Monday, March 24, 2008


My apologies to Gary!
I was just re-reading Gary Metcalf's description of farm life in Hoosier during the '40's, and it reminded me that the way the farm boys were treated back then would now be classified as child abuse. And it certainly would not have been lawful now under the child labor laws. I don't know whether this abuse extended to the girls who grew up on the farms, I know my sister was not required to do any of the hard work.

When I was eleven and twelve, I was expected to put in a ten hour day hoeing the weeds out of a big field of corn, and usually the temperature and humidity made that a miserable job. But we were provided with a big, steel can of ice cold water to get us through the day.

Later, at age thirteen through sixteen, during the summers I was hired out to work for other farmers in the area. I don't remember getting paid, although I am sure that I did get six dollars a day for working in the hay barn for Ralph Snyder. It is hard to imagine now doing that kind of work, lifting bales of alfalfa, some of which would weigh one hundred pounds if the alfalfa had been baled green, for about ten or eleven hours, and then going to the ball field and playing a game of baseball. We must have been tough.

For Mr. Snyder, I also drove an ensilage truck, even though I probably did not have a drivers licence. But, as I remember, farm kids had some kind of special exemptions as far as driving farm equipment on the highways. That was the dirtiest job you could imagine, as the ensilage blower would often (probably on purpose) accidently blow a bit of the load into the driver's cab of the truck.

I also put in twelve hour days plowing for Rolla Holland. Thirteen year olds doing that kind of long days would certainly be the equivalent of the Chinese girls working in the "sweat shops" of Shanghai. Another job I had was working for Jim Buchele's dad, I think he was Paul. I don't remember now exactly what kind of work I was doing, but do remember the meals we were served at noon. His mom, Helen I think her name was, was a great cook and we had meals that were fit for a king. Fried chicken, potatoes and gravy ( probably why I had by-pass surgery at age 60)corn on the cob, kohlarabi, home-grown green beans cooked in lard and home made rolls with home made butter. But then came dessert. After those delicious meals, she served rhubarb pie!! To me, that was the worst tasting thing I ever had, even though one of my close girl friends at the time said she loved rhubarb pie.

Anyway, we abused farm lads did survive that hard work, and I think that it probably made much better people of us. Maybe the laws now are a little too protective. But I wonder whether in the back woods of the southern flint hills the farmers really pay too much attention to these new laws, now. ??

1 comment:

Phil Foust said...

When we lived in Oketo, Kansas; a friend of mine was hurt when his son accidentally cut his hand with a corn knife while removing cane in a milo field. It was getting time to put up hay and since he was shorthanded I volunteered to help.

He put me in the barn stacking hay with a slight young fellow back from seminary school. To keep the story short ... being older and sedentary I was unable to keep up the pace. Outside the barn and resting I thought surely I would die.

The young man was Thomas Olmstead who (among other accomplishments) served awhile in Rome with the Pope. He now is a Catholic Bishop or Archbishop, (unsure of the terminology), in Phoenix, Arizona.