his labors. Web was a man that was almost an extended part of our family. We all liked and cared for him and his wife.

Between the burning of tobacco beds, the planting in the spring, setting tobacco, and the baling of hay, and before it was time to begin the cutting of tobacco and the fall harvest, there was a lull of a few weeks where little needed to be done. At least that was what my brother Ben, Web, and myself thought. We were wrong.

Dad seemed to find jobs for us. Jobs that had never crossed our minds as being needed but my dad seemed to think of them one after another. From cleaning the hog houses and the chicken houses to hauling all the junk to the “holler” and my least favorite, which was cutting all the weeds and grubs in places the mowing machine couldn’t reach. We had a lot of road frontage and dad wanted it to be kept in a presentable order. (He was a trustee for many years and I think some of this came from keeping all the township roads clean. We cleared roadsides approximately a half mile on each direction from the house. The invention of the weed eater had not come yet, so we had two tools to work with, a scythe and a grass whip, neither of which ran on automatic. Between all these chores we were kept busy right up until it was time to begin the preparations for housing the tobacco. I have always called this our busy time.

Dad was never a man to preach about things to people but I do have to feel he believed that the idle hands were the devil’s workshop and he was going to do his best to keep his sons and Web out of that workshop. On top of the work being very undesirable, it was August and hot, very hot as I recall now,but we stayed busy and out of trouble and the place would look good. I guess all reasons for this busy time were met.

I do remember one time when it went wrong. There was a stretch of roadside of about 300 yards between our house and the next farm drive. Up the bank and over the fence was a prize piece of land where dad had set about 2.5 acres of tobacco as he knew it would grow very well there. One hot August afternoon Web and I were clearing off the bank and fence line in front of that field when a lifelong neighbor named Joe Bolender, who was in his late seventies and was a man who loved to tease and get a person’s goat, was driving by and stopped. He got out of his car and assessed the scene. His blue eyes twinkled and then danced a little and then he spoke. “Web, Ralph must have a really great tobacco patch to have you and that boy out here cutting grubs on such a hot day.” With that he got back in his vehicle and departed. Also with that Web threw down the scythe looked at me and said “the devil if I’m doing this” and went home. I was dumbfounded as there I stood all alone wondering what should I do. As I looked around I decided there was no one to lead me, so I went to the house. Dad told Joe later on to please not do that. Joe just grinned.

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Rick Houser

The Good Old Days

Rick Houser grew up on a farm near Moscow in Clermont County and likes to share stories about his youth and other topics. He may be reached at houser734@yahoo.com.