The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.

The Wisdom Of Barnyard Bruke: Fair Time-In Two Shakes of a Lambs Tail

Greetings to all during this time of county fairs and much excitement.

As I reflect back on "Fair" time I can't help but reflect back on the days of my youth. Fond memories pop into mind and I soon realize "Th' breed is stronger "n th' pasture" (parental influence is stronger than surroundings).

In much earlier years we would still be cultivating corn yet at this season (early to mid-July). Those were the days when you planted by the tree. Some communities waited until oak leaves were as big as squirrels' ears and others gauged the Osage orange (hedge tree) by the same measure. The goal was to have corn "knee high by the 4th of July" and ifn' you planted a straight row, you came across a a good measure for a farmer.

Straight rows was also very important as it related directly to the next operation of weed control. To discourage weeds in those days mechanical means-pulling, hoeing, cultivating-were used rather than herbicides of today. Note I said discourage and not eliminate. Cultivating was an operation we did in three directions, at various stages of corn growth, to frustrate weeds. When we used a team of horses, we would carry a branch, from out in the grove, with a fork on the end about three and one-half feet long. The forked ends were about 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 inches long. This stick was used to lean back on the horse drawn cultivator and carefully uncover the hill of two or three corn plants which you had inadvertently covered with soil from the shovels.

Generally, on small corn, you traveled as slow as a team would walk. The slower the better, to enable you to move just enough soil to cover the weeds that weren't plowed out and yet not cover the corn.

The second cultivating was called "crossing the corn" and you could travel at a faster pace.

If'n you saw a missed cocklebur you would stop and pull it. The belief was that if'n you got them all in three years, you would have no more of those pesky yield robbing weeds in your field.

Morning Glories were a different story. Starting into a patch of those gull-darn vines with a corn plow would plug up your cultivator, causing you to back up your team and get off and dig out the mass of weeds and dirt which had bunched up in your plow.

By this time it was better to "Go soak yer' head in buttermilk" (take time to calm yourself and cool down), for to climb back on that plow in an angry state of mind, only plowed out more corn. The combination of a field full of ding-blasted Morning Glory vines and cultivating "would try the patience of an iron saint" (would irritate anybody)!

I remember one field that was so infested with those nasty vines that you could pick up one corner and shake the whole blasted field! It made many a farmer "cranky as an ol' settin' hen" (grouchy and fussy).

We cultivated day after day, mixed in with haying, shocking oats and wheat, and "walking (weeding) corn and later beans, on foot. Maybe later I'll write on them jobs as well.

Anyhow, the last go of cultivating was called "laying by". You traveled the opposite way of the earlier "crossing" cultivation and the same way as the first cultivation. The ride was rougher than a cob and not any better after tractors came along.

By mid morning, of laying by corn, your clothes were about dried out. Many boys did not wear shirts, out in the corn field alone, which left only the overalls to dry. With the heavy dew the corn was large enough to brush against the driver and soak him thoroughly "To the gills".

Trying to stay awake at times, was another interesting exercise in frustration during cultivation. After a big home-cooked dinner with the temperature at its lowest at 90 degrees, and often well over 100 degrees, the plants sucked up the heat and threw it back at you sitting out in the open, on the one row cultivator. It was quiet with but a few sounds-the harness creaking, a slight sound of the horses plodding endlessly....plod, plod, plod. As you quietly moved along, the wheels and shovels made a soft "soil sound". And then it would hit you.

That awful experience of trying to stay awake with a full belly after dinner and hot weather. The corn came never ending one after another, almost hypnotizing. You think in your mind "stoppin at third base don't add no more to th' score than strikin' out" (don't give up-perservere).

Some folk in those days would "last "bout as long as a paper shirt inna' bear-fight" (fail quickly). So off to the side they would go for a quick nap and rest for the horses. Lucky was he that had the shade of a hedge row nearby.

Getting caught at the far end of a field, with a sudden cold thundershower, was also an interesting experience. By the time you reached the barn you were drenched to the bone, with water squishing out your leather shoes. And yet, before you could dry out, the team needed to be unhitched and put away.

Cultivating with horses allowed you to be familiar with your surroundings. Snakes, ground squirrels, pheasants, rabbits, a few quail-everything. You learned to know every foot of soil in your fields, where the gophers and moles worked and where every weed patch was. You knew almost every plant individually, and marveled each time over, at the growth of corn. Today's corn grows much faster, it seems, "in two shakes of a lambs tail" (quickly) than those plants of yester year which did not have the benefit of nitrogen fertilizer, and modern hybrid genetics.

And then there was "County Fair" time. A much anticipated reprieve from the labors at hand, but all to short. Time to be with family and friends. Time to compare notes on all that goes with farming-corn growth, rain or lack there of, haying, shocking grain, and up-coming threshing days.

You betcha, "Fair Time" brings on "fond memories of the good ole days". See ya at the fair and we'll swap some tall tales of fond memories of yester year-Jaw awhile-and spin yarns of by gone days.

Catch ya later

Barnyard Bruke