Sandburs and Swamp

The swamps were full of mud hens and snapping turtles, fences were falling down and the place was losing money.
The Snyder Farm, where Dad moved his family in 1939, was a disaster. It was Dad and Brother Jim who drained
the swamps, built more than 20 miles of "hog-tight" fence, introduced crop rotation and innovations like
hybrid corn and fertilizer, painted the barn and earned a profit.


Dad working on the Books

Sand hills raise sandburs better than corn -- or any crop that can be sold for a profit. The grain grown was processed through hogs which got sold as prospective bacon, pork chops and ham and processed through cows from which we got and sold milk and that ended up as hamburger when they failed produce enough salable milk to pay their room and board. Chickens were also in abundance and sometimes the neighbor's Guinea Hens wandered up our lane looking for a treat.

Chickens taught Carolyn and I to save. In 1951 Dad bought
us 100 baby Leghorn Chickens which we raised and from
which we gathered and sold eggs for a year. The outcome
was $117 which Carolyn and I used to buy a new Motorola
Television set. Carolyn and I never did realize
that all $117 wasn't pure profit -- that Dad paid for the
chickens and chicken feed.

Raising crops, cows, chickens and pigs was a vicious
circle. The livestock produced tons of manure that we
spread on the fields making them more fertile which
increased the yield of hay and grain making it possible to
feed and keep more livestock which produced even more
manure. Slaves never worked so hard.

Into the soup to shovel manure -- I'm sure there are laws against working people in conditions like that today and then there were the hours. Cows have to be milked at least twice a day -- 12 hours apart -- so the milkier milks from 4:30 to 6:30 a.m. and again from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. -- and puts in a solid day of other work in between milkings. Those were our hours and our working conditions because we didn't know any better.

Work didn't seem to hurt us too much and there were advantages to life on the farm. At a time when many people were hungry we always had plenty of good food. I can remember complaining because all we had to eat was steak, pork, fresh vegetables and homemade bread. We were even forced to drink milk at every meal.

But most dear to my little boy heart was being allowed to wallow with impunity in the mud. I built lots of miniature mud forts -- an entire mud country with flowing rivers and lakes and a complete paper airplane air force more than once.

Case VAC (15 hp)

Allis Chalmbers WD (30 hp)

54 Case DC (40 hp)

Oliver Super 88 (65 hp)

Casey appeared in 1949. This little tractor for all practical purposes was mine since I was the primary pilot. Casey could pull the water wagon, a load of grain or hay or a light field tool.

Pulling wagons was good preparation for life as it was an important and demanding job. I had to pay attention to details and couldn't quit until Dad said we were done for the day.

That little tractor could fly. I flew it to exotic places all over this planet and followed Captain Video to the moon.

Cutting silage was a wonderful time of good country perfume and adventure. As Dad was cutting the last of a field of standing corn I would jump down and chase rabbits that tried to hide in the grass that remained uncut -- actually caught several rabbits with my own hands. And I wasn't the only one who was fast.


Actually, playing in the mud was comparatively clean fun.
The amazement of the day I invented a grease gun out of a
tin can and a stick that would squirt grease just like the
store bought item. I greased everything that would stand
for it -- I bet there's still dried grease on gate hinges and
elsewhere. Mom closed the store the day I used an oil can
to lubricate Sister Ruth's hair.

Farm life was also good for the soul. Each member of my
Family was a valued worker. Care of the young stock and
chickens were always my responsibilities even on Sunday
and Christmas. I rebelled once -- refused to take care of
the chickens one night after school. My shame at seeing
Dad do my job after a long day's work was too much and
I never failed to carry my load again.

About 1995 I drove by the old Farm to renew memories. I was saddened to see that the barn we had painted and made
look like new was weather-beaten and falling down and that the shining galvanized steel tool shed built in 1949
was almost rusted away.

All was gone just two years later.