Hi Folks, this has to be TALES OF YESTERYEAR.
I don't like to send repeats of the things I have written but, now and then, I come up with something I haven't written before. I don't have an imagination. I can only write what I remember or someone has told me. Strangely enough, there is a story behind that statement. I have been assured, by my whole family, that when I was about 3 or 4 years old, I had a very prolific imagination and told some wild stories. However, I was teased and laughed at so much, by my siblings, that I developed a complex leading toward under-stating things. I, honestly, don't remember of ever telling any story but I can remember one, by having been teased so many times by it. This tale came about by a combined picnic and fishing trip down to the Little Blue river with a neighboring family. The river was a pleasant little meandering stream, never more than 40 t0 50 feet wide and not at all deep. It could get on a rampage, now and then, and where it made a loop, it was likely to under cut the bank and if a tree happened to stand near the edge, it could have a hole washed out under it. Fish likes to gather in these places and by stretching a seine around such a place and getting in there with gaff hooks, they were easily caught. Also, several men, boys, or even girls, could dress in old overalls and have a hey-day catching fish.
I couldn't have been much over 3 years old, and, of course, couldn't get in the river with them, but I was completely overwhelmed with the activity. I'm sure I relived the event for days and, evidently, my imagination ran wild, and the fish got bigger. Dad had a number of work horses and one white mare was well known to me and her name was “Silly”. There is another story about her, but I'll skip it for now. Any way, I told a neighbor that dad had been down to the river fishing and had caught a fish so big, that he had to come home and get old Silly to pull the fish out of the river. Awe! Why not tell about “Silly”? I'll never have a better time. She was born before I was born. Dad always worked his brood mares, shortly after they foaled. Now I have a question, without the answer. Is a white horse white when it is born or is it a darker color and turns white as it grows up? Some where I got the idea that they were born dark and turned white. Oh Well.
THE LITTLE BLUE RIVER, FROM THE WEST BRIDGE
AT HOLLENBERG, KS.
THE WEST RIVER Lately, a few early things came to my mind and while they have no relation to each other, some of you might find them interesting, sort of. At the turn of the century few farm family slept on mattresses. We slept on 'ticks' , filled with straw, preferable oat straw. Mother made our ticks. A cloth called 'ticking' was used, and I understand it is still available. As I remember, they had alternating stripes of white and blue colors. They were not all that bad to sleep on. Of course they had to be shook up good and leveled out once in a while. Harvest time always called for the installing new oat straw in them. Wheat straw has beards it and they would tend to be scratchy. I just had another thought. I'll bet the old straw would be taken out and burned. Why? Bed Bugs. Everybody had them, and it wasn't because of uncleanness. There was no way of controlling them. It makes me think of an old Homesteader song. It was adapted to numerous Counties but it went like this,
Hurrah for Greer County the land of the free
The land of the Bed-bug, Grass Hopper, and Flea.
I'll shout for Greer County and sing of it's fame
While starving to death on my Government Claim.
Harvest time was an exciting time. Especially, threshing wheat. the first threshing machine I ever saw was a 'Horse Powered' machine, powered by, probably, 8 teams of horses on a type of “Merry-go-round ” that fed the combined power of those horses, through a tumbling shaft to the threshing machine, which each team had to step over, every circuit they made. Actually all I wanted to tell about was when Bernard worked on the machine, for a spell, one year. He couldn't have been more than 14 years old. That old machine really was very crude. It didn't have an automatic feeder of the bundles of grain, into the machine. The bundles were brought in from the field and pitched on to a table, at the mouth of the machine, where two workers, one on each side were waiting to cut the twine and shove the wheat into the cylinder that did the threshing. Bernard was one those cutters. I have no idea how he came to be given that job, as he really was quite young. When he got home, the first evening, he ran into a lot of razzing from his older brothers. I couldn't understand one of their remarks and it really puzzled me. They advised him to fill his pockets with rocks to help him hold his job down, before going back to work in the morning. I puzzled over how that could help him do his job. I just remember the owner's name, it was Perkins. He also had a corn-sheller. I think he was going out of business as he only showed up in our neck of the woods, the one time, and I only remember him shelling dad's corn, once. It didn't take as many horses to run the sheller, but it made more noise than the thresher.
I hope you folks don't mind me running on about how things were done in those ”Olden Days” Also you folks must understand that I was only 9 years old, later, when we moved away from that place, so my view of things might not be all that mature. Perkins faded front the scene and the next thing I remember was that the farmers in the neighborhood had formed a Company and bought a steam engine and threshing machine of their own. I didn't get to see but once a year, but it was such a thrill. With the black smoke shooting from the smoke stack and the whistle sounding off, quite frequently. Wow! The fun I had drawing pictures of that threshing machine. You wouldn't believe the belts and do-dads I could add to it. Another thing was that each farmer that it serviced, had to supply the coal he would need for the engine, while doing the threshing, plus enough to reach the next farmer. That doesn't seem like any big deal but, to us kids, it meant that any coal left over, which there always was, would be used in our kitchen stove and our chimney would pour out black smoke which it never did, just burning stove-wood. It didn't take much to please us kids.
The engine and thresher were made by Aultman- Taylor. We kids couldn't get close to it but it was it was great thrill, just to see it. It wasn't a new rig but the thresher wasn't very old as the paint was still good on it. A bit of gaudy advertising was painted on one side of the machine. A picture of a starving, ragged rooster was painted there with a sentence read, “This rooster wintered on an Aultman-Taylor straw pile.” Some 50 years later I spotted it's brother in a museum in Minden, Nebraska. There was that starving chicken, as plain as could be. Getting back to the “Company Machine”. One year, in getting the machine ready for harvest, no engineer was available. Finally a fellow showed up claiming to be an Engineer, Par Excellence. He did knew how to drive the engine. At the first setting of the harvest he pulled the machine into place, backed the engine into the belt, and started it up– with the cylinder running backwards. No real damage was done but his employment, ended. Then, it was found that a young farmer in the neighborhood really did know how to run the engine and, from then on, he took time off from his own farm to fill in.
In June of 2006 I visited Hollenberg for my last time. I enjoyed the visit but I find that Nostalgia just ain't what it used to be.