Hired Hands Helped Harvest on the Family Farm

Nebraska woman remembers how hired hands on her family farm played a part in her childhood, as well as her parents' harvest

| Good Old Days

Hired hands were vital to the Nebraska wheat harvest during the 1940s and 1950s. To Dad, these young men were perpetual energy during a busy time on our family farm. To Mom, they were bottomless stomachs to fill with home-grown food and homesick hearts that needed motherly words. To their three tow-headed children, most of the young men were the big brothers we didn't have in our family.

As the eldest, I recall Harvey, whose compassionate heart at the end of the day saw to it that the barefooted young ones didn't get in trouble about filthy feet. He would wash our feet in the horse tank and carry us to the house.

When Dad was hospitalized with a broken leg that required surgery, a neighbor boy helped Mom with the chores. He was inside once when Mom was cutting up a fryer. Our curious noses surrounded her as we stood on kitchen chairs observing the process. We shouted out the various body parts. (Mother had told us that the reproductive organs were tonsils. When she came to these parts she attempted to hide them, but our sharp eyes noticed them.) "There are the tonsils!" we chorused. The neighbor exited chuckling.

Another hired man was Calvin, whose sister was a long-time friend of Mother's. She lived about 30 miles away in town. Calvin was tall and had long legs; my short legs had trouble keeping up with him. One evening, as he was carrying two full pails of milk from the barn, I saw a chance to win a race with him! He was up to the challenge. Somehow he managed to beat me. How much milk was spilled, I don't recall.

Eddie was a freckled redhead from Washington's Vashon Island. This teenager's home had electricity and modern plumbing. Our Nebraska farm had kerosene lamps and a privy. Eddie brought a growing boy's appetite; we had few leftovers during the summer that Eddie worked for us. Eddie aided us kids in making a clubhouse, something we Nebraska youngsters knew little about. He helped us make simple chairs by removing three upper sides of wooden orange crates. Next he assisted us in lugging them up the barn's straight-up-and-down wooden ladder that led to the haymow, where the barn cats lived. We held our meetings in the haymow, with Eddie's assistance.

Louie was a minister's son who was studying to be a Lutheran minister. The young teal ducks on the pasture draw tempted him. When we returned from town one afternoon, we found a note on the kitchen table from Louie. It read: "There's a slightly picked 'chicken' in the wash house." Louie had taken one of Dad's rifles to the field and returned with a duckling. Mother couldn't prepare it for a meal, but we don't recall why it was unfit.

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