Although there is a space below each post for your comments, readers may want to leave a comment unrelated to any specific post. For general comments, I suggest that you click on "Quick Comments" in the Label Section (right side of page) and comment at the bottom of that post. That will group general comments and make them easier to find.



Friday, August 12, 2011

Summer Jobs

Summer Jobs 
~

 Story Tellers
IN ORDER OF APPEARANCE 

~
Claude Reyman
Dale Masters
Irma (Snyder) Lovegrove
Merritt Plantz
Sandra (Masters) Propst
Karen (Moody) Allyn
Ortha (Reynolds) Emry
Anne (Gilchrist) Osborn
Jean (Jackson) Masters
Pat (Manifold) Cerny
Raleigh Emry 


~



Good Old Days In the Hayfield
By Claude Reyman 



What a memory this brings back to me concerning the summer haying tasks. I started to work in the hayfield when I was about seven years old. I would help with the team that was used to pull the hay up and dump onto the haystack. Once in awhile I would get on the stack by climbing up the slope and jumping into the hay – what fun this was when you could push the hay down in your jump. We used four head of horses to run the stacker. The stacker was made of wood and had large runners for skids to move from one stack to another. Dad made the stacker and did a great job but it was very durable and heavy. It was all the horses could do to pull from one area to another, especially when it was wet.

I next graduated to running the rakes. For a long time we used two 14-foot rakes. One was used to windrow and the other to pick up scattering from the sweep tractor. I remember my mother helping in the hay field. She would get the team from the barn and hook them up to the rake. She would work in the field to about 11.00 a.m. then go back to the house and prepare our dinner. She could cook the best food in the world for us and we never went hungry from what she made. The best pies, mashed potatoes, beans or corn and tomatoes from the garden. After the dinner was finished, back to the barn she would go and get the two horses from the barn and then to the meadow. It was about ¾ mile from the house.

In 1951 Bruce Sr. bought a small Case tractor. He had Hap Erwin from Wood Lake make a frame so that we could use three rakes at one time. The Case did the job but it was loaded with weight and it was a wonder that it moved. Hooking up the rakes was a job and it was heavy. The old Case sits in the small meadow in front of the ranch house – rusting away now.

In a few years I learned how to mow with the F20 Farmall. We had a trail mower and I got good on running this outfit. The tongue on the trail mower was solid 4x4 and weighed a great deal. It was all that I could do to pick it up and fasten it to the mower bar. At one time, the old F20 had lug steel wheels and were 1-foot wide. When you got stuck – you were stuck. We had about 320 acres of hay ground. The meadow was sub irrigated and produced about 60-80 five-ton haystacks. This was sufficient enough to feed about 250 cows and calves through the winter months. Being young, it seemed like haying took all summer when in fact it required about three weeks.
Around 5.00 p.m. I would go back to the ranch building and get the horse and go out to the North pasture and bring in the milk cows. It was normal to milk anywhere from 8 to 12 head both morning and night. Work never seemed to stop for us on the ranch – yet we grew up fast for our years of hard work. Saturday afternoon was our time to go to town. We would go to Valentine to get the food and supplies that we needed. By the time I was 18 years old, we had accumulated about 400 comic books, at ten cents each. Wouldn’t they have some value today? Once in awhile while using horses, a bee would sting the horse and we would have a run-a-way. We were lucky that no on got hurt. I can remember that Con Helan; a rancher about two miles East of our ranch home had a hired man get killed on the rake. It taught us to be extra careful – we did! Growing up was the only thing to do and we did! The "good old days" will always be remembered.


~


Rolling in the Dough
(Bread Dough... that is)
By Dale Masters

Some of you might remember that the building that is now occupied by the Elks Lodge was formerly the location of the Baldwin Bros. Mercantile Store. In its prime this store was quite prosperous and supported three brothers' families, Fred, Art and Joe. As time passed the business fell off and the brothers partitioned off the South thirty feet of the building and leased that portion to Art Keil, who moved his bakery operation and store into that portion. Not long after that change John Farber, from Crookston, bought out Art and moved to Ainsworth. John ran a good bakery but this was in the late 'dirty thirties' and, with the competition of another bakery, Stejskal's, he had to work hard to get a reasonable share of the somewhat limited market for bakery products. Most of the housewives did a lot of baking and to sell sweet rolls and bread required some innovative ideas.

In 1939 John purchased an old panel truck, the pedigree I cannot remember but I think that it was a Model B Ford. When you think of the multitude of adornments that are attached to and/or installed in today's vehicles it would tax your imagination to visualize this stripped down version of transportation. There was absolutely no extras! Four tires and wheels, bare body and a motor, along with one seat, the driver's. The interior consisted of nothing but bare metal, no headliner, no floor mats, no heater, the plainest of dash boards and the aforementioned, driver' seat.

John visualized this vehicle being used as a delivery truck so that he could offer this inducement of 'free delivery' of orders to attract new customers and provide an additional service for his established customers. He tried to make the deliveries himself but he was needed more in the bakery than out peddling his wares so he hired my good friend and classmate, Rex Welch, who some of you might remember as a brother of the music teacher, Merton Welch, to do the deliveries. Rex was old enough to have a driver's license and needed to do something to make some spending money so this was a good arrangement for them both. Rex got the bright idea that maybe he could make some additional cash by selling the bakery products on a commission basis by knocking on doors and soliciting sales as he was driving along his route and offering the fresh rolls and bread delivered to the door. The venture was successful and created enough trade that he asked John if he could hire an assistant, Rex driving and the other person could knock on the doors drumming up trade. John agreed to having the additional person using the same commission arrangement he had made with Rex. Being a good friend of Rex's and needing something to do during that Summer, John hired me.

I was not old enough to drive but I was willing to do the major share of the knocking on doors and Rex would fill in by jumping out of the panel truck and take care of what I couldn't handle. John built some utilitarian but crude shelves in the back of the truck and we were off to the races. (This job was the first one that I ever had requiring that Social Security Withholding Tax be held out of my pay check hence, my first and only Social Security number. I have that original card lying on my desk as I am typing this and, as they used to do when issuing new cards, the name of the employer, in my case Ainsworth Bakery, is typed in.)

The bakery route proved to have its draw-backs. First, in order to get the truck loaded to go out on the route so the deliveries could be started before breakfast time, I had to get up at four-thirty AM!! For one that was reluctant to get up in time for school, this was a big obstacle to hurdle. I found that it was very pleasant and quiet at that time in the morning but I never did get adjusted to getting to work at such an early hour. Second, there was no seat for me in the truck! I had to improvise and used an old Coke bottle case, set on edge so that I could be elevated high enough to see out, and hung on to the door window opening. When it was raining this proved to a problem because I had nothing to hang onto when the window was rolled up but I did learn to balance myself quite well as Rex careened around the alleyways. This arrangement was funny at first but as the season rolled on you can easily see that this was becoming a pain in -- you know where. The pay was not great, John couldn't afford any more than he was paying. But the drawbacks did not seem so big when consideration was given to the fringe benefits John provided. We could eat all of the day-old rolls we wanted and I wanted a lot.

It was not long after I had started to work on the route that Rex decided to show me how well he could drive the truck. He had the habit of turning South off of first street on the first crossing East of the grain elevators. He chose this route because the tracks were somewhat elevated over this street creating a ramp on both sides and he liked to use this 'ramp' to see how high he could elevate the truck off of the ground before landing on the South side of the tracks. I believe his ambition was to become airborne. When you take into consideration that this vehicle not only did not have any 'extras' its motor was not capable of developing any great speed, (probably not much more horsepower than the average ATV has today), so it took a great deal of skill to get the vehicle over the tracks, let alone become airborne. On this particular day he elected to change his route so that he could get a longer run at the crossing by turning South off of Second Street instead of off First. His thinking must have been correct because, as we crossed the tracks we did become airborne, not more than an instant and barely showing daylight between the tires and the street but, something he had failed to consider, when we did land there were packages of rolls, bread, trays, one helper and an empty Coke case flying all around the interior of the truck. I had never had the ambition to find out what it sounded like to be inside of a snare drum while it was being played but, if I had such an ambition, it was now fulfilled. I might add that the descent of the truck was right in the path of some chickens that were feeding in the middle of the street. I am sure we did not kill any chickens but they did partially disrobe. A considerable amount of time was spent in reorganizing the trucks contents, including myself, before we could get on our way but one good thing about it, Rex was now satisfied with his attempt to fly and we never made that type of crossing again.

I did enjoy this Summer job. It was fun and I made a few dollars, not much but a few. I enjoyed being with my friend every day while we were working and John was a wonderful boss for two scatter brained kids to have. We did enough business to justify his having us work for him but I do not remember whether he continued that operation after that Summer we worked for him. It did however come to a somewhat sudden end for me. The last day I worked, or was able to work, we were on our regular route going North down the alley behind Stanley Studio, Frank Law's house, Davidson's, Syfert's Funeral Home, etc. and, as was my practice, I was walking from house to house with a tray of bakery goods on one of the large metal trays that John displayed his goods on, held aloft like a fancy waiter might do, on the palm of my hand over my shoulder. I was taking care of the customers on the East side of the alleyway while Rex was driving the truck and making a couple of stops on the West side. I was walking North , ahead of Rex, getting ready to turn into the rear yard of Hans Rohwer's house when Rex, with another of his stupid pranks, quietly pulled up behind me, tapping the back of my leg with the bumper of the truck. He was closer than he thought and knocked me down to the ground, again with rolls, bread and the metal tray flying in all directions, and run over my foot. He stopped, because I had disappeared from his sight, and yelled "are you all right"? I yelled back, "no, you run over my foot", (or something more descriptive than that). He did not understand what I had said, thinking I had said, "you are on my foot", upon which he put the truck in reverse and run back over my foot again. Needless to say I was too crippled to work on the bakery route again, my foot was not broken but it was badly sprained and it was some time before I could get around very well.

This was an unimpressive way to end the first 'real' paying Summer job I had ever had and, in spite of Rex's stupid pranks, we remained close friends until his death.


~

Show Business
By Irma (Snyder) Lovegrove

I moved with my family to Ainsworth in 1940 when my dad became the John Deere dealer. I was in Jr. High then. Shortly after moving, I got a job working for the Syfert's at the Ainsworth theater delivering theater bills to half the houses in Ainsworth once a week. I got 25 cents a week plus getting in to all the shows free. They had 3 changes of movies every week, one on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, another on Wednesday and Thursday, and another on Friday and Saturday. The weekends were mostly westerns and usually a double feature. There was always a cartoon and a news reel. I didn't keep the job very long as I started ushering at the Royal Theater as a lot of my friends worked there. But that 25 cents sure made me feel rich at the time. We came from a farm where we got a nickel a week to spend on Saturday night when we went to town.


~

You Load Sixteen Tons
and
What'a you get?
By Merritt Plantz

This is about my first summer job, the summer after I got out of high School. That was the year that they decided to rebuild highway #2 through my home town of Litchfield, Sherman County, Nebraska. 

It was just a stroke of luck for I was looking for a job to earn money for college. I had received the Union Pacific scholarship, known as the Carl Gray scholarship, named after the president of the Union Pacific RR. 

Just west of Litchfield the highway crosses Muddy Creek. That meant building a concrete bridge across the creek, not like the wooden ones that had been built in years past. The new bridge was being built by the Empire Construction company of Omaha. 

I had applied for work at the employment office and they sent me to the bridge building company. When I reported for work they were getting ready to pour concrete for the bridge. That meant sand, gravel, and cement. 

These ingredients were in boxcars and gondola cars on the sidings in Litchfield. The boss said, "There is a truck and here are the shovels, start hauling it out to the bridge site". 

I was the youngest and the smallest on the crew and I was soon to learn that I was not the least capable one. Having been raised on a farm I was used to using a shovel, etc. I don't believe some of these fellows, even though they were older and bigger than I was, had done much heavy labor. 

I was naive enough to think I could do about anything. And before the summer was over I had done about all the jobs involved on a bridge crew, and was able to do it better than some of the larger and older fellows, but I think I had to work harder to do it. For instance we often had to move material in a wheel-barrow. Little half-pint me knew how to run a wheel-barrow for it wasn't long ago my brother and I wheeled each other in a wheel-barrow just for fun. 

But I must admit carrying 94 pound sacks of cement out of a box car and stacking them on a truck was not play, especially after 3 or 4 hours of it, and after shoveling gravel for several hours onto a truck and back off. A sack of that cement weighed just slightly less than my 120 pounds. 

One thing for sure I did not go out and run around at night after putting in 12 hour days on the construction crew. But I was earning the most money I had ever made and was saving every penny of it too! 

Yes, I earned enough money that summer to pay my college tuition plus baching expenses that year at the University. Thank goodness the depression did not last many more years. That is it for this time!


~

A Pressing Business
By Sandra (Masters) Propst

I did so want a job that summer! My friends were working at Morrow's Drive-in, but Dad and Mom had talked me into doing a job at home. At first I was a little rebellious and resentful, but the dollar signs soon got in the way. So there I was standing barefoot on the concrete in the basement laundry room. Even with the heat from the iron and the mangle (remember those), it was still the coolest room in the house. I'd press the sheets and pillowcases and other flat pieces on the mangle and press the rest at the ironing board.

I always loved having time to myself, and the hours I spent ironing I daydreamed to my heart's content. That was until brother Dan's experiment. 

For years, Mom had used an old Maytag wringer washer which required two rinse tubs, and when Mom got her new automatic wash machine, she kept the rinse tubs and that was the beginning of the end of my career in laundry.

Dan loved to go over to Bone Creek and play, but one day he came home carrying a container full of pollywogs. He decided the perfect place to keep them was the rinse tubs. Fill them with water, put in the pollywogs, place a screen over the top in case of overflow and run the garden hose from the faucet into the tubs slowly so the water would circulate and the excess could slowly run down the floor drain. For several days he would make trips to the creek and bring more pollywogs until, if they had matured our house would have really been hoppin. He finally decided that he had collected enough then lost interest and failed to check up on his project.

The next day I went down to start my job, I discovered water all over the floor and coming out from under the door leading into the laundry room. I opened the door and there was water cascading down from the tubs onto the floor and puddling over the drain. I ran screaming upstairs to Mom who immediately investigated then called Dad who came home and determined that an expert was needed and called the plumber.

We had pollywogs dead and dying on the floor and hundreds more clogging the drain. The plumber worked for hours trying to clean the drain while Mom and I cleaned up the floor. All the rest of that summer the smell of rotting pollywogs drifted up from that drain and permeated the laundry room making it impossible to spend more then a few minutes at a time in there, so my job was moved upstairs for the rest of the summer. Still to this day, I enjoy ironing.


~

 Summer Job in the '50s
By Karen (Moody) Allyn

My summer job was working for Eldon Morrow at Morrow's Drive In. The Drive In opened in the spring before school was out and closed in the fall after school had started again so every employee had to juggle school studies and work. Schedules must have been a problem for Eldon as he tried to work around each employee's activity schedule, also. Everyone had to start out as a car hop and then work up in seniority to be able to work "inside". I began the job in the summer after my eighth grade school year and continued working there each summer until after I had completed two years of college. Eldon and Leona were wonderful people to work for. Of course, we made more than our fair share of mistakes. However, the Morrow's guided a great number of young people in values and work ethics and helped make many good memories.

My worst nightmare, as a very young car hop, was to not successfully attach those arm trays to the outside of the car door. Those arms were not always stable and occasionally fell. One day I was carrying a strawberry malt, strawberry sundae and other items and the tray fell INTO the car, which was a white convertible with red interior. The persons shall remain nameless but the passenger really ranted and raved with disgust as he was trying to be "Mr. Somebody Special" and wanted to impress his guest. I was definitely not on his list of favorite people.

Fortunately for me, I was able to begin working "inside" and truly enjoyed my summer job. After closing on Sunday nights, Eldon would occasionally drive all the employees down to Hidden Paradise to check out the entertainment and see who was dancing and partying down there. We always hated to be the first one dropped off at home as we would probably miss out on something. No parent had to worry about where their children were in those days as Eldon would see that they arrived home safely every night after closing.

Today, I notice when a fountain drink machine is not working properly. I supposed the reason is that one night when cleaning up and preparing for the next day, I filled the Root Beer machine with Coke concentrate and the Coke machine with Root Beer concentrate. Interesting that the customers noticed! Of course, that was a very costly mistake as both of the dispensers had to be drained and thrown away.

Oh yes, remember those five cent ice cream cones? One of the most frustrating things for the Morrow's was to monitor the size of those cones. We were to weigh them on a scale to get the correct weight and probably most of the time the cones were much heavier than they were supposed to be. Our eyes would measure the size and out they would go to a happy customer.

There are more stories both remembered and forgotten about the Drive In and the people who worked there. Thank you to Eldon and Leona Morrow for providing jobs and guidance for so many young boys and girls in Ainsworth.


~

Easy Come - Easy Go
By Ortha (Reynolds) Emry

My first summer job, when I was in my early teens, was to help a neighbor lady with the extra cooking and laundry during the busiest part of the haying season. This was in the mid-30s. 

We prepared three huge delicious meals each day. Each day we gleaned the vegetables from the gardens and prepared them, and yes, we occasionally dressed chickens! There was no electricity, so there were no modern conveniences, except they did have a gas range. Their ice-house, where ice was put up in the Winter, provided ice for the icebox and kept food cool. The icy cold drinks were such a treat! 

Each Monday we filled the clothes-line with clean laundry. When it was dry, we took it down and dampened it in a basket to prepare it for Tuesday's ironing. There were no wash-and-wear fabrics in the '30's! 

I really enjoyed the work and in the afternoon I got to play their player-piano by pumping it with my feet. They had a nice assortment of piano-rolls to play. One I remember was "You Are My Sunshine" and I especially liked "I'm Looking Over A Four Leaf Clover". 

My first week's wages ,which consisted of six days ,was $3.00. I readily mailed an order to the Montgomery Ward catalog in Kansas City. I was able to purchase a nice pair of oxfords for school and three yards of material at 10 cents a yard for a new dress and also pay the postage. 

It was a great experience that I will always fondly remember.


~

This Job's a Piece of Cake
By Anne (Gilchrist) Osborn

If you were from the Middle of Nowhere Ainsworth, Nebraska, in our era of the 50's, you know that summer jobs were scarce and few and far between since there were no fast food places. My summer jobs were on the farm and definitely not anything I wanted to admit we did or brag about. I remember when friend Vonnie Reyman visited, we decided to learn how to milk cows. My dad thought that was great and soon had my sisters and me milking cows that summer. But when we looked at our hands and saw calluses, we had our Mother intervene and we only occasionally milked cows again. 

I felt very lucky to get a job at the Ainsworth Bakery when I was in high school, and worked on Saturdays for the grand sum of 35 cents an hour! I helped by filling in for anyone who needed help--the regular soda fountain person, the bakery clerk and even Mr. Farber, occasionally, and I did get proficient at the bread slicing machine. However, they had to really be short of help if Mr. Farber called on me to frost or do anything in the back bakery area--I just remember how hot it was in the back part of the bakery. I do think their bakery products were the best---but after smelling it all day, I could never eat it. (I must have been suffering from Anorexia---as I would love to sample any of it now!)

Ken worked a variety of jobs. He laughs about the job at the Congregational Church where he was to put coal into the furnace to keep it going during church services and one time fell asleep---much to his Mother's chagrin, not to mention the rest of the Congregation. He also worked for a plumber, worked on his Uncle Stewart's farm where he and his cousins tormented the "mean" bull with BB guns (and they wondered why he was mean!!), and during college he worked in the bluegrass fields with other Husker football players (this was the Husker football team's "conditioning" method of keeping the players in shape).


~

Working at the Movies
By Jean (Jackson) Masters

I loved my first job! About l939 or 1940 I got my first job, other than baby sitting. I applied for and was hired at the Ainsworth Theatre. I took tickets and ushered on Saturday afternoon and evenings and also on Sunday afternoon until about 6 p.m..

The usual schedule was Cowboy shows on Friday evening and the Saturday matinee and evening. Then Sunday was a family or special high quality movie for the entire day, (continuous), starting at 2 p.m. until the last show was over at about 10 p.m. The Sunday show was carried over for Monday and Tuesday evenings. Generally an unimportant or less valued movie was shown on Wednesday and Thursday evenings. Then when Friday came around it was back to a Western movie again.

I enjoyed the ticket taking and ushering part and those movies drew large crowds of kids for the Saturday matinee, often filling the theatre. Adults and lots of rural people were in attendance on Saturday evening, again, often a full house. On Sunday afternoons there were lots of families and young people and Sunday evenings never failed to have a lot of adults, couples without children, you know, couples night out. 

During the Summer months, when the weather was nice, my job started earlier and I'd go to work at about 12:30 PM and start popping popcorn. I would get a supply of popcorn prepared ahead of time and then we'd open the front doors, roll the popcorn machine out onto the front sidewalk and I'd sell popcorn fast and furious. The aroma would drift up and down the street and we had people from off of the street, as well as the movie goers, standing in line waiting for another batch to be sacked and ready to go. I can't remember what I was paid but on the days we sold on the street it was busy work for as long as I wanted to be out there and Mr. Syfert paid me extra because of the additional time and labor I spent popping, sacking, selling and keeping track of the money. 

Roy and Mrs. Syfert started me out right in working for the public, arrive on time for work, be honest, courteous and avoid chatting too long with friends who came to the theatre. Syferts daughter, Patty, often came to the theatre with her parents. I remember her especially on Sundays, being dressed so nice and she, as young as she was, was allowed to be in the inner waiting area, where the tickets were collected, and patrons were ushered down the isle. In that inner lobby area was a sitting space that was her zone. Patty sat there during busy times as people came into the theatre. She had a doll or a supply of paper dolls with her and would sing to herself for hours while playing with them. 

I did enjoy and appreciated my first job, working for Mr. Syfert at the Ainsworth Theatre.

~

Pat's Pillar of Salt
By Pat (Manifold) Cerny

When I married Bill (almost 20 years ago) I had only lived on a farm as a child and knew very little about farm machinery or how to utilize such. If Bill was not following in his father's footsteps regarding the whiting of his hair, I would venture that the cause was attempting to teach me to be a hired-hand.

Bill rigged up a right hand and a left hand rake - each being 20 feet in width. By making them into a V-shaped rake I probably had 30 feet of rake attached to the rear of my tractor. He already learned that whatever way I was looking, that is probably the direction the tractor would turn. With the set-up, I could rake two rows of hay together and thus make the baling process less time.

We head for the field - I am not very secure in this entire process. Bill assures me that all will go well, all the big wheels will go round and round and the two rows will become one row. And, I am not to look back because I must keep the front tires between the two rows!

I start out and the urge to look back is so strong. I think of Lot's wife and the word of God that whoever looked back as Lot and others fled in the Biblical story would turn into a block of salt. Finally the urge is so overwhelming I have to look. Well, the hydraulic hose had broke, the wheels were not going round and round and I was facing a stack of alfalfa that was about ready to drop on my head as the rake was piling it higher and higher. I give Bill credit for remembering not to say "why didn't you check sooner?".

I did become proficient and could look back whenever I pleased while staying between the rows. My favorite field had many sandpipers who were still nesting during the first cutting. Bill spotted my outfit sitting idly in the field and couldn't see me. He drove the baler over to find me moving a row of alfalfa over far enough so that his larger tractor wouldn't drive over a nest of three beautiful eggs. Only those who have worked in the field know what I felt like. When you combine a sweaty body with the flecks and pieces of dried alfalfa that stick to you and itch and itch, there is no real relief until you get in the shower. It was one of those 'mother to mother' times.

~

Veterinary Meddlin'
By Raleigh Emry


I suppose my first summer job was when I worked for my parents on our Niobrara River ranch. As the employment package included room and board and little else, and as the employee rarely earned even that, I'll refine my summer job search to later years. 

My most enjoyable summer job was the seven summers, during high-school and college, that I worked for Morris Skinner collecting fossils for the American Museum of Natural History. I wrote a complete, and yet unpublished, book on that topic. So, I'll refine my job search to omit those seven years. 

I have already written bits and pieces about my days as a janitor's helper in the employ of Herb Sawyer at the Ainsworth Public Schools, where I received 30 cents an hour cleaning classrooms and restrooms, clapping erasers, shoveling snow from the walkways and coal into the coal bins and then into the furnace stokers, rodding the ashes from the boilers and scooping out the ashes from the ash pit, mowing the lawns including the football field with a push mower, and other character-building tasks such as sweeping the gym floor at half-time of basketball games. I especially enjoyed sweeping the basketball court as the student-body in the bleachers always gave me a continual supply of wadded up popcorn sacks and bits of hotdog to sweep up. Unfortunately the students were not too good with their aim. They almost never hit my broom, but instead seemed to hit high and behind in the vicinity of my head. But there is no point in telling you all of that. So, I'll refine my summer job search further. 

I worked one summer, between my freshman and sophomore year, for Clarence Morrow in his hayfield. As Claude Reyman wrote about hayfield work, I won't belabor this topic. But it sets the stage for an aspect of farm and ranch life that I will write about. So I'll begin my story there. 

Clarence Morrow's old, red Ford pickup bumped down our driveway on Pine Street one morning. I was outside so I walked over and Clarence asked if I could drive a tractor. I said I could and he offered me a summer job at 5 bucks a day, lunch included ... just like that. He had a half-section or so of native hay a few miles SW of Ainsworth. 

I jumped in and as we drove to the hayfield he told me of the wonderful sweet-smelling native hay that grew there. One area of the hayfield was intermixed with wild peppermint. The peppermint gave it a wonderful aroma. Whether or not horses liked peppermint, the buyers of hay for the AKSARBEN horse racing establishment in Omaha did. For you non-Nebraskans, AKSARBEN is Nebraska spelled backward. If my memory is correct, Clarence sold much of his peppermint flavored hay, at some time before my employment, to AKSARBEN. 

Clarence told me that Simon Pancake (I believe that was his name) would also be working with us that summer. Simon and Clarence would mow. I would rake. Then Simon would drive the sweep (a contraption similar to a front-end loader for "sweeping" up the windrows and bringing the hay to the stacker), I would pull the stacker cable on the "overshot" stacker (a set of wooden teeth that lifts the hay and tosses it into the cage), and Clarence would get into the cage and form the hay into stacks. I was also expected to grease all the fittings on the equipment each day. So that's the way the summer was promised to go and that's the way it went. Clarence drove a Farmall, Simon drove a "Poppin Johnny" John Deere, and I drove an Allis Chalmers. But haying didn't start until after my initiation that first afternoon. 

When we arrived at Clarence's place, I discovered that he had a pig pen and some pig sheds. The pigs had been rooting under the fence and then rooting up the meadow. It was time to mend the fence and ring the pigs. For you city-slickers there are at least two different types of hog nose-rings. There is one type that is clamped, with special pliers into the tender flesh of the pig's nostrils. It has a vertical piece that digs in any time the pig tries to root his nose into the dirt. This causes much pain to the pig and the pain stops the pig from rooting. The other type we also used that day are copper loops with sharp ends. They are placed into the pliers and squeezed shut into the tender rim around a pig's snout. Two or three well-placed nose rings are sufficient to keep the pig's rooting in check. 

Now this was before the days when body-piercing was in vogue. I've seen a waitress here in Austin with a half-dozen or so rings in each ear, a few rings in her nose, and a few in each eyebrow and lip. When the so-adorned waitress opens her mouth to take our order she reveals a steel ball-bearing welded to a post and anchored through her tongue. Restaurants with such help are usually not on our "must return to" list. But these bizarrely-pierced folks don't seem to be in much pain. 

Pigs on the other hand aren't into body piercing. They do not like their noses to be adorned with rings. They do not like their ears to be carved into unique designs that denote the owner. Little boy pigs do not like their little boy parts to be removed. After such an operation they suffer a life of "gelt". So the pigs protest with much enthusiasm. 

I have been around noisy fighter aircraft where you must wear earplugs or lose your hearing. I've been to concerts where the decibels of the loud-speakers will make your ears hurt. But nothing in my life has been as noisy as the day we ringed and castrated Clarence Morrow's pigs. I held them down while Clarence performed the nose-ringing and other surgical procedures. I felt a wee wee wee bit sorry for the pigs so I hugged them tight and tried to console them as they kicked and squirmed but they were not in the mood for my sympathy. I learned that there is truth to the adage, "Never mud-wrestle a pig. You get dirty and the pig enjoys it." A pig can peg a decibel meter and Clarence's pigs were no exception. It is very unnerving to have a pig squeal at eardrum-shattering levels into your ear. So when we finished, I was not only mud and pig from one end to the other, my ears rang for the remainder of the afternoon. But I earned $2.50 and the rest of the summer was all peppermint smelling hay and the serenity of a Nebraska hay-meadow. So I can't complain. 

I had had some earlier experiences meddling in Veterinary Medicine during my boyhood on the Niobrara River. Each summer we branded our calves and performed the necessary operations and inoculations. Our brand was once the "K Lazy E". K. E. are my dad's initials. The E was formed from the angled side of the K... two more angled lines, parallel with the top one, pointing to the right formed the letter "E". It appeared as if the E was leaning against an upright and thus "lazy". I don't recall our using that brand although I watched Dad draw it many times. Somewhere along the way, Dad bought the patent to another brand at a farm sale. His new brand was the "Irish Harp". It was a design shaped like a harp... two outwardly-angled sides, one shorter than the other on a horizontal base with the top closed by an "s" curve. I'm not sure why Dad preferred the Irish harp over his initials but it was our brand when I was old enough to help. 

Those were the days before propane-fueled branding-iron heaters, so we built a bonfire. I was the youngest boy in the river valley so I had to relinquish all the more macho parts of branding day to my older brother, sisters and cousins. But when my Grandfather, Uncle or Dad would catch a calf with their lariat and drag it toward the branding fire, I would often grab onto the rope and pretend to be doing something whether or not I was. Have you ever noticed when several folks are performing the same task, say all lifting the same heavy object, all will be grunting with enthusiasm as if they have the bulk of the load, but only one or two are truly lifting? That's the way I remember branding. Someone else always threw the calf and hung on while the men performed the branding, vaccinations and castrations. But I often flopped myself across the calf's neck and grunted with the others as if I were the only one who was keeping the calf from jumping up and returning to the herd. When everyone else let go, the calf usually jumped up and returned to the herd in spite of my grunting and hanging on. 

Then one summer a new hi-tech device came into existence. Instead of a knife to perform the castration, Dad or my uncle had bought an "elasticator". It was a pliers type device with four little pegs that stuck out from the side of the jaws. When you opened the jaws, the pegs, through a mechanical connection, moved apart from each other. A very strong, very small rubber-band was put over the pegs of the elasticator. You could squeeze on the handles and stretch the rubber-band open, to a diameter of maybe three inches. The gizmo was used to trim the boy-calf's rudder... through its proper use it "steers" the little bull from that point forward. When released, the rubber band cuts off circulation, and in a week or two the "trimmed rudder" dries up like a prune and falls off. It was a relatively pain-free process and one with no blood loss so that's the way we castrated calves from that time on. If you discovered prunes throughout the pasture at a later date, it was best to leave them alone. So, I finally found a job that I could do. I loaded the elasticator by placing the little rubber-bands over the four pegs... often with a display of manly exertion such as macho grunting. 

My last memory of curtailing the reproductive capabilities of a male specie of farm animal was long after we had moved to town. Dad commuted to the place on the river each day. I was a year or two out of high-school and home from CSU for the summer. I had planned to have a lazy day off from working for Morris Skinner hunting fossils for the American Museum of Natural History. I had been several years away from the rancher/farmer life. I suppose my Dad figured I needed to be reacquainted with my roots. 

I recall that it was Memorial Day. The Indianapolis 500 was scheduled for that afternoon. We didn't have a TV. but I had a radio. I could see that Dad was up to something... sharpening his pocket knife, gathering his lariats and getting some Lysol. It looked like an ominous undertaking that I'd just as soon not be part of. The Indianapolis 500 seemed like a plausible excuse for a few hours of totally boring down-time. I hoped to listen to the race on the radio and thus kill about four hours... maybe five if lucky... and thus escape the chore that Dad had in mind. 

I recalled an earlier time when our local jockey sensation, Bob Mundorf, had hit the big-time and was riding in the Kentucky Derby (about 1958 or so). We all anticipated the big day and listened to the broadcast on the radio. Bob's horse didn't place, and the "run for the roses" was over in 90 seconds. I like horses, but if you are looking for an excuse for idle time, 90 seconds won't do it. A 500-mile auto race is much more practical. So I got my radio and began to listen to the race coverage. But Dad, a life long horse-trader, had other plans for me. He asked me if I had plans and I answered that I planned to listen to the Indianapolis 500. That didn't sound like plans at all to Dad. So he said, "come on". 

Dad always had more horses than we could ride. Long after my folks sold all of our other livestock, Dad kept horses and he did until he died. He had traded for two stud colts and he wanted me to help him make geldings out of them. For you city-slickers, gelding has nothing to do with gold-plating. So we drove out to the ranch. 

For all of Dad's horses, he had only one decent saddle, and at any given time only one or two of his horses were sufficiently broke to be reliable rides. So Dad rode his saddle horse and I slapped my leg and galloped across the prairie in my fossil hunting boots while we looked for the herd of horses. They were in a quarter-section of hilly pasture south of the river canyons and we soon found them and had them driven into the south east corner of the pasture. I asked Dad where the two colts were and he pointed them out. 

They weren't little colts at all, but nearly-grown, skittish two-year-olds! There was no corral or catch-pen in the upper pasture, so Dad figured he could rope them and we could wrestle them down right there on the prairie... and so we did. The young horses bucked, squealed and snorted on the end of Dad's lariat but sooner or later they would tire and I would get my rope on a foot and trip the horse into a heap and somehow we would get its feet tied. The colts then groaned in agony as I held their heads down and Dad did his handiwork on the opposite end. I guess horses aren't built for an elasticator. There are some parts of my ranching life that I'm happy to have fade into the history of the Wild West. That day was one of them. It was my last experience at practicing Veterinary Meddlin'.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Go ahead, leave a comment!