From the egg biz to driving grain trucks, farmers deserve a good harvest
Last updated 8/5/2020 at 9:46pm
A drive through the Hartline area the other day showed piles of wheat forming outside granaries, an indication of an abundant harvest.
I was born on a farm about four miles south of Palouse, delivered by my aunt while my dad went to town to get Dr. Dart, the area medical czar.
I was on the farm until age 5, when the family moved to town so I could start school the next year.
There was a custom, a sort of a rite of passage, that young kids could ride the harvest trucks during harvest. We would go down to the warehouse, and when the trucks would come in we would ask if we could ride out to the farm and back. We would go out and help position the sacks of grain on the trucks and ride back to the warehouse. Back then, the grain was put in burlap bags, the bags weighing about 100 pounds.
The highest paying job on the harvest crew then was that of the man sewing sacks. Their hands were cracked and often bleeding, probably why they were paid a premium.
My dad’s first cousin had several farms near Palouse, and he talked my dad into returning to the farm. There I was, old enough to sit on the trip rake during hay season and take care of the lone cow we had.
I would take it out to the roadside, where the grass was green, and stake it out so it could eat the grass. It was the most stubborn animal and further cemented the fact that farming wasn’t in my DNA. After a couple of seasons, my dad bought a home back in town and we moved there so I could start high school.
After that, I had very little to do with farm life until high school when I joined the FFA (Future Farmers of America and took an ag class. Most of my friends were farm boys and it was an opportunity to be with them.
There was a catch: I had to have an agricultural project. I decided to get two dozen chickens. My dad converted a stand-alone garage into a chicken house and built several places for the chickens to nest.
The idea was to keep track of the feed and how often the chickens laid eggs.
I didn’t consider how chickens’ poop and how easy it was to track it into the house. That’s when my mom developed a mud room off the back porch, where your shoes would go.
I had two dozen hens and a single rooster. The rooster was like an alarm clock, telling everyone it was time to get up. The family never got over the farm habit of getting up early.
After a year, I decided I had had it with chickens, and we had a string of Sunday chicken dinners.
I was one of four on our FFA animal judging team that won top honors in an animal judging contest in Spokane.
I also worked on a stationary hay baler for one season. The baler was stationary, and they would haul the hay to it. I hooked wire and then the machine would twist it.
That pretty much ended my farm-like experiences until I met my wife, Dorothy. She was a farm girl from Buhl, Idaho. Hers was a working farm of some 300 acres with a small dairy operation. My first trip to the farm I had to wait around while she and her brother milked 27 cows. That’s morning and evening, seven days a week, further reinforcing the fact that I didn’t belong on a farm.
On one spring occasion, her brother, Bob, thought he would put me on the wheel tractor and let me sow wheat in a field next to the house. Things went along pretty well until he ran out in the field waving his arms. I had made a couple of rounds in the field without any seed wheat in the bin. We had to make our way around the field to determine where I needed to start again.
That pretty much ended my farm experiences until we later moved to Othello.
While there, I had made friends with several farmers.
One, a farmer from Connell, asked me if I wanted to drive a bulk wheat truck during harvest. I said sure, even though I had never driven a truck before.
The job paid $15 a day. A harvest day was from about 5:30 in the morning until about 8 at night.
There were three trucks, and I had to spot two of them so the threshing machine could unload while I drove the third truck to the granary and unload it. There was a lot of running to get the trucks spotted and then back to my truck and back to the granary.
Later, while in Othello, another farmer, who wanted to go on vacation, asked if I would milk his cow and feed his pigs for a week. Of course, I said OK.
I tried to milk that cow, but I couldn’t get the milk to flow. So I turned a couple of calves into the pen and the task was done. On the pig problem, the farmer had the dry grain at one end of the pen and the water at the other end. The crazy pigs would feed on the grain until they couldn’t swallow anymore and then run to the other end of the pen for water. They would run into each other and squeal. It was amazing and fun to watch.
I had one other opportunity to run a wheel tractor and that was to dig corrugations for the later to run down. I was told that they had to be straight. The farmer didn’t complain, but he didn’t offer me a job either.
So driving through the farmland brought back a lot of memories of farm life.