How many who are reading this post remember the days when a coke from a machine cost a nickel, Hershey bars were a nickel, and a twin scoop ice cream cone was a dime. As a kid during those times, you could buy a movie ticket for a dime, and your parents could buy one for fifteen cents. Those are some things I remember about life while growing up in a small rural farming community in Southeast Idaho during the 1940s.
In one of my recent posts I spoke of some memories of mine during the war years of that era. One of the things I mentioned was Old Bertha, Dad’s McCormick-Deering W-30 farm tractor. My dad was a farmer, but since he and Mom had operated a cafe in town in the days before I was born, they had moved to town and Dad commuted to the farm everyday while Mom ran the restaurant. They later sold the restaurant, but Dad still continued his daily commute. He had sold all his livestock so there really wasn’t that much need to live out in the country anymore. I remember one of my trips with Dad when he took me with him for a day at the farm. I was six or seven years old and very excited about going with him and being able to ride on the big tractor.
The “big tractor” was a McCormick Deering W-30 which sported a whopping 30 horse power engine. By today’s standards it would almost be considered a toy, or at best, a garden tractor; but to a six and a half year old boy who stood barely four feet tall, it was a monster. It had to be hand cranked to start, and it’s engine was un-muffled with only a short exhaust pipe rising above the hood with the top end pointed at a 45 degree angle forward to deflect the sound away from the operator.
I remember Dad servicing the tractor in the early morning chill of that May morning in 1941, then he asked me to stand over by the pickup while he pushed the crank through the radiator base, locking it into the crankshaft and whipping the old girl’s engine about four times before she roared to life. The tractor had taken on the name of Bertha because a neighbor said she sounded like the beller of one of his milk cows he had named Bertha.
After Bertha had warmed up, Dad lifted me up onto one of the fenders that covered the entire top of the rear tires. This was my perch where I would be situated so as not to encumber his operation of the tractor, and we started for the field. Dad was breaking out a patch of alfalfa that he was going to plant to sugar beets. We drove down the corner of the field to where he had left off plowing the day before, and he dropped the plow into the ground. I remember him telling me that we were getting a good early start that morning, “so we should be able to easily get 12 acres plowed today,” he said. (Now days that many acres can almost be plowed in an hour.)
Shortly after we had started plowing, it didn’t take long for an entourage of seagulls to discover where we were and the field was soon white behind us as these birds swooped down for their morning feeding of worms and bugs, and even moles that were turned up by the plow. Yes, seagulls do eat moles. They actually swallow them whole. I remember listening to the loud purr of the tractor’s engine as it responded to the load of pulling the plow; I remember drinking in the smell of the freshly turned earth as the plow rolled it to the surface and turned the alfalfa plants under.
By lunch time, though, I was ready for a little break from riding the tractor. There was an irrigation ditch running along the edge of the field and I asked Dad if I could go wading in the ditch after lunch. He was ambivalent about letting me do this, but finally acquiesced to my request. I remember taking off my shoes and socks and was wading in the ditch when something grabbed one of my toes. “Ouch! that hurts,” I wailed.When I hauled my foot out of the water, there was a crawdaddy hanging from it. That was the first time I had seen anything like that, and it scared the jeepers out of me.
I shook it off, and after a quick examination, determined it had caused no appreciable damage to my person. My curiosity then began to get the better of me. I wondered if there were any more of those “monsters” lurking in the bottom of the ditch. I waited for the mud I had stirred up to clear, then lay down on my belly to see what I could see. Sure enough, my suspicions were confirmed; he did have more friend down there with him. I found a suitable stick that was small enough for the crawdaddies to get their pincers around, strong enough to lift them out of the pool, and I spent the better part of the next hour taunting these poor creatures by teasing them until they grabbed the stick, and then I would flip them into the air and watch them fall back into the water. Such was a day in the life of a six year old boy on a spring adventure with his dad to the farm.
Now, while I have your attention, I like to take a minute to tell you about my new novel I have coming out later this Fall entitled LouIsa–Iron Dove Of The Frontier. It’s a story loosely based on a few years in the life of Louisa Houston-Earp, Sam Houston’s quarter Cherokee granddaughter.
LouIsa is a fast shootin’, rough ridin’, but well educated genteel lady who can wrangle little dogies and cattle with the best of cowboys, and then don an evening gown and be right at home with Vassar graduates. She also plays classical music in the frontier saloons to entertain the cowpokes, and they actually like it!
The book will be on sale at www.amazon.com in both e-book and print versions later this Fall.