Dad was the first one up. He put corn cobs in the bottom of the Wildfire kitchen stove, then added small pieces of wood and then regular wood, mainly hardwoods like oak and hickory. Using an old whiskey bottle he sprinkled kerosene over the wood and corn cobs. He struck a big kitchen match on the stove top and held it to the kerosene. He watched for a minute to make sure the flames had caught. He put the lid on the stove and walked outside.
Four dogs were waiting on the steps. The rat dog jumped off and followed dad to the chicken house. The chickens were ten weeks old. In another two weeks they would be on the market to one of the numerous chicken processing plants on the Lower Shore.
The dog walked along sniffing at the edge of the chicken house. Rat wire had been buried when the house was constructed. It would keep out rats, raccoons, snakes and foxes. The chickens were use to the rat dog since he had been walking through the house since they were biddies. All was well in the chicken house.
Stepping outside he checked the four large hogs and six shoats in the pen. They were still sleeping under a make-shift lean-to on pine shats and old straw.
He walked back to the barn and leaned against the top railing of the horse pound. The two mules came to the fence stretching their heads toward dad. He gave each one and the cow an ear of corn. He rubbed on the the mule’s forehead and looked at the clean twenty acre field. Hardly a blade of grass or a weed was to be seen.
The planting season started about a month ago.
The blacksmith arrived in an old beat up truck. He laid his tools out; a huge snipper, hammer and nails, horse shoes and three heavy rasps. He put on his heavy leather apron and approached the mule’s front leg. The mule, after a little prodding and cussing allowed the blacksmith to lift one front leg. The blacksmith straddled the leg, pulled it up tight between his legs and began snipping off the old ragged outer edge of the hoof. Then he used the rasp to smooth the hoof. A rasp is like a fingernail file. Rough on one side, less rough on the other.
Using short nails he put on the shoe. The nails were rough to keep them from working out. Short to keep from hitting the quick. The blacksmith worked around the mule. Each time the mule was reluctant to lift his leg. The blacksmith had to be careful. The mule’s hind legs are very strong. But once the blacksmith had the leg secure, the mule stopped any resistance. The mule was standing on three legs and the smith was leaning against his upper leg.
Dad and the boys had shoveled the manure from the chicken house and spread it on the field as far as it would go The field was ready to be plowed. Marvin being the oldest, began. It was walk, walk, walk behind the single plow that the two mules were pulling.
The point of a plow is designed so that it is constantly trying to go deeper. The chains are low on the plow and high on the mule. When the mule is pulling the plow, he is also constantly lifting it.
Harry Ferguson designed the first hydraulic system on a Ford tractor in the late 1930s. The plows want to go lower but the hydraulic pump runs constantly lifting the plows. Before this, plows were on wheels to keep them at the correct depth. The tractor became known as a Ford-Ferguson. The hydraulic system is the ‘three point hitch’.
A week ago we shelled corn to plant. No hybrid corn. About every tenth ear was red. Only corn from nice full ears were used.
The two row corn planter was hooked behind the two mules. There were two hoppers for each row. (I have no idea where the word ‘hopper’ came from) One was filled with corn seed, the other was filled with fertilizer. The corn hopper has a plate at the bottom that turns allowing one kernel to fall down a chute into a one inch deep trench. A bit of fertilizer also drops. The wheel came along and sealed the trench. The corn was planted about eight to ten inches apart, depending on the plate you used. The farmer could plant peas, beans or pop corn with different plates. Holes in the plate were the size of the seeds.
One of my older brother climbed onto the seat, flicked the reins against the mules and they started planting corn. They worked their way down the field, periodically re-filling the four hoppers. Dad would walk in the field and occasionally dig along the trench to make sure corn was actually being planted at the correct intervals. If all went well, the field would be full of tiny shoots of corn in a week.
Most farms up into the 1930’s were very self-sufficient. Most of what we bought was at MacAllister’s country store a mile away. About once a month they would ride the horse and buggy to Berlin. Only essentials were bought. Some of the things were sugar, salt, flour, spices and kerosene. Mom would buy one pair of overalls and yards of denim from Joe Hollins’ store. At home she would use a razor and cut all the threads holding the overalls together. She would use those parts as patterns to cut out and make new overalls for the boys.
We got chicken feed from Roland Beauchamp in one hundred pound bags. About every tenth bag was higher quality and a print. Most of the girl’s dresses and blouses were made from this material. Shoes, socks and dressier clothing were bought from Sears and Roebucks or Montgomery Wards.
We rarely grew wheat or rye. If we did, we sold it by the bushel. All the small mills had disappeared by the 1930’s.
Mom had a Hoosier Cabinet in the pantry, complete with a flour bin, metal top and a roll top lid. She said in the 20’s and 30’s, she was using a hundred pounds of flour every two weeks. We had a big tray of hot biscuits at every meal. In the cabinet was a big brown pitcher full of clabber. Whatever amount she took out to make bread, she added that amount of milk. The pitcher was always full.
At practically every meal, there were nine people at the table. Norman and Farrell, the two oldest boys, were away working on ships on the Delaware River. Marvin for some reason had dropped out of school in his senior year and was at the table. Etta graduated from Buckingham High School in 1932 or 33. She was at the table. Irving, Frank, Dale, Lois and myself made up the rest on a normal day.
Sometimes there were more. Nephews and nieces loved to visit Aunt Charlotte and Uncle Irv at meal time. They were guaranteed plenty of food. Also Mom’s father, John Elliott, was contrary and mean. His younger children would leave their home and sleep in our barn. Another person at the table.
Mildred, mom’s youngest sister, was the same age as Norman, Mom’s oldest son and lived two hundred yards away. She remembers mom always had a baby in her arms at the table. Dad at the other end of the table was always feeding the next youngest in a highchair.
Dad picked up a hitch-hiker on his way home from huckstering. The boy was from Philadelphia and stayed two years. His name was John Dell. I remember him visiting Mom and Dad after the war. Never heard of him since. During the depression there were a lot of people wandering around the country looking for work. In the late 1930’s, Marvin and Farrell served in the CCC for a while.
For breakfast it was eggs with ham or bacon or scrapple or sausage. Dad like his eggs fried hard with the yolk broken. We all got the same thing. A little water was put into the frying pan with the oil and we had speckled gravy. Delicious to sop your bread in.
Sometimes the meat was extremely salty. Dad’s favorite saying was, “It’s good for you, it flushes your kidneys.” All of this meat came from our hogs slaughtered during the winter. Rarely did mom buy meat. If she did, it was usually baloney. Then we would have eggs and baloney. All of this was fried in an eighth of an inch of lard. Whenever the coffee started perking, you knew food was soon going to be served.
In 1934 mom and dad bought the ninety acre farm on Turville Creek. On the east side was part of Riddle Farm, later to become the property of Farrell Lynch. On the west side was the Dick Quillen’s Farm, later to belong to Melville Quillen. On the north side was the Bell Farm, later to be the South Gate side of Ocean Pines. Across Turville Creek was a peach orchard owned by Harrison Nursery. Now Ocean Downs.
Franklin Roosevelt helped in buying the farm. One of his New Deal programs, maybe the WPA, provided aid to small farmers in borrowing money to buy land. The farm included an old telescope house and a duck hatchery that was never finished. A windmill that never worked and a small unknown family cemetery. In time, the cemetery disappeared. I think they paid $3600 for the farm.
The county dirt road ran from present day Rte. 589 to Gum Point Landing. Later on mom would have a fight with the County Commissioners over the Landing. A short road went from the landing to Calamus Gut where the present day Albatross Motel is located. The road continued into the woods and ended at the large field belonging to Riddle Farm.
At some time in the 1910’s, 20’s and 30’s, there were two small houses way back in the field on the home farm in Taylorville. I doubt they were there at the same time. The smallest house was one room with a loft. Dad had it built for his grandmother. She was called Old Gran Tee. Her real name was Mary Hester Hastings Lynch, married to the first George Washington Lynch, mother of eight. When she died or moved, Dad moved it to the yard. From then on it was the feed house. They are both buried in the St. George’s Cemetery in Clarksville, Delaware.
I vaguely remember the other house. Uncle Harvey and Aunt Alice Lynch lived there for a while. I remember only one time Harvey and Bud walking through our yard on the way to the school bus.
After they moved, Dad decided to move it to the creek farm. He and his sons cut down two pine trees. They jacked up the house on one side and shoved the pine tree trunks under the house.. They hooked the trees to an old wagon axle with wheels.
Dad hitched two or three mules to the wagon wheels and pulled it to the creek farm. He put it at the very end of the field at the edge of the creek.
The first family to live there was named Clogg, then a Flint family. In and around 1944, Irving married Eva Lee Cranfield and lived there. He moved. Frank married Alice Rickards and they moved in. The creek at that time was full of fish and crabs.
Later Dad and Mom sold the house, a houseboat and five acres of land to Hale Stevenson and wife. Hale came here from Oklahoma in the CCC.
After the corn was planted, attention was turned to the garden. Some of the cole crops had already been planted: Cabbage, (no Chinese or red cabbage) kale, mustard and a few other greens. Most of the cole crops along with turnips would also be planted in August for winter use.
No broccoli, brussel sprouts, eggplants or cauliflower. We had one row of asparagus but we never ate it. It was strictly a garnish and put in flower bunches that Irving and Frank sold on the boardwalk in Ocean City.
We planted pole butterbeans, (hendersons) fordhook bush limas, green stringbeans, sweet peas and black-eyed peas. These were for home use, not to sell in Ocean City.
We had a watermelon patch. Two varieties, kleckley sweets and charleston grey. Dad would thump on them with his fingernail to determine if they were ripe. We had a cantaloupe patch, one variety, hale’s best. A sweet potato patch, red only. A cucumber patch. Each patch was probably an acre.
We had rows and rows of white potatoes and redskins. Dad would plow a shallow furrow with the plow. The children would walk along dropping in seed potatoes eight to ten inches apart. They were small whole potatoes or parts of larger potatoes, each part had to have an eye from where the sprout would appear. He would come back with the plow and cover the potatoes. Potatoes were huckstered by the peck and half-peck. We were like the Irish. The potato was a staple. We had fried potatoes, mashed potatoes and potato salad. Every pot of soup had plenty of potatoes.
The onions were usually a white variety. Dad would lay out the rows. The children on their knees would move along and push an onion set into the ground about every three or four inches, We sold a lot of onions in bunches of three. We never used onion plants.
Everything in the garden was planted with the hope that all would be ready by the Fourth of July. The week of the Fourth was the beginning of huckstering time in Ocean city.
We had a red apple tree. Not very good. Two sour cherry trees. Excellent. One sour plum tree. Mom’s favorite for jelly. One row of gooseberries for jelly. No grapes or pears.
One of the last things Dad planted were pumpkins seeds. Strictly pie making pumpkins. None for carving jack-o-lanterns. I remember Mom making eighteen pumpkin pies one afternoon. Some were orange colored. Some were yellowish and some were dark. Whatever, they were the best in the neighborhood.
Keep on Trucking