Horse Farming Days

Johnny Shaw’s two draft horses clip-clopped down the tree-lined driveway, past the white farmhouse, down the county road to the field; the old wagon laden with several years of accumulated chicken manure.  My brother and myself, knew what came next.

The wagon had to be unloaded the way it was loaded.  In other words, Johnny didn’t have a new-fangled spreader, like everyone else.  It was labor intensive, the chicken manure handled twice.

Farming went mechanized, during and after the war.  Johnny Shaw didn’t get the memo–or more likely, was just stubborn, set in his ways.

Our formerly white tee shirts, were now shades of gray.  The smell of ammonia was hard to ignore on that hot, humid, summer day.  Riding to and from the field refreshed with cooling breezes.

I don’t remember how many trips were made back-and-forth.  There was no goofing off this time.  Johnny stood watch nearby, he wanted his money’s worth.  Locusts and crickets chirped their afternoon tunes, when around six in the afternoon, Johnny announced, “that’s the last scoopful, the one we’ve waited for all day.”

It was hard, dirty, smelly work for ninety cents an hour–much less than the prevailing wage.  The big lunch had to be worth something–however.  Cleaning chicken houses, was immediately scratched off our career choice lists.

 

DAD’S WWII LETTERS: Chapter 21, Spring, Friends From Home

March 4, 1945

Here it is March and usually back there this time of the year a person on the farm thinks of farm work.  I wonder if your winter weather has let up?  This is the month usually for lots of wind.  Over here the days are getting where a person doesn’t need any blankets.  The flowers are beginning to bloom.  The vegetation seems to be coming out of its winter dormant stage.  Even though it’s green all winter, the vegetation doesn’t grow much, although the native to grow vegetables, etc.

This is my morning off and I had to work this afternoon.  Things were kind of slow though, and there wasn’t so much to do.  Last Sunday afternoon, Russell Scott came over and we had quite a visit talking over our experience in the army and of old times.  He lacks almost a year having been overseas as long as I.  He is a medic attached to another outfit–in other words he’s on D. S.

I received your letter of Feb 12th the first of the week shortly after your letter of the week before.

You’re sure having quite a time moving chicken houses and fences for your chickens.  I can’t see why you don’t slow on the chicken raising.  I think you’ve raised your share and it’s about time you took things easier.Dad’ll probably have about all he’ll want to do to keep the place going.

Forty dollars for 30 hens is a fairly good price.  I can remember when an old hen wouldn’t bring a dollar.

raising chickensRaising chickens

I’m surprised that Olin G. [Gahr] has lost interest in the farm.  I thought he bought a small place out there near the home place.  I understand he’s running a tavern now.  I guess a person can make money at that racket if he has the right location.  I’m a little doubtful about that now, though.

What did Gov. Green have to say about the returning veterans?  I sort of doubt though, if we can get ahead of those that have stayed behind as they’ve gotten their start during prosperity.

I would like to take a short course of schooling on modern farming methods the winter before I go into farming in the spring, if possible, and it doesn’t cut too deep into our savings.

It looks like the Government is going to make it possible for a returning veteran to borrow money at a reasonable rate of interest.  I’ll have to borrow some probably to get set up.  A person is going to have to get off to a speedy start in order to reap some of the profits before hard times come again

Dorothy and I can furnish our home pretty good, I think.  I don’t know, but I think the war will be over by the end of next year.  Of course it depends on a lot of things on how much longer I’ll have to stay in the army.

I’m doing all right with the exception of a cold right now.  I’ve put on weight during the cool season.  I don’t know how long it’ll last thought in the hot season.  Write.

March 9, 1945

Here it is already well into March.  Spring is just around the corner.  I’ll bet the farmers are beginning to think of their spring work.  the weather is changing here too in respect to heat.

Yes, in Feb, it was a little early to think of putting in an early garden.  The trees in the orchard must be getting rather few and far between, unless you’ve set out some new stock.  Is your berry patch still in existence?

I wish I could see the cattle before they’re sold, but that’s impossible this time.  Why don’t you take a picture of them and send it to me?

You seem to be doing pretty good with your hens.  They must be bringing in between two and three dollars a day.  Of course the feed has to come out of that.  A person doesn’t notice the feed so much when it comes off the farm, but if you buy it, it eats pretty heavy into the profits.

Russell Scott’s address would have helped out a lot, if I hadn’t already seen him.  I’ll have to go see him or I may not get the chance again.

There just doesn’t seem much to write about tonight and I’m rather tired, so I’ll close for this time.

I sure hope to hear something about coming home before long.

Oh yes, I got a letter from Mrs. Kallal yesterday.

March 18, 1945

I didn’t get a letter from you this week.  I had four or five from Dorothy.  From what she said, you were still having winter weather the last part of February.

I had a letter from Wendell Dowland and he’s in England.  He seemed to be seeing the sights and enjoying his stay there.

He wanted to know if I’d been there.  I guess he doesn’t know that I missed that a long ways.

I guess by now, you’re beginning to get the spring fever, as surely as the weather had gotten milder.  Here it is the latter half of March already.  You’ve sure had a tough winter this year.  According to tradition, there should be good crops this year.

spring flowersSpring flowers

I guess, unless it’s rained by now, there’s sort of a water shortage.  My buddy, Fred B. [Bratton] said that his home town (Arthur, IL) was having a water shortage and were thinking of digging a new well.

The weather is getting warmer here.  The days are getting hotter and the nights are getting warmer.  There still isn’t any rain, except a few occasional showers.  We sure managed to get where there was a long dry season this time.  It’s the longest we’ve been dry since we’ve been over here in Asia.  Some of these days though, it’ll start raining though, I guess.  I’m hoping to get out of here before much of that.

I’m figuring on getting home in 2 or 3 months.  I don’t know for sure, but I think I will.  I’ve been over here over two years now.

Things are going about the same here.  I hope they are the same back there.  Write.

March 19, 1945

I wrote a letter last night, but since I got yours today, I’ll write another tonight.

It sounds like you did pretty good on your clover crop last year.  You must have cleaned up somewhere, if you had to pay that much income tax.  Taxes are awfully high now I guess.  I guess the sale was what made your taxes so high this time.

How are you making out on the payments on the place now?  You must have it whittled down considerably by now.  You should do fairly good on the cattle this time as you had all that corn from the other place that you otherwise wold have had to buy.

One good thing , you won’t have so much to worry about this year with the other place out of the way.  You’ll still have plenty to keep yo busy, though.  Not having any hay will help out.  Although you won’t have any to feed next winter, unless you have plenty left over from last year.

You sure won’t have much corn this time.  It’ll make a lot of difference in the corn crib, too, unless you have a good yield to make up for the acreage.  Why don’t you sow a few acres of sorghum to help fill the silo?  You could get a lot more tonnage to the acre or you cold get a special corn silo.

I’m figuring on getting home sometime this summer to look around and see how things are going.  It’s about time I was getting back.  Looks like as it was 26 months ago today since I set foot on US soil.  I hope that I can get back before it gets too hot back there and here both.  It’s already getting hot here.

How’s the old car running?  Is it still in running order?  How are the tires holding up?  I suppose that you could get more if you needed them.  Dorothy got three and has another on order at the ration board.  I’ll probably be wanting to drive it some when I get my furlough.  It’s going to be a little hard to get enough gasoline, I guess, as I hear they give only a gallon a day to soldiers on leave.  That wouldn’t be enough to make a trip a day to Carlinville and back.  Maybe you’ll have some you haven’t used by then?  Ha!

Well, that’s about all for this time.  I’m feeling fine except it’s getting too hot.

March 26, 1945

Today I had KP and that’s over again for another couple of weeks I hope.  I had planned on going to see Russell Scott yesterday afternoon as I had off, but I couldn’t get the transportation.  It’s too far to hitch–hike in half a day.

I received your letter of March 4th a few days ago.  No, I guess it doesn’t make much difference whether I send my letters free or air mail.  A person might as well send them free and save the six cents.

I guess by now, you are beginning to have spring weather as it’s getting toward the last of March.  By the time you get this, the leaves should begin to come out on the trees as I believe they do in April.  I sure hope I get home in May, as that’s always a pretty month.  Everything is always green and the weather is nice.

So you are bothered with a stiff neck, too?  I get one, too, once in a while.  The climate over here gives a person colds and such.  I’ll be glad to get out of here.  A person doesn’t get the right kind of foods either.  There’s plenty of starches, but not enough variety of fresh vegetables and fruits.  We haven’t had other than fresh fruit for a long while.  I traded some cookies out of my PX ration once for four eggs and one was spoiled.  They’ve  gotten where they won’t accept anything in exchange, but cigarettes or money and they want a preposterous price.  The trouble is some guys will pay it and then they always expect it.  Consequently, I just do without.

I and another fellow visited a native village yesterday afternoon, and the natives were friendly.  They gave us a cup of tea and the head man showed us some pictures of his family.  We couldn’t converse with them as we couldn’t understand each other’s language.  He understood only a few words of English and we didn’t understand any Shan.  Their homes are made of woven bamboo and grass.  They moved out there in these places during the invasion.  They had bomb shelters to go to during the bombing.  I was all very primitive the way they live.

It makes a person appreciate the US after seeing how these people still live like they did 2,000 years ago.  As long as they don’t know any better, I guess they are contented.  In a way, they are more satisfied with life than the average American.  He sure can’t get as much out of life, though, living that way year in and year out.  There’s never any chance for betterment.  Someday, I suppose, they’ll improve as the world grows smaller and communication improves.

April 1, 1945

Here it is the fourth Easter away from home.  I wonder how the weather is back there?  It’s hot here.  I had intended on going to church this morning, but I have a sore throat and don’t feel like eating all that dust coming and going.  I can’t seem to rid myself of colds.  For a while, I wasn’t bothered with them.  My resistance must be down.  It looks like I’ll lose the weight I gained during cool weather before I get home.  I just don’t have much of an appetite during hot weather.  I was hoping that I’d get home before it got hot back there, but it’s getting to look very doubtful.

By the time you get this, the leaves should be out on the trees and the grass green.  That’s always a pretty time of year and a person feels full of ambition.  It sure isn’t like that here.

I received your letter of March 10th yesterday.  It and a V-mail from Getz was about the only mail I’ve gotten for about a week.

It seems like a lot of farmers are selling and cutting down on farming.  There should be a lot of farms to rent when the boys come home.  The first one there will probably get the best places.

When it comes to household duties, etc.  I don’t think I’ll want anything to do with it.  Anything that reminds me of what I’ve had to do in the army, I don’t want anything to do with.

Well, there just isn’t much of anything new to talk about.  The war in Europe seems to be in the final phase.

April 11, 1945

I’ve been waiting to write thinking I’d get a letter to answer, but since I didn’t. I’ll have to write anyway.  There’s nothing new.  It’s the same old thing going on day in and day out.  I know my letters make dull reading, other than knowing that I’m still alive and kicking.  There just isn’t anything over here to tell about.

Of a morning I get up, eat breakfast, go to work, eat chow at noon, go back to work at one, quit in the evening, take a shower, eat supper and then go to a show, if there’s one, or play a game or two of ping-pong, and then settle down to writing letters or reading.

One day last week, we had six girls and some male members of a USO troupe here for dinner.  That sort of broke the monotony for the day.  It was the first time since we’d been overseas, that we’d been honored by fair guests.  That night we saw the show they put on.  It was very good.  One of the fellows in the company knew one of the girls which was the reason we happened to have them here for dinner.

USO Photo taken 1943Dad’s third from right in the last row

Editor’s note:  Were any of the six entertainers recognizeable?  I couldn’t tell from the picture.

The cooks went to a lot of trouble and made up a very nice dinner with ice cream for dessert.  I think they appreciated it as I heard afterwards, that they remarked it was the best meal they’d had since they left the states.  it was the most elaborate meal we’d had since Christmas.

I suppose everyone is busy around there now getting their spring work done.  It must be getting nice back there by now.  It’s been quite a long time now since I’ve been home to enjoy the springtime.

It doesn’t look like I’ll get home before June or July and then, it could be later.  Some of the boys are already gone.  Some are just more lucky than others.

What kind of condition is the car in?  I’ll be needing some kind of transportation when I do get home.  Dorothy has been having lots of trouble with her car this winter.  After they get so old, they need so much work done on them.  Now, it’s pretty hard to get anyone to do things like that, no matter how minor they are.

Well, that’s all I can think of this time.  Write.