Kansas woman recalls being a farmhand on the family farm, raking hay, cultivating corn, and taking care of mules and cattle
On October 18, 1948, my mom and dad were married in a small Catholic country church in Doniphan, Kansas. They were both raised on family farms by German-Irish parents and were used to working very hard. They had mules and horses instead of tractors back then. My folks raised five of us-I have an older sister and three younger brothers. Being older than our brothers, my sister and I became farmhands early. We started raking hay and cultivating corn when we were 10 years old. My dad raised corn, wheat, beans and hay as well as cattle and pigs. We grew up on a family farm that started out with one milk cow and a pony for each of us kids. Now they have a dairy farm milking up to 100 cows twice a day and two pairs of mules that they use to feed the cattle and do a lot of their farm work with, such as plowing, cultivating and shucking corn. When you pull into the driveway you'll see dozens of cats and kittens and one beautiful black-and-white dog that wants to get in your path.
I used to love going to the fields and watching my dad as he combined wheat. We would stand up on the side of the big truck and watch as the wheat came shooting out of the combine. We would get covered in dust and start sneezing but it didn't matter. We were having fun! Mom would bring a lunch out to the field so that Dad wouldn't have to stop combining. We would have the best bologna sandwiches I thought I would ever taste. It seemed like such a treat to be eating outside in a hot Kansas wheatfield. Now I take my nephews and nieces in the pickup truck to watch my dad or one of my brothers as they combine wheat. They enjoy watching the wheat harvest just as much as I did when I was their age.
We started out driving small tractors such as C's and H's. One day my sister and I were supposed to go cultivate this cornfield that was just a bit muddy yet. Dad told us to be very careful not to get stuck. Karen and I decided that if one of us got stuck we would just stay put, and when the other one came over the hill she would help get the stuckee out. Well, wouldn't you know it, I got stuck. I waited for what seemed to be an eternity for my sister to come up over that hill so she could pull me out. I waited and waited, but no tractor came. I finally jumped down off the tractor and started the long walk up the hill. I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw my sister and her tractor stuck in the mud also. We both kind of laughed and walked to the house together to get another tractor to pull us both out. My brothers eventually took over for us as they grew older and I breathed a sigh of relief not to have to get on those tractors much anymore.
In the summer we would all go to the local church picnics. We had the best times at those picnics. First we would eat a wonderful dinner cooked by the ladies of the church, then Dad would give each of us our own money to go play bingo, or toss the ring over the bottle to win a small prize.
One thing that we used to do as a family was ride our horses to move the cattle from one pasture to another. We would saddle up and start the long trip down the hills early in the morning. One time we stopped to roast hot dogs and marshmallows over an open fire. By the time we got back to the house and got off of our horses we were walking very bow-legged. I can remember laughing at everyone as they dismounted until it came my turn to getdown and I could barely walk.
My sister and my brothers all live on farms with their families now. My two sons and I are the only "city slickers" in the bunch.
My sons have pretty much grown up on my folks' farm as well.
They have put up numerous bales of hay and fixed a few fences.
When they were little we used to put them to work shelling peas or breaking beans for my mom to can. They too learned to ride horses, which they both love to do. My dad and younger brother have run a dairy farm for more than 15 years. My sons have helped milk cows and clean up the milk barn many times. Although they have come to the conclusion that milking and farming is not for them, they do enjoy going out to the farm and helping out.
When I go to visit my folks and walk in the front door, I never know if I might run into a newborn calf needing my mom's special care, or maybe a boxful of beautiful yellow ducklings that my dad just brought home for the grandkids to play with and watch grow.
But one thing I do know for sure is that I was raised with a lot of love on that farm and that it is a place that I can always go home to.
Louise A. Hill
Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then Capper’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from Capper’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.
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