THESE HILLS ARE NOT BARREN
by George D. Taylor
Permission given by the Taylor Family, for posting to this website, by Rachel Pace after polling grandchildren of George D. Taylor and cousin Sandy Fraze. George and Helen Taylor of Stamford, NY had three children, Marian, Martha and John. John was killed by lightening when he was ten years old. Marian had four children and Martha, three. Marian and Martha are both deceased.
Page images reproduced from book and submitted to dcnyhistory.org by Donald A. Danald
Transcription from image files by Linda Ogborn
Proofed and coded for webpage and pdf file by Joyce Riedinger - posted to this website March 7, 2011
ARE NOT BARREN
THE STORY OF A CENTURY FARM
GEORGE D. TAYLOR
New York Exposition Press
Copyright, 1950, by George D. Taylor
Printed in the United States of America
To My Son
Whose Province Would Have Been
To Live His Life and Write This Book
What is Written in this book is not an attempt to show that land management is a scientific or a businesslike calling; nor to
set farming off by itself as a "way of life."
Its purpose is much more ambitious; and if, perchance, the
purpose becomes clear, you who read what follows will perceive that good farming is like Henry Drummond's live
"The greatest thing in the world."
"The glory of the farmer is that, in the division of
Labors, it is his part to create. All trade rests at last
On his primitive activity."
Ralph Waldo Emerson
I How We Live 1
II Horses and Dogs 3
III My Great-Grandfather 13
IV My Grandfather 22
V My Father 30
VI A Century Farm 39
VII The Rocks 48
VIII The Dairy Farm 58
IX The Cauliflower 71
X The Maple Sugar 82
XI One Hundred Years in One House 94
XII The Farm Economy 104
XIII The Farmer's Destiny 117
In the year 1800. the Reverend Timothy Dwight, then president of Yale University, made a trip through New York State. After crossing the more settled areas on the eastern frontier, which contain the lands drained and leveled by the Hudson River and its tributaries, he crossed the mountains toward central New York. His impressions of this crossing were registered in the following comment:
"From Schoharie we entered Blenheim, ascending a mountainous acclivity near three miles in length. This township, so far as it was visible from the road, we found an almost absolute forest, as we afterwards did those of Jefferson and Stamford. I can scarcely conceive that an agreeable residence will ever be found of these places."
Into this rockbound, rugged New York State wilderness, fourteen years later, came my great-grandfather, already a young widower, bringing, from Barkhamstead, Connecticut, in his ox cart, two infant children and his possessions. His destination was very near the western border of Schoharie County, in the newly established township of Jefferson, but close to the little settlement in Delaware County which later became known as Stamford.
A less desirable piece of land than that upon which he lighted could not have been found anywhere within the limits of either Schoharie or Delaware counties-a rocky hill tract, interspersed with swamps and ravines, almost totally unavailable for cultivation, and containing not more than one hundred acres. It is not conceivable that any man could have deliberately chosen it, and indeed my progenitor did not. For he had already bought it before he left Connecticut from a neighbor there who, upon investigation and trial, had decided to give it up and come home. The fact that he, too, did not abandon it has been these one hundred and thirty-five years, the predetermining influence upon us, his progeny. Because he did not, we have not.
It is often contended that men are victims of circumstance. All of us to whom fell-and to whom now falls- the responsibility for the maintenance of our enterprise were caught in the trap of circumstance. But to say that we were victims would be a misstatement of what happened to us. It is true that we all, one after another, have accepted the circumstances, but never with the implication of frustration or defeat.
Because my great-grandfather made a living here, we have all made a living here-my grandfather, my father and I, and now my daughter and her husband. A living is always to be made by those who are smart enough to make wise selections of opportunity. My grandfather was not smart. And he did not make wise selection. But having got into it he determined, not only to make the best of it, but to make it produce what he wanted. This stoical doctrine has been the crux of the thing for four more generations.
And now, first, I want to show you this Taylor Farm, as it looks today. And after that, how it got that way, what it has done for my ancestors, what it is doing to me, what it can do for my progeny. And finally, I want to show you its philosophy.
Perhaps the theme would be better expressed by inverting the terms. It is a question whether we have done something to the land or whether the land has done something to us. But I am inclined to the latter. For I know that my philosophy-and this book-has had its origin in the land.
How We Live
There is no glamour in a farm. For those who need the enticement of charm to make reading pleasant, no pursuit beyond this sentence is recommended, for this book will recite no alluring adventure. It is a story of land.
As I write this, the snow lies three feet deep over the ground, and the roads and driveways and paths are filled with drifts at fantastic levels. A raging two-day blizzard brought the snow from the east, and two more days of shifting high winds piled it up. Our cars and trucks, and even the tractors, stand quietly inside. Except for sleds, taking out the milk each morning, and drawn by struggling horses, no traffic has approached or passed the farm for a week, and a look out of the window will disclose no moving thing except tree branches. Dead winter is upon us.
But while there is this exterior evidence of hibernation, there is, for us who live here, no lazy interlude. Inside our house, and in all the houses scattered here and there on the place, and in the barns, there is the usual busy pursuit of daily duties. As the evening comes on, the lighted windows throw out our assurance to each other that the day has passed without mishap and that we are not, in fact, completely isolated.
But the real proof that we do not hibernate in the deep winter comes at four-thirty in the morning. As the crew comes alive, the kitchen lights are switched on in the houses, one after another, to implement the primary duty of morning fires and donning of boots and overalls. In a few minutes, bright lighted squares show up in long rows from the basement windows in the big cowbarns, as the morning schedule of feeding and milking swings into action.
The cows, in their insulated comfort, have no knowledge of blizzards, and, as the lights go on, they come upon their feet by the score, almost simultaneously, and stand eagerly awaiting the sure, quick advent of the man with a scoop in his hand, rolling the grain truck along the feeding alley in front of them. For them, there is no hardship because the snow has impeded the motion of men, nor any romantic implications in the drifts outside. There is no diminution of appetite, or of production and elimination.
So, all through the day, and day after day, all winter, the work schedule in the barns goes on as usual, and this, together with the difficulty of adapting essential farm traffic to the snowdrifts, leaves no opportunity for seasonal idleness
Without the sure knowledge of a life attuned to the implications of the seasons, this winter monotony would be a languishing experience. For me it is merely a hiatus.
I know that under the snow, in the soil, the seeds and the roots lie dormant, and that in each one is the germ of life. I know that somewhere, safely hidden, there are the progenitors of the multitudes of insects and worms and moths and bugs and beetles that will come forth in a little while, and that, though they take their own toll as they come, they will vitalize the earth. I know that the lowly ground hog lies hibernating in his safe burrow below the frost line, and that the beautiful speckled trout are secure in their deep seclusion under the ice.
I know, too, that with the warm sunshine of March and with the April showers will come the evidence and the motion of life. I have picked the earliest may flowers in the woods during the warm days of sugar weather. With the snow still lurking in the fence corners, I have heard the shrill peepers in the swamp on a balmy April evening; and a few evenings later, the hoarse enthusiasm of the bull frogs in a grand male chorus. Barehanded, in early May, I have snared the suckers as they swam desperately up the brook in their eagerness to spawn.
I have watched the brown, dead grass, in the pasture and in the meadow, turn color gradually, bursting forth at last full green and lush. And a little later, as the soil is warmed through and softened by the rain, I have seen it receive the seeds and the seedlings from my hand, with assurance that a crop will grow-my material contribution to my fellow man, certifying my right to live with him. And out of the proceeds will come my own living.
Though farm activity goes on without interruption in winter, and though the animals who live here help us to carry on our existence, it is in the springtime and the summertime, when the soil itself is active, that we work out our destiny.
It is then that the lawns and the flowers and the trees come to life, lending a character and a design to our surroundings. It is then that the crops, which provide the living for all, must be planted and grown and harvested. So each year, with the advent of March sunshine, we make our plans with the hope that we may add another favorable balance sheet to our ledger of progress.
The warmer weather brings on the rush of maple sugar making, followed quickly by planting and sowing. There is no interruption between the end of this and the beginning of the hay harvest, which is again followed quickly by other harvests. There are oats to cut and thresh, and the silos to be filled with corn, and the daily cutting and shipping of cauliflower to the city. Every day there is the movement of trucks, here and there, at home and abroad, and every morning the roar of the tractors. And every day, the two milking herds must be twice brought in for feeding and milking. Men are always in motion until the snow again begins to fly.
The Appalachian mountaineer may be identified as a "poor white," and thereby have his quality and circumstances established. But for a mid-state New York farmer to establish his background is not so easy, for his calling brings with it no special mark of identity. The diversity of agriculture in the state is so great that the operating characteristics are not often common to each other. In fact, it is because of this diversity, rather than from pre-eminence in any single kind of farming, that New York ranks so high among the states in the total value of its agricultural products. And judged by comparison with the large-scale, single-product operations in the West, most individual New York farms are small enterprises.
So our pride has always been mixed with some humility when we who operate the Taylor Farm have found it necessary to establish our standing by remarking that we live on a farm in the country, fifty miles west of the Hudson river, and one hundred fifty miles northwest of New York City.
Reference to a map or, for those familiar with local geography, to a mental picture, will place us in the Catskill mountain area; but no map and no mental picture, unless, co-ordinated with the experience of living here, will indicate the splendid native strength and the substantial material development of this beautiful country.
The village of Stamford, into which focus life at the Taylor Farm falls, is not unlike other local villages. They are lively, thrifty modern communities, and, because of their proximity to the large eastern metropolis, they have quite generally taken on a character of smug urbanity. Traditional colloquialism and narrow provincialism have been almost completely dissipated by the association with outside life which modern communication has established.
There is, however, still a community character and a standard of individualism not to be found among the suburbanites who live close around the big cities, clustered like bananas on a stalk, getting their sustenance from a common source and growing as like as peas in a pod.
I suppose that the wealth of New York City constitutes a natural reason for the cocksure superiority of New Yorkers. It is likely, too, that rugged pioneer traditions give the westerner a feeling of individuality when he introduces himself among eastern sophisticates. For those who live in western Catskill mountain communities, there is merely the assurance which comes to toads born in small puddles.
Though community progress and, to some extent, community support comes from city relationships, the substance of life here is agricultural. We are farming communities, having the villages as focal points. It is from the products of the soil that the new money comes into the town in a steady stream to replace that which the grocer and the butcher and the banker must send out constantly for our new supplies. While the degree of our prosperity may vary with that of the national economy, no industrial strike and no factory shutdown can paralyze us. Our heritage is in the soil.
We do not have to live with the prodical opulence and the sordid artificiality of urban commercialism. We get our living by digging it out of the land, in competition with the woodchucks and the potato bugs and the barn rats, and in defiance of short seasons, drought, floods and low prices.
This opening chapter started out to be a description of the Taylor Farm; but we have run off into natural surroundings and rural philosophy.
The life we lead here and what we get out of it is, after all, completely determined by what we have to live on and what we have to work with.
The computation of our gross annual income in dollars has never yet required the use of more than five figures. During the late war we got within reasonable shooting distance of the sixth column , and, except for the possibility of destructive deflation, which always hits farmers first and most severely, that sixth figure is still a possibility and a goal. but such figures are no indication of what we have to live on. Like other businessmen, we must live on net earnings.
The current affluence of farmers is being grossly misrepresented by the statisticians and the economists. They recite figures to show that the income of labor has doubled, and that farm income has also doubled. The implication is that farmers have therefore been comparatively well served. But the statisticians forget to say that, while the laborer's double wage is a net income, the farmer's double intake constitutes no sure evidence of increased net earnings, and that the current High wage scale for labor had, in fact, often reduced his profit.
But any discussion of profits for the Taylor Farm is largely academic, for, somehow, our books never show any cash balance at the end of the year. We always put everything we make into the enterprise, and we grab our maintenance as we go along. So much for what we have to live on. We get along.
As eastern farms go, we have enough to work with. In its present make-up, the farm contains a total of five hundred and two acres, the whole area being nearly square, and including seven separate additions to the original tract. The highway leading from the village into our neighborhood runs northerly and almost exactly through the center of the farm, passing first the buildings of the lower farm, and coming upon the main buildings near the north extremity.
Approaching from the south, the owners' homes on the left are first in evidence, the new house in which my son-in-law and daughter live with their children, and the main house in which our family has lived these one hundred years and more. Surrounded with trees and drives and lawns and flowering hedges, and elevated a little from the road level, the houses present an appearance of reasonably good living, with plenty of space. Next beyond, on the left, is the cauliflower packing house, thirty by sixty feet, and three stories high. On the right opposite, and considerably below the road level, is the big cowbarn, thirty-six by two hundred and twenty-eight feet, with a big round silo on each end, and with an overhead approach for the road into the gambrel roof. Further beyond, on the right, are the homes for the workers-three substantial well-built houses with six and eight rooms. Paddock fences surround the barnyards and mark out the lawn boundaries. All the buildings and fences are painted white.
Near the south boundary, half a mile away and passed earlier on the highway, is the group of buildings already mentioned which serve that part of the farm. There is a cowbarn thirty-four by one hundred and forty feet, having its yard surrounded by the characteristic white fence, a garage and tool-house, and a twelve-room house which provides living space for those of the crew who operated the dairy there.
The WORKING equipment includes nearly every device which can be adapted to our needs. There are three big transport trucks, and a dump truck, four tractors, one stationary gas motor, and a half-dozen electric motors for various jobs in various places. There is a rotary tiller. There are plows and harrows, a transplanter, a grain drill, a corn planter, and a power cultivator. For haying, there are mowing machines, a dump rake, a side delivery rake, a hay baler, and power hoists which put the hay away, high up and far back in the cowbarns. There is a grain binder, and a big thresher, a corn binder and an ensilage blower. And for woodcutting there is the tractor-driven power saw.
In the saphouse is the big evaporator, with its attending equipment-three thousand sap buckets and spouts, gathering tanks, and storage vats. There is the sugar cooker, and the power stirring machine.
And, though nobody likes to mention them, and everybody hates to use them, there are also picks and shovels and hoes and rakes and axes and saws and sledges and crowbars and pitchforks and dungforks and milking stools.
To liven the landscape, there are two hundred head of dairy cattle and half a dozen horses, and, behind the kitchen garden, in a little building which is my wife's special province, are a few chickens and two pigs which she feeds with great care, for our own very special family consumption.
One of our chief natural beauties is a tiny stream running through the farm in a southerly direction and about parallel with the highway. It is the very beginning of the Delaware River, which has its first and most remote source in a spring no more than a mile north of us. There have been "swimmin' holes" in this brook for generations of small Taylors, as well as trout for the fishermen large and small.
The stream constitutes a natural division of our land, for, on the west of the valley, having a southeasterly exposure, are all the buildings and all the crop lands. On the east, and with a wester exposure, is the pasture, such as it is, consisting of a great sprawling sidehill, wooded to some extent, and all of it rough, poor land.
Scattered all over the farm in clusters and in groves and in rows along the highway, are the big, hardy maple trees, at once beautiful and productive. Maples are native to this soil and climate, and continue to seed and grow here wherever their haunts have not been desecrated by the necessities of grazing and crop raising. Most of what we have grew naturally where they are, though some hundreds of them were transplanted by my forebears with an eye to beauty and utility.
We are still committed to the development of maples, and for the last three decades we have been nurturing a fifteen acre plot of new maple growth. the process is not unlike the growing of any other crop, except that the life span is generational rather than seasonal. Our first necessity has been to keep the cattle out for a few years, until the growth starts. The growth is prolific and diverse, and we have to work the plot over every two or three years, cutting out the defective maples and the weed trees, as well as the old trees which have provided the seed. On this plot we now have about three thousand young trees, from two to ten inches in diameter, straight and sound and tall.
For the coming generation, they will be a mark of value and a source of income. Like many projects that people undertake, this one provides us no immediate gain, and even at last, nothing more than the clear conscience which comes from having made our contribution to posterity.
The Taylor Farm is not only a place of activity, of growing things, and machinery WORKING. It is, in fact, a small community. The farm census varies more or less in different seasons and different years, but the half-dozen families who live here, together with unattached extra workers, give us a farm family running sometimes to thirty-five persons, all of whom get their living here. All of them, male and female, except the little folks, find employment at some farm job, either regular or seasonal, so that we all manage to live fairly well. Work opportunities
are pooled for the benefit of the families who live on the farm, as far as they are able to fill them, thus stabilizing our labor supply and their living.
The fact that a farmer's business headquarters is his home, and also the fact that his home is in the midst of his business, makes it difficult to dissociate one from the other. The activities of the entire combined enterprise are the common concern of all the family and often the subject of common discussion. The Taylor Farm board of directors has met twice daily for years-first, in the morning at the breakfast table, and again in the upstairs bathroom at bed time.
Conceivably, the intimacy of such surroundings and circumstances might not promote deliberate calculations of policy, but, because the meetings were frequent and informal, and chiefly because the special skills and the special needs of each member of the family were co-ordinated into the plans for action, we have managed well enough. In defense of myself, I must claim that the boss finally made the decisions. But the fact that they were made with pretty full appreciation of the probable consequences is due to what the family had to say.
Mixed in with our full schedule, there is always the diverting and pleasant necessity of receiving our friends.
Our outfit is too large to be classed as a family farm, but, on the other hand, it is no dude ranch on which we live in ease while we entertain our friends. We make our living here, and every member of the family, male and female, has to work, so that, when we have company, they are either useful or lonesome. The work is not interrupted. Most of them do not know enough to milk a cow or pick up a snug forkful of hay, but they do well enough at dish washing, and they can push a lawnmower, or shovel snow in the wintertime.
During the latter years of this farm's history, women have been numerically dominant among ourselves and our guests, and they have made a proportionately large contribution to the work. Until milking machines came along, the hand-milking job provided a constant opportunity for feminine skill, and some of the women, particularly my mother, have been experts. Though my wife has never milked, her failure to qualify is not due to ignorance. The truth is that she has been smart enough to avoid learning.
We have never worked on Sunday. On any dairy farm, however, there is inescapable obligation for that day which has no respect for the fourth commandment. Evidently the Lord wrote that one before he planned the milch cow, for her relief and comfort must be fully provided for on Sunday in spite of what the Bible says. but with this exception, and the occasional necessity of preventing actual waste, no wheel turns on the Taylor Farm on Sunday.
This is not because of strict adherence to the precepts of piety, nor is the practice continued merely because it is traditional here. It is plain common sense to stop, one day in seven, to catch new breath and renew one's faith. Some farmers raise the roof on the corn-crib on Sunday, and lots of folks everywhere raise hell, but no one yet has raised his income or his morale by failure to conform to this divine decree. The quiet which comes on Sunday has a restfulness peculiar to itself, for then we can relax not only our bodies, but our nerves and our vigilance because for a few hours there is no movement on the farm.
Horses and Dogs
Though This Story is to be quite largely concerned with people-to whom you may be introduced later- and with the physical characteristics and potency of land, there is here a background, or, perhaps, a foreground which is entitled to precedence because it has been so vital. It concerns horses.
Most of us who live in the mechanical precision of the mid-twentieth century have forgotten the significant importance of the horse in American history. We have read that Paul Revere rode a horse to rouse the minute men. We know that General Lee had a horse "Whitey" who was beautiful. We know that Teddy Roosevelt's rough riders were mounted on horses. And we recall, more recently, that Hirohito had a tame white horse who was once destined to be ridden down Pennsylvania Avenue, and who missed the assignment by the grace of God and the determination of General MacArthur.
But we moderns have forgotten that the co-ordinated America we know is quite largely a story of the power and good nature of horses. Horses have not only character and sense; they have a historical significance. And they deserve a place among the empire builders and the missionaries.
Born and raised long before the advent of gasoline locomotion, I grew up among horses. To put it more precisely, I grew up here because of horses. Because, except for them, there would have been no farm to grow up on. It would have been merely a tract of land. In the fairly recent days of my growing up, it was still the horse who provided all the facilities of locomotion for our livelihood and our life. He hauled the stoneboat and the log sled and the sap vat. He drew the plow and the harrow, the seed drill and the planter, the mower and the binder. He even walked uphill all day long on the old treadmill to make power for threshing, and for silo filling and wood sawing.
He took us to mill and to market, to church and to school. He brought the doctor to our birth bed in a hurry, and he walked sedately and slowly ahead of the hearse which carried our bodies to the grave. He plunged desperately through the snow up to his ears, on zero winter days, to deliver his load and his master; and, drenched with sweat from ear tip to fetlock on busy, hot summer days, he stuck to his job till sundown.
He took all the kids on sleigh rides and hay rides. And last, but surely not least, he took his young master courting in the evening dusk; and if, perchance there came a signal to stop in a secluded byway, he stood complacently with his eyes straight ahead, either wise or incurious-or perhaps both.
While my own children, were growing up, we all had our own horses and we rode or drove almost every day, sometimes to round up the cows, sometimes on a farm errand, and mostly just to be with the horses.
Though the deep snows sometimes prevent motor travel for a few days, they are often happy events for us. When the snow is deep enough and hard enough so that the snow plow cannot scrape the road surface clean, we get out our sleighs and driving horses. While these rigs provide no practical solution for the necessities of modern expansive itineraries, they offer unsurpassed diversion and sport for those of us who still know how to buckle the cross lines and hook the traces. We can go to town in twenty minutes; and to sit in a cutter, dodging the snowballs hurled by the flying feet of a lively pair of horses, offers a thrill greater than that of any mechanical device on earth or in the heavens. Our happiest memories are fixed on those experiences, and frequently they run to the special merits and characteristics of the horses we loved.
Best remembered and best loved of all was a little bay gelding named Rex. He was my younger daughter's pride and joy during her teens, and his beauty and smartness made us all happy. He was a tremendously spirited little animal, and, having been trained and driven for racing, he had plenty of speed. But it was his persistent good nature and his prompt and willing obedience that made us love him.
He was nine years old when he came to live with us. My daughter was no older, but she rode him from the first day. His adaptability to the safety of a nine-year old could easily have been questioned. But her horsemanship was never in doubt, and his magnificent co-operation made the combination safe for them and fatal to their competitors. In the frequent tests of speed, he always took first place, and tossed his head with pride at the finish.
Though he was a superb saddle horse, he was most at home and happiest when harnessed to the light, rubber-tired road wagon, which we bought especially for him. My daughter always drove him without blinders so that his watchful eye would catch her slightest gesture, and his sensitive ears, always alertly pricked, would answer each verbal signal with a little flicker. Easing quietly along the road, at the beginning of a level stretch, awaiting the signal, he would gather himself instantly, on the word, and with the simultaneous stiff pull on the lines, he would extend the take-off with perfect co-ordination, and with the speed of a demon. It was like riding an eagle to drive him in action, and he was lovely to watch from the sidelines.
His stable manners were as perfect as his outdoor conduct. At the approach of any of us who loved him, he would come with a nicker of greeting and stick his glossy nose over the door of his stall to receive a pat. Never once, to the end of his days, did he every lay his ears back in irritation at any thing or any person, nor would he hesitate to go anywhere he was driven or led. He often came to the house and part way into the kitchen to get a lump of sugar which he took very cautiously with his lips from its carefully set position between the teeth of his mistress.
He won no fame and no money, but this only because he was never promoted for it. He lived simply in the modest pursuits of our modest surroundings. And, like the rest of us, he had to work. No draft horse, he could not haul the plow, nor the big hay wagons, but he took his turn regularly and smartly on the field cultivators and the small planting machines. And besides, he was errand boy for the whole outfit. Many a long trip he made in the winter when the snow was too deep for automobiles. If he was tired he didn't complain or act the part, ever.
He lived to be twenty-two-not an overlong life-and perhaps shortened a little by his unwillingness to save himself. He never gave less than his utmost to every whim and every necessity of ours. He took our love with him to his grave, and back from it comes always the memory and the lesson of a life of willing, happy devotion.
Then there was Jerry, a big, grey Percheron, whose power became a byword. When hitched in double harness, his co-worker was Tom, another big Percheron of lesser muscular stature. When they worked in tight spots, we usually shifted the evener about an inch off center, with Jerry on the short end. Any load that did not break the vehicles down was not too much for them, and they were often brought in to the rescue when the other teams were struck. Big rocks, to be hauled in for foundation walls, and big logs were always their special detail.
Because the single hitch was less cumbersome, Jerry quite often worked alone. His instinctive knowledge of the laws of gravity and his clever avoidance of obstacles made his power doubly effective.
Jerry's career here was coincident with the early impotent years of farm trucks and tractors, and his magnificent strength came into its greatest usefulness on sub-zero morning when the old Model T Ford truck was to start out with its load of milk. Substantial and tough though they were, those old Fords always had to be towed on cold mornings.
We had two of them, on the theory that in emergencies we would use one of them to tow the other one; but when the emergency came it always applied to both of them at once, and old Jerry had to come in to save the day. He was usually vexed about this job-and a little discouraged, too. Twenty cans of milk is a two horse load in itself, to say nothing of the added resistance from the motor to be turned in congealed oil. Sometimes, after he had been hooked on, he was reluctant to try at all, but when he made up his mind to go, he could not be diverted or stopped.
One morning, when he hesitated, I went to his head thinking to encourage him with soft words, or maybe to lead him off. With one hand on his bridle, I casually put the other hand on his collar as if to adjust it to his comfort. He got the inspiration all right-too quickly.
As he lunged ahead, my thumb got caught between the hame and the metal clip which holds the front end of the tug. Heedless of my screaming protests, he forged ahead, dragging me along at his side. The pain was terrible. It seemed like a half mile before the sudden popping of the motor signaled him to ease the pressure.
When he stopped, my relief was only imaginary, for my thumb was badly bruised and very painful for a long time. The nail finally came off completely. But I had learned to respect Jerry's power, and after that experience, I let him make his own decisions.
One special job which provided Jerry with real exhilaration was a cow skinning. For us, the untimely death of a cow was tragic, and the unpleasant job of salvaging the hide was dictated by the necessity for thrift; but for Jerry it was a sporting event.
The technique of applying horse power to skinning a cow was a bit complicated. The preliminary hand work consisted of slitting the belly skin from tail to throat, and skinning the head and legs down to the belly slit. This done, the head was snubbed with a chain to a convenient substantial barn sill, while the skin of the head was fastened to a singletree hooked to draw toward the rear of the carcass. At this point, Old Jerry, harnessed merely with collar, hames and traces, and a headstall, was brought around.
The smell of blood made him nervous, and the fastening of the traces to the singletree was always accompanied by snorts and blowing, and a great show of neck arching. He seemed somehow inspired, at the outset of this special ceremony to announce his prowess. At the word, he would settle into the collar and when skin started to rip loose at the withers, his nostrils would dilate to let out a great blast as he plunged ahead, bringing the skin off clean and completely intact. When the pressure of his collar began to recede, with the telescoping of the tail skin, he would turn his head smugly around to view the remains, standing quietly to be unhitched.
He had a great body, and a mind very much his own; but he was always determined to do what was put up for him. He deserved a better end than came to him. His one physical defect, thought it did not impede his usefulness or strength, put an end, at last, to his usefulness and his life.
One of his front feet was badly deformed, having an ill-growing, twisted, shrunken hoof. All his life he wore a special shoe designed with clamps and a pressure bar to protect the slender connection with the cannon bone. This arrangement made his gait awkward, and he always put the foot down with great care and precision at each step.
One morning when we went to his stall, he was standing on three legs, holding up the leg with the bare, round, bloody end of its cannon bone exposed. The hoof, intact, with the heavy shoe on, lay on the stall floor nearby. Evidently, some time in the night he had accidentally got his bad foot caught in a hole where the stall planking had given out. The sudden frightened effort to release it had been too much for the defective tendons by which it had been attached.
There was no remedy except the merciful ministration of the rifle. He took it standing up, and ready, as usual.
Equine characteristics have a range of value as wide as those of us humans, and a description of the obstinate worthlessness of some horses we have had would afford nothing more than a commentary on pure cussedness. Needless to say, they did not live here long enough to find a grave, and, since they made no contribution to our success or happiness, they may be dismissed with this passing comment.
Though dogs are less vital in our economy than horses, they have always been a little more closely identified with us. Most of the families on the farm have a dog; some of them two, and even three. The range of quality and breeding is wide and quite indiscriminate. Left to their own devices, dogs are very liberal on the question of racial discrimination.
Usually we have a half dozen or a dozen of them running around the farm, busy all day, like the rest of us, with problems which concern food, comfort, self-defense and our children-for whom they always assume a special responsibility.
But, again like the rest of us unless restrained, they are prone to roam at night and to be noisy nuisances. And occasionally, even in the daylight, a pie or a piece of meat disappears from the back room.
As for our own family, no recital of our circumstances would be complete without the reference to the little Boston terriers who follow us about wherever we go, and who lie quietly nearby when we are not moving. We have never undertaken to live for long without their faithful companionship, and the responsibility which goes with it.
I remember that, a long time ago, we had one very aggressive little female who was a great woodchuck hunter. Though she was pugnacious enough to try it, she was too small to fight openly, for the chuck had the advantage of weight and size, and we were always afraid she would get into a fatal encounter.
But her slightness had one very great practical utility. Frequently, with her help, we could get an elusive chuck who took temporary refuge under a stone wall where we couldn't reach him. Holding her hind legs, we would let her crawl in far enough to get her teeth in the chuck's neck. When we pulled her out backward, her quarry invariably came out with her to be disposed of with a club.
We finally had to abandon this trick, for each time her own neck would be completely lacerated by the counterattack of the chuck before we could get them apart.
She was modest enough at home but her outdoor belligerence was too much for her to take and she soon wore herself out.
And then there was Fifi who lived thirteen modest, well-behaved, loyal years in our household. Full membership in the family was always accorded her, and her own contribution was proportionate.
At home she always had a chair near the dining table where she sat quietly watching at every meal. She took a nap with me every day on the living room couch. She slept there at night, cleverly covering herself, as she lay down, with the blanket which we kept partly opened at the foot.
When we traveled, she went along, she always proudly escorted us through the city, tugging smartly at the end of her tightened leash. She went in the restaurants and she shared our hotel rooms.
When we met the train at the terminal, it was invariably she who first identified either of our daughters as they approached in the crowd across the station. But her greatest demonstration of intelligence and affection was her joyous identification of packages which came in the mail from them when they were away at school. A homecoming laundry bag would put her in ecstasy.
Her manners and habits at home were perfect. Sometimes in winter the deep snowdrifts surrounding the house bothered her when she was aired. No opportunist, she would not relieve herself in the paths.
One winter when the drifts were very deep, the boy who shoveled the front walk made a tunnel leading away from it into a completely snow-covered cave. Provided at once with seclusion and protection, she used the cave punctiliously and faithfully all winter.
After the snow went away, the taller grass there identified the spot all summer. The accidents of housebreaking, and the bad manners of the hedge-spotters remind us to this day of Fifi and her cave.
And now, as I sit in my room, pondering and scribbling, Buttons, our present lady-in-waiting, lies quietly in a nearby chair. Instantly alert at any noise or activity elsewhere in the house, she goes immediately to see about it, returning each time to put her paws on my knee while we exchange a few pats and a few licks before she lies down again. Like everyone else, dogs meet tragedy and come upon old age, and ours have been no exception, but each new one gets a little deeper into our affections. Now we have four of them and my daughter has added another department to our business. She is raising Boston Bull puppies for sale.
We have been partial to Boston because they manifest their feelings with such tremendous enthusiasm. No circumstance on earth is more reassuring, in a moment of discouragement, or after an absence, than the sight of their expressive little faces and wriggling little bodies, bursting with love and devotion. Man's relationship with dogs is a manifestation of God's plan to bring at least some instincts of human decency to the surface, for no man can deny such love or fail to accept the responsibility that goes with it.
For those of you who are becoming disillusioned, and who feel that the fundamental human impulses for right living are being overcome by greed and selfishness, or lost through apathy and indifference, I suggest a quiet conference with your dog.
NEARLY FOUR HUNDRED years have elapsed since the Pilgrim Elder, William Brewster, first opened his eyes in Scrooby, England, in the year 1560; and ten plodding, determined generations of our ancestors have marked a continuity of his blood and his tradition down to our time.
Though the story of our family relationship with the land on this farm runs back only one hundred and thirty years, our homely native heritage in American runs all the way back to the Mayflower Compact, drafted by the patient and desperately anxious mind of the good elder on the eve of the Pilgrims' landing at Plymouth Rock. For six generations the line of ancestry is paternal, and the Taylor name follows back more than two hundred years. For the remaining four generations, the line is carried by maternal propagation, and with consequent changes of name, runs back to Patience, eldest daughter of William Brewster.
There is no heritage of aristocracy or wealth, and not much evidence through the years of the ability to acquire them. Nor is there in our family background scarcely even a trace of that smug superiority which is sometimes said to be common to families and institutions which have had their origin in Colonial New England.
We have never belonged to the best families.
But there have been no pirates among us, nor has any of us become opulent from exploitation or shrewd practice. We have always been plain people, committed to the practice of plain pursuits in ordinary surroundings. It seems reasonable to believe that Elder Brewster would be at home in our household this very day.
The entry of our name into this line of Puritan ancestry occurred in Connecticut and was occasioned by the marriage of one of my Taylor ancestors to a fourth generation female descendant of Elder Brewster. The Taylors were of straight English extraction, and though no connected with any particular colonial expedition, had come to America not much later than the Pilgrims. At home they had never been engaged in any spectacular pursuits, and their advent in America was marked by no blossoming out. They became Connecticut farmers, and lived their quiet lives there.
In this environment and into this plain but substantial background, my great-grandfather was born in 1786 in the township of Barkhampstead, a few miles west of what is now the city of Hartford. There it was that he grew up in the pattern of his progenitors.
Though the spirit of the pioneer manifested itself twenty-eight years later when he moved out of Connecticut into the wilds of upstate New York, the desire to acquire a permanent establishment for himself and for the family which he hoped to have, dominated his plans. If there was any pioneering blood in his veins, it became thinned out in the trip across the country, and lost its potency. He was no adventurer.
The unfortunate circumstance that he chose to tie himself to the land was probably not, in fact, a choice. It is likely that he was not qualified to do anything else, and so fell naturally in to the path of least resistance. But though there was little resistance to the choice, there was great resistance to achieving a living here after the choice was made.
Not much land in the area had been cleared, and even that was so fully impregnated with rocks as to be unavailable for use except with great inconvenience. for the first few years at least, there was the almost insupportable burden of cleaning up a little new land each year, superimposed upon the labor of maintaining crops and livestock from what land was already available. Tools were few, and there was never time enough.
The original tract, containing about one hundred acres, was a rocky, swampy mess except for one area of fifteen or twenty acres on the Farming side across the brook, which rolled up abruptly enough to be free of swamps, and which for some reason, perhaps by the grace of God, was not quite fully surfaced with rocks. It was to this area that my great-grandfather turned, first, for the raising of crops. In fact the legend runs that it was here, a little later, that he raised a famous crop of red clover, the cash proceeds of which assured his success and enabled him to buy some fairly decent land adjacent to his first holdings.
But during the period of this modest success, a steady, well-directed campaign was constantly being waged against other more rocky areas in the original tract, to bring them, in small sections, into additional production. Not more than one half of it was ever made available for cultivation, and even that has long since been abandoned in favor of more adaptable land acquired later. But the war of the stones was begun in earnest, thus early. It has continued, like other wars, with intervals of peace, from that day on.
During this early period there was not, withal, the extremely depressing element of isolation, for by this time the county was fast being settled and worked. The early holdings were small and close together. Families were large, so that neighbors were plenty, and progress was stimulated by man hands and by much interchange of labor and neighborly participation in the fight against the elements.
The maintenance of roads, winter and summer, was a local neighborhood responsibility. communication was by word of mouth, and everybody assumed his share of the burden of news dissemination. Schools and churches were neighborhood institutions, initiated and maintained locally. Sick folks were sat up with by the neighbors, and the children were born under the auspices of neighborly ministrants.
The modern, highly complex public sponsorship of social services in American had its beginning in these practices. We are better served nowadays because of scientific developments, but, unfortunately, our neighborliness now has to be implemented in terms of tax dollars.
My great-grandfather had come from Connecticut as a young widower with three children, two of whom came with him. Within two years, he had married a young woman of the locality, and in quick succession eight more children were added to his strength and to his responsibility. As is often the case with children, the law of averages didn't work out very well. Only two of them were boys, and of those, one died accidentally when he was only five years old.
To the other son, my grandfather, fell the responsibility of being the lone protector of six sisters, and ultimately, of course, the sole obligation of carrying on the whole enterprise. The everlasting and ever-present rocks placed his competency to carry out these obligations in grave doubt very early in his career. When a young boy, a stone which he had cast at a straying cow hit a rock and glanced backward, striking and seriously wounding his leg just below the knee. Infection set in after a little, and, in the judgment of a council of doctors, amputation was necessary to save his life. It was so ordered. The next day, the doctors came again with their tools and their bandages. My great-grandfather was in the farming field across the brook digging rocks. The horn was blown as a signal for him to come in.
What he thought about on the way home is not recorded, but when he came in the house he said to the doctors: "Take your tools and go home. I'll not have a crippled boy." Miraculously, or perhaps by the intervention of Divine Providence, my grandfather got well. He spent his life, with a slight limp, on two good legs.
The Taylors won that battle with the rocks, and sometimes I think that my great-grandfather's decision, made that day on the way to the house, was prompted by his unwillingness to admit defeat at the hands of a rock. As I look back on what has intervened, I believe it was God's way of saying that he would see us through if we kept up the fight. But when I look ahead, at the still unconquered rocks here, it seems that He'll have a pretty long view of it before it's over.
My great-grandfather's will was as strong as his body. Without being a fanatic, he had rigid religious convictions. He was a Presbyterian and a Calvinist. For him salvation was no free bounty to be had for the asking, any time, upon repentance. for him, salvation had to be provided for by building up a solid structure of moral integrity, and by a lifelong practice of God's precepts. Salvation is obsolete in the terminology of modern discourse, but my great-grandfather's sons and daughters were taught that it was paramount. They were taken to church every Sunday. They were taught to pray daily, and to co-ordinate their prayers with their respect for divine authority.
Without being miserly, my great-grandfather had definite rules of conservative thrift. And, best of all, he insisted on having the best and the most of the things which were available for the comfort and convenience of his family. These things could not, then, be bought with money. They had to be produced; so he produced them in great array.
There were flax and wool for housekeeping and for clothes. There were hides tanned for shoes. There were wheat and rye and buckwheat to be ground into flour for bread and cakes. There were pork and veal and mutton and beef to eat. There were vegetables galore, in season, and stored for winter. There were apples in great quantity, and pears and crab apples and plums and berries of all kinds. There was wood for fuel stored in ample supply a year ahead. There were logs for lumber to build what was needed. There were tallow for candles, and grease and ashes for soap. There were maple sugar and molasses for eating and for cooking. There were milk and cream and butter from the cows. And there were apple juice-I suspect it was strictly for vinegar-and clear, cold water from the well in the yard to drink.
Outside there were hay and grain for the horses, the sheep, and the cattle. There were corn and buckwheat for the hens, and some extra for the mice and rats. And, most useful of all, there was always manure to mix with the stones, to insure the growth of next year's crops, and thus complete the cycle of production.
This picture of security and abundance needs retouching, for the amount of grueling labor and skill, and the exactness of timing involved in the various processes of making all these materials finally available was appalling. For us soft-bellied moderns it would be overwhelming. But no one was overwhelmed in my great-grandfather's bailiwick. The whole of the domestic economy was co-ordinated with assembly line precision, in which every process was originated, carried on, and completed in its season, and with due regard for its importance to the general good of the family and the total enterprise. Every member of the family was assigned to some specific participation in the work, and loyalty to the enterprise was part of the assignment. And concurrently, everyone shared in the unusual degree of comfort and pleasure and security which the plan provided.
Though the family were mostly girls, they were expected to adapt themselves, at least in part, to the various outdoor needs of the farm. They helped with the milking and with the care of the livestock. And they helped make the garden and put in the field crops. But the multiplicity of indoor jobs required by the very complicated domestic economy of the times was, in fact, pretty well adapted to the feminine preponderance in my grandfather's family.
There was the carding of the wool and the hatcheling of the flax, and the spinning and weaving. There was the knitting of literally hundreds of pairs of mittens and stockings, and there were more hundreds of garments and household furnishings to be sewed together from the woven wool and flax. There were the great stone jars to be filled with meat from the butchering, and the hams and shoulders to be smoked. And there was the drying and preserving and pickling of all the fruits and vegetables needed to keep the family diet diversified.
Each of the children learned to be skillful in all these pursuits, and each was usually responsible for the management of some one of them. Like mathematics in formal education, this early training, though its practice was outgrown in their later years, was good discipline.
And there was another special saving grace in this economy of necessity. My great-grandfather's children were not defiled by accumulations of tin cans and pasteboard cartons defacing the beautiful natural landscape. No time was lost keeping the premises from becoming littered up with the offal of modern improvidence.
The housekeeping, though arduous and physically very burdensome, did not include the care and operation of the complicated mechanical devices which now make us comfortable. The firedogs and the kettle cranes in the great, deep fireplaces, were the nearest approach to mechanical housekeeping in my great-grandfather's first home in the new country.
Though this home was simple, there was no lack of disposition or facilities for hospitality. He took pride in seeing his home used as a rendezvous for the young folks of the community. They came often for parties and sometimes from distant places, for the young ladies of the household were famous for their beauty and accomplishments. And he insisted that his family participate in community affairs. They attended the camp meetings and political rallies. They went to the singing school and to the husking bees, and always to church.
My grandfather's sisters were all lively, well-appointed girls, and for some reason they managed to marry pretty well, all of them getting city husbands with good professional or business connections. Most of the girls in the country in those days, being limited to local contacts, had to content themselves with a local marriage, and were thus doomed to a relatively dreary, commonplace life. But I suspect that among other plans which my great-grandfather had in the back of his mind, there was the determination to bring up his girls in such circumstances that they could be a bit choosey when marrying time came.
Near the end of his active career, and as his culminating achievement, my great-grandfather built himself a new house which has now become old in the service of his progeny. After his manner, its lines are simple and modest, but it has proved sturdy, and it still stands upright.
How he managed to get ahead, as he finally did, in an economy of home production for home consumption with little money involved, is difficult for the modern mind to comprehend. but it was, after all, very simple. He managed to produce everything needed-and a little over-all the time. The 'little over' was, therefore, net gain each year. Multiply it by a period of years, and the answer will come out as the product of thrift. This equation is little recognized in our modern economic mathematics, but it worked all right in its day.
MY GRANDFATHER'S heritage was stern. There is often some contention between those who believe that the influence of heredity predominates in the development of individual characteristics, and those who believe that environment alone controls them. There was no such controversy for him. Heredity was taken for granted; but the power of example was exalted. My grandfather's path was set by the example of his father, and its course was determined by his own obligation to set an example.
This limitation prohibited any trial flights on his part into the realms of indiscretion, and he grew into manhood without much sophistication and without fear of sin. The scope of his behavior was plainly marked out. Like the Catholic layman who may not permit himself to be drawn into an argument in defense of the tenets of his faith, so my grandfather never debated the merits of the pattern of his life.
But I think he never felt restricted. Most of us, who live decently, do it out of expediency, and with some faint regret at the denial of indulgence to the lusts of our flesh. But he lived decently because it was the thing to be done, and because he could fill his life with decent living. There was no regret because no alternative course was every considered, nor were its eventualities ever encountered.
As he grew into middle-aged maturity, this conscientious pursuit of righteousness seemed to grow into a glorious and all-embracing obsession. It would appear ridiculous, in this modern era, for any man to make a fetish of the pursuit of righteousness. It just isn't done. We moderns pursue a phantom called affluence. We seek to be recognized and bowed to with respect when we go about. The deference of the head waiter in a restaurant is more often sought then divine approval. And may God help us for this weakness. My grandfather's strength lay in his recognition of the power and the authority of God Almighty.
During much of his life he kept a diary, and the record is largely taken up with humble meditations and with hopes for divine guidance.
The entry for December 17, 1868 reads as follows: "Feel exercised on the question, How shall the end of life be secured. How shall I attain to life's end. 'He that striveth for the mastery must be temperate in all things.' The promises are sufficient and sure but how to attain to acceptable faith, true faith. O Lord, enlarge my soul, comfort my soul. O Lord, teach me and be my God."
On a Sunday, the last day of the year 1871, is the following entry: "Another year with all its privileges has gone. Oh what a sense of stupidity comes over me. Time but too poorly improved. Oh that the good may live and the evil be overruled and forgiven."
My grandfather was born on September 5, 1824, just ten years after his father's arrival in the new surroundings, and he grew up with a full knowledge of its implications. He had married (May 26, 1847) and was ready to take over the farm by the time my great-grandfather's strength began to wane.
The pattern for his lifework seemed as rigid as that for his behavior. Since he had no brothers, and since the home enterprise would obviously require his presence, he had no option. It seems also that his future was rather well assured, for his father had already demonstrated the possibilities of successful farming on a rock foundation and with a sidehill structure. Another one hundred acres of better land had been bought, and the new substantial and commodious house had been built. It would have appeared unwise to abandon an enterprise so well established and whose potentialities were so little exhausted, so that it is likely that he elected to stay on without any feeling of frustration or sacrifice. There was no adventure and no risk implied in the transition. It was to be merely the turning of new furrow into the channel left by the preceding one.
The tempo and the mechanics of farming were slowly beginning to change. As the community grew, a part of the people began to gather themselves up into small settlements and villages which soon became focal points. It was here that most of the churches were built, it was here that private schools for more advanced learning were established; and it was here that the trades and services of the community naturally built themselves up.
As the villages developed, much of the drudgery of the farm was taken over as the villagers began to acquire simple mechanical devices. Tanning, shoemaking, clothes making, grinding, and toolmaking were no longer done at home. The village blacksmith and the grist mill marked the beginning of the relationship between agriculture and industry. The general store, which now provided some of the necessities that could not be conveniently produced at home, and also provided a medium of cash and barter exchange for the surplus farm products, marked the beginning of commercial farming. And, finally, the advent of the railroads, while not yet very significant locally, was, nevertheless, beginning to establish new channels of outside association.
My grandfather did not have to adjust himself to these changes, because they were not revolutionary in nature, but evolutionary. In fact, the term of his active life, between 1840 and 1880, was the lull before the stormy confusion of new things which began to deluge the country at the close of the century. Life at the farm was still comparatively simple. There was no radio and no telephone. There was no plumbing, nor even any running water. Transportation for people and commodities was horse-drawn, and was limited by the conditions of narrow mud roads in summer, and snowdrifts in winter. Public amusements which now take much of our time and most of our spare money were nonexistent. Self-sufficiency was still the significant contributor to happiness. Not more than the raw edges of primitive life were disappearing.
There was little real concern for the effects of national trends upon the farmer's mode of life or upon his pocketbook. His economic status was still pretty much under his own control, and the practice of thrift was an assurance of reasonable success.
My grandfather was fully equipped and qualified for the needs of his time. He had grown up with thrift, and its practice was natural for him. Large families were not yet being frowned upon, and like his father, my grandfather was blessed with a large-though more evenly distributed- flock of children. There were five boys and five girls, all born within thirteen years. They were a strong, healthy lot, and all of them, except for one of the girls who died in infancy, lived a long full life. During the period of their youth, the combined group constituted a real WORKING force for all the work on the farm, inside and outdoors. During the period between 1882 and 1870, after they were all growing, and before any one of them had left home, there is frequent comment in their father's diaries about their doings. Willy and Watson, the two older boys, were drawing the manure and the wood, and making the trips to the village with the grist and the butter. George, the middle one, was learning to drive the horses and getting his first experiences with specific jobs. And Hector, and Marvin, the little boys, were much in evidence as small helpers-though sometimes they went fishing-and their success was proudly noted by the their father, along with his daily supplications to God for divine guidance.
Of the four girls, Ella, Fannie, Ada and Mary, less is said but much implied, because under their mother's prudent tutelage they learned the art of making the house a place to live in. My grandfather was not given to making compliments, but I suspect that the love and devotion accorded to him by his wife and daughters turned him back, sometimes, from the ragged edge of despair.
No bookkeeper was required in my grandfather's business. His yearly accounts were kept methodically in a little space on the back pages of his diary. Every item of expense down to twenty cents was carefully listed. In 1871, the entire gross income was $867.23, and a cash balance of $142.63 was carried over at the end of the year, after a conscientious discharge of current debts. This for a family of eleven persons. Evidently they did not spend much. On any basis of calculation it seems hardly possible that they could have been maintained on so small a sum. But the evidence is that they were well provided for, and the facts were that as each of them went from home to college to business and to marriage, a substantial sum was provided to give substance to their venture.
In the year 1870, my grandfather had the responsibility of administering the estate of one of his relatives. I have no way of knowing what the lawyers got out of the case, but my grandfather's cut was recorded in his book in the list which follows:
Time and expense attending proof of will
Feb. 28 Went to Delhi 1.15
Mch 1 Gateage .12
Mch 3 Went to Prattsville 1.42
Mch 21 Dinner and feed for horses in Del 1.80
Staying overnight at Bloomville 3.00
Paid Esquire Gilbert & Mary Hamilton 3.50
General Guardian fee 3.00
In view of the fact that there was then no inheritance tax, and in view of this modest expense, it is likely that the heirs fared pretty well.
Diaries frequently confine themselves to the factual occurrences of the passing days, but my grandfather put down what was on his conscience. Perhaps this accounts for the predominance of references to his relationship with his God, but he was thinking about countless other things too. He was concerned always with finding out and acknowledging what was wrong with his life and his management of its practical necessities.
In 1867, the haying had gone badly, and he was moved to the following comment on August 13: 'got in the Ry to-day, except one load. Finished haying. Some later than usual. It has been a wet haying. Have not managed to best advantage at times. Hope to have learned something from experience. First real mestake was in mowing to much in the second lot below the barn. The Second was in not getting in two loads cocked up in the Orchard, when threatening rain, & had time to get it. The Same weeke a Mestake, -On Saturday-in undertaking too much-mowing the south orchard and the old orchard, and having to cock both. Another Grave mestake-was after Watson left, Willy mowed too much on the best lot on the hill.-The result was 5 loads injured badly. All this drawback could not have saved, -but not quite so much hast-& much would have been saved."
But he was not entirely concerned with haying that year, for the record shows that he had taken time to visit the school during haying. On July 16th of that year is the following entry: "Visit the school to day-long neglected duty-and upon going there find that it has been a loss to my family-. Some things that should have been corrected before-. Ella should have studied mental Arithmetic-hope it may no longer be neglected-Fannie & Ada troublesome. Fannie needs training in reading, & all need more Pains at home."
There were no family budgets in those days, but there was no lack of consideration for the difficulty of making ends meet, and no lack of desperate frustration which comes from the inability to accomplish it. In July 1869 the following is noted: "Ma and the girls to Jeff. today. Ma used up $40-Tryed-Tryed."
And withal there was proud and loving thought for his little boys. Carefully recorded on the flyleaf of 1869's book is:
"Marvin & Hector go fishing. Cach 2 Trout. Hall another
big one out of the water. Hook brakes,-Sad-sad-,a fortune
gone. Tears flow. Start for the house,-Sob, Sob-, Meet Pa-
crying, tell the story of misfortune.-Comfort them-send them
to get another hook.-Ma helps start again-,have good luck,-
get quite a mess for family & Send the sick,,-Mrs. Fuller
and Mrs. Hall."
The purpose to which some of the trout were put illustrates my grandfather's most deep-seated characteristic. His continuous concern for the welfare of his friends and neighbors is as evident from a perusal of what he wrote down, as it must have been to those who received his ministrations almost every day.
His interest in his church was equal in importance to that in his family and neighbors. Scarcely a week passed without the application of some time-and energy-consuming effort to settle church controversies or to assure the maintenance of proper spiritual blessings in the services. And, with all the rest, he had no hesitancy about questioning the orthodoxy of the preaching. And when such questions arose in his mind, he did not quietly retire, but stood upon his feet before the congregation to defend his own interpretation. One of my very early recollections (I was taken to church as soon as I could walk) is that of watching the consternation and even the anger of some members of the congregation at the words of the minister during one of his long sermons. I do not remember what it was that he said, but I remember that my father and one other church member walked out of the service in disgust. But my grandfather, seated alone in a short pew at the side of the pulpit, did not smother his indignation. He rose from his seat, and made an immediate and vigorous protest. What the question was is not now important, and I have no regret at not remembering it. But my grandfather's defiance of convention in defense of his convictions made a lasting impression on me.
As he grew older, his eccentricities became the subject of general comment in the community, but the comment was never unfavorable or even disrespectful, for his concern reached out to the individual welfare, spiritual and material of all whom he knew. Everyone one who had ever talked with him had acquired a personal friend.
Toward the end of his life, after his retirement, he set for himself a deliberate plan to call on everyone whom he knew as often as once a year. And as he went about he carried with him the inspriation of human relationship, and he taught literally, the glory of relationship with God.
Most of us moderns are goaded into an acceptance of responsibility for the promotion of good will and charity by mass presentation of the obligation through the mechanics of the press and the radio, and upon the solicitation of the do-good organizations. Our individual participation is mostly academic. My grandfather made good-will tours for the same reason that he paid his debts-because he owed something. The performance of duty was for him an individual obligation, in no wise related to men's collective humanitarianism.
The evidence does not show that my grandfather was easy to live with. In his family, orderly living as well as participation in the affairs of the community were implemented by discipline. Drones were no more to be tolerated than sinners. So it was that his family grew up under the whip of his determination that they should make their own mark in the world, and trained them accordingly. They were expected to go market and to meeting, to do the work at home, and to go to school regularly. The temptations which idleness fosters did not bother my grandfather's children.
As the boys and girls left home, some for businesses, some for college, and some for marriage, they were followed by countless letters of instruction and encouragement, which also had in them the implication of their father's concern and responsibility for their lives and their very souls. He wrote freely and voluminously to all his relatives and to many of his friends-and very effectively, too-for, though his spelling and punctuation were unorthodox, his style was superb.
I was no more than eight years old when my grandfather died, so that my memories of him reflect the feelings of a small boy for things beyond his knowledge. I couldn't reconcile his stern insistence that all of us little folks, my cousins and playmates, should perform some set task each day, with the loving concern for us that we could always see, somehow, lurking in the background. I remember that we were afraid to be caught playing when the woodbox hadn't been filled; but that if our work was done, he watched our antics with satisfaction. And I remember, too, that his final constriction to the show was an admonition against letting the play become too important in our plans.
During much of the time in my early childhood, there were no other little folks in the household, and his paternal conscience was centered upon me. I remember a little book, thumb-marked and frayed from his frequent reading to me, entitled "The Busy Bee." Its beauty and its philosophy is evident in the opening stanza. And it was, I believe, his vain hope that I might some day grow up to appreciate it.
How doth the little busy bee
Improve each shining hour
And gather honey all the day
From every opening flower?
His conscientious self-imposed life burden was greater than should have been borne by any man, but the record of his determined and successful defiance of worldly considerations has become a landmark toward which his progeny have looked and perhaps sometimes even steered their course.
THE RELATIONSHIP between a father and an only son is so full of personal considerations that neither can ever make a fair appraisal of the other.
My father's greatest weakness was his everlasting faith in me, and the fact that he had no other children was his greatest misfortune. Could he have had them, they would have provided diversity for his planning and a hedge against his dependence upon one eventuality. But I think he never realized his misfortune, for his faith never wavered. And after a life completely devoted to the determination that everything must come out all right for us, and filled with hard work and sacrifice to the end, he went to his grave without the sure knowledge of safety for those whom he had loved so much.
As I look back over our life together, my faith in eternity is strengthened by the feeling that he must, somehow, know that things did finally come out well enough to justify his faith. And my appreciation and gratitude to him for his foresight and his perseverance runs back to my earliest memory.
So it may be that, even as he made an unfairly high appraisal of my qualities, I shall get away from reality in writing this chapter about him. But what eventuated from his life is good, and he shall have the credit.
The traditional heritage of stern piety common to his forefathers did not descend too heavily upon my father. Though his convictions were never less than complete, and though personal integrity was his theme, he never restricted his own joy or that of any one else by wearing pious gloom on his sleeve. He never walked into a room without making faces light up, and when he walked out, his own courage was strengthened by his having left some of it behind. He was even more than an optimist; Presbyterian that he was, he believed in the predestination of good.
Nothing ever seemed too great for him to undertake, and he was unwilling to be outdone by any man. Though he was careful not to start anything until he had everything in readiness, he would tolerate no diversion from what he planned to do, and he would often say, "what man has done, man may do." To the end of his days, he moved along from one project to another, either public or private, whenever the need arose in his mind, and he finished what he started-with his bare hands if he had to.
The early part of my father's life, though it does not fall within the scope of my memory, must have forecast a career of full activity. He was the youngest of the family of nine, and it is probable that he may have had the special parental protection usually accorded to last-born children, but it is also evident that he learned the stern requirements of competition very early, for, by the time he had grown up, his qualities were pretty well recognized and respected by his older brothers and sisters. and his opinions were always decisive in later days in family counsels. The other members of the family began to leave home before he was six years old for wider fields of knowledge and activity, and, conceivably, their aggressiveness and apparent success served as an inspiration to him.
When he was eighteen, he had land and was doing business on his own. And the fact that the farm fell at last to his lot is, I suspect, due largely to the fact that he was the only one of the family who appreciated its potentialities and had the nerve to undertake it. Though several older members of the family went to college, my father's early responsibilities at home precluded any possibility of advanced education for him. But in spite of this there was in his case no lack of ability to absorb knowledge. His natural mental alertness picked up knowledge of the world as he went along.
My memories of my father, both early and late, are mostly concerned with the impression that he was always in action. Even the reference in my grandfather's diary to his boyhood fishing seems out of character. For certainly he never developed any permanent tendency toward restful diversion. Fishing and hunting were no part of his plans, ever, and no time was lost in such pursuits.
Life on a farm may, and often does, run to either extreme, for though there is always plenty to do, inclement weather and off season lulls provide an excuse for indolence, and the evidence is that many farmers avail themselves of the opportunity to loaf. But my father never even relaxed, and he was happiest with four irons in the fire, all of them red hot at once. He always pulled them out one by one, and nobody got burned.
He led his men in the field, and caught up the loose ends at night. He was always on time with his work, for he spent the preseason lulls getting things ready, so that there was no delay when it was time to move. repairs and improvements were made just before the necessity arose, so that losses were forestalled. Earnings were put back into the farm as fast as they were taken out, if for no other reason than to make something constructive to do.
As I first remember the farm, the economy was still comparatively simple, and the equipment modest. During my boyhood there were introduced the grain mill, the grain binder, the corn binder, the threshing machine, the ensilage blower, the power saw, the sap evaporator, and the gas engine. For household services there came, first, the running water, piped half a mile, and the modern plumbing, the central heating, the telephone and home-generated lighting-acetylene gas, and later, electricity.
My father seized upon these things, one after another, with great glee, for the installation and operation of them made a new outlet for his ambition, and, pioneer that he was, I think he was about the first farmer in the area to take on everyone of them. He was too impatient to wait for other men's experience, and he was cocksure of himself and his power to progress and hold his ground. My boyish pride was much exalted, always, when I contemplated our superior farm outfit and our up-do-date home conveniences. The agricultural statisticians tell us that, even in this progressive era, there are countless farms in America without flush toilets and central heating, and I can find no legitimate excuse. When I went to the city to be educated, more than forty years ago, I knew how to flush a toilet and what the buttons on the wall were for. I think my father wanted it that way.
In those days there were no Federal housing administrations loans and no installment notes on equipment. My father paid for his progress out of earnings as he went along. He had to make his own time count, and make his plans carefully. But he wanted progress and it had to come. My own courage and my final determination to demonstrate that a farm is not a sordid thing is not original. It came from watching him do two days' work in one, while he made his men earn their money. Good methods and ungrudging work will make a decent living anywhere-yesterday, today and tomorrow.
A typical day's work for my father, in April, during sugar making time, would begin at 4:45 a.m. First was a trip to the saphouse to start the fires, then back to the barn to feed the cows and get the milking under way. After that, breakfast, and a quick look at the sap in the buckets to determine how heavy the gathering would be. Then the work layout for the day with the men, and back to the saphouse. The day would be spent there under rushing pressure, with an occasional check on the outside work, and a little badly needed help or direction to keep things level in the tight spots. Then came the evening chores at the barn, and after that a final session at the saphouse to make sure that no sap carry-over should be left to interfere with the next day's operations.
At his late supper, my father would clean up a bowl of baked beans big enough to serve eight people, and top it off with as many pieces of cake as he could find. Quite often my mother was prudent enough to hide a pie for the next day, but her ruses were likely to be unsuccessful, for, though he was no hunter, my father could follow the trail of a fresh pie to the most remote corner of the cellar, and, to complete the predatory mystery, he always put the empty pie tin back under the pan where he found it.
At the end of every day, no matter how long it had been, he spent an hour at his desk bringing his accounts and correspondence up to date. It seems that, each day, no single thing was left undone that ought to be done. His tight schedule was all-inclusive and continuous every day in the year, as long as he operated the farm.
Though he allowed no trivial diversions, my father was always eager to see what was going on in the world, and almost every year he managed to get away somewhere for a trip. He saw the expositions at Philadelphia, Chicago, and Buffalo, and he went frequently to New York, Boston, and Washington, and sometimes to Chicago and Minneapolis. He was tremendously interested in the new industrial development, and in the progress of invention and in the changing mechanics of social life.
He never familiarized himself with the night life and the glamor of the cities, but he knew their great mills and their power plants, their great bridges and subways, and their public buildings and churches. His alert mind was concerned with the usefulness of everything he saw, and his vacations provided no relaxation from his characteristic determination to make his time count.
Some of his trips to the city were in connection with district Sunday school meetings, in which he was always interested. In fact, about the only outside activity he had throughout his active period of his life was in connection with his church. For him, Sunday was the busiest day in the week. Every Sunday, the four-mile trip over the mountain through the mud or snowdrifts was imperative. The necessity could not be waived, for he always ran the Sunday school, or at least taught a class. And many extra trips were made in week days, too, in the interest of the church. My father's disposition always ran to management, and the steering of the small resources of our little church into channels of service fell quite largely to him by his own volition.
Though he was always tremendously interested in public policy, he never was active in politics, even locally, and, except for school trustee, I believe he never held a public office.
There were no set restrictions of conduct in his family. Of course there were things that we just did not do, but this was based on considerations of manifest wisdom and expediency. My father never said "no" to me in the world. Even when I proposed some harebrained youthful undertaking which had the earmarks of a potential escapades, he always said, "Use your own judgment." He was careful to point out the probable eventualities, both good and bad, but he never made the decision. The liberty he allowed got me into some scrapes, as he knew it would. But I kept out of jail without his restraint, and again I think he knew I would.
He applied the same reasoning to the handling of money. When I started on a five-dollar jaunt, he always gave me ten dollars with the admonition that it would be too bad to be caught short. I know he hoped that a safe surplus would provide the incentive for me to keep it safe. I sensed his reasoning all right, but I must confess that sometimes I took too much advantage of that liberty.
Every one acquires some degree of self-reliance by the hard knocks of life, but it was drilled into me by my father's superb example, and by his deliberate insistence that I assume the part.
Though his outlook on-life was never sombre, my father was a realist. He knew that success would not come merely, because he believed in it. As I grew up, and as we discussed plans for our future, he would often say, "Remember it's the Taylors against the world, and the world against the Taylors." Later on, when together we had faced the bitter disillusionment of financial collapse, the implications of this philosophy came home to us. Together we continued the fight, and the intervening years have brought no contradiction of the theory.
The rigid schedule which my father had imposed upon himself would have been fatal for most men, and it was, indeed, too much for him. A complete nervous breakdown came when he was little more than fifty years old. It was so serious that complete retirement from the farm responsibility was the evident solution and, in fact, the final conclusion. Though he recovered, he never returned to the management of the farm. He lived more than twenty years after his retirement from the farm, and, though his strength and his mental vigor were intermittently impaired, sometimes for long periods, it was during this later era in his life that his magnificent fortitude showed up most fully.
Among other things he had been a lifelong and enthusiastic believer in life insurance. The manifest advantages of group security had appealed to his reasonable mind, and he was impressed with the tremendous growth of the big insurance companies and with their importance as stabilizers of the national economy. It was, therefore, easy for him to fall into the business of selling life insurance, and his success was assured by his natural disposition to work every minute.
Before very long, he took his place among the top writers in his district for New York Life. As a result of his prominence and success, he had many opportunities for travel, and once spent a winter in California at company expense. And to illustrate his determination to use his time profitably, he came home with a few thousand dollars of new money earned writing life insurance during his vacation.
Upon leaving the farm, and after an interlude spent in a Michigan sanitarium, my father established himself in his home village. Though his first home there was a modest property, before he got through, he had remodeled it extensively, and had built two more fine homes. More than this, he became interested in other local real-estate developments, some of them in the public interest, and into all of them he put unlimited labor and pains.
The allusions to these later aspects of my father's life are, perhaps, foreign to the story of this farm, but they are not altogether irrelevant. After all, this chapter is about my father, and more than this, these very events, though peculiar to him, have their bearing on the farm eventualities. For my father's interest and faith in the farm never flagged.
His personal success came at the same time as major business losses which endangered the farm, and he poured his gains in to save it from becoming fatally involved. And he didn't do it grudgingly. For him duty and faith were synonymous.
His continued support of the farm was no gesture of generosity, and by no means confined to what he could do without personal effort. One winter after he was seventy years old, during serious illness which fell upon me, he fought his way from his home in the village to the farm through the snowbanks, before daylight every morning for a month, to be on the job in my place.
Toward the end, as his associations widened, and as his experiences revealed more fully the desperate realities of life, his convictions took on a degree of fanatic certainty, sometimes beyond reason. Though courtesy and good manners never left him, he developed a terrific antipathy for those who did not agree with him, and he did not hesitate to use his voice and his pen in denunciation.
His liberal views had always led him naturally toward the political theories of the Democratic party, and all his life he had been a nominal Democrat. But the ultra-conservatism of the Coolidge-Hoover era incensed him beyond measure, and his prediction of its result was accurately verified toward the end of the period. "Do-nothing Coolidge" was his personal paraphrase for "Cautious Cal." When the crash came, at last, and the banks had to close, the advent of a new and liberal administration marked the beginning of new hope for him-as it did for countless millions of other Americans.
And as to his own affairs, by nature a go-getter and a pioneer, he had increasingly less and less use for the restrictions imposed by deliberate adherence to the precepts of the past. He listened with resentment to his associates and even to his family when he was warned that his proposals were contrary to the evidence of experience. But there are countless beautiful and useful things to this day in this house, on the farm, and in the parks in the village-wherever his feet trod-that he fixed while he wasn't listening.
His hope never failed, and his actions never ceased to be governed by his faith in the potentialities of the future-for his country, for his community, and for his progeny.
A Century Farm
THE EARLIEST RECORDED history of the land which is now the Taylor Farm is identified by its connection with one Elkanah Watson. Born at Plymouth, Massachusetts, in 1758, he lived much of his life in New York and Albany. While still comparatively young, his alert participation in special missions of trust during the Revolutionary War had brought him some fame. He had made the acquaintance of Benjamin Franklin in Paris, and had known General George Washington.
He later became known as the "Father of the Agricultural Fair, and the land speculations into which he entered may have been inspired by his interest in agricultural development, or it may be that he fell into them because his prestige and influential associates gave him unusual opportunities to acquire large holdings. At any rate, his judgment of land location was not always good, for the record shows that at one time, previous to 1795, he was the owner of more than one thousand aces of land in the immediate vicinity of the very headwaters of the Delaware River. It would be more accurately described as one thousand acres. The word "land" was a misnomer.
In such an area there are no productive valleys, because the streams are not large enough to create more than ravines. There are many small swamps from the discharge of springs which come out here and there , but the water finds its way back into the ground, or leads itself quietly out in small rivulets. The fertile land which is the product of millions of years of deposit from the erosion of large watersheds is never found at river sources. Elkanah Watson's thousand acres was a rough foothill and mountainside plot. Its elevation above sea level was nowhere less than two thousand feet, and at some sharply contrasting points, more than three thousand feet.
He never lived here. He must have been too wise to try it. In fact, there is no sure evidence that he ever even came to see it. and he did not own it long, for the record again shows that between 1795 and 1805 it was all disposed of in small parcels to new settlers who evidently had more faith than wisdom. On one of these parcels, my great-grandfather cast his lot a few years later, in 1814, and all of the intervening expansion of the farm has been made within the limits of the original Watson holdings.
Within fifteen years, three smaller tracts adjacent to the original land, were purchased, bringing the total up to about two hundred acres. This was the extent of the farm for my great-grandfather's time, and it was sufficient for his needs. The significant features of his expansion were that the farm home was more pleasantly established on one of the new purchases, and also that the land acquired later was better. In fact, the expansion included a part of what we now call the big hill.
In 1855, my grandfather bought sixty more acres adjacent to the last purchases, which completed the big hill tract. This was for his time, and the two hundred and sixty acres provided plenty of labor latitude for him and his family and furnished a tolerably good living for the times.
My father developed early individualism. Before he was eighteen he bought an adjoining thirty-six-acre plot and went into the business of pasturing cattle for growth. Two years later-still before he was of age-and before he took over the main farm, he bought another thirty-acre plot and enlarged the business. And he continued this as a sideline for many years. In 1922, as a consideration for money due him on a mortgage, he made another addition by taking over a part of the farm adjoining us on the south. This plot contained seventy-seven acres and included a thousand good sugar maples.
Ten years later, and just before I came into the possession of the business, I bought the residue of this adjoining layout, including its buildings and its rocks, consisting of fifty-seven acres. This last addition brought the total up to about five hundred acres, and I am thankful there have been no more additions.
There is some evidence that survival for our family may have been predicated on fitness, but, except for the program of expansion, we would have long since gone the way of all flesh.
And, more than this, there has, somehow, always been a determination to insist on the family succession. In no single instance have any of us left the continuity to the chance of disintegration or dissolution upon the Surrogate's order to settle an estate. The succession of ownership has been deliberately arranged in advance each time.
My great-grandfather had only one son. Of course the responsibility to carry on would have fallen, naturally, upon him; but he did not have to wait for his father to die to come into it. My great-grandfather sold the farm to him, when he was old enough to run it, and retired. the farm itself was not involved in the settlement of my great-grandfathers estate.
For my grandfather, since there were five boys, the solution was not so simple. Because my father was the youngest, and therefore the last one to be at home, and probably because he was already definitely committed to farming by his own early venture, the choice very logically fell to him. But there was no discrimination in his favor. He bought the farm several years before my grandfather died, and the consideration for the deed was his agreement to pay to each of his eight living brothers and sisters their share of the total purchase price. It took him many years to do it, but my grandfather had insured the family succession and divided his property in one transaction.
For the next generation, since I was an only child, there should have been no problem of family succession. the problem did arise, however, because an early and unsuccessful outside business venture of mine had involved my father and the farm was put up as security. When the crash came, it appeared that the creditors would take care of the succession. An arrangement was finally made, however, under which the creditors agreed to leave us in possession if the title were passed to me. The whole transaction was a tough break, and it nearly ruined us all, but I think my father's ready consent to the final arrangement came largely because the succession was provided for.
The final step has not been an easy one for me to make, for my only son was accidentally killed by lightning when he was ten years old. Our hope for continuity of the family name in the enterprise was irrevocably lost. But with the passing of years we have become adjusted to the reality, and we are content with the memory of his youthful determination and with the assurance that he never will have to take the hard knocks which would surely have come his way on this path.
And let no man who has sons lay claim to any special blessing, for daughters are the crowning manifestation of God's creation. We have two, and, like most smart girls, they both got husbands-the older one a successful New England business man, and the younger one a World War II aviation officer with a farm background.
Because my older daughter is already well established, and also because the younger one had become more closely identified with the actual management of the farm, and had the good luck to get a farm-bred boy, the obligation naturally fell to the latter as soon as she and her husband indicated a desire to accept it. The arrangement provided that they purchase, outright and immediately, all the personal property and operate the farm on a rental basis for a period of ten years, with an airtight option to purchase at the end of the period. The succession is again assured as well as it can reasonably be, for no court can deny the exercise of the option.
And so the last move has been made. A new cycle of growth has been started, and I am complacent. My daughter knows her way around here. And her husband made thirty-two crusades over Hitler's Europe, high up in the air, leading his squadron.
Significant in the history of this farm sequence is the fact that, except for the little my grandfather put into the purchase of the original tract, no single dollar of outside money has ever been put into our enterprise. Most farms-and many other businesses-fall quite frequently into distress, and new cash is brought in either to preserve the status quo or to finance new proprietorship. There has been no exception to the distress in our case. It has been acute and frequent; but the farm earnings have always been made to bring us out.
And a good thing it was, sometimes, that the acuteness of distress did not come to the attention of the court. Our current creditors were either lenient-or gullible.
Unforeseen and unplanned, there came a final triumph. In January, 1949, the Taylor Farm, selected by the New York State Agricultural Society, received the "Century Farm" award at the hands of the Governor. The whole family went proudly up to Albany for the ceremony.
Our pride was blunted a little by a story told at the preceding dinner. It was about a very old man who was seen walking slowly and confidently down the street. A newcomer noting his vigor, said to a local bystander, "What a wonderful old gentleman!" "What's so wonderful about him?" said the native. "All he's ever done is live a hundred and seventeen years and it took him a hell of a long time to do that."
There are plenty of hundred-year old farms in the State, and many of them have been in possession of one direct family line during all the period, but there are less than half a hundred, all together, who have received the century citation. No rich urbanite who, in his opulence, resuscitates the ancestral acres; not any thriftless patriarch who has left his brush uncut, nor anyone who has neglected his community obligations is ever chosen.
The precluding restrictions are negative. The positive qualifications are more intangible, and less easy to determine. Truth to tell, I still cannot quite accept the eligibility of the Taylor Farm except on the evidence of prolonged family stubbornness. But, in presenting us for the citation, our sponsor managed to make out a pretty good case. After commenting on our long success with marginal land, he applauded our traditional family culture; and he wound up triumphantly by saying that all the male proprietors, including the present one, had been Presbyterian Elders. this last must have been the clincher.
The ceremony of award was inspiring. With Governor Dewey presenting the certificates from the speaker's rostrum, it was like the conferring of honorary academic degrees.
Two other farms were selected for the honor in 1949. Our turn came last in the proceedings. And as I stood up with my family to be presented to the Governor and to
receive his compliments, my pride was blunted again as I recalled the words of the Psalmist: "Men of low degree are vanity."
It is hardly orthodox for a farmer to get public acclaim. But it was not hard to take. Thinking it over as I stood there, I concluded that any man who is stubborn enough to stick with a hundred-year old tradition just for the sake of it is entitled to be identified for what he is.
And I remember the story of my great-grandfather plodding along beside his oxcart two hundred miles into the wilderness and baffled by that very wilderness accepting this meagre land site.
I recalled that, eighty years later, in his crowning years, I had seen my grandfather start out in the morning with his black mare and buggy to make a round of neighborly calls-reminding me, as he went, to do my chores. And I remember his stalwart sons, my father and my uncles, carrying his casket to the grave on the day of his burial.
I remembered the tremendous vitality and determination of my father, and his practical philosophy and his sacrificial generosity.
Vivid as they are, these impressions are remote, but then there comes, on top of them, a literal flood of reality-my own personal memories.
In 1895 was the famous "grasshopper year." I was seven years old. The meadows and pastures were as bare as the road. The only green things the grasshoppers couldn't get were the leaves on the trees, so we cut down the trees where both cows and the hoppers could reach the leaves, and let them fight it out.
So many cows were on the market for slaughter that five dollars was the current price for a medium fat one. One day my father had sold a cow to the butcher. I was leading her along the road to the slaughter house when I met a neighbor. Disposed to condolence, he said, "Well, I suppose you'll get five dollars for that one." And I very promptly answered: "No, only four." Driving close enough behind to overhear it, my father was badly humiliated. I don't know whether it was because of my apparent simplicity or because of his shame at having a poor bargain publicized.
He often told the story later, either to illustrate the proverb "children and fools tell the truth," or more likely to point up the desperation of those days. The butcher would pay $100 for that same cow today.
When I was ten years old, I milked ten cows regularly at a sitting. Since there were no brothers or sisters, the chores couldn't be divided and I was busy, beginning at five o'clock in the morning. In addition to the milking, there were pigs and chickens to feed, horses to water, and every day in summer, the cows to bring home from the pasture on the hill across the brook. And the last thing at night, there was my mother's proverbial woodbox. That chore got skipped most of the time, and with mature years I have become a full-fledged conscientious objector to house chores.
When I was twelve years old, my father bought the first grain binder to come into this part of the state. It had a six foot cut and a three-horse hitch. With about ten tilting levers and adjustments, it was something to handle, but I took over immediately. Like all boys, I suppose I was fascinated by the many turning wheels of the machinery, but mostly I wanted a chance to drive the three horses in one hitch-an innovation for those days.
I always loved to drive horses, and I drove and rode about as soon as I could walk.
I learned to ride on a blanket strapped to the horse's back with a surcingle, but the real beginning of my career was the day my father brought home my first saddle. Horsebacking has been my avocation for fifty years.
When my children came along, I started them riding, two at a time for hours at a stretch, on the backs of my cultivating team. And now again, I often see my little granddaughters, three and four years old, riding into the stable from the field on the back of a returning work horse, secure and confident as they cling to the hame tips. Tradition still runs strong.
My absence at school and the early years of my disastrous business venture provided a partial hiatus. Other memories overshadow my association with the farm. But with the disaster, the farm loomed up again in double dimension. It was a once a refuge and a backlog.
And there was another double feature in this tragic episode. When we settled with the creditors, our total assets, including the farm, did not nearly equal the debts. In effect, I was obligated to buy the farm for all it was worth, and pay a bonus of about one hundred per cent for the privilege.
Bankruptcy would have saved the situation for me, but the creditors would have taken the farm. I would not take bankruptcy. Some of my friends have given me credit for unusual honesty on this score, but that wasn't it. I was just stubborn-and ignorant too. For, if I had known what was finally to be involved, I would never have undertaken it. For more than twenty years it was a narrow squeak.
There was the bovine tuberculin test which took a hundred and thirty-five of my best dairy cows on a single order. though the state allowed a nominal remuneration, we were almost completely out of production for a season and it took years to get the herd built up.
Then, before long came the big fire destroying the main dairy barn, all the winter fodder, and everything else that was in it. Again we had to sell the cows at a sacrifice and again we were out of production for a year, while we built a barn.
Some years the cauliflower crop failed completely. Ice storms and maple worms damaged our sugar trees and cut production in half. And, added to this, along came hard times.
In 1932, the price of milk dropped to a dollar a hundred wholesale-two and one-half cents a quart. But the "great depression" didn't take any of us farmers down too much. We were already down. Even reassuring was the fact that our disadvantage was ironed out in the general pocketbook flattening.
New York farmers never joined the 'pitchfork brigade" which resisted farm dispossession in the West. For my part, I intimated to my bankers more than once that they would have to take over. Unused to cow milking, and probably thinking there was little to gain anyway, they declined the opportunity. either way, the cows had to be milked, so I kept desperately on.
I always had an unorthodox theory that the first objective for farm profits was land maintenance and expansion of farm production. In the thin years this left little or nothing to apply on debts, and sometimes even the taxes and mortgage interest went unpaid.
The Land Bank agent had orthodox ideas on financing, and he sometimes gave me the works because I bought a new tractor with money that should have been paid to him. He was probably right, but I managed somehow to get enough money together to keep him quiet out of the extra crop the tractor produced-and I had the tractor left over.
When the good years finally came along, we were not caught with our pants down. Our land and equipment were in full dress uniform.
It is a common theory that farm success or failure is determined by the current changes in the general economy, or, perhaps that success can be underwritten by public planning. Like everybody else, we have made our money in the good years, and like every other farmer, we were encouraged when the farmer's plight became a matter of public concern.
But mostly our modest success has come out of a long experience. We won out in good times because we had kept alive in bad times.
The "Century Farm" citation takes a long backward look' and what has been written here is nothing more than a memory. but it just could be that "the past is prologue."
THE HISTORY of the Taylor Farm is a story of rocks and stones-big rocks, medium rocks, fast rocks, loose rocks, shelly rocks, boulders, and stones, stones, stones: stones on top of the ground, stones in the top soil, stones in the subsoil. It is a story of crowbars, splitting wedges and sledges, of gunpowder and dynamite, and of chains and oxen and horses and tractors, and of stone boats, and sleds and dump wagons and dump trucks. But most of all it is a story of abdominal muscles!
From the outset, the stones provided an every-present underlying resistance to the normal progress of land utilization. Every physical contact with the land, for any purpose, has always become immediately and inescapably involved with a stone or a rock. I have often smiled as I watched the men lift and strain, getting the big rocks out of the way, and groaning, "Why in Hell did they ever take this land away from the Indians?" But then, as I turned away, I've overheard them say, "His grandfather must have been crazy"; and the terrible mistake of the whole thing sobered me. but it was too late to change. We Taylors have always got so far in that we couldn't afford to back out.
This war on the rocks has been going on these one hundred and thirty-five years. Though I have been personally concerned with the later phase only, and while I am sure that the cost in dollars has been justified by the final results, I know now that the penalties of rocky soil are too great to be borne, and that only foolhardy people would have undertaken such a burden. Timothy Dwight was right in the first place.
When my great-grandfather first undertook to get some land ready for crops, he not only had to get the trees cut and the stumps out, but also he had the much greater task of getting enough of the larger rocks and stones off the surface to make the first plowing possible. Since fences were also needed at once for boundaries and for the control of stock, it was, of course, a smart idea to use the stones to make walls and thus kill two birds, literally, with one stone.
During these early days of the enterprise, the fields were all small. In my great-grandfather's time, and also in the next generation, the practice was to lay up stone walls around fields of three to six acres, and this plan was finally almost fully carried out, until, as I first remember it, the farm was a literal multitude of small walled enclosures.
The first accomplishments were limited to the clearing of a few acres each year, and of course the areas having the least stony surfaces were first selected. Since smooth areas were few and far between, the first enclosures were not very well co-ordinated or very conveniently located. As time went on and more land was needed, new enclosures were built, the expansion being made, so far as possible, with a view to its accessibility to the buildings. There was also the problem of allocating certain contiguous areas to cultivation and other areas to pasture.
And since both cultivated fields and pasture fields must be connected to the barns, wall-enclosed lanes were built, so that the approach of the cattle could be controlled. There was also the need for heavy foundations under the buildings as they came along. Heavy stone piers were needed for bridges across the brook, and many stone sluices were built here and there to divert surface water. Flat stones were used for walks and cellar bottoms. In fact, so far as I can determine, during the first one hundred years of the farm's occupancy, every stone that was picked up or dug up was used somewhere. Not a single stone pile was made. So the usefulness of the stones took away part of the curse of digging them.
Driving out of Maine and through southern Quebec last summer, I observed that the matter of utility apparently had been ignored by the pioneer farmers there. The field boundaries had been established by using rail fences; and the stones and rocks had been hauled into huge piles in the middle of each field, where they are a perpetual nuisance.
Many-in fact most - eastern Canadian farms are still largely powered with horses. The horses are often used with a single hitch on small light draft implements, and a stone pile is a mere inconvenience. but as motor power is more widely introduced, these rock piles will be difficult for the big machines to by-pass, and I venture the prediction that many of these areas will be abandoned in favor of land that shows its blemish less plainly.
When land was cleared, surely no one could have anticipated mechanical farming, and the Canadians evidently fell into the path of least resistance. the stone-enclosure system practiced a little farther south was probably as much luck as farsightedness.
For many, many years, the chief vehicle for moving the stones was the stoneboat. This was made of two side planks turned up at the front end like skiis. They were fastened together, side by side, with narrow pieces of plank bolted crosswise on the top surface. Runners were made of saplings about four inches in diameter, running lengthwise on the under side, and fastened by countersunk boats. This rig was easily hauled along the ground, and with renewal of the runners, would last a long time.
Once loosened from the ground, quite heavy rocks could be rolled or pried with crowbars onto the boat, and hauled to the wall by the oxen. Large rocks had to be split, first, into pieces small enough to handle. This was done with small sharp wedges and sledges. The very largest rocks, and those whose texture would not permit splitting, had to be blasted with gunpowder.
Since the explosion of gunpowder is effective only in close confinement, a hole had to be drilled in the rock about one inch in diameter and several inches deep. With a hand drill and sledge, it took an hour of hard pounding to drill one hole. The powder was then poured in the hole and the fuse stuck in. The top of the hole was thoroughly tamped with damp earth, and the fuse touched off with a torch. Frequently the explosion was a dud, and the job had to be done over again in a new place. And when the blast did succeed, a great part of the rock was broken so fine that it was a terrific undertaking to clean up the small stuff. Needless to say, this method of loosening was used only as a last resort.
Once loaded and moved, the bigger rocks were rolled or pried off the boat and used for the wall foundation. As that progressed, the smaller stones were brought in and put on top until the wall reached a height of about four feet, the width varying from three to five feet in accordance with the size and shape of the rocks which had gone on the bottom layer.
The stone digging and wall laying was going on almost constantly, at slack times in the year, during a one hundred year period. It was still going on after I was almost grown up. Eventually, inclusive of the outside line fences, there were altogether about twenty-six miles of wall on the farm, besides building foundations and other stone structures of various kinds. And just about all the available land had been cleared. All this had been accomplished without the aid of a single power device. Ox power and horse power and man power, with hand tools, had done it all.
An accomplishment so great as that indicated in the foregoing recital should have justified its cost. To say that it did not would not be quite accurate, for it did eliminate the obstruction to land cultivation tolerably well in its time. It did provide fences. And more than that, the well-kept walls which were constantly repaired and relaid with new pickings, were the visible evidence of thrift. After all, farmers then, as well as now, had little money with which to reckon thrift; and the evidence of hard labor had to take the place of bank balances in the determination of worth. The hallmark of success was clean land and well-kept fences.
The advent of the sulky plow, which was mounted on wheels, and which could be rigidly adjusted for deep plowing, was the first modern tool to show up the complete inadequacy of what had appeared to be a finished job. This plow, running along at an exact even depth, turned out a new crop of stones-a multitude of them-some as big as a washtub.
These had been left out of the original clearing, because they were just out of sight under the surface. Since the old-type hand plows would slip over or around them, they had been left in quiet hibernation. But the ruthless wheel plow stirred them up, and they came out of the earth, bringing their young with them.
The impact of this new burden was terrific. With the first trial of the modern plow came the shattering evidence that the "War of the Stones," so far, had been only the preliminary "phoney" encounters. We actually hesitated to do the usual season's plowing because so many stones had to be picked before the crops could go on. Then, too, there was the problem of disposing of them. This was most conveniently solved at first by adding them to the width of the old walls, a costly expedient, as it later turned out.
But this new difficulty was only the first of many which came along with the new tools. The tractor plow did a more thorough uprooting job than the horse-drawn sulky plow, and added a worse penalty in the fields. And the tractor, with its attending tools, gave us the evidence of need for the biggest undertaking of all. So much room was needed, and so much time required, in turning the tractor-drawn machinery at the headlands, that the walls themselves must now surely be moved to save both time and space. And, since it would take time to move them and space to put them on, the advantage of moving them seemed likely to be lost in the process. It seemed that we must lift ourselves by our own boot straps.
But this confusion eventually solved itself with the rapid advent of more new tools. Now there were dump wagons and dump trucks. and the tractor, which had initiated much of the difficulty, made the largest contribution to the solution of it. With a heavy chain, it would pull out and haul away as much in an hour as could have been done in a day the old-fashioned way. No splitting was necessary. For the very large rocks, which had defied all previous devices, we began to use dynamite. There was no limit to its explosive power, and it could be used superficially. No drilling was required.
So it was that we were able to adapt circumstances to needs, and before very long we were engaged in a systematic clean-up which involved all the stones which had been accumulated in the walls for one hundred years, and also the tremendously greater number which had to come out of the subsurface.
Like the grandfathers, we first undertook to fix up areas where the walls were least ponderous and least numerous, so that the greatest acreage could be gained for the time involved. An immediate problem, now, was the disposition of the stones. Surely we did not ever want to move them again. They had to be put away for good this time. And in the rush to get the job done, we could not afford to haul them too far.
Fortunately, perhaps, we were having another difficulty just then. We were trying to haul supplies to the fields, and the harvest away from the fields, with trucks. They were stuck in the mud every time it rained. In order to minimize wheel-truck damage in the fields, we tried to use a single regular path of approach for every trip to and from the fields. These approach roads became veritable quagmires in wet weather. In order to keep the trucks moving, we had to haul stones in to fill up the mudholes.
This necessity prompted us into a very quick decision, and a permanent plan. We would use the whole works to build solid frost-proof and rain-proof roads. It seems that we have not made many smart decisions, but this one was smart. The walls and rocks are gone from our big fields today, and there are a half-dozen stone roads leading to various areas, over which trucks and loaded tractor-drawn vehicles can go any day in the year. Some of the roads run over a bed ten feet wide and four feet deep. They will never heave with frost and they will never wash out.
Our first objective in this new program was a hundred acre area-we call it "The Big Hill"-which had been laid out in sixteen square fields of about six acres each. Our scheme was to move enough walls to join up about four of these fields each year, so that our unimpeded acreage would gain at the annual rate of twenty-five acres. Needless to say, this was too much for us. With all the rocks which the new tractor plows raised, we were always behind. It finally took us ten years on this area; but when it was done we had two substantial approach roads into the field, and the better crops which had come off the improved land had paid for the labor.
"The Big Hill" now constitutes the stabilizing crop field of our enterprise. It is about exactly square, rolling sharply uphill on the west side of the highway for a distance of four or five hundred yards, then leveling off slightly but continuing to rise gradually to the top level, and finally rolling over onto the back side of the hill. A sprawling hillside, it has , nevertheless, an appearance of smoothness and utility unusual for land in these parts.
Now completely cleared, it has latitude enough to provide adequately for the system of crop rotation which has been operative during the farm's recent and most productive years. As indicated on the chart shown, we are now running a five year cycle with regular continuity, based on twenty-acre strips. Except for two years of hay, no crop is immediately repeated.
This rotation system has cauliflower, the cash crop-as its chief objective. It is deliberately arranged so that four full years shall elapse between cauliflower which propagate themselves in the soil, we have found this long period of relief a very great advantage. More than this, as may be seen by looking at the chart, we have the benefit of sod ground each time for the cauliflower. and there is, under this system, no loss of productive time, for each of the intervening crops contributes substantially to the maintenance of the dairy herd, which is, after all, always our chief concern.Rotation Chart
Hay Cauliflower Corn Oats Hay
Cauliflower Corn Oats Hay Hay
Corn Oats Hay Hay Cauliflower
Oats Hay Hay Cauliflower Corn
Hay Hay Cauliflower Corn Oats
Hay Cauliflower Corn Oats Hay
Observe that layout for 1952 is an exact reversion to 1947, starting new cycle.
Actually it works out that each annual step in this sequence automatically promotes and never retards, the success of the next step.
Crop rotation is quite generally recognized as good farm practice. And the foregoing brief resume of its application would imply that the system is foolproof. But there are many debatable points, and there are some farm circumstances which do not readily lend themselves to it.
The wheat grower usually has no other use to which he can put his land in the off years, and the range cattle man, in general, has no use for any cultivated crops. The poultry farmer rotates the chicken runs, but he has no interest in crops. And the fruit grower is not much concerned with what happens to the land except as it nourishes his trees.
In fact, the practice is most fully adaptable to those farms which run a combination of crops and livestock. Since all dairy farms are in this category, and since an increasing number of all farmers are diversifying for insurance against loss, the principles involved are not mere theories.
The schedule may differ for different types of farming. the rigid timing illustrated in the foregoing description of our operation is objectionable in many cases. Parts of the cycle may be changed or waived to promote convenience. The essence of the thing is the renewal of land vitality. And ultimately, because crop land is best served by diversity, rotation must prevail; for it is the crop land that serves us all.
If this chapter has the good fortune to be read by any agricultural expert, one question will surely arise. Since this is a hill farm, why has no mention been made of contour farming in connection with the rotation? It is a good question, and here is the answer. We do not undertake it here.
Though our land is hilly and rolling, and apparently a proper subject for contouring, our experience with the terrific thunderstorms and cloudbursts which are common to our mountainous country has led us to fear it. In contouring our field, in order to get reasonable row length, we have to run the rows crosswise the full width of the field. Our experience with this-we have tried it-is that the great volume of water which accumulates quickly in heavy showers will follow the rows horizontally, even though the slope is gradual, collecting in great volume from both directions at one or two low points on the line, where it will break through and sometimes tear a gully deep enough to bury a freight Carpenter.
A few disastrous experiences of this sort have taught us that, when the rows run crosswise and counter to the natural flow of water, the erosion becomes destructively concentrated rather than spread out and minimized. In the old days when the cross fences in the big field provided artificial dikes in line with the contour, the washouts at low points were terrific enough to tear the very walls out.
Our determination to set up the rotation strips running up and down the hill was made more final by our experience with cauliflower machinery. Row spacing can be controlled more accurately, and is more adaptable to precise cultivation, when the two wheels of the machine are operated on a level with each other. A man may ascend a roof from the eaves to the ridge pole without losing his equilibrium; but if he undertakes to walk across the roof sidewise, he will surely slide downward-unless he has one short leg.
In operating the big transplanter across the slope of the hill, the sideslip was so great that row width could not be controlled at all. If the first row was made at the top of the strip, all the succeeding rows would be too far apart. And if the first row was made at the bottom, each succeeding row would crowd down upon its predecessor. We could remedy this to some extent by changing the hook-up, in relation to the tractor, at each end of the field. But even so, we were still in trouble when the cultivator came along. Even though the rows were properly spaced, and in spite of anything we could do, the cultivator, in crosswise motion, would slideslip enough to literally destroy the crop. This same difficulty would, and does, apply to any crosswise cultivated crop. It appears that contouring in crop rotation is bet applicable when there are no cultivated crops in the sequence.
One final comment on erosion. Since we have changed to the up-and-down system of rotation, our erosion difficulties have been greatly minimized. The little furrows, opened by the cultivators between each row, carry the run-off water, in little harmless streams with little damage. This reasoning and this conclusion is, perhaps, unorthodox, but it is based on the evidence we have.
Erosion is the number-one enemy of the farmer, and in the last analysis, the loss is constant and overwhelming in any system of cultivation. That contouring has contributed much to its control is well established, and what is written here is not intended as a contradiction. This is merely a recital of the practices which make crops on the Taylor farm.
Though the completion of the stone clearing on the hundred-acre tract was the most spectacular feature of the war on the rocks, it was by no means all of the undertaking. The walls along the highway were cheerfully donated to the highway department when local hard roads were built. Later, the town set up a crusher on the farm which supplied the base for the asphalt top.
An unusual aspect of this highway transaction was that we donated not only the stones but also the labor of building the road.
Most of this was done with horse-drawn dump wagons for hauling from the walls to the road. This vehicle was in common use for public highway building in those days and it seemed pretty modern. The bigger rocks were moved by tractor, either on a boat or by chain, into the bottom of the road bed.
The hard part of the job was pounding up the stones in the road with sledges. One day, one of the crew came in at noon with a long face. He said, "George, I know you're big-hearted, but I can't pound another stone." He went along down the road, and I didn't blame him. After that, when there were stones to pound, there was likely to be a reference to my big heart.
Fortunately, the job was not a steady one, and there were no inspectors to watch us. There are a lot of big boulders down in the bottom that never did get broken up. But they're dead now, and God rest their souls.
Our township is a poor one financially, and could ill afford the cost of improved roads. When the proposal arose on our street, the neighbors banded together and subscribed about three thousand dollars to put in the two miles needed. Our farm subscription was twelve hundred dollars, and others were in proportion. Most of us worked out our subscriptions. This happened long before the New Deal philosophy had been thought of, so we took it in good part. We got ourselves out of the mud, and we got rid of a lot of wall.
The land on the low ground near the buildings had been more rocky than any other part of the farm. In consequence, the fields were smaller and the walls heavier. And it was in this area that the garden walls and barnyard walls and the lane walls had been built. The disposition of all these would have been almost impossible except for one very fortunate coincident circumstance.
Our expanding program called for two big new dairy barns. One barn is two hundred and twenty-eight by thirty-six feet, and the other one is one hundred and forty feet by thirty-four. Both were built on sloping ground, so that the lower side foundations were very heavy and very high. And the bigger barn is approached on three levels, so that heavy, high retaining walls were needed. When the barns were built, concrete was in its infancy, and was not yet in very common use on the farms except for floor surfaces. Therefore, the conveniently located walls were about all used in the heavy foundations and retaining walls and in the fill. And, once more, the stones were moved out of the way and made useful at the same time.
I shall not again mention the usefulness of stones, for it is likely that you who read this are, by now, as sick of them as I am. You may forget them when you finish this chapter, but my progeny and my successors will have them always.
The wall removal, though about as big an undertaking as that of building the walls in the first place, is now also about complete, and, except for line fences, and general area boundaries, there is no appearance of land wealth. What strikes the eye is its irregularity, its roughness and the preponderance of woodland.
The terrain is rugged, with many steep areas, even in the cultivated portion. Except for the large, modern dairy barns and the substantial, well-ordered appearance of the half-dozen houses, there is not much to differentiate the farm from a similar area in the middle south where the mountaineers live.
We are now in a new and hopefully final phase of the struggle. With the dump truck, which can go long distances quickly, we have begun to haul the field stones into piles in remote, useless places, which we, in common with our urbanized contemporaries, call dumps. And the big crawler tractor takes our rocks as big as itself, all in one piece, and hauls them away to the oblivion of the rock hole.
I know it is a fantasy, but I wonder, sometimes, if the stone dumps will eventually cover all the space of the farm, or if not that, perhaps so many big rocks in the rock hole will be heavy enought to break the crust of the earth and, submerging, swallow us all up.
The Dairy Farm
OUR FARM, as operated during the current decade, is producing its income from various kinds of farming. The main activity is the production of market milk, Nearly as large a contributor to the income, though less constantly engrossing, and less dependable, is the cauliflower crop. And finally, maple sugar and syrup production makes its small but significant addition. but the contributions of these latter, while important when they win, are not, after all, vital. This is a dairy farm.
It is readily understandable that the production of milk should be the chief activity, because milk is as closely identified with this area as wheat is identified with Kansas, or hogs with the corn belt-but not for the same reasons. Kansas excels in wheat because the climate and soil there are particularly adapted to its growth. Hogs are a natural in the corn belt because the most efficient feed for the production of pork is corn, and it grows in the greatest abundance in that area.
In contrast, the natural conditions for dairy production in eastern New York are as unfavorable as they could be anywhere. The climate is so cold that cows must be housed and fully fed inside for seven months out of the year. Though nearly all the so-called roughage may be grown locally during the short summer, little of it can be fed immediately when it could be done most conveniently and when it is fresh and most palatable. the great bulk of it must be harvested and stored in advance for the following winter. This involves expensive harvesting and curing machinery, and also capacious and costly storage facilities in the form of silos and large overhead haymows.
During the summer months, when the cow can forage her own roughage, she finds it hard to come by, for, of necessity, the land allocated for pasture is the poorest. All the best land must be saved to grow the winter feed. In fact, it is just about true that no land is left for pasture except that which cannot, by any stretch of prudence, be adapted to crops. Mostly the poor cow takes more out herself to get her summer roughage than she gets out of it.
But the chief deficiency in the dairy set-up of the Northeast is the lack of grain. Less than ten per cent of the concentrated grain fee which constitutes the backbone of the dairy cow's food, summer and winter, is now, or could ever be raised locally. Nearly all of it has to be imported at great expense from middle-western mills a thousand miles or more away. In fact, the most efficient dairyman cannot escape the necessity of paying out about one third of his gross milk income for imported concentrates.
In view of this one very expensive deficiency, and in view of the tremendously cumbersome elements in the remaining factors of production , how is it that the Northeast dairy farmer can even survive, mush less succeed?
The answer is simple. He is parked on the rear doorstep of the most opulent and the most populous metropolitan area in the world. There are millions of people here who want to buy fresh milk. To get it quickly and while it is fresh, they must of course, bargain with nearby producers. Because of this obviously fortunate circumstance, and in spite of the inherent natural disadvantages of the locality, it has eventuated that Delaware County and its environs possess the densest cow population of any area in the United States in proportion to its size.
This concentrated commercial milk business is not only local, but also comparatively recent. Less than one hundred years ago-after my great-grandfather was mature, and while my grandfather was WORKING out his salvation-farming was still an adventure in subsistence, and the degree of success was determined by the number of necessities, services, and comforts which could actually be produced on the farm. The problem of translating farm products into money with which to buy a living had not arisen.
A few cows were kept for milk and butter and meat, some sheep for wool and meat, all kinds of fowl for eggs and meat, and a few hogs for the pork barrel. Enough roughage was raised to feed the animals, and enough grain, wheat, rye, and buckwheat was raised for flour, the by-products providing a limited but adequate supply of concentrates. No simple economy, to be sure, because, in order to meet the demands of a full life and a full stomach, all aspects of it had to be kep functioning without interruption. Its simplicity, if any, lay in the fact that it did not involve adjustment to outside economics. If crops were good and the animals thrifty, the job was done.
But with the wider development of the country, came new possibilities and new adjustments for the farm. The growth of the cities, which became startlingly significant toward the close of the last century, brought with it the development of fast railroad transportation. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that universal rapid transit made the cities grow. Anyhow, the simultaneous development of these two phenomena brought the farmer into the economic picture. If he had a surplus, he could sell it and he could deliver it.
The adaptation of fluid milk to this new possibility was easy and obvious. In fact there was an intervening step in the evolution. Cows had already become important in farm plans because their product, in the form of butter, had been among the farms' very first ventures into a broader economy. The concentration, and relatively high value per unit of bulk in butter, and the universal demand for it, had made it an early instrument of barter as well as a cash commodity for city delivery, even with primitive transportation. When the opportunity for commercial dairying arose, our northeastern farmers were already fairly heavily committed to cows. The big task has been to improve the quality of the dairy herds and to adapt the production to the exacting requirements of commercial demand.
For our own farm, the development of market milk production has been fairly steady since its beginning, fifty years ago. In the spring of 1897, the product from our milking herd of about thirty cows-two hundred quarts daily-was first delivered to the creamery and carried on during the summer. We were not then qualified, either by habit or facilities, for winter production, so at first our sales were confined to the summer months. What little milk there was during the cold weather, was made into butter, as formerly.
In 1900, a new barn was built to house sixty milking cows. This barn, large for its time, was well enough constructed to be warm in winter, and provided enough storage for roughage and grain for heavy winter feeding. With the completion of this outfit, commercial milk production on a year-round basis was launched. And with the advent of a steady monthly cash income, the whole of our farm economy was changed overnight.
In general, up to this time, the theory and the practice of farming were based on the doctrine of economic self-sufficiency. The farmer lived on what he raised. His cash income was an incidental but not vital consideration. To be sure, the smart farmers had managed to convert their surplus into some cash, but such cash was not regular enough or dependable enough to inspire any well-defined or concerted plan for it.
But there is magic in money. And there was new magic for the farmer in knowing how much money he was to get and just when he was to get it. He immediately discovered that, with his monthly milk check, he could easily buy many things which he, himself, formerly had produced-the hard way- and also many other things which were new to him in attractiveness and comfort. Almost immediately he began to change the order of his plans, aiming his whole production program toward the mouth of the cow, with the assurance that the avails would come out in cash, from her under side. And this assurance has been well and long confirmed with no denials and no moratoriums.
But in spite of the dependability of the cow as a converter, it has not been easy to make a profit. the physical difficulties have already been pointed out. And there have been serious pinches due to periodic maladjustments in the national economy. There is also the fact that the farmer has found himself ill adapted and, perhaps, too busy with the elements, to provide the hard-headed business acumen necessary to the running of an enterprise in terms of cash. But, on the whole, the dairy business in the northeast has been a substantial one. It has been successful enough to perpetuate itself, and to maintain its superiority in the area. The dairy farmer, with his assured current cash income, has rapidly and easily identified himself with the developing industrial economy of his locality and of the nation. He is today probably the most respected and most reckoned with among all men in agriculture.
The development of the dairy enterprise on our own farm has followed the general pattern, except that it has been rather more heavily extended than is usual. Since the first modern cow barn was built in 1900, there have been many changes and additions and rebuilding, so that now the milking herd capacity runs to one hundred and sixty, with a maximum production of sixteen hundred to eighteen hundred quarts of five per cent milk per day. I cannot account for this over-extension , except to say that our outfit has always been so hard pressed to meet its family needs, and to pay debts that have fallen upon us, that volume has seemed the only solution. An increase of eight hundred per cent in production, with little change in acreage available, illustrates the tremendous potentialities of land pushed hard enough, and well enough nourished.
My own memories run back very clearly to those days in 1897 when the five cans of milk could be loaded on the back platform of a one-horse buckboard wagon. I was nine years old but it was frequently my job to drive the steady old horse two and a half miles to the creamery.. Someone at home always loaded the cans on the wagon and my father had, of course, arranged that the door man at the creamery would set the cans off when I got there. I was pretty proud to be seen driving through the village all alone, and got many an encouraging nod from the men waiting in the creamery yard. I was still proud, many years later, when the big farm truck drove in the same yard with forty-five cans of milk from the same outfit. But there were a lot of hard knocks in between.
An early burden upon the milk farmer-one which continues to this day-is obligation to conform to the very persistent and exacting requirements of New York City's Board of Health. A rigid inspection is made at frequent intervals, to make sure that the barn and the utensils used in the handling of milk are scrupulously clean. The inspector always comes, like the bank examiner, without warning, and if he finds a cobweb on the ceiling, or an un-wiped smudge on the clean white paint in the milk house, an adverse entry is made on his score sheet. Careless dairy operators frequently have their product excluded by reason of an excessive number of negative marks on the sheet.
Floors, walls, and ceilings in the barn must be clean and whitewashed. Milking stools must always be freshly painted. Milk pails and milking machines must be absolutely sterile. The cows themselves must be thoroughly enough clipped to make grooming effective. Any five infractions of the thirty separate requirements on the sheet is enough to cause the milk to be excluded from the market, and there is no appeal. The authority of the Board of Health is final. Reinstatement may come, but only after, every detail of cleanliness has been provided for by a complete overhauling.
To the farmer, and even to the casual observer, the requirements often appear too picayune, and the rules unjustly severe. However, it must be remembered that the actual fight is not against the dairyman. It is against bacteria. In the early days, there was an old Irishman in our neighborhood who protested vigorously to the inspector that the regulations were a nuisance and that they served no good purpose for anyone. The inspector countered by explaining that the bacteria were so minute that they could be controlled only by very thorough and persistent attention to detail.
He said to the old man, "You know, the bacteria are so small that they can't be seen with the naked eye. There could be a million of them in a single teaspoonful of milk."
"Well, and begorra," said the old man, "if they're as small as that, they'll never hurt anyway."
The fact is that, in spite of his natural antipathy for the inspector, the northeast farmer may thank the New York City Board of Health for stabilizing his business. The assurance to the consumer that the milk is absolutely safe to use contributes more to its regular consumption than any other factor. More than this, the necessity of keeping up appearances has enhanced the value of many a farm that would otherwise have gone to the dogs for carelessness. And finally, and perhaps most important, the self-esteem of the farmer has been increased from satisfaction in the knowledge that he is a good housekeeper.
Here at the farm, we had our troubles too. Beginning with 1916 and until 1941, when Mayor La Guardia, in his infinite wisdom, ruled that grade A milk should be excluded from the New York City market, we were proud to be identified with that superior product at a correspondingly higher price and we were sure that the special merit of our product justified its cost.
I suppose that, if Mr. LaGuardia could have gotten control of the automotive industry, he would have ruled that because very safe and very comfortable transportation could be had in a Ford car, Mr. Ford should be prohibited from building and selling Lincolns, and that Mr. Sloan and Mr. Chrysler should quit the business altogether.
I believe, however, that the distinguished mayor rode in a Cadillac. But he drank grade B milk. That is the only kind available in New York.
Conversely, many a progressive farmer, restricted by the selling price applicable to grade B milk, has had to give up his better car, and now rides in a Ford. That's the way Mr. LaGuardia wanted it.
The requirements and the inspection for grade A production were not, in themselves, more burdensome than those for the ordinary grade. But no milk could be sold as grade A if the bacteria count in the raw milk exceeded thirty thousand per cubic centimeter. To promote compliance with this restriction, we were required to deliver the un-cooled morning product at the pasteurizing plant before eight o'clock, and to hold the evening product at a temperature not exceeding fifty degrees until it was delivered. This very tight restriction kept us always on our toes.
The chief element of superiority in the better grade was in the butter fat requirement. Eligibility for the grade A market was predicated on a butter fat test of four per cent, whereas milk testing as low as three per cent may be sold as Grade B. It was necessary, therefore, so long as we sold grade A milk, for us to exercise great care in the selection of cows, and in order to be safe we always kept a high proportion of the higher testing breeds. Eventually we acquired Jerseys for the entire herd.
For those of us who had made the investment, and had the facilities and the patience to make grade A milk, the elimination of our market seemed an unfair discrimination. More than this, with the removal of the opportunity to be rewarded for a good product, the incentive for producers to improve their methods was lost.
I always think of that bum who said, "All whiskey is good, but some is better'n others." Maybe he was a connoisseur as well. I wonder. One thing is certain: grade A milk was a superior product. However, the New York consumer is still on safe ground, for grade B milk is good.
The most irksome aspect of the milk producing business is that it is incessant. There are no holidays and no Sundays. No lapses are allowed for bad weather, Hell, or high water. Every day, the cows must be milked, and everyday, somehow, the milk has to be delivered. The terrific winter climate which is common to the rugged northeast provides an excuse for the seasonal suspension of much country traffic, but for dairymen there are no excuses. the milk must go out. In our own case, the difficulty has been unusual because we are located on a side road which, apparently, because of the deliberate and persistent indifference of the road crew, seems never to be cleared until after the emergency is over.
There have been plenty of bad mornings when after waiting for hours in an agony of hope for the snow plow to come, we had, finally, to load the milk on to horse-drawn sleds, and take it out through drifts and blinding snow, across the fields and over fences to a truck on the main road. The memory of some of the mornings is a nightmare. There may be romance in reading about it, but there was none in the experience.
We have never missed a morning in fifty years. There has, occasionally, been some undelivered milk in the neighborhood, and our stubborn determination to keep our own record good has given us no satisfaction except a few frozen ears and toes and fingers. But the record stands.
Lost sleep is never caught up on a dairy farm. Three hundred sixty-five mornings in the year, the crew goes on duty, at four-thirty a.m. for the morning milking. This job, with the morning feeding, takes about two and one-half hours, after which comes a short break for breakfast. After this brief but very vital interlude, the crew splits into groups-some cleaning up the barn, which must be scraped and swept, from end to end, after the gutters are cleaned out. Others work on various assignments. The bedding must be changed under the cows, and they must all be thoroughly groomed. The milk house must be scrubbed and the utensils washed and sterilized. Two or three men must haul the manure away from the barn and spread it on the fields.
At twelve o'clock comes the noon-hour break. Ordinarily, the barn work is done by this time, and outside work is in order. There is a constantly running obligation on this-fuel cutting in winter, fences and crops in the spring, haying in the summer, and harvesting and storing in the fall. All hands come in promptly for the afternoon milking and feeding, which begins at four o'clock.
Precision and regularity are vital on this job. In a herd of more than one hundred, it is, of course, necessary to assign responsibility, and each milking operator handles his own group of cows. This is good practice for mechanical milking as well as for hand milking. Cows are temperamental, and the best production requires that each operator milk the same cows each time. For this reason, and also because the whole operation must be done on time, there is no reasonable opportunity for absences. Obviously the crew cannot get drunk on Saturday night for the four-thirty shift cannot be waived on Sunday. And equally obviously, no allowance can be made for part of the crew to be off, for substitutions cannot be made successfully in this kind of work.
This extremely exacting schedule, coupled with the long hours-four-thirty a.m. to six-thirty p.m.-is the crux of the dairy farm labor difficulty. In this progressive era, and in our enlightened American economy, men just will not work that way for any wages. A complete double shift would solve the difficulty, and this ought to be the ultimate answer. But arbitrary restrictions on food prices, accentuated by the self-imposed price penalties which come from his own improvident competitive production, make it difficult for the farmer to compete at all in the market for labor, much less to compete for a double shift.
To say that the labor problem is the dairyman's chief headache, is to put it mildly. It has been the instrument of downfall for many of us. Any producer with enough volume to make a decent living or a decent business, cannot, of course, do the work himself. If he cannot get anyone else to do it, he is literally forced out, and this has been the eventuality for thousands of us during the current decade.
He may, to be sure, operate on a small enough scale so that one pair of hands can do it all. That solution means peasantry for him, and, if carried far enough, it means the ultimate disintegration of the large, well-equipped outfits upon which the American consumer must really depend for his supply in sufficient volume and at a reasonable price.
No solution seems imminent. The whole production base is in a state of flux. The big operators are giving up because they cannot get efficient help. The one-man farms are expanding because they are starved. But there is no evidence of a trend, one way or the other.
The question will arise here as to how we, at the Taylor Farm, have managed to solve this mess. The answer is that we have not solved it. We tolerate it. We take our desperate chance, every night, that the crew will show up in the morning for the milking. Each day, when the milking and feeding is done, we take some comfort in the thought that the sensitive mechanisms in which our investment lies and for whom we have a paternal responsibility, have been protected for another twenty-four hours. And, finally, we accept the penalty of reduced earnings, imposed by our inability to arrange a fully productive and dependable work schedule which would meet our needs.
The fact that we have found no solution for our difficulties is no denial of reasonable success, and it is no implication that dairymen are especially ill favored. Adverse conditions are common to all enterprises. Satisfaction often comes from riding out the storm and always from respect for the job we do.
There is a better side to this business of cow milking. It appears plainly enough to those of us who realize that, by way of comparison, some other production lines are less well organized and less useful. And the inspiration to be had from capitalizing on the perfection of a mechanical device is not to compared with that which comes from making a good cow give more milk today than she did yesterday.
MARKET GARDENING, more often known as truck farming, is a highly specialized kind of agriculture. It is difficult to classify it within the category of general farming because, except for its relationship to the soil, it has little in common with ordinary land activity. Its chief concern is sales, and its success is almost entirely dependent upon the marketing skill and luck of the individual operator.
Each one of the scores of vegetables and small fruits which, together, constitute the product of the truck farmers, has a marketing technique peculiar to itself. And every truck farmer must work out his own market salvation, mostly in his own locality, or go broke. the problem is an individual one.
In contrast, for dairy products, poultry products, and meat products, and for wheat, corn, tobacco, and cotton, the market price follows a definite nation-wide trend. Prices are relatively stable, and are determined by the over-all supply as related to the over-all demand. Also, all of these basic products are of sufficient public concern so that annual -carry-overs are statistically determined and their probable effect on prices is known. More than this, it has now become a public policy, particularly in times of emergency, that prices shall be stabilized by public authority in the interest of continuity.
Altogether, in ordinary farming, while price and marketing methods are very much the concern of the farmer, there is little that he can do about them. He cannot hope, ever, to sell his product at any special advantage, but also, he has no fear that he will be penalized by some local market disadvantage. In effect, he sells collectively into a collective market, and he operates in the zone of safety which the law of average creates.
The market gardener has no such protection. He is gambler number one. His product is perishable. He must harvest it the day it is ripe and sell it that day. And the worst of it is that, on that same day, every other grower in the area will be shipping the same commodity; for ripening weather falls on all growers alike in a given locality. The probable consequence will be a temporary glut in the local market, and if the glut is bad enough, ruinous prices. The fact that next week, after the pressure is off, the market will be better, provides no relief. Perishable food cannot be held.
More than this, in general, no defense can be had by diverting shipments to other markets, for to save time, the shipper must sell in his nearest city. The time involved in long hauls is destructive to perishable food, and the extra cost of the haul, plus the loss from shrinkage, will eat up the whole works. If a grower gets caught in a harvesting jam, the solution is to grab the best possible nearby sale and run.
The weather, always a gamble for every farmer, is particularly treacherous for the truck farmer. Most of his products are tender, particularly in their early stages. A frost, which makes the wheat stalk hardy, will kill young vegetables plants, as well as fruit blossoms, overnight. Fall freezes, too, sometimes come unseasonably early, and when they do, vegetable crops suffer most heavily. And, in the nature of the case, these damages are not often relative. The destruction is usually complete.
But there is another view in this picture. Gamblers sometimes win. Though bad weather is frequently destructive, favorable weather exerts an unusually great effect on well fertilized, quick-growing truck crops. Fortunes have been made in a single year when the weather and markets were just right. Sometimes they both work out.
And the restriction which keeps perishable products in the local market works both ways. While it does intensify local competition, it also keeps outside competition away. When the local market is reasonably well supplied by nearby producers, it is not likely to be impaired by shipments from far-away areas. It is true that refrigerated shipments tend to equalize markets, but, in general, such transportation is too expensive to leave much profit to the remote grower. Most perishable food gluts are still a burden upon the locality in which they originate.
These local gluts are the loaded dice in the market gardener's game. But oversupplies often vanish quickly because, with perishables, what cannot be sold immediately must be wasted immediately. It cannot be carried along to interfere with next week's market, or even next day's market. Therefore, as current supply diminishes, prices may snap back quickly, and sometimes they double overnight.
During our experience raising cauliflower on the Taylor Farm, I have seen the price range vary from fifty cents to five dollars per crate, with the fluctuation going through the full cycle three or four times in a single season. Fortunately, even in such a year, we hit a good market part of the time; and fortunately, over a period of more than twenty years, there have been some good market seasons. Years enough, in any enterprise, will pick up the losses, and may wipe out the profits, too.
Though marketing is a vital element in the business of cauliflower, it is the growing of the crop that provides the interest and requires the technical knowledge and experience. For the Taylor Farm to go into the raising of cauliflower was in direct contradiction to the conservative single-track policy which had always been our chief characteristic. The original experiment was prompted by desperate necessity. In the early twenties, after the terrific commodity deflation which followed World War I, we were in bad financial straits. This circumstance was common enough, just then , to all farmers, and, in our case, the desperation was increased by the pressure of extra debt.
The earnings from the conventionally operated dairy would not carry the excess load. There were, just then, a very few farmers in the Catskill mountain area, who were raising cauliflower for the New York market. Cauliflower itself was still comparatively new, and therefore, of course, in very limited demand. But it was also new to the gardeners everywhere, and so the supply was correspondingly limited. Prices were good. At five to seven dollars per crate, some of the growers were getting as much as two thousand dollars, gross, from an acre.
On the face of it, it appeared unreasonable that we could adapt the crop, which requires scrupulous individual plant care, to our rocky soil. But the returns to those who were doing it were enticing, and it seemed worth a trial.
At the beginning, we were conservative. We planted one acre to see if anything would happen. something did happen. After the plants had made an unexpectedly perfect growth, and just as they were heading, and within three or four days of the market, the big dairy herd-more than 100 cows-broke into the field in the night, and ate up the whole works before morning.
It was too bad, but it was good lesson. In later years, when we had large fields, we never worried about the cows. We watched our fences.
But we did learn that our soil was adapted to successful growth, and this was what we needed to know. The assurance, coupled with the stubborn notion that we should look for our money where we lost it, launched us into ten acres the following year. Before long, we were committed to an annual crop of twenty to thirty acres, and the schedule continues to this day.
There was much to learn in the early years, and, since there was little precedent, we had to learn it the hard way-by experience. We were victimized a few times by inferior strains of seed upon which we saved a few dollars a pound. This seed looked all right, and germinated properly, but could not produce heads true to form. The product had to be shipped largely as second grade. Plenty of cheaper seed is still available, but we have learned to pay as much as eight dollars a pound, when necessary, for standard seed.
Diamonds from Tiffany's probably carry a premium price for the name, but there is the assurance of quality which no layman can have from his own knowledge. The perfected strains of cauliflower which are available from the right sources will run a yield of seventy-five per cent perfect heads. Since a fancy head ordinarily sells for three times as much as a second-grade head, seed quality assurance is a primary consideration, and cheap seed is a poor risk.
The sequence for growing the crop follows the general pattern for the raising of most vegetable crops, and cultivating practices are similar to those for most cultivated crops.
The seed is sown early, usually in March, in greenhouses, for the first transplantings. A little later, more seed is sown in outdoor cold frames for the later season transplantings. At the end of six or eight weeks, and when the plants are about six or seven inches tall, they are transplanted into the field with mechanical transplanters. We have a big, double-row machine which puts out thirty-five thousand a day.
This sounds easy. The fact is that a transplanter is something you haul across the field while you do the work yourself. In addition to the tractor driver, our machine takes four operators with another man or two following up to straighten up faulty sets and fill in the skips. On smooth ground there are few faulty sets and no skips-unless the operators get sleepy-but the multitude of small stones in our soil prevent perfect delivery of the plants into the ground and the followers are busy.
The operators are busy, too, because as the machine travels along very slowly, a constant flow of plants must be fed into the conveyor at precisely indicated intervals. Alert boys and girls are most adaptable for this because the operator stations on the planter are limited in space and the positions are cramped. There is no time for cigarettes or small talk while the machine is in motion, and if the speed is inadvertently increased by the driver's careless throttle operation on the tractor, or by a downgrade, the strain of keeping up with the plant conveyor is terrific.
Once planted, the crop is largely cared for up to harvest time by a tractor-drawn, two-row cultivators. These mechanical cultivators have been the answer to the truck gardener's prayer. Properly adjusted, they do a thorough and precise job of eliminating the weeks and softening the soil. Most growers have attachments which distribute small additional doses of fertilizer with each cultivation. In spite of the efficiency of the cultivator, there is some hand work to be done directly in the row between the plants. Even this is not necessary in an ordinary crop. But a cauliflower plant is not ordinary. Sometimes it will bring home half a dollar, and we treat it like a king.
No description of cauliflower raising would be complete without the reference to the hellish depredations of the cutworms, the maggots, and the wireworms, which kill off the newly set plants by the thousands overnight, and to the woodchucks, the rabbits and the deer who grow fat while they tend the crop constantly from the day it is set out until snow flies and to the plant lice, and the cabbage worms and the greasy slugs who live their nasty lives in the opulence and security afforded by the big, healthy, maturing plants.
The combined onslaught of all these forces with their tremendous numerical superiority would surely be fatal. Fortunately, they are not organized among themselves and they do not attack at once. We have a little time to organize our defense. We begin the fight by the application of various kinds of poisons to the plant roots and the soil. These reduce the numbers of the early pests to some extent, though some plant replacements are almost always necessary.
For the woodchucks, we use traps and shotguns and gasoline suffocation in the burrows, and we set up low-strung wire fences around the field edges. The deer can be scared away by the sight of waving white rags fastened on a wire like clothes on a clothesline. For the elusive rabbit there is no remedy. He can jump over anything in the night, and in the daytime he can never be found.
As the plants grow into maturity, the tremendous foliage almost blacks out the ground surface, so that dusting machines and sprayers can be used without waste of material. Lice and cabbage worms can be quite completely controlled if the dusting is thorough and persistent. but for the slug there is not much defense. He lives deep down, under the bud's covering leaves, beyond the reach of the dust and the spray.
I know there is an impression among urbanites, and perhaps among others who haven't thought it over, that nature provides for the maturity of food crops, and that the farmer has merely to take advantage of a natural sequence. It is no such thing, Nature provides inexorably for the reduction of every living thing back into the elements, and left to its own devices, nature implements the process with the agencies of destruction. What comes out of the soil can be saved for human consumption only by shrewd planning and everlasting persistence. Remember this when you eat breakfast tomorrow morning!
But don't eat cauliflower for breakfast. Save it for luncheon. Though a very great delicacy, it is best adapted to a fully settled and vigorous stomach.
When the crop begins to mature, the heads must be individually identified for shipment, so that only those which are at exactly the right stage of maturity will be taken out each day. If they are taken out one day too early, a considerable sacrifice in size is made. If left one day too long, they lose quality.
To understand this, it is necessary to realize that a cauliflower is exactly what the name implies. It is a flower. And it behaves almost exactly like a rose. In its initial stage, the bud, like the rosebud, is completely enveloped by leaves which originate at the stem, and spread upward and over the bud, the tips coming together tightly at the top, completely covering it. Again like the rosebud, these leaves slowly unfurl during a period of about four or five days. When this unfurling is completed, the bud becomes a flower, and its texture immediately begins to spread and soften. It is at this precise point-just when it is ready to "blow"-that perfection is reached, and that the head must come out.
During the very few days while the cover leaves are spreading, the bud must be protected from the direct rays of the sun to prevent discoloration. This is done by pulling up the large outer foliage leaves around the head, and putting a string or rubber band tightly around the top. This operation is known as "tying," and it must be done on the day the bud starts to open. And once done, the plant is earmarked for cutting on the fifth subsequent day.
This sounds complicated, but the confusion is just beginning, for, as the cauliflower is like the rose, so, during the harvest season, the cauliflower field is like a blooming rose bush. When the field starts budding, only a few plants show up. The next day, more buds start, and the third and fourth day, many more-and so on. In order to keep the buds protected, it is necessary for the tyers to go through the entire field each day. since each plant must stand for days after it is tied, and since some plants are being tied each day, it is necessary, in order to avoid confusion in cutting out the heads, to use different colored tying bands each time. For example, if red bands are used on Monday, yellow bands are used on Tuesday, blue bands on Wednesday, and purple bands on Thursday. On Friday, the red bands, which were put in Monday, must come out, and that color may again be put in by the tyers, starting a new sequence.
On any given day, during the harvest of a field, some one color will be cut out, and the same color be put back, but also on this given day, or any day during the harvest, there will be many thousands of plants tied, each earmarked by color, so that it will be cut out the day it is due. Our tying records show that, on one Saturday night in 1939, there were fifty thousand tied plants in one of our fields. The four days following were too much for us, and a lot of it got away from us. Lucky it was, too, for what did go out that week didn't pay shipping expenses.
We undertake to eliminate the probability of these peak loads by putting out the plants in field areas at intervals between plantings, hoping that there will be like intervals in harvest of the various fields. Usually this tends to work out, but not infrequently, prolonged warm weather will bring most of the fields in at once. then we are in trouble, and we curse nature for its improvidence.
We have learned most of what can be learned about this harvesting technique. Specifically, we have learned that the tyers have the heavy responsibility. For upon their individual judgment as to the exactly correct time to mark a head, and upon their carefulness to get every opening head tied, will depend the financial success of the crop. This accuracy maintains quality, and we have learned that only the most loyal and experienced members of the crew can be put in the tying gang.
Many a morning, I have cautioned the typers, as they started for the field, "Watch your step, boys, you've got my pocketbook on you."
Sometimes a disloyal man failed to connect his job with my money, but mostly they have done a splendid job. I do not forget that except for the faithfulness and loyalty of many helpers, for many years, this story would not be worth telling.
Cauliflower is always classed in the category of cash crops. And I believe no crop passes more quickly from maturity into cash. There is a theory that you can draw a check on tied heads in a cauliflower field, gauging the amount of the check by the number of tying bands out and the probable state of the market during the current week. I believe the bankers say it is unorthodox, but they've paid a lot of my checks, issued on bands, because I got the money back and in the bank before the checks returned. Sometimes, however, it didn't work out so well, and I think it is safest to use such checks to pay very small accounts, and at least as far away as California.
It is true, however, that, once started, the shipping continues daily through the season. And since, by common practice, all sales are spot cash, the income is daily, and is never more than a week behind the newest field tying. So that when the shipping season begins, current financial worries are over at least so long as the shipping continues.
The rush of the cauliflower business centers around the packing house at shipping time. The general harvest practice in the Catskill area is to bring the matured heads into the packing house with all the leaves on. Two-wheeled carts, straddling two rows and hauled by one horse who walks between the two rows, are driven through the field lengthwise. The heads due for cutting are thrown into the cart after having been cut off the stem, close to the ground, with a hatchet. About six adjacent rows are cut with each trip through the field, and the cutting must continue each day until all the heads due for that day are cut out. This field cutting is done as early as possible in the morning, beginning at daylight, in order to avoid wilting from the sun.
At the packing house the top leaves are cut off with long knives, and the heads are washed and put in the crates, graded and stamped for quality. And the packing is usually all finished before noon. This noon deadline is important because the heavily loaded trucks must have time to reach the New York market, or sometimes Boston and Philadelphia, in time for the next morning sales opening. Most markets open shortly after midnight, and in New York, even earlier.
Actually, therefore, the head of cauliflower which is cut out of the field this morning is on your grocer's stand when he opens tomorrow morning, and may be in your stew pan in time for lunch. If you eat stale cauliflower, it will be because your grocer bought unwisely the day before and carried it over, or because you yourself did not eat it the day you bought it. In the large market centers, fresh cauliflower is available every day during the season, and there is no good reason why it should be more than one day away from the ground when you eat it.
The marketing of cauliflower, like that of all fresh vegetables, is done largely through jobbers who sell on commission. It has to work out this way because only through a selling agency can the individual supply be co-ordinated with the individual demand. Ordinarily, no grower can find a customer each day willing to take on his varying volume, nor can any buyer afford to shop daily among the growers for someone who has just the amount he wants to buy. The proposals for direct sales to eliminate the middleman's cost are conceived in ignorance. They will not work.
The middleman acts as a clearing house. Like the banker who performs the same service, he is the subject of much current abuse, mostly from those who have no direct contact with him and do not realize that he is useful. There are some crooks among the commission men. There are some immoral clergymen. But, in general, the clergymen keep our morals level, and, in general, the food brokers keep our food supply level. I do not know which is more important, but even the unconverted sinners have to eat.
Much of the marketing for our farm is done through commission sellers. However, our product is large enough, and regular enough, and our grading well enough known, so that we have been able to make some very profitable direct contracts with large users.
Our most significant experience was that during two years of the late war, we shipped quite heavily to the army and the navy. Their requirements were very exacting as to quality, and since the quantities used were tremendous, and the deliveries difficult and sometimes remote, only the larger growers whose equipment was good, and whose grading was dependable, could qualify on the direct bidding. We made a lot of delivers all over the Northeast from Norfolk to Boston, but we had a lot more bids in that didn't materialize. The competition was tough.
On the whole, we did pretty well on these contracts, though we had some whole loads rejected at the delivery point because some inexperienced supply officer found a spoiled head, or because a badly managed commissary department was overloaded. Many of our shipments went to Boston to be loaded in refrigerated boats for the boys in Europe. We were proud, then, to be farmers.
The Maple Sugar
MAPLE SYRUP is currently retailing at $5.00 to $9.00 per gallon, and maple sugar at $.70 to $1.00 per pound. Pushed along by a combination of forces, the recent national white sugar shortage, the current low maple production, and, finally by the prevailing careless opulence of American buyers, prices have reached a new all-time high.
It is not easy to reconcile this exaggerated commercial development with the traditional implications of maple sugar making. For hundreds of years, the maple sugar bush has been the subject of many pleasant romantic memories and countless romantic writings about the memories. Many people do not imagine that the product has any real material significance in the domestic economy. Maple products are related to our food supply as rare books are related to literature. People buy them to gratify a special taste, and the demand is limited to those who have knowledge of their worth.
For us at the Taylor Farm there has always been a full measure of happy experiences over the years which lend a romantic aspect to the backward look, but also there has been a material consideration which, though by no means alike from year to year, has made the operation of our sugar bush worth while. And, with the passing of the years, the romantic implications are blended more and more thinly with the strong mixture of hard work, that goes into the enterprise.
The early production of maple sugar here, and in fact wherever there were maple trees, was in accord with the general pattern of the simple economy of the times. Everything needed was produced at home and the provident farmer made his own sugar. When white sugar began to be available, it was a luxury because it had to be bought, and it was put on the table only when there was company. When the family was alone they ate the humble home product.
Nowadays everybody eats white sugar-if he can get it- and any guest who gets maple sugar has to be pretty special. Even the farm family eats it only as a privilege peculiar to their station. At $.70 per pound, the rate of exchange is ten to one, and, though modern farmers are accused of improvidence, they are not dumb enough to miss that one.
In view of the present scale of prices, maple production appears to be a racket. But since it takes fifty years to grow a maple tree large enough to afford sap in any volume, and since some years the weather almost entirely precludes the release of any sap, the gamble is an outside one. And it is likely that the racketeers will stick to their guns.
The discovery that maple sap contained a deliciously sweet element which could be reduced to edible consistency by evaporation is historically attributed to the Indians. At least we know that they introduced the colonists to the product and to the processes involved. Though maple sap looks like water, it has a pleasant sweet taste and it would have been noticed by the first native who ever tasted it. But since effectively controlled heat was not part of primitive practice, and since the solid content of the sap is so insignificant it is likely that a long time elapsed before any Indian really ate maple sugar.
The legend runs that the evaporating was first done by plunging hot stones into vessels containing the sap. Repeated enough times, this would take the water out in the form of exploding steam. Probably the resulting sticky brown fluid was especially relished by the braves because the squaws had to do all the work. Certainly no such onerous task would have been performed by the men in those good days. In any event it must have been a job to heat and reheat enough stones to wring out a cupful of syrup.
The next step in the evolution of the process was suspending the vessel over a fire or a bed of coals to boil out the water. This was still orthodox in my great-grandfather's time. The equipment consisted of an iron kettle, with a capacity of thirty gallons mounted in an iron housing. Evaporation was pretty slow even with that outfit, for, in this big, round container, actual contact between the fluid and the heat was not very direct. but it was an improvement. The contents of the kettle could be reduced to syrup-about one gallon in ten or twelve hours.
Modern technique has reversed this sequence. We now, have an evaporator that will turn out ten or twelve gallons in one hour.
It has taken more than one hundred years to develop this latest improved outfit. The detailed description of the slow evolutionary changes which have intervened is a story of trial and error many times repeated. In general, the new efficiency is the result of getting the heat in contact with a very shallow, widely spread layer of sap. This was at first accomplished by the use of a large flat pan placed on a tight firebox, directly over the blaze. Later this pan was improved by corrugating the bottom into thin flues which fill with sap and extend down into the heat flow; and the flame is driven through the flues under forced draft.
In this shallow exposure system, the danger of scorching or burning the cooking syrup is a serious menace. But this difficulty is eliminated in the modern evaporator by continuous forced circulation with the fluid level automatically controlled. A steady stream of sap goes into one end of the machine, and there is a tiny but steady outflow of finished syrup at the other end.
Because it is under control and because it can be related to simply physical laws, the evaporating process represents the best co-ordinated aspect of the maple business. The real problem is, and always has been, to get the sap out of the tree in the first place.
To be sure, there has been some improvement over the years in the manner of collecting the sap, when it does flow. The early practice was to gouge the tree with an axe, diverting the fluid from the exposed surface into small wooden leaders which carried the sap to receptacles set upon the ground under the leaders. A later practice was to bore a hole in to the tree with a large auger, and drive a wooden spigot to lead the sap out to the bucket.
The modern method, now in universal use, is to bore a small hole, one-half inch in diameter and two inches deep into which a fitted metal spout is driven. Attached to the spout is a hook onto which a covered metal bucket is hung. the tap is made three or four feet above the ground so that the filled buckets are at waist level, convenient for handling. Power driven bits are now in quite common use for tapping.
But even the most modern setup will not collect sap from a dry hole. The success of the operation, is therefore, very narrowly limited, for there is no secretion in the hole except for the first few hours of warm weather, during which the wood is thawing after a hard freeze. As soon as the wood is completely thawed, the flow declines, and soon stops altogether until after the next freeze. Evidently, then, the hole is dry most of the time, and the trick of the thing is to try for sap only when frequent and violent changes in temperature are most likely to occur.
This kind of weather does not often prevail except in March and April. No sane operator will run the risk of tapping his bush much before March first, because thawing weather has not begun, and after April twentieth, the possibility of flow is pretty much precluded anyway for lack of freezing weather.
Unfortunately, even in March and April, the weather does not always run true to form. Ideal circumstances would dictate that it should freeze every night and thaw every day during the season, this producing sap every day. Sometimes this happens for several successive days, and we have a good year. But more often the changes are infrequent, with either prolonged cold weather, day and night, or prolonged warm weather with no frost even at night. In either case the sugar maker is out of luck, for there will be little sap. Rough weather, changing violently and quickly from cold to warm, and back again, though destructive to other peoples' tempers, is what we need to make lots of sugar.
Another limitation-an inexplicable one-on sap flow is the fact that, even in thawing temperature, the sap will not run very freely unless the wind is west. No circumstance is more depressing to us than that bad luck which occurs when our hopes, having been spurred to a high pitch by a good freeze, are almost completely dissipated in a south wind break-up. No one yet, I believe, has ever been able to explain this strange limitation of nature which requires a definite wind direction for the free flow of sap. It is just another evidence that, somehow, nature will defend herself against man's exploitation.
It is easy to understand that in the early days sugar weather was welcomed by all hands. In addition to the prospect of pleasant relief from the plain diet of those winters, there was also the assurance that, with the sugar making, mild weather would come at least part of the time. The work would be done in the comfort of warm days, and many a cool evening could be spent around the hot fire at the boiling kettle. And there was the certainty that, after a while, there would be some hot sugar to pour on the snow-filled pan for 'jack-wax."
Those who do not know the nature of this delicacy should be warned that it is not well adapted to false teeth. The safe way to handle it, even with your own teeth, is to keep your jaws quiet while it melts slowly and pleasantly in your mouth. Generations of small boys have added to their own enjoyment of it by putting great sticky gobs in the dog's mouth, closing his teeth tightly with their hands. Ten minutes of great hilarity always prevails while the dog paws at his chops fiercely uttering muffled howls of distress. Most dogs like sugar pretty well and they often learn to accept the temporary restraint, in view of the great number of delicious tongue licking which come along as the wax melts away.
Sugar parties are always the order of the season, and as time has gone on, there has been no diminution of enthusiasm, except that nowadays many producers terminate the process at the point of syrup, which is just ahead of the fun. Here at the Taylor Farm, because we have old established markets for the finished product, we still make a large proportion of our product up into sugar, and the parties in the sugaring-off room at the saphouse continue to this day.
"Sugaring-off" is a simple operation, and merely involves cooking the syrup down to such a consistency that it will harden when it cools. It is not unlike making ordinary chocolate fudge. Our sugar-cooking pan is large enough to make two hundred pounds at a batch, and, when a party is on, there is room for all hands to stand around the pan and dip out their own sugar for stirring or for wax on snow.
One day, a government inspector visited our saphouse to make a check on the operation and product. He joined the party around the pan. In order to taste for flavor, he took out a spoonful of boiling sugar and put it directly in his mouth. His agony was superb. I don't know what kind of a report he submitted on our outfit; but I know what we thought about him. The incident confirmed our opinion-one that is common to many farmers-that government bureaucrats are often ignorant as well as superfluous.
Sugar seasons that starts when the snow is very deep present lots of difficulties, and tax the ingenuity of everybody. the buckets have to be distributed quickly when the first break in weather comes. We can't wait to open decent roads through the woods, so we have to take a chance on plunging the horses through the drifts as far as possible, and then carry the buckets on our backs to the far-away trees. It requires plenty of skill to drive the horses successfully. Good drivers are not as plentiful as they were fifty years ago, and modern horses, too, have not learned much about deep snow. On this job, however, we have to put up with the awkwardness into which progress has led us; for trucks and tractors cannot be adapted to the spring break-up.
As the thaws progress, the water begins to accumulate in the ravines under the snow, and when the sap gathering begins, there is real trouble. The sap is collected in the woods by men with pails, and dumped into big vats mounted on the horse-drawn sleds. As the vats fill up, the sleds sink deeper into the soft snow, and move with more and more difficulty toward the saphouse. Sometimes the water-filled ravines are crusted with a deceptive covering of snow, and it is likely that, when the horses and sled start through, the softening top crust will break and let them down.
Many a time I have seen the horses, dragging the sled behind them, drop suddenly into the swirling slush over the top of their backs, and bog down completely. That is a real scrape. There is no smart solution for it. We must first get into the slush up to our waists to disentangle the horses from the sled, and then bring another-team to the rescue. Sometimes the rescue involves putting one end of a long chain around the necks of the trapped horses so they can be hauled out, and later the vat is taken out with the same chain.
Fortunately this doesn't happen often, for after the first gathering, the danger spots are located, and the receding snow reduces the difficulty. But sap gathering is always full of accidents, which are particularly irritating, because it is always a rush job.
Boys in the maple country have always capitalized pretty heavily on their local advantage. They begin very early to take part in the work, and nearly every small boy has a miniature sap arch, covered with a dripping pan from his mother's kitchen, in which he boils his small quota of sap over a hot fire which he makes from dry twigs. The novelty and the thrill never wear off. Girls, too, like novelty and thrill but they are not quite fully equipped physically and temperamentally to withstand full participation in all the rigors involved. My first thrill was unpleasant, and it came early. In fact I was only about two years old. I had already assumed the onerous duty of assistant to my father with the sap-boiling, and one day, I fell into the spring. The spring had been walled up on the sides, and was a couple of feet deep. I must have gone in feet first, for I didn't drown. But my father had to leave his red-hot fires for half an hour while he carried me to the house to be fixed up. I never heard the last of it, and I think his concern for me was exceeded by his disgust. As I got a little older, I was often reminded that I should take care not to be a nuisance.
But later on I got back at my father on that score in a big way. One night a marauding skunk wandered into a trap which I had set near the saphouse in the hope of catching a hibernating woodchuck. As my father and I approached the saphouse next morning, the evidence of skunk flavor was strong. As we came nearer to the trap and to the saphouse, it was terrific. My father, recognizing the incompatibility of this with the maple flavor, was prompted to quick action. He grabbed an iron bladed shovel and proceeded to the kill. The skunk, seeing the shovel poised over his head, made a spirited defense. Too quickly, he turned an offensive tail-end toward his oppressor and the battle was on. Ultimately my father got the skunk killed, but he lost the battle; for it took him half a day to get himself in shape to work in the saphouse.
I thought my father had committed a nuisance that day, but he took the other view of it and said I never should have set the trap in the first place. And my mother was disgusted with both of us.
I was always at the saphouse with my father, and among all the years of my association with him, the early days spent there, stand out as the closest of relationships. He was not too busy, even there, to look after me.
One of the items of expense in connection with maple sugar production not commonly considered or realized is that involved in the maintenance of an adequate building for the plant. Saphouses were the outgrowth of the need for shelter-often consisted merely of a shed with one or two sides opening the equipment. Originally they were pretty primitive, and they served as not much more than a windbreak. In modern days, and since sugar making has become an industry involving expensive mechanical devices, most operators feel that it is necessary to provide adequate housing, substantial enough to justify standard maintenance.
The saphouse on the Taylor Farm is a frame building seventy by thirty feet, with a concrete floor. The space is divided by a steel partition into two rooms. The smaller end, a little less than half the total, is used for the evaporating machine and its attending equipment. The larger space is used for fuel storage, and the evaporator is fired from that room behind the steel partition. At the end of the season, after the fuel is out, the space is; used for washing and drying the buckets,
Attached to the building, on one side, is a covered room in which the sap storage vat is located, and from which the sap is fed into the evaporator under gravity pressure by automatic regulation. On the other side of the main building, and opening into the evaporator room, is the sugaring-off room, which houses the equipment for that part of the operation. There is the deep pan for cooking, and the power stirring machine, which is our newest device and is most successful, particularly for the making of maple honey, or soft sugar. In this room are benches for cooling and packing.
During the years, our outfit has been the subject of occasional comment in print outside our own locality. Our product has been mentioned in magazines with nation-wide circulation, and on one occasion, moving pictures were made of the process which were shown widely at amateur movie makers' association meetings. These encounters with publicity have brought us modest fame, and have made us a little proud. And we have met some lovely people in connection with what appeared in print.
Ever since maple products have been sold commercially, we have been rather especially favored in the matter of customers. For three generations, various members of our clan have been well scattered in urban areas all over the country and have naturally fallen easily into selling sugar and syrup to their friends and associates. Most of these contacts have been for limited retail sales; but some have been voluminous and permanent. We have been supplying one very high-grade candy manufacturer in Boston for fifty-two years without interruption, and in such volume that some years they take half our product.
As the years have gone along, the names on the customer list have changed, but the volume and the wide distribution has remained fully steady. This year's record of orders contains shipping instructions for nearly every state in the union and the District of Columbia. In this latter area, one of our receivers is the President of the United States, whose name was on our list long before he became President.
One Hundred Years In One House
You have not known
Men's lives, deaths, toils, and teens'
You are but a heap of stick and stone;
A new house has not sense of the have-beens.
THE DIFFERENCE between a new house and an old one lies not so much in its appearance as in its character. Appearance can be created, but character must grow. Less time than one hundred years is allotted to us humans to acquire character, and our God-given appearance is often lost even before we reach moral stability. But for a house there are no limitations. It may keep up appearances beyond its time and gain a character withal.
When the burdens of life bear down very heavily upon us humans, we are often comforted a little by that old wisecrack, "The first hundred years are the hardest." At least there is the assurance, for us, that our onerous responsibilities will cease before too long. But a hundred-year old house may go joyously and fearlessly and steadily on with it life, serene and confident and useful.
The attribution of personality to this house is no fantasy. Though my memory runs back only half the time, I see, in my imagination, the whole of it. I see one hundred years of life and action, of hope and discouragement, of comedy and tragedy, of frustration and success, of disillusionment and content now blossoming into the tranquil assurance and the comfort and security which comes from the certainty of a mission accomplished.
If my imagination fails any where, it is at the point of beginning; for I cannot visualize this house when it had not history. But in 1843 it was new. My great-grandfather got all his children well started in the old house which was located on the original tract, across the road from the present house site, but as they grew up, he felt the urge to provide new quarters more adaptable to their maturity. After thirty years of modest success, and with the responsibility for setting up his family in comfort weighing on his conscience, it was a natural event that he should build a new house.
The structure was adequate for the needs of his large family of eleven persons. The main part, sixty-four feet wide across the front, and twenty-eight feet deep, and well elevated from the road level, faced east, squarely on the highway, across a spacious lawn. Attached to the rear part of the south end was an extension-sometimes called an ell-forty feet by twenty feet. This extension consisted, in fact, of the original house which was moved across the road and attached to the new house while it was being completed. This provided, altogether, eight rooms for living and service on the first floor, and nine sleeping rooms with adequate halls of approach and closets on the second floor-seventeen rooms in all. Except for a porch, no additions have ever been made to the original ground dimensions of the house. It has always been big enough.
My great-grandfather's prolificness had created a housing problem for him, and, in solving it, he unwittingly provided an excuse for my grandfather to be just as prolific. And, sure enough, the next family were ten in number-five boys and five girls. But they were well housed. And the substantial proportions of the house provided not only ample shelter for the large families of the first two generations, but also facilitated the processes of modernization which came along in later years.
As the house now stands, completely modernized within itself, it contains eight large rooms on the ground floor, including a glass sun room, office, and an indoor garage, and, on the second floor, seven bedrooms and two bathrooms. Central heating originates in the cellar, and thre are large fireplaces in the library, in the living room, and in the dining room. The whole of the house is provided with electric service of every kind. By no means pretentious, it is fully adequate, and after more than one hundred years, it stands up proudly in its broad surroundings, having served its purpose, but good for another century.
Tragedy came early. In the fall of 1843, just as the house was finished and on the very morning when she was to undertake a journey to the city to buy the new furnishings, my great-grandmother was taken with chills and fever which quickly developed into pneumonia. In those days, the malady was called inflammation of the lungs, and bleeding was always prescribed. It is a wonder that anyone ever survived the treatment, and, indeed, in her case the remedy proved fatal immediately. She lived but three days.
So the new house was launched under a cloud. But with the passing of the months, and because wedding plans for the girls provided a busy and hopeful diversion, the gloom was dispelled. My great-grandfather's daughters were married here, one after another, in simple home ceremonies, with the blessing which always attends well-ordered marriages. The lack of a mother to participate in the glorious anticipation of the event, was, of course, disheartening, but the girls were quite self-sufficient and provided enthusiasm and wisdom for each other.
Modern fathers get a great kick-often a literal one, from the liquid ingredients of the celebration-out of their daughters' weddings. But I suspect that my great-grandfathers's enthusiasm and satisfaction on these occasions had its origin in his own clear conscience, and in the certainty that the blessing of God would fall upon his progeny.
Within three years after the house was built, the farm with its responsibilities, was turned over to my grandfather, and in the spring of 1847 he brought his bride home. So it was she who became the first real mistress of this household. It was she who bore ten children here, in thirteen years, and raised them, all but one. It was she who, with patience and skill, with kindness and fortitude, and above all with love, made the home at once a shrine and an enterprise.
My grandmother's birth and early life experiences qualified her to assume, without readjustment, the duties to be imposed upon her. Like her husband, she came of hardy pioneer stock whose ancestry had an American heritage running back to early colonial times. She had been brought up in an atmosphere of respectability and thrift, and a reasonable degree of piety. Her father had served in the State legislature, and it may be presumed, as indeed it was later demonstrated, that she was not without knowledge of the world.
Her children developed into a healthy, aggressive lot. They were started on milk from a teaspoon-an unusual procedure in those days, when mother nursing was orthodox. And the story runs that as soon as they were able to stand, they ate from shelves along the side of the room, graduated to conform to their height. Since there were ten of them, and since the oldest was only thirteen when the last one was born, the shelves must have pretty well occupied the wall space for a few years.
Of course, as they became old enough to accept the discipline which good table manners imposed, they were given a place at the table, and after they had all been promoted, it was an undertaking to fill their bellies with what it takes to make a man-or woman. There was no pablum, and no spinach. Buckwheat pancakes and salt pork did the job.
I think my grandfather's contribution to the physical co-ordination of the family did not go much beyond the very regular biological initiation of the continuity. He was much engrossed with the pursuit of righteousness and with the qualms of his conscience, and probably gave little thought to the administration of the material bounty which he provided, or to the probable impact of human nature upon the behavior of his family. He believed that good behavior was a divine mandate. Accordingly, he set the course along the straight and narrow path. It was my grandmother who covered the pitfalls, and went back after the stragglers.
One of my grandfather's hobbies, in fact his greatest one, was trees. And his greatest contribution to the physical character of his home was the voluminous planting of all kinds. There were pine trees set some distance in the rear of the house for protection from the wind, maples set for shade the full length of the highway approaching the house, and apple trees and pear trees and cherry trees and plum trees set round about in convenient places. And directly in the rear of the house, on a space too rocky to be available, ever, for cultivation, a beautiful grove of maples was raised up from seed. As the trees grow slowly into maturity, this carefully executed plan lends a continuing and increasing dignity to the whole pattern.
During the period of this family raising, the house was comparatively new, and not much change in it, except to enlarge and perfect the upstairs rooms, was needed or ever contemplated. The interior furnishing and equipment of the house were renewed in accordance with the standards and needs of the times. Of course, a new generation of girls provided the necessity for conformity to the conventions in the matter of furnishings, and ample provision was made that the girls should learn the art of housekeeping in proper surrounds and in a house worth keeping.
As in the former generation, the girls were all married at home, and, with one exception, went to some remote city to live. And at about the same time, the boys, except for my father, went out to seek learning and fortune. And with all of them went my grandmother's blessing, and my grandfather's prayerful exhortations. The memory of this must have been pleasant, for all the sons and daughters and their families came back often through the years for a renewal of the dispensation.
And so it was, when my father brought his bride home, the household was rather quiet and orderly-a state of repose reflected by the absence of an active, growing family. My grandfather and grandmother immediately settled into retirement in quarters of their own in the north end of the house, and another cycle of progress was started with my mother in control. During the early years of this period, the influence of the retired members of the household was strongly felt and was, I believe, a slight embarrassment to my mother. My grandfather's fanatical devotion to the cause of piety and industry was, to say the very least, restricting, and a little tiresome.
Among my very earliest recollections-I couldn't have been more than five years old, at first-are the occasions when, because of some infraction of discipline or some disregard of the family code of piety, I was called into my grandfather's room to kneel with him in a prayer imploring divine forgiveness and guidance for me, and having it in the inference of penalty for my misconduct. These prayers would last half an hour, and as I wriggled and twisted through them, I was reconciled to them because I knew that freedom and my mother's comforting would come in a few minutes.
I didn't know what he was talking about then, but I know now. He was teaching me that real freedom comes only with a clear conscience. I would have fared much better in later life if he had prayed with me oftener and longer.
My mother's complacent acceptance of my grandfather's paternalism during her early days here was in accord with her quiet, unassertive nature. But though unassertive, she surely did not lack active qualities. She was a beautiful girl, born of Puritan ancestry running to John and Priscilla Alden, and reared in a substantial, God-fearing family. She had some "outside education" having attended the Normal School in Albany, and, thus qualified, had been a schoolteacher. And she was the most accomplished musician in the community in those days. In fact, she played the organ and directed the choir in our little church, and she continued it for thirty years.
As I sit here this moment, writing in my secluded room, I am listening to her playing softly on the piano in the other end of the house, as she does for an hour or two every day-in her eighty-sixth year. When I was a little boy, I slept in a room directly over the living room, into which a ceiling register opened. When my bedtime came, I would say, "Mother, will you play for a while?" And I went to sleep listening through the register to those same soft strains.
My mother brought a new, quiet refinement and culture to the household, and, though she was unassuming, her determination to maintain high standards in her home set the pace for her time. And to this day, questions involving cultural knowledge are always referred to her for a precise and documented answer. I think she has never quite reconciled herself to the ways of the 'turbulent Taylors" but she has always managed, somehow, to adapt herself to the circumstances and implications of her connection.
The Taylors have always been the 'homecomingest" clan imaginable. During the period of my mother's active reign over the domestic affairs of the family, there was a constant influx of her Taylor in-laws-uncles and aunts, and brothers and sisters. They came at all times of the year, but in greater numbers in the summer. And as their families grew, it was not uncommon to have an average of fifteen to twenty of them at once during the summer, and the attendance was quite regularly maintained in the winter, at intervals.
My mothers's tactful and generous acceptance of this, and her graceful and efficient management of details demonstrated what could be done with a house, and left its impress on everyone. Her eight sisters-in-law could have been intolerable to her, but she loved them all, and they all respected her.
The prolific tendencies of earlier generations of the family did not carry through to my father and mother. I was an only son, and an only child. But I did not lack for company, for, until I grew up and went away to school, there were cousins in the house, much of the time, with whom I came to have an almost brotherly relation. When we were outside the house, I felt the superiority of my station as guide and mentor, for my knowledge of the facts of life which came from barnyard associations was something to be respected.
One barnyard episode that I remember proved that respect is often due the barnyard itself. One day, as four of my cousins were making an observation tour, they came upon a very large cow flop." It was as big around as a dishpan and about three inches deep, and its consistency was normal for a grass-fed cow-just thick enough not to run. Its surface was completely covered with flies; there must have been a million. Of course, flies, anywhere, are abhorrent, and ought to be destroyed, and the opportunity to destroy so many at once inspired one of the boys with the zeal to make a great killing. He picked up a large flat stone, and poised himself-holding it directly over his quarry. The other boys, anxious to be in at the kill, crowded close around in a circle. When the stone dropped, the explosion was terrific. A spray of soft, sweet-smelling, sweet-tasting ambrosia flew obliquely into the faces and onto the bodies of all four. When the boys reported to the house to be cleaned up, culture and refinement, and even decency departed that day.
I was happy that my sophistication had kept me out of that scrape. But in the house I had no superior qualifications. The other boys could eat as much as I could. During the summer months, when all hands were on deck, there were often two long tables in the dining room, one for the grown-ups and one for the growing-ups. At our table, breakfast was always the scene of much rivalry. Since pancakes could be counted, each boy's consumption could be determined by precise mathematical calculations. Most of us dropped out of the pancake race at the count of twenty or thereabouts, but one of my cousins-I shall not shame him by identification-could easily go to thirty. He always won, except on the rare occasions when he had not recovered from the effects of the previous day's bout.
When the house was filled up, the bedrooms were all required for the older folks and the girls. The boys were parked all together on extra beds and cots in my grandmother's sitting room. As long as my grandfather lived, he led the evening family prayers in that room, and after they were over, we went to bed with relief, and with a conscience cleared of remorse for the devilish pranks we had committed during the day.
I was eight years old when my grandfather died, but I remember vividly the religious and political discussions and arguments which went on among the men of the family when they were all together. Often the talk would begin in the cow barn at milking time. The argument would wax so hot that the milking was temporarily abandoned while the debaters stood in the runway with milking stools and pails upraised in imperious gestures. And sometimes the row was continued in the house till the small hours of the morning.
My grandfather always cued the dialogue as long as he lived. He was much interested in the interpretation of the Scriptures, and "The Works of Josephus" frequently provided his inspiration. Some of my uncles had been educated in college and he was deeply concerned at their liberal views, though I think he secretly applauded their vigorous approach to the problem of getting at the truth.
Economics and politics came in for their share in the controversy. My father was a Bryan man, and I recall that his ideas were ridiculed by his urbanized brothers and brothers-on-law, most of whom had become convinced that we should tie our economic planning to money rather than things.
I remember, too, that my father's moral convictions were stronger than his economic ones, for when he got to the polls, he voted the Prohibition ticket. Total abstinence was the rule, then, in our household, and temperance was no more to be tolerated than total alcoholic depravity.
After my grandfather and grandmother died, the family homecomings began to wane, but the house continued to maintain its hospitality and its character as a refuge. There were no narrow limitations as to room for guests, such as commonly prevail, and the many friends of the family realized it and, I think, sometimes took a little unfair advantage. And, of course, since there was always plenty of room we felt able to invite the people we really wanted anyway.
During the years when I was away at school, I managed to keep the house pretty well filled with my own new friends at vacation time. Of course, I was very proud to bring them, for I had a new opportunity to show off my country sophistication. I took them to the dances in the village with my horse and buggy, and on Sunday they had to go to church with the rest of the family.
In these middle years, the house itself had been taking on new physical attributes. About the time my mother came into the family, a porch was build across the entire front of the house, giving access from it to all three of the large front rooms and the front hall. And a dozen years later, the whole of the internal arrangement of the house was changed. Wide arched doorways were installed between the living rooms and the dining room. Two brick fireplaces, one in the dining rooms and one in the south living room, were built, back to back connecting common chimney. A large bay window was also added to the south living room.
And still the changes were not complete. "Modern conveniences" were being built into city and village houses. Not to be outdone, central heating, bathrooms, and gas lighting were my father's next consideration and burden. And a burden it was to manage the adaptation of gas pipes, heater pipes and water pipes to a house in which no original provision had been made for such things, and which was of solid beam construction. but it was accomplished, and the comfort and pleasure afforded gave the house a new significance for us.
Though these improvements came along in the promotion of the good housekeeping facilities which my mother required, there was always much support from my father, busy as he was with the affairs of the farm. My mother's comfort was always his chief concern. He was, by nature, a builder, and he loved to work out plans and execute them, and except for the technical jobs, he did much of the work himself. And his farsighted comprehension of the future was largely responsible for the ultimate physical perfections of the whole outfit. In fact, without his persistent plan of adapting improvements to needs as they came along, the whole project would probably have been abandoned long since in favor of a new house.
It is no accident that the narrative thus far indicates that the predominant influence upon the character of the house has been exerted by the women brought into it. The Taylor men were mostly as fearless and impractical as Don Quixote and, left to their own devices, would have worn themselves out with useless head-bangings in the promotion of absurd projects. It has always been the women who provided the stability.
My wife's advent into the family was another stroke of fortune for the house. Indeed it was the crowning one, because in this generation, the strength which had been native to the Taylors was pretty much degenerated, and except for her, it is likely that the household would have lost its character, and this story would never have been told.
When we were first married, we lived in the village where I had a feed business. I came back with her to the farm upon the sudden urgency of a break in my father's health, which eventuated in his quick retirement from it; so that for her, the prospect of becoming the wife of a farmer had not had much pre-consideration.
Like our predecessors, we found a well ordered and adequate home, and to it and to her family, my good wife has brought the charm and the strength of her nature, coupled with loyalty and devotion unsurpassed, and, like her predecessors, she merged her personality into that of the house and patterned its perfections after her own.
Two girls and a boy were born to us. The terrible tragedy of our little son's death was a final devastating stroke for the household. With his sturdy little body to the grave went our hope and our dreams. Of all the days in the full century, most desolate was that day. But with the passing of time, his name among us all, has taken its place high upon the honor roll.
In our living room there hangs a little framed plaque on which is inscribed the loving tribute of one of his great-uncles with whom he had spent many happy hours.
Smiles on his face
Sunshine in his heart,
Happiness and gentleness
And kindness in his life.
Make a halo round our sadness,
When we recall his gladness,
His unmarred joy in living,
His rich unconscious giving
Of delight to us who loved him.
Changes in the house during this last period have been relatively slight, and have had the effect of co-ordinating and stabilizing the utilities and comforts which the house affords. The lawns have been enlarged and the driveways extended to surround the house and to give access to the indoor garage which replaced the old summer kitchen and wood room. A new and wider porch, partly enclosed in glass and with heavy, tall columns supporting an upstairs deck, has been substituted for the old verandah. Modern and complete electric service has been substituted for the gas, and the plumbing has been modernized
A new permanent asphalt roof has been put on, and a new and heavier foundation placed under much of the house where frost and water had weakened it. In connection with the foundation job, a new four-foot fireplace with an outside chimney was installed on the north wall of the house. The fireplace, faced with field stones, and large enough to take in the old furniture without breaking it up, opens into a good-sized library which extends the full depth of the house, and looks out on the lawns from windows on three sides. A commodious and well-equipped office, approached from the rear driveway, opens into the library from one side and into the living room on the other side.
And so, for one hundred years and more, there has been no interruption. Every moment, there has been someone to shelter and protect. Every day there has been eating and sleeping. Always birth and death impending, and in the offing, the marriage ceremony.
I cannot leave this story of feminine benediction without loving mention of my two daughters. To this house they have brought their lovely friends. In it they have grown up, self-reliant and determined to live their life fully. From it they have been quietly married, and have gone, leaving their impress upon it.
And back to it they frequently bring my grandchildren-two little boys and two little girls-the sixth generation. The oldest boy has already left his impress here with dozens of small hammerhead marks on the front door in the living-room. I hope that's only the beginning, for I like to feel that they can come here always-to hammer if they must, but for refuge as long as they live.
The Farm Economy
However complicated the relation of men may become in
an artificial state of society, the great truth cannot be con-
cealed, that he who does not raise his own bread, eats the
fruits of another man's labor. SAMUEL CLESSON ALLEN,
MEMBER OF CONGRESS FROM MASSACHUSETTS, 1819-1829.
VACATIONING WITH my daughter and her family, I am writing this in the secluded, provincial atmosphere of a little cottage at Westport Point, on the south shore of eastern Massachusetts. The village is on a narrow peninsula jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean, and facing full onto it, where the ocean itself reaches directly to the mainland between Long Island Sound on the west and Buzzard's Bay on the East.
Half a hundred modest, snug white houses flank the highway which becomes the main street of the village at it leads down to the wharf. Most of the residents are attracted here for the summer by the beautiful beach nearby which offers the main diversion for the community. But local interest is centered about the half-dozen small fishing boats, each one equipped with a catwalk for swordfishing, which tie up regularly at the wharf.
Every evening, the villagers go down in time to see the boats come in, hoping that, in addition to the usual mess of lobsters, some of the boys have got a swordfish. There is much conjecture and comment; and there is always the hope of a big one-bit enough to go around. In any event, if one is brought in, it is quickly bought by the local fish dealer who has the facilities for cleaning and cutting. And even if it's a big one, it will be cut up and sold in less than half an hour.
A modest, restful environment, there is little here to remind one of reality; for the money which makes the community thrive is not made here. Except for the fishing, the substance of life is imported. Local prosperity and affluence are not dependent upon what may happen to local crops or local business, for there are no crops and little business. The money to pay the rent and the taxes, to buy the food and the fuel, is made in the nearby cities. The comfort and security of Westport Pointers does not come from within.
It is a safe economy as long as there is money to buy food, and as long as food can be bought with money. Countless thousands of resort communities live full lives and eat well with no realization that their economy is artificial. To expand the illustration, the state of Florida derives most of its opulence and security from money made in northern enterprise. Though Floridians would be reluctant to admit it, northern money developed the state, and northern money supports it largely to this day. Its native products are comparatively insignificant.
Iowa and Kansas make their own living from their own products. This is no denial of the usefulness or the stature of imagination or by a wider interpretation of terms, it may be contended that they have a natural resource in desirable climate and surroundings which they sell as legitimately as Iowa sells her fat hogs.
But this contention may be justified only in consideration of the highly prosperous American economy in which the public can afford to pay money for salutary atmosphere. Vacation facilities have now become standard national equipment.
In fact, we have reached the fulfillment of the "artificial state of society forecast by Mr. Samuel Clesson Allen, which appears in the chapter heading. And with the advent of this order of society; our habits of thought about economics have likewise become artificial. A modern economist may do pretty well for himself without ever having read a single sentence of Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations. We are now committed to a theory and a system in which, actual wealth being taken for granted, we superimpose, as a main consideration, the necessity to provide for the stability and security of the artificial wealth which is incident to manufacturing and trade. In fact, this latter consideration has become the important one in our thinking, and it is leading us away from reality.
Modern economists tell us that the solution for preserving the present economic stability of our country, and for keeping the national income high enough to support the amortization burdens of the current large public debt, must be found in the maintenance of full employment at good wages and in the employment of investment funds on a profit basis. This conclusion is so manifestly correct that it is quite universally accepted. Indeed, it is so much accepted that we find our national authorities-the big brains of industrial labor and capital, in fact the big brains of government itself-committed to the doctrine that these two eventualities are a first and a final necessity.
Full employment at high wages, together with assured earnings for invested savings, would of course make us all happy and secure, or at least those of us who have either productive time or savings, or both, to offer. Organized labor and managed capital would agree upon this-though they do not agree about the exact proportion of money distribution, as between themselves. Apparently, then, since we are agreed as to the general requirement, if we can settle this difference of opinion between labor and capital-which, by the way, is so small as not to penalize either side fatally-we can maintain prosperity.
This conclusion would be sound except for the fact that actual wealth, which is the basis of real and permanent prosperity, does not come from either wages or profits. Wealth is a product of natural resources, and can be maintained and increased only when natural products are available in sufficient quantity to fill our increasing need for them. Ultimate and permanent prosperity can be assured only when this natural resource development can be so permanently underwritten as to preclude interruption or recession. The fallacy in the theory of wage-profit prosperity is in the fact that, even when wages and earnings are stabilized at satisfactory levels, if prices for food and raw materials-the products of nature- are not included in the arbitrary stabilization, the prices for them may fall so low that production cannot be maintained. When this production of actual wealth is restricted or interrupted, the whole structure of the economy falters or fails for lack of sustenance.
This happened in America in the early thirties. After a decade of artificial industrial prosperity in which the farmer had no share, the economy failed. In spite of the terrific commercial inflation, and coincidentally with it, farm products would not bring enough to pay for harvesting them. Before long, people were actually hungry-in America- with apples rotting on the ground, and great fields of wheat uncut.
When a fish is caught for human consumption, we have an addition to our wealth. If the fish is sold for a quarter, the additional wealth is then expressed in terms of that much money. The fact that the fish is sold again and again and finally sells for a dollar does not indicate that we may compute the increment in terms of the latter figure. The intrinsic value of the fish can only be determined by the price the fisherman gets for it. If or when that price gets so low that the fisherman can earn more money WORKING in the shipyards, he will stop catching fish. but both he and the rest of us will have to restrict our diet; and we shall have no additional wealth to compute. Uncaught fish are among the intangibles.
To illustrate further, let us consider the case of an ordinary American rural agricultural community. The village has its full complement of activities-several grocers, garages and repair shops, a hotel, two doctors, a lawyer, a dentist, and a veterinarian. There are also feed stores, hardware stores, a liquor store, a movie house, a bank, and a newspaper. The streets are paved. There is a water system, a sewage system, a public park, several churches, and a good school employing a score of teachers. Its people are busy and prosperous providing goods, services, and comforts for each other.
How does this community exist? How does it continue to live and to prosper? Do the people live on each other? It is true that the grocer pays his doctor and his lawyer and his garage man from the profits of his business. The doctor buys his groceries from the fees he gets from the grocer, the banker, and the liquor dealer. The banker employs local workmen to build himself a new house, and pays the bill out of his earnings at the bank. The water bonds, the paving bonds, the sewer bonds and the school bonds are being paid off regularly out of taxes which come from the earnings and profits of everybody in the village. And so on. apparently a successful economy, but it will not work long. Why? Because, sooner or later-probably in a very short time-new goods for the grocer's shelves, new surgical supplies for the doctor's use, new parts at the garage, new plumbing for the banker's house, all of which have to be paid for in cash outside the community, will exhaust all the accumulated cash. Stagnation and disintegration would then surely come, except that we have not told the whole story.
We have forgotten for a moment that our community is an agricultural one. It is made up, not of the village alone, but of a farming area with the village as its focal point. And so the community will not stagnate, because from its farms will come new values-products of the soil. Part of these can be used in support of the community, and part-more likely the larger part- can be sold outside for cash to make good that which the grocer and the hardware man and the doctor have sent out for new goods. Just so long, therefore, as these new values continue in production and can be sold outside for cash, just so long will the community flourish.
Further, and by the same reasoning, the degree of community prosperity will be in direct relation to the volume and price of the so-called natural products which provide the community income. When prices for these natural products are good, volume will be good-sufficiently good so that enough may be sold outside to keep the community in a good cash position. Obviously, then, we can be assured of prosperity for our community only when reasonably good prices prevail for its natural products. And equally obviously, it will do us no good to allow high interest rates for the banker, large fees for the doctor or high wages for the village carpenter, unless we have a price for the natural products of the community sufficiently high to induce and insure their uninterrupted production in large volume.
To apply this reasoning to our national economy is not far-fetched. Our nation is in fact a community. The contention that high wages or profits, or both, will make the country prosperous is as ridiculous as to say that Doctor Brown can bring prosperity to his community by raising his fees.
Conceivably, this conclusion may appear categorical and untenable. A consideration of the problem in its simpler aspects will surely be no less convincing. If we really get down to fundamentals, our reasoning may be applied to a moneyless economy. Such an economy is, to be sure, fantastic, but no outside the scope of our imagination. If suddenly, today, all money and credit, every evidence and proof of accumulated wealth, were permanently destroyed, we would still sleep tonight, in our warm beds and eat breakfast tomorrow morning. In such an economy, if it were to function fully, we would still require the labor and the skill and the brains of everyone-the butcher, the banker and the candlestick maker, the doctor , the teacher and the preacher. Even the banker would have to keep his awkward record of exchanges in terms of commodities.
In this case, there being no money, it is assumed that all persons would have to be content with a living in terms of things-enough to eat and wear, house and buildings in which to live and do business, education, recreation, and health protection. To provide all these things, we would all be busy to the same degree as in our present economy. It is likely that this arrangement would be almost unbearably cumbersome, but we could tolerate it, and it is likely that no one would suffer vitally, provided everyone worked as usual, and provided that production and distribution were efficiently managed, as usual. Such an economy could continue tolerably well indefinitely, so long as everyone did his regular job.
In fact, it would not be fatally affected if some of the people did not do their job. If the doctors quit WORKING, we would be less healthy. If the teachers and the preachers quit WORKING, we would be more ignorant and more sinful. If the automobile workers quit WORKING, we would begin to walk. If railroads quit operating, we would have to move our goods on our backs as they have done in China for thousands of years. But we could and would exist.
If, however, the farmers, the miners, the fishermen, and the lumbermen quit utterly, we would all freeze and starve immediately. We would cease to exist.
It may be in order to observe, parenthetically, that no such calamity would happen, for it is likely that in the emergency, John L. Lewis and his henchmen would join Sewell Avery and the other economic royalists in a last-ditch effort to get the cows milked and the potatoes dug and the fuel stored for winter. The sight of John L. Lewis and Sewell Avery engaged in such tasks would serve to convince everyone that the whole structure of the economy depends primarily upon the uninterrupted flow of natural products.
If natural products are vital in a moneyless economy, they are no less vital in our conventional system. To be sure, when we introduce money as a medium of exchange into our economy, we facilitate its operation tremendously, but we do not simplify it; because, when we introduce money, we become immediately and inescapably involved with price. In fact, we find that price, instead of need, determines the degree of activity in each of the branches of our economy. And we find, too, that money becomes an end in itself, though we cannot eat it nor wear it.
The use of money in men's dealings with each other is comparatively new, particularly in its current manifestations. The original conception of its usefulness was that it should provide a convenient and accurate medium of exchange. That it should become the dominating consideration in economic relations was probably not contemplated.
But the vast accumulations of money in our modern system make it the paramount factor in all economic equations. As the natural resources of the soil implements the farmer's effort, so, in effect, money is the motive power behind industrial expansion.
But one is real, and the other is artificial. And, by the same token, the result of one is real and of the other artificial. That we must eat is a real consideration; but whether or not we have a radio and an automobile, and spend the winter in Florida, or even whether or not we shall be powerful enough to control Russia in Europe, are minor considerations in the face of hunger. That we in America do not face hunger is by no means due to the beneficent economy. Our opulence has been easy to maintain in a new, rich country. As time runs on, we shall need to be cautious and thoughtful.
More than on hundred years have passed since Samuel Clesson Allen argued his case for the farmers. Even after retiring, he spent his later years writing and speaking in defense of his conviction that there was danger that industrial control would supercede the orthodox economy, because manufacturing and trade amassed wealth which they did not produce. Said he, "The basic distinction is apparently between farmers and city dwellers, but actually between those who produce wealth and those who do not."
With the passing of time, America has become largely urbanized-a logical consequence of accumulating wealth. To go back to our homely illustration, it is as if nearly everybody in the community has moved in to the village. But again, no matter how many of the people live in the village, the community must, ultimately, be supported from the proceeds of its natural resources.
This chapter is no plea for the farmer. He will manage somehow to take care of himself and his own, as George Washington and Andrew Jackson-those great farmers-did. It is merely to say that the economic equality of the farmer cannot safely be denied too often or too long.
The Farmer's Destiny
When tillage begins, other arts follow. The farmers, therefore, are the
founders of human civilization.
IN THE CARTOONS, the farmer is always drawn with a straw in his mouth, with a hole in his old battered hat, and wearing an ill-fitting, worn-out pair of overalls. I wonder sometimes, whence comes this popular conception that the farmer is complacently inferior? Has it been created by actual fact, or is it merely a figment in the imaginations of folks who put things on paper.
Our editorial essayists complain bitterly at the tragedy of children brought up in cold-water flats. But they proclaim the romantic opportunities for the boys and girls out on the farms, who carry the water into the house from a tub in the woodshed, and who go out through the snow, on winter mornings to the little house behind the garden.
I went out to that little house plenty of times in my early boyhood, but the romance was confined to the warm summer evenings. On zero mornings in January, I had to face reality. But this is only a memory. Our house had modern improvements early.
Though running water and sanitary conveniences are now quite common in our neighborhood, they are by no means universal. Plenty of boys and girls hereabouts still have to take reality and romance along with the three other R's taught in the school.
I remember that much ado was made, not more than two or three years ago, over a certain Iowa farmer who donated the proceeds of a carload of corn, a substantial sum, to European relief. Time magazine published his picture on the cover of it's current issue as The Man of the Week, and the accompanying news comment was a spellbinding description of his material success. It was casually mentioned that he had no bathroom in his house, but no particular point was made of the fact that he had lived his life without such a comfort. The point made about it was that, in his unusual affluence, he was now to have one installed. And the inference was, apparently, that, as a matter of course-for farmers-bathrooms are not standard equipment.
Though the physical aspects of the farmer's position in American life have never bothered me or my family, I have been much concerned with other apparent discriminations. Recalling some personal experiences, I am under no illusions about the farmer's social and economic standing.
A couple of years ago I was engaged, with a committee of six men from various parts of the State of New York, in an effort to induce the state administration to increase the allotment of state funds for public education, with particular reference to rural needs. Our committee met frequently during the year, usually in Albany, to determine standards and promote legislation.
As our chief professional consultant, we engaged an eminent college professor. His experience in the application of money to education has been long and wide and successful. And his chief competency lies in his high-minded approach. Nothing can be too good for the American boy and girl when education is the consideration.
One day our committee was conferring at his office in New York City. In fact, we were drafting a tentative proposal for legislation. In the course of setting up the application of the finance formula to the various types of schools, it became evident that certain schools would be discriminated against.
The good professor raised his voice in violent protest: "What do you want to do, make those schools hire some damned old farmer's wife to teach their kids?"
The remark passed without comment except that, of course, the formula was changed so that the schools in question could afford good teachers.
But the remark didn't pass me. It hit me where I live-literally. I thought about it all the way home, four hours and one hundred and seventy-five miles. It happens that there were no other farmers on that committee; and it happens also that farmers do not frequently serve on such committees. So, at first, I wondered if the good professor had sized me up as being old-and also damned. Or had he assumed, from his judgment of me, that farmers would naturally select no wives except those who were "old" or "damned" or both? Possibly his contacts with farmers had been so limited that he fell, without actual knowledge, into the rather common conviction that they are pretty ordinary people; or possibly, indeed, his contacts had really been so thoroughgoing as to make the conclusion his own. I couldn't figure it out, and I was finally glad to settle for the idea that he didn't know what he was talking about anyway.
But the next morning, at breakfast with my mother and my wife and my daughter, whose husband operates the farm, I was describing the events of the previous day, and suddenly it came over me that his innocent remark had been a slur upon these loveliest of women. I was tremendously disturbed; but, again, I was glad to settle for the knowledge that the ladies in question could be no lovelier if I were a king.
Two days later, our committee met again in Albany. During a lull in the conference, I jokingly told him that the women in my household were upset at his crack about the "damned old farmer's wife." He replied, "Hell, you know what I mean."
Of course I know what he meant. But I am still wondering how it happens to be said that way. And I have to conclude that my own limited accomplishments and enjoyments have eventuated in spite of the implications of my calling.
The chief restriction with which I have contended is common to many of us much of the time. Debt is by no means peculiar to farmers. During much of my mature life I have been heavily involved. It was probably my own fault. Since our farm operation is a comparatively large one, I was frequently under terrific pressure to maintain a credit line at this bank sufficient to meet our needs. Our bank is not a large one, so the proper procedure was to remind me, when I applied for a loan, that I was already borrowing up to the limit of their legal right to lend to any one enterprise. I was, of course, familiar with the exact nature of the banking laws on this point. The refusal was reasonable in the circumstances, and therefore logical. I didn't resent it. But one circumstance did make me mad for life. I'm still mad.
One day a new examiner came into the bank. My loan account was, of course, among the large ones, and was, as usual, not showing any substantial current reduction. The examiner was concerned about it.
He asked, "Who is this man Taylor; what is his business?"
Upon hearing that I operated a farm just outside the village, he very profoundly and categorically remarked, "That's outrageous; you ought not to let a farmer have that much money."
Let me repeat, when I heard about it, I was mad for good. Of course, that bank examiner was a fool; but one fool more or less, is a matter of no serious concern. The real danger-was-or perhaps is-that this pronouncement did not originate with him; that possibly it represents the thinking of men much higher up who determine loan policies for banks. According to the examiner's doctrine, I, and every farmer, must be subjected to a credit restriction peculiar to our calling. Farmers' credit should be governed, not by what they can use advantageously, but by a rule of thumb which assumes their inability to use money profitably in large amounts.
It is only fair to say here that much has been done by government-sponsored financial agencies, and sometimes by local banks, to provide adequate farm credit. And it must be admitted, gratefully, that the loan policies are not determined by city slickers. But the theory of paternalism still runs strong in the provision for this service. And bankers are still shrewd; sometimes they provide more advice than cash.
Not long ago, one of my neighbors, whose assets were neither liquid nor solid, applied to the local bank president for a five hundred dollar loan. He was promptly assured that he could have the money, but that the rules of the bank required a good endorser.
The bank president, whose name was Sam, happened to know that the applicant did quite a lot of business with a cattle dealer named Abe, whose assets were both liquid and solid. So he said: "Why don't you get Abe to endorse the notes?"
This seemed a likely and logical eventuality under the circumstances, so the applicant went immediately to see Abe. Abe listened sympathetically and thoughtfully to the proposal. but he quickly volunteered a better solution: "You go back and tell Sam to forget the money. Just have him endorse the note and I'll let you have it myself."
The buck was passed-very cleverly-but no bucks were passed out.
Though it is true that much has been done to put the farmer in a position to make his way on his own power, it is a very common current conclusion that the farmers are an object of public charity. The interpretation of the wartime subsidy program is a striking example of public misunderstanding.
For example: In the food planning for World War II, very special treatment was prescribed for the item of milk. During the emergency, a substantial and steady supply was conceded national necessity. It was the one food without which no family could properly exist. Also, a lare home consumption of it would release some other more exportable products. But, in common with other production costs, dairymen's costs rise rapidly, and the milk supply, at currently established prices, was sure to become depleted. The normal solution would, of course, have been to allow the price of milk to advance enough to cover production costs. It was felt, however, that the consumer ought not to be asked to pay production costs. The retail price was therefore arbitrarily held down and a government subsidy was allowed to be computed at the rate of about two cents a quart. That the price was not allowed to rise, and that the subsidy was not paid direct to the consumer, who was in fact, the beneficiary, was due to the mechanical difficulties of such a procedure. It would have involved the keeping of millions of small daily accounts. Then, too, it is just possible that the politicians were smart enough to realize that they could fool more of the people more of the time if they passed the government money through the farmers' till. So it was paid to the farmer for the consumer's account.
Anyway, the politicians took credit for holding the price of milk down for the consumer, and for raising the producers' income. The farmer, though convinced that the consumer was able and ought to be willing to pay production costs, finally and reluctantly accepted the money because he could not do business without it.
Both sides were appeased financially. The general public, sided and abetted by a press committed to the belief, accepted the cost as another dole to the farmer. Everybody was hoodwinked; and the stigma of paternalism was inflicted on the farmer again.
The young men now growing up on farms are concerned about their chances to participate fully in American high standards of life if they continue to farm. But they are concerned even more about public misunderstanding of this problem and their position. They want to be respected. And there is doubt in their minds.
As time goes on, there is an ebb and flow in the popularity of agricultural pursuits, implemented quite largely by war and its aftermath, and by the weather; but to say that there is any trend in favor of agriculture would be stretching the imagination. Increasing numbers of uncut hayfields and abandoned farm buildings bear mute testimony to the unwillingness of easy-living Americans to make the sacrifice involved in farming.
Farmers will never again be numerically ascendant in America. The farm population has now fallen to 20 per cent of the national total, but that their income has been reduced to 8 per cent of the total is the discouraging statistic.
Multitudes of successful business and professional men like to contend that a farm background has been the predetermining factor in their accomplishments. But that is poor consolation for their contemporaries who stay home and milk the cows.
My own experience runs back (I was born in 1888) to that period in American life when the farmer's position in the national economy, and in the social order, was first beginning to be recognized as unfortunate. The glory that was-for the farmer-began to wane. Industry has now come into its era of tremendous expansion. The bright boys on the farms are attracted to urban activities because there are slim inducements to stay in the country. Industrial supremacy, for both capital and labor, is glorified in a new aristocracy.
The President of the United States is evidently mindful of the trend, for, in his State of the Union message to Congress in January, 1949, he made a rather startling assertion: "Standards of living on the farm should be just as good as any where else."
A reasonable statement of a sound principle, but somehow the unjust implication of socialism has been read into it, along with social security, socialized medicine, public housing and all the rest of the "Fair Deal."
No socialist, by implication or practice, I live on the land cleared by my great-grandfather, and I know that such good-living standards to have come to this enterprise are the result of intense individualism in a free economy. And I can't believe that the farmers can be jockeyed into position by public charity.
Good farmers can still make a good living; but they must be good! As industrialism gets stronger, the competitions gets keener.