|Jennings Family Memoirs||Page One||Page Two|
"The Burning of the Flat"
There was great excitement on morning for two youngsters and maybe, for two oldsters, when Mr. Delaney Shumway drove into the yard of the farm and unloaded a stump bulling outfit, which was to be used for moving a building that we called the horse barn. It occupied a spot near the front of the house, beside the main highway, and was to be moved and relocated near the main barn, where it would be handier for hay and also would be near the "spring" which watered the stock. This machine consisted of many parts including chains of various sizes and a number of ¾ inch rods, each with a hook on one end and a loop or eye on the other. These were for the purpose of lengthening or shortening the main cable. The main cable wound around a large drum which would be anchored firmly on the ground. The drum had a cross bar to which the horses were hitched for turning the drum and another crossbar extended in front of the horses. To this, the horses were tied. This sort of led them when they were once started to wind up the cable after it had been fastened to what ever needed moving. The rods would be unhooked whenever occasion demanded, so that the drum would not have to be so often relocated.
My father had placed new sills or timbers under the barn, where the old ones had decomposed. This had necessitated quite an undertaking, as the logs had to be cut in the woods, hauled to the yard and hewn to shape. I remember father squaring one end with the axe, broad axe and square, then also squaring the other end in such a manner that a square at each and would be square with the other. A chalked line would then be stretched from end to end as a guide. The log was chipped with the axe and chips were smoothed away with the broad axe. When the beams were placed in proper position under the barn and fastened, the moving process began. Heavy planks were placed on the ground underneath the sills. Between the sills and the planks, wooden rollers about eight inches in diameter were placed. As the horses began to go around and around, the cable squeaked and groaned as it wound on the drum, and the movement of the barn toward its final destination gave us quite a thrill. It was quite an accomplishment in those days. When something needs doing badly enough someone always comes up with some kind of solution.
The task was accomplished so satisfactorily that Mr. Shumway was given the job of pulling the stumps on the "Flat". If he could pull barns, he could surely pull stumps, so it would seem, but it was soon discovered that these were no ordinary stumps, as some were three and four feet in diameter, four feet from the ground. Various ideas had to be tried before the pulling was a success. If fastening the chain around the top of the stump were unsuccessful, the chain would be placed over the top of the stump and by digging, fastened to a big root on the opposite side, thus using the stump top as a fulcrum, then as the horses went around and around, the cable would squeak and groan as if in pain. Suddenly the stump would break loose and rear up with its roots projecting up in the air fifteen or twenty feet. Sometimes dirt and all would come up. Other times some roots would have to be cut before the rest could rise.
We wonder sometimes how a tree can stand during heavy wind storms, but their roots, running out in every direction, make substantial anchorage. Life is like this, isn’t it? To a person who is well rooted in the community in which he lives, these roots of friendship, integrity, honesty, and credit, reaching out in every direction, form a bulwark in the storms of life. When trouble comes, these roots seem to take on added strength, cling closer to the foundation and survive. We know not why or how but they are all the time being better fitted for the next storm.
Some of these stumps would not give up until a charge of dynamite would have to be used, but finally the job of clearing ten acres, was accomplished. These large stumps must have held up immense logs of fine pine lumber. The history of Tioga Co. Pa. notes the fine pine lumber, when it says: "No finer lumber ever grew than this in the county of Tioga".
After the dirt that came up on the roots as they were pulled, had dried and fallen off, my father, with a team of horses dragged the stumps to a place where they could be piled. The piles were immense for he would throw a chain over the pile and draw the stumps up on top until they reached quite a height. There were numerous piles like this. Then father said "we will wait for the burning until a time when a nice quiet evening comes along, when no wind is blowing".
Finally, the time was just right and arrangements were made for the task. With a few neighbors who, delighted in the thrill, had assembled, the first match was struck and the first pile ignited, from which fire brands were carried to the other piles. Soon an enormous conflagration was under way.
Can you imagine what l light that 25 or 30 of these piles could make? Well, everything was going fine and we were all engrossed in the sight. Other also seemed to be curious of this light in the sky, for people began to arrive from all over the countryside and as far as three miles away. Some said: "We thought some house and barn were burning but could not understand a peculiar light in the sky", which of course we had not noticed. As we looked up, we were somewhat startled and amazed for it so happened that aurora borealis was performing in a spectacular manner. From all around the horizon, fluttering, shimmering waves of light flickered upward until they seemed to come together overhead. The fires and this extraordinary exhibit caused something to be remembered and were talked about for a long time afterward.
On the east and south borders of the "Flat" was land owned by good neighbors, and to establish legitimate boundaries, it was the custom to have what was called a line fence. In this particular instance, it was made of stumps, by placing upturned stumps in line, with the roots projecting upward and sideways, so cleverly intertwined that no animal as large as or larger than a sheep could get through. The east and south borders of "The old Farm" were completely lined with this kind of fence, stretching for about a mile. Can you imagine what a lot of work this must have been? It had the faculty of remaining in good condition for nearly a century. Some of these stumps are still there as this is written in 1960.
In later years, much amusement was experienced in studying the designs that these roots made. There are outlines of squirrels, birds and many other objects. Here is a picture that I took of one of these finds. (Picture lost) I still have thrills in looking over these fences and have taken many pictures such as this one. After thoughtful meditation, it brings me to this conclusion:
To build the old stump fences, make them strong and fit,
To keep the cows from straying, the sheep where they belong.
They did not do it in a day or two or "Do it for a song".
It seemed to be the thing to do and went at it with a will,
Worked and slaved from day to day and maybe weeks until
The job was quite completed and viewed their work with pride
In knowing they had built a fence and cleared a field beside.
I wonder if they ever thought how long the fence would last
To be marveled at by me like me, thinking of its past.
No, they thought they had a task to do and tackled it with pride
And did their work so perfectly throughout the countryside
That it lasted years and years, its duty faithfully done
Long past the time its builders little span of life has run.
I wonder if, some future time, some chap would like to know
If something I’d accomplished was built 100 years ago.
There were no telephones then so when an extra ordinary amount of smoke was coming out of a chimney, the good neighbors would quickly congregate, sometimes before the tenants were aware of condition. I have often marveled at the friendliness and cooperation of the people in those days. Everybody seemed to know everybody and had special regard for their well being, as you will read later.
The "Flat" was always a dear spot to my brother and me. We knew where the pussywillows grew, the best bulrushes were, and the location of the ponds where the bullfrogs croaked. (Did you know that a cat has nine lives, but a bullfrog croaks every night?)
For a time this "Flat" was the main cow pasture and memory takes me back to the times that we went after the cows at evening. They had to be taken to the barn in a round-a-bout way which made quite a distance. One cow was especially gentle and seemingly took quite a fancy to my brother and allowed him to do with her as no other cow would. She would stand still and allow him to put a rail against her side and climb to her back, then after he threw the rail down, he could ride her to the barn. Often in the summer, we did the milking out doors where it was cool. This cow was milked first, then she would lie down and my brother lay on her back until the milking was finished.
Going to the barn from the pasture, the cows would go through the bushes; I suppose to brush off the flies which seemed to bother them most. Many of these bushes were blackberry and raspberry and seemed to have almost too many prickers, so we thought. I used to grab a hold of a cow’s tail and make her run through the bushes, so the thorns would not hurt my bear feet so long. Then I remember mornings when the grass was white with frost and my bear feet were very cold, I would hurry the cows from where they were lying on the ground, and jump in where the ground was warm. Why wouldn’t a person remember? There were some tough experiences, but mostly they were the happiest times of our lives. Tougher times were yet to come and maybe they allowed us to look back to these experiences with a great deal of respect. We, as far as finances go, were just plain, poor and happy, still I cannot believe that if a person is really happy, is he ever poor? We surely lacked many of the things thought necessary by some people, but we lived above them in spirit. At any rate my brother and I were two happy pals for many years on the old farm.
A neighbor boy, who lived a half mile away, devised the idea of making for us some box traps to catch some squirrels for pets. There used to be many of them racing up and down the rail fences, so we had great ideas and our hopes ran high. We used to carry these bungle some things to the fence and set them so that when the squirrel nibbled the corn on the spindle that controlled the trap, the trigger would be tripped, the cover would fall, and the animal would be a prisoner; but not for long because when we lifted the cover to get the prisoner, the squirrel always seemed to have the ability to help itself, and we never had a squirrel for a pet, so we began to dream of larger pets like rabbits or woodchucks.
Across the road a little distance from the "Old Home" was a vacant house from which many hair raising stories emanated, of white men hiding in from the pursuing Indians, etc., but the biggest story was about how the ghosts used to live here, making freaky noises when everything else was so still in the late evenings. When we were sent to the grocery store about a mile away, we would have to go past this house. There were no other houses on the road. Passing this lonely spot, we would step ever so lightly until nearly past, then break all records in running for a short distance. Some times we would loiter at the grocery store almost too long, looking with wistful eyes and watering mouths at the wonderful candy, which we could not have, so neatly and appealingly arranged in the glass covered case. Or perhaps we would stop to play with some boy until the shadows of evening were lowering far too much at this house where the ghosties lived, and with fear and trembling, we would make a speedy dash for home. One time when I was alone on one of these errands, I came to this spot, very much frightened by being alone in the quietness. (It was always quiet while nearing or passing this house.) I heard some strange noises and sort of slowed up, maybe because of fright, and the noises slowed up too. Then I would walk faster, so would the noises be faster. Finally I ran and the noises came faster yet. Being out of breath I slowed up. So did the noises. They sounded to me like the horses eating grain in the manger. I began to use a little reason and a lot of thinking. I came to the conclusion that it was the legs of my new corduroy pants rubbing together on my shaky knees. Little boys can get awfully scared sometimes.
Back of this "haunted house" was an apple orchard that had become a little out of date, like the house. In this orchard was a very large stone pile, under which were many holes made by woodchucks or the lie. Perhaps they were living here in their newly constructed homes, at least we hoped so.
One afternoon, my brother and I with the neighbor boy who had helped us build the box traps, thought that we would have about time enough to set the trap and get home before dark. So we placed the traps in our express cart and started out. In our eagerness we sort of forgot, for the time, about the haunted house, and set the traps to our satisfaction in the hope of some big next morning. A few days previous some wild cats had been killed only a few miles distant, and of this we were talking as we started across the filed for home, when, lo and behold, one screamed its blood curdling scream in the orchard only a short distance away. As it kept up, the speed that we attained for a short distance was far from the ordinary. I seemed to be the engineer of the express wagon. With all the humps and stones in a hayfield that had not the proper care, the express cart had many a tumble. As I would right it a few times, I found that I was being out distanced by the others. Not allowing this, I discarded the wagon. About this time I heard someone laugh, then I and the others slowed up. We found out that the mechanic’s brother was behind an apple tree imitating the cat. When we finally got reorganized, we found that we had stopped a very short distance from an open well, which might have changed in a sad way, the end of this journey. Memories still linger of the howling cat. In conclusion, we did not seem to molest in the least, the pleasant home life of any woodchuck, in their newly acquired homes.
Our next episode brought real success. On the "Flat" there was a stump or two left, where they did not bother in the cropping, and under one of these stumps was a freshly made home of a nice energetic woodchuck. We sort of hesitated to end his happy career, but we finally set the trap and next morning, we found on inspection that we had captured a "chuck". As we had never ended the life of a woodchuck, we excitedly hurried to the cornfield where the big burning had occurred a year or so before and asked the hired man, who was cutting corn for my father, if he would kindly come and kill our woodchuck. He readily agreed and on the way, he picked up a suitable pine knot, of which there were many lying around. He took hold of the string which held the cover up when the trap was set, and as the animal would run out when the cover was up, hi intended to hit it over the head with the knot. This he did very nicely according to schedule, but the woodchuck turned out to be a skunk. Well, the hired man went home, almost too sick to walk, took off his clothes, buried them, shaved off his prize mustache of which he was so proud, and scrubbed his face until the skin almost came off. All this did not do much good, and for three days, there was no more corn cutting.
We were very sorry, and indeed sorry enough that this ended our trapping until later years, when we were older and wiser. Even then, with the difficulties we had encountered our trapping days did not seem to last long. There were many other things more fun and more pleasant, to occupy our growing minds.
Just south of the barn was a spring of wonderfully cold water. A large trough was constructed to take care of the water for the stock to drink. In part of this trough, was a spot for cooling the milk, and the cans in which the milk was cooled had a glass through which could be seen the cream on top of the milk, and faucet at the bottom of the can so that the milk could be drawn off leaving the cream in the can. There were no fancy gadgets in those days, like the up to date separators.
The cream was placed in a cream jar, allowed to sour slightly then placed in a dasher churn. The dasher was lifted and lowered to agitate the cream, and after a while, the nice luscious butter would separate from the liquid, which was called buttermilk. I can still seemingly taste that tangy buttermilk.
That portion of the buttermilk which was not used in the house for cooking, etc., was given to the neighbors or to the pigs and dogs, which seemed to like it too.
I remember a nice shepherd dog used to come from somewhere for this buttermilk and seemed to know when the churning day came, for it was almost always there at that time.
We had at that time what was called a "dog ‘power" for the churn. It was a framework on which was a moving inclined floor (A sort of belt arrangement which moved on large wheels.) One wheel was geared in cantilever fashion, to move an arm up and down. The dasher of the churn, attached to the arm would go up and down as the inclined floor moved.
The dog would come and get on the machine and wait for the churning time. We did not know who was the owner of the dog but we thought that the dog was pretty smart to know how to do all of this without being told what to do. My brother and I loved that dog because if he did not do it, we had to run the machine.
Memory tells me of one time when the dog did not appear, we were on the churn machine for the job. The two of us made it a bit crowded. There were sides or railings to keep the dog from falling off and we would take hold of them and walk, walk, walk, getting nowhere, until Ralph, being on the upper end, caught his big toe of the bare foot in the crack of the moving floor as it came around the wheel. As the toe was flattened out, of course he could not get it out until the crack opened at the lower end. I could not understand why I was being pushed down the machine until he screamed. Well, he had a sore foot for a while. After that, more care was taken in this treading business, and there was all the more love for that dog.
Past the watering trough and down the cow lane, on through some woods, across a creek and through the field, was a well worn path to grandmother’s house, a distance of about three fourths of a mile. To us, it seemed the grandest path in all the world, for, aside from the many interesting things along the way, one of the nicest grandmothers was at the other end.
Sometimes we would take a long time to get there, because we would stop along the way by a stump, sit very quietly for a time and watch the animals apparently come to life in the stillness. (We could sit still sometimes.) It is surprising how much animal life is around when it is not afraid. The there was the old swimming hole where we crossed the creek. Of course this had a great fascination, but we always arrived at grandmothers in time to have a cookie.
Back in March 1880, Aunt Susan died, leaving her husband, Mellvine, her son Rupert, and her adopted son Basil (Ferry). For a time they all lived at our house but some time later, "Uncle Mel" as we called him, went with grandmother and Basil to live at her old home at the end of the path mentioned above, where they lived for four years, until grandmother died in 1885 after she had become ill and come to our house. The four years were very happy ones for my brother and me.
There was a millpond in the creek near grandmother’s house. The mill had been abandoned and moved away but the closely cropped pasture along this creek and pond made a wonderful place to play. Uncle Mel had a grandson, Lawrence Green, and a granddaughter, Flora Green. They would be here almost as often as we, and life seemed to be a happy one, until Basil took sick. When the doctor called, he pronounced the trouble, diphtheria. This caused his death. The house was quarantined, so our fun there came to a sudden end, and we had to stay at home, much to our regret.
Being active boys, we soon found other things to interest us. It does not take long for two little boys, stopped for a while in their happy playtime, to find more entertainment for surely they do not stay idle for long.
Our next door neighbor at the foot of the hill, had a number of cherry trees, with that luscious red fruit hanging in abundance, and indeed very tempting. They had also a number of wee coops in which were mama hens with each a dozen or so of babies. They were quite a curiosity, and of course there were many other things around that were curiosities to our young minds.
Mr. Petrie, who was the next door neighbor, had a carpenter shop. He was an expert wagon maker, a very busy man at his trade. To this shop we would wander every chance that we had, and were very much thrilled in watching him. He used to make us sit at the end of his bench where we could watch without being in his way. Now, I can very well understand what a nuisance we might have been, and probably were, though we never had any desire of being wrong. Of course we did some things that we should not have done, as we found out afterwards. For instance, one time when the neighbors were not at home, we walked around looking at things, and spied those luscious cherries. We thought that they would not care if we had a handful, so we picked some and wandered out to see the baby chicks. One coop contained baby ducks five or six days old. Eating the cherries while watching them, we thoughtlessly spit the pits out on the ground in the pen, and these ducks gobbled them down, supposing that they were a new delicacy. To them, it must have been only a dangerous one, as while we were watching them, they suddenly keeled over and died, five or six of them. We were horrified and immediately thought of being in some other place for a while, and quick.
Overhead in the chicken house was a sort of storage space, and an express wagon that Mr. Petrie had made, was stored, dissembled, so we thought that it would be nice to surprise them when they came home by having it assembled, and maybe we could be allowed to play with it, but before the task was accomplished we had a desire to go home, as we seemed to have the itch "ersumptin". When we told mother about it, she made an examination and ordered us to disrobe quickly wash. She hung our clothes on the clothesline, thinking that perhaps the sunshine would kill the million of chicken lice that they contained. Well, after a good scolding, we decided that the chicken house was a poor place to play.
I suppose Mr. and Mrs. Petrie dreaded to see us coming and later something happened t make us know that we were not wanted.
We were looking around on day when they were home and we really got into trouble. In the back yard was a stove with a large kettle built into the top of the stove, which was used for the purpose of cooking pig feed, or whatever needed cooking for the stock. There was a handle on each side for lifting off the top. We were lifting to see how heavy it would be, when the whole stove fell apart. We did not mean harm, but Mrs. Petrie had different ideas. We were corralled in the wood shed and there trial by jury was started. All evidence seemed to be against us and we received a suspended sentence and a hard scolding when we arrived home, so there was not much visiting done by us for some time at the Petrie house.
Mr. and Mrs. Petrie had a boy and girl somewhat older than we were. The boy seemed to want to get us into mischief to see what his mother would say. She was one of the kind that ruffled easily and had a very fiery temper when aroused. The boy liked to see what would happen provided someone else was at fault. Memory tells me that he had great satisfaction in this instance.
Mother had a sister living in Williamsport, Pa. She was married to George Groom. They had four children named Will, Maude, Mollie, and Emma. Emma came along in later years, probably lucky for her. The three older ones were somewhat older than my brother and I, and having lived in the city all their lives, did not know much about country life.
One day Uncle George thought it would be nice to hitch up the new horse that he had purchased and take a ride to our home for a visit of two weeks, and I think that never before was more excitement or chicanery crowded into two weeks.
A trip of 75 miles in a wagon with five people and a dog on board, and drawn by one horse, was quite an undertaking, especially for the horse. The horse was due for a vacation also, when in due season the visitors arrived, and I can imagine that there was a smile on the face of everyone including the horse, or was that a horse laugh? Well, sheep and dogs never were the best of friends and naturally the sheep moved away. I guess that matters might have been pretty good if Will had not said: "Sick em". Then the race was on and it took us quite a time to corral the dog while Will kept saying: "Sick em". We knew what dogs could do to sheep but they did not. It was finally explained and from then on, the sheep were carefully guarded, also the dog. We had a dog of our own but it was taught manners.
Most farmers have two or three calves that they raise to replenish the herd. Father was no exception. For grazing, exercise, and fresh air, we kept the calves out doors, tied with a long chain. One of these calves was anchored to the hay rake, a two wheel contraption that could be easily moved about. The dog thought that he and the calf should get better acquainted. Will seemed to enjoy saying "Sick em". Calves do not like unfriendly dogs either, so the calf migrated very quickly a long way to the bottom of the hill. I suppose the hay rake, tagging along did not ease the situation so very much. Ordinarily the calf could not move the hay rake but this was an unusual occasion. It was also an unusual occasion for us to have to bring the hay rake back home by hand when the horse was enjoying leisure moments. This was for punishment of course, but I could not see why my brother and I should be punished. Maybe we were trying to ease the punishment from them.
About three miles from our house, lived a family by the name of Ferry. The Ferry’s were the parents of the husband of mother’s sister, Ida. Aunt Ida had been dead for some time but a nice friendship had remained and many nice visits were made there.
Mr. Ferry was a farmer, but what interested me most, was his bee keeping outfit. There were empty hives, bee comb, wax honey and a number of hives containing bees in the production of honey, and stings, for they seemed to work with both ends. They were pretty adept at it too.
A short distance from the kitchen door was a spring house, where a wonderful flow of very cold water came from under a large rock and flowed between two other rocks. This channel was wide enough to hold three of four milk and cream cans. A building had been erected around this and it made a wonderfully cool place for the different things that needed refrigeration. Ledges of rock, like shelves, made nice places to set smaller articles. It seemed just as good as or better than the fancy gadgets that we need to-day for that purpose. From this spring the drinking water was obtained.
During the time that our relatives were visiting at our house, we went to Mr. and Mrs. Ferry’s place for a visit and chicken dinner. I suppose they were delighted to have us young people along? Well, we did not get into too much mischief, so we got along pretty well. One reason was that we were a bit afraid of the bees.
After dinner, Mollie was asked to go to the spring for a pail of water. Well, down in Williamsport where they lived, the city provided a hydrant equipped with a pipe of running water for the residences that had no water supply inside the house, and as Mollie was familiar with that arrangement, she went in search of the "hydrant". Not finding one, she spied a beehive standing alone, and thinking that it might be the hydrant, she took the top off, then she suddenly forgo about the water, in fact did not think of anything better than getting away from there and fast.
I do not remember how we got the water for things were quite disturbing for a while, and one could not go out even to the spring house, for the air was alive with busy bees. Mr. Ferry did not seem to mind it for he laughed with the rest as though it were a great joke, but I surmise that he was relieved when we young folk departed for home.
There was no general calm when we arrived at home, for that roving curiosity could not be still even for a short time.
Near father’s shop was a lumber pile where he kept his lumber reserves. Behind this pile was a lot grass that had not been cut but had sort of died in a clump, in which some bumble bees had established a home and did not care to be disturbed. But what the bees thought or cared about, did not seem to be the order of the day.
Uncle George was a bit curious also at times and happened to find this nest of bees, but he was reluctant about disturbing them, so he asked Will to gather the honey. Bumble bees do not store much honey but they have a mighty sting in storage and these bees were no exception. Will was very innocent of this, but was extremely lucky in not being stung, for which we were glad, also we glad to have the dog and Uncle George get stung. I suppose we should not have been, but our love for the dog was about zero. As Uncle George expected Will to be stung, we were really glad when he got a number of stings on his own bald head. They all stayed away from the bee’s nest after that.
With all these extra people in the house, the sleeping quarters had to be rearranged, and it was necessary for the younger people to sleep in some rooms where small windows were located over the heads of the beds, because the porch roofs came up too close to the eaves of the house roof.
During the warm weather, these windows would be open at night for ventilation. All the outside noises would creep in; or rather they were sort of magnified and seemed to jump in. The incessant rasp of the crickets, of which there seemed to be millions, was very disturbing, but little tired bodies caused sleep to take over soon. I can still hear these noises. And the barking dogs around the neighborhood seemed to be carrying dog conversation back and forth, There were many strange noises and to me it all seemed like a different world at night, but when a screech owl perched on the eaves directly over our heads and started screech its peculiar language, all pandemonium broke loose inside. The dog was scared enough to crawl under the bed to the far corner of the room. Our cousins were nearly scared to death; Will tiptoed into our room, and in a faint whisper, said "what’s that". We were familiar with the noises and not afraid, but it was very hard for us to calm them down, and to rescue Maude and Mollie from suffocating under all the bedclothes. They were so scared that they could not get under the bed with the dog, even the bed was shaking from their shivering.
We finally settled down, for sleep was necessary to get us in shape for the coming day’s ordeals, of which there were many, but we survived, and soon the time came for the departure of our visitors. In spite of all the experiences of the two weeks, we really did not want them to go, but the two weeks vacation of Uncle George from his duties as engineer and fireman at the Williamsport Nail Factory, had come to an end, also the vacation of the horse. Duty called and after many good-bys, they were on their way, leaving quite a vacancy at our house.
During all our racing around in bear feet, I received what the doctor called a stone bruise, on one of pedal extremities. It was very painful indeed and it formed a condition like a boil. It was necessary to go to the doctor and have it lanced to relieve the pressure. Most boils in those days were supposed to contain a core, a hard substance in the center. This, the doctor was supposed to remove, but in this instance did not accomplish. It remained a nuisance to me for some time. I was not able to step on that foot so I invented the idea of crutches, but what to use and how was quite a difficulty at the time. Pain kept me thinking for a solution, and finally I thought of the croquet mallets. The idea worked splendidly and enabled me to get around quite well.
One day the threshing outfit moved into our yard and set up for business. The threshing machine used fro separating the grain from the straw, was set up on the barn floor so that the grain bundles could be pitched onto the table of the machine, where one man would cut the binding and another man would carefully feed it into the machine where the separation occurred.
The grain came out one side from a chute on which a bag had been tied and changed as it filled, and the straw, dirt, dust and it seemed everything else, came out the back end where more men, half suffocated, put the straw back onto the mower in a stack outside. All this to young minds seemed a quite fascinating operation and of course we were everywhere watching. I remember standing, on my crutches, by the side of the engine watching the many gadgets as they operated, wondering what they were doing and why there had to be so many. Of course a kid never can stand at a safe distance. It seems that it is better looking up close, and that is exactly where I stood when the steam safety valve let loose with a terrifying blast. I went over backward engulfed in steam hitting my sore foot on the wheel of the engine. When I finally came out of the fog and reorganized, I found that the "core" of my stone bruise had popped out. So who can tell but that it was planned by some divine providence that I should be standing right there at that particular time? The operation went on as usual at the business end of the machine and a large stack of straw was formed close to the barn just outside where the straw had been pitched by the men in that awful dust. Later it was found that this straw had been properly placed by some kind of providence because it may have saved my father’s life or maybe serious injury.
One morning, my father had returned from the cheese factory where he had left the milk from our small herd of cows. In the process of cheese making, a liquid called whey is discarded. This was very good for pig feed when mixed with grain or other material. The patrons were allowed to take a share home for that purpose free of charge.
Father was emptying this from the milk can into what was called the swill barrel, when the rattle of the tin frightened the spirited horses. Evidently they thought this was no place for them and had better seek a safer place, but where? The noise of the falling milk can did not ease the matter much and the can just had to fall under the front wheel where it was pushed on toward the horses by the revolving wheel, and now the horsed did not seem to care where they went except to "went".
Father tried to steer them into the side of the barn and nearly succeeded but they seemed to find space between the barn and a hayrack that was stored nearby. But there was not room for the wagon, as the two side wheels had to go over this rack, father was pitched head first into the straw stack being newly made, it was soft and all he received in the shape of damage was a lame neck for a while. The horses did not wait to see if her were hurt but traveled on and on and no telling how far whey would have gone if the tongue of the wagon had not dropped down and run about three feet into the ground. The horses were thrown by this sudden stop and into a tangled mess. They remained in this position until the harnesses were removed. For a long time afterward the rattle of tin would startle them, until one time father securely tied them and proceeded to throw tin pails around until they found that they were not harmed and they became quiet. They were very tame from then on, but of course care was taken so that a repetition did not occur.
This team of horses was raised and trained by my father and became a wonderful possession. He also raised and trained oxen. They were "broken", as the expression was used to those days.
When we left the farm, the team was sold and one of them was used by a Singer Sewing Machine Co salesman. On one of his trips through a district not heavily populated, he was held up at the point of a gun, and this horse, sensing the trouble, reared and with his front feet, knocked the man down. The salesman often spoke of this and gave the horse credit for saving his life.
There were other episodes concerning these horses while owned by my father. They were rather exciting and the memory is very fresh to-day.
Young minds that have not reached that stage where every day occurrence is a serious problem to be carefully solved, apparently are care free, but I wonder if the "little" thoughts of these young minds, are not to them quite a serious problem, and seem in a way, larger than when older minds are capable of conquering to better advantage.
Back in those days of the gay nineties, people seemed to have more time for pleasant gatherings where simple sports could be enjoyed by all, both young and old. Anyway happiness seemed supreme. Of special interest were the picnics held in neighboring groves where swings had been installed for the youngsters, by using the hay rope from the barn. They were no small affairs either, when fastened at a height of twenty five feet. They gave to old and young an exhilarating thrill that enveloped the whole body.
Then there was the greased pig race, where the person catching and holding was the owner of the pig. There were many clothes to be washed the next day where the grease from that slippery pig was evenly divided between shirt and trousers as the squirming, squealing pig easily slipped from the grasp until finally the pig became tired or the grease had been so much removed that one could hold the pig. This was very interesting, and it seems that I can almost hear the squealing, laughing, and some strong language.
Then there was the greased pole race, to see who could climb the pole and claim the five dollar bill that was at the top. Money was scarce in those days and almost as hard to get as climbing the greased pole. Anyway, excitement was what was wanted and this was one way of getting it.
There were other ways also for entertainment, such as pitching horse shoes or quoits, as they are called to-day, trap shooting with clay pigeons, base ball, etc.
A large platform was built, on which recitations, dialogues and spelling contests were held. The latter were called spelling bees. There were stands where peanuts, candy, hotdogs and good old-fashioned home made ice cream were sold. But the largest and most satisfying entertainment was the dinner. It is really surprising what a wide variety can be assembled at such a time, and what large appetites can be had in this open air dining hall, "yum yum", when that tantalizing odor of coffee penetrates the whole grove.
I remember especially when one of these glorious times was held in Seymour Whitney’s grove, surely a most beautiful spot. It started with a parade forming in the village of Whitneyville. It was supposed to represent an Indian movement from one hunting ground to a new one.
Seymour Whitney organized this very unique parade in which there were travois with little papooses in blankets suspended between poles attached to horses and dragging on the ground, following was quite an assembly of painted Indians, made up in various ways, with indeed very entertaining little painted Indians, medium sized painted Indians, many squaws and feathered warriors.
The parade made such a hit that it was repeated for the benefit of the Pomona Grange, held in our little town, which did not seem so little in those days.
These picnics became a yearly affair. One in particular was held in David Jones’ woods, on the others side of town. At this picnic an incident occurred that concerned the horses previously mentioned.
After the picnic was over, which was quite late in the evening, we started for home in the buggy, my brother and I sitting in the laps of father and mother as we left the campfire. It seemed almost too dark and in some way we missed the road through the field, and strayed sadly for the way kept getting more and more sidling until finally over went the wagon and contents, spilling what was left of our share of the picnic lunch. Father, mother and two boys all landed in a heap in the corner of a zigzag rail fence. It did not seem nearly as comfortable with mother sitting on me as it did with me sitting in her lap. I do not know whether this stunted my growth or not, but id did a lot of damage to my nervous system.
This spirited team, for once at my fathers’ command, stood still until everything was righted, then we followed the fence to the gate and were soon on our way home.
As we were fogging along, a large light appeared in the sky and it seemed to be directly in line with our house. Then the team had a chance to exercise a little extra as we raced toward home and a mile and half seemed longer just then.
The terrible fear that gripped us was relived when we rounded a bend in the road and found that it was not our home, but farther on. In the midst of our happiness was a sadness still, for someone else, whose house or barn was being destroyed.
In those days, there were not the fire companies that we have at present, and fires soon got out of control and almost always they resulted in complete loss.
There was something else that happened at this picnic, of which I had better speak, for it was and ending well to be remembered. As I mentioned before, there were booths where ice cream, candy and peanuts were sold. In the peanut booth there were prizes hanging on the wall to be given with the peanuts providing one got the lucky number. Well, mother had tried to instill into our minds that the expectation of winning in any game of chance was very slim and mostly a big waste of money. We tried to live up to her ideas, and later, when we had minds of our own, how well we found out that she was right. A game of chance is nearly always rigged to fit the pocketbook of the promoter, but in this particular instance, I was very willing to take a chance and use the nickel that had been given to me to spend.
In this peanut stand, operated by George Ingerick, was a row of prizes hanging on the wall, consisting of a ball club, mitt, etc. The club was the great attraction for me, for it would be far better at home than a stick or board that we had to use. And to be sure that I would not waste my nickel, I thought that a prayer would be the best safeguard, so I went back into the woods out of sight, like going into a closet and closing the door, as mentioned in the bible, I prayed earnestly and sincerely. I had a wonderful feeling as I approached the stand with all the faith a young boy’s mind can hold, I deposited my nickel, surely expecting the Lord to help me out. When I opened the package to find a little insignificant prize, my thoughts of faith and prayer seemed to vanish into thin air. My nickel was gone, so was my faith. Even the peanuts did not taste so well. I surely did not tell what I had done for I was ashamed to think I had failed my mother’s advice.
My brother and I had a paper route, and in this country district, had to travel long distances to sell 20 Elmira Telegrams. We would not sell the Sunday papers on Sunday, thinking that it was wrong. Saturday following the picnic was the delivery date and I had walked two miles from home when I entered the yard and rapped at the door and a man answered the rap. I asked if he cared for a paper. His reply was "No, I can’t read so why should I buy?" I knew that he was trying to bother me so I said in my nicest way, "Please, it’s my last paper". Guess I reached his sorry spot for he said "Tell you what I’ll do, how about trading the paper for this ball club?" Then to my surprise and great amazement, he produced the club that hung in the peanut booth. I did not hesitate in the least for the paper cost the same as the nickel that I had left in the peanut booth. As I walked home, I really thanked the Lord for answering my prayer in His way, a way that was honest, and I have always thought that He had great respect for the things that mother taught me. The happening in this way has always reminded a blessing all through the years, and has taught me to trust the Lord he answers our prayers in His way. "There is a way that seemeth right unto man—but, etc". Another saying is "train a man young in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it". There seems to be a lot of young people today who are lacking that training. I do not think we should sit around for the Lord to accomplish what we desire for there is so much happiness gained by sincerely doing our part of the bargain then the Lord can know what to do. What a different world this would be if everyone tried to be honest and give the Lord a chance.
Time moves on, we grow older, a little wiser and a little bolder. The time comes when it is necessary to forget to a degree, the happiness of childhood and face the complications that lie ahead.
The bible says "We must eat by the sweat of the brow" so we pick up the tools that someone else has discarded and try to fill the gap. But still there remains the pleasant memory of days gone by.
I will never forget until mind fails, the times that I used to sit on the bank by the side of the road on my way home from town, and look out over the moonlit, beautiful landscape of the valley below, where the farm buildings of the Bailey’s, Benedict’s, Pratt’s, Bowen’s and Jackson’s, down toward grandma’s, gleaming in the moonlight, and I wondered if there were a more beautiful place in all the world. Of course this is my home land and "There is no place like home".
This was the road traveled by us all through our schooling, except for a short period of our beginning at Sweet School at Bullock’s Corners. The school was called by this name because it was by the Sweet Cemetery. This cemetery was donated by Virgil Sweet, the first settler, as mentioned before. Our school days here were happy ones too, with Jenny Stratton, and Mary Benedict as teachers.
Later, my brother started his teaching career in this school after graduating from Mansfield State Normal, now called Mansfield State Teacher’s College. It seems strange how time brings about certain things in our lives to be wondered at later, for is surely looks as though he just took up "The tools discarded by someone else and tried to fill the vacancy", and I can truthfully say that he filled the gap very efficiently. There seems to be so much to be done that someone else has started, that we must not lag in accomplishing what we can to carry out their aims and desires, thus making this a better world for all concerned.
My thoughts just seem to want to dwell on scenes of long ago, the scenes of dear young childhood for Oh! I loved them so. The more I think and dream of them, the more I try and try to keep a firm stiff upper lip, but a tear is in my eye, and in my dreams, I seem to see, in a veil bedimmed with tears, the dear old "Home upon the farm" and my childhood years. I would not care to have ever missed that part of life so gay, and I’m very glad that God gave to me, a babe to guard from harm and to give her a few years at least of paradise on the farm.
For a year or so the farm was rented to John Campbell and family with all of us living together. The team of horses was sold to him. My father had previously purchased a black horse which he kept as a buggy horse, and by borrowing a one horse wagon, we were ready to move to the little town of Whitneyville. My brother and I were the main movers, really the only ones except for the help that we received from mother in the loading. Of course it took quite a bit of time to move in this way, all our furniture and numerous other articles, but we thoroughly enjoyed it, especially the riding back and forth.
I remember that father wished us to stop at the store and purchase a package of fine cut chewing tobacco, which he seemed to enjoy very much. And as the horse was drinking at the watering trough by the side of the road, I thought I would see how the tobacco tasted. The sweet tangy taste seemed to be pretty good but on second thought, I spit it out and said to myself "I will never chew that nasty stuff and make a disgrace of myself to other people". I never liked the looks of it anyway, drizzling down and staining the whiskers of some men. Father was always neat about it and a person would scarcely know that he used the weed, but I knew a lot of men that were not so tidy and I still avoid them. So that was the only chew that I ever tried and I guess that I have lived fairly well without it.
It took us about two weeks to transfer all of our furniture and the other necessities around the house and farm. There was of course, hay and grain to be moved and stored in barn or other places, also a few chickens, etc.
We intended and did keep this horse which was so gentle, for a number of years, and there were some quite experiences coming up for us with this dear pet. One in particular stands out in my memory. We used to ride her to deliver our papers instead of hitching her to the buggy. Of course we could not afford a saddle and riding bareback as we did, was tiresome and sort of slippery job. Our short legs did not come very far down, enough for security and the fat back of the horse sort of tired our straddles". She had a naughty little caper when nearing home of suddenly jumping forward and running like the "dickens" for a little distance. We had learned of this trick but it always came unexpectedly and we would find ourselves along the whole lengthy of her back trying to stay on top. One time she stumbled and fell. Of course I went over her head to the ground and the horse rolled over me pushing the wind out of me and a lot of scare in. But finally I aroused and started to breathe normally. I got up and found the horse waiting for me patiently and sort of looking either sorry for me or ashamed of herself.
One time I had a borrowed saddle and was jogging along toward home when, all of a sudden, she gave a lunge and took off so fast that I found myself way back past the saddle, and in trying to regain my position, I found myself in front of the saddle or behind it until it seemed that I would never find myself in it. I soon learned to remember this trick of hers.
Another time my mother wished me to take her to a neighbor’s so I harnessed the horse to the buckboard, a one seated open wagon. At the foot of a little hill the horse started off at a brisk canter, and in crossing a bridge, one of the planks broke and her foot went through throwing the horse. She came to a stop with feet sticking up in the air. I did not stop, neither did mother, until I landed on the stomach of the horse, between her feet. Mother had struck the dashboard and that turned her around so that her back was toward the horse and she was wedged between the wheel and the wagon, screaming and clawing to get out, thinking all the time that the horse was going to kick her in the rear. But the horse lay perfectly still until I unhitched her and got her up, thinking of course that her leg was broken, but it was not. Mother, after extracted, walked the rest of the way, a very scared woman.
Everything turned out all right and no damage was done. We still loved the horse and sometimes we used to think that she was far brighter than we ever gave her credit of being. In sunshine, rain, and cold, she was always a faithful animal.
We soon had our home in the southeastern part of the village
readied for occupancy and we started to live a city life, which seemed
very nice in some ways, but I did not then or ever after forget the happy
time that I lived on "The old farm" in the country.
Man may build a grand large city
And do his work with care
But when it comes to the country,
‘Tis God that is working there.
Oh! I love to sit and listen
When the sum is sinking low
As the cow bell’s gentle tinkle
As the cattle homeward go,
And to hear the night bird’s music
As it echoes o’er the land
Of God’s own glorious county
Where everything is grand
So give me the country
And all its joys so free.
Let me rest in the heart of nature
Then contented I will be.
With Deep Respect
Robert A. Jennings
Memory has painted a picture for me
On the canvas of life, so fine
That the spatter of paint and stroke of the brush
Has made it nearly divine.
The magic of color in high light and shade
Is bound together and never to fade.
So as it is always as bright and gay
As tender young flowers in April and May.
Each morning of life is bringing anew
Struggles and strife, and happiness too,
But memory’s picture will evermore be
A wonderful, wonderful, picture to me.
- Life’s Weaving -
What are you doing with your life today
Are you living it full or trifling it away
Each moment that comes, in reckless abandon,
Until you discover you’ve nothing to stand on?
Did you know, life’s a loom and you’re weaving each day
A pattern of sunshine, or gloom and dismay;
And this pattern of yours will sadden, or cheer
The heart of a friend you are holding so dear;
Your thoughts are the threads that pass to and fro,
Weaving designs that some day will show
The trend of your thinking, so you’d better be
Careful of what kind of picture we will see.
To gaze on the wrong side, it is jumbled and queer
The right side is perfect and clear.
If you’ve started wrong, ere sin find you out
Stop your weaving and ravel it out.
You cannot afford to be weaving it wrong,
For life is too short and it takes too long,
To remake the design, that down through the years
Will gladden the vision, or dim it with tears.
William E. Jennings