About the book:
Wisconsin Farm Lore: Kicking Cows, Giant Pumpkins & Other Tales from the Back Forty
By Martin Hintz
Paperback: 160 pages
Publisher: The History Press (June 20, 2012)
Available on Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/Wisconsin-Farm-Lore-Kicking-Pumpkins/dp/1609495381
Martin Hintz collects a series anecdotes highlighting Wisconsin's farming history in his book 'Wisconsin Farm Lore.'
In the excerpts that follow, Hintz shares some of these stories:
Value of education
A Portage County farmer eagerly described how the University of Wisconsin’s short course in agriculture changed his world:
“There were fourteen kids in our family and I was the oldest. We all worked. Hard. And we never got away much, and didn’t get to any parties or such. But we were happy. My folks went to a dance once in a while in the neighborhood, but we kids didn’t get to go. I started to milk cows when I was seven years old, milked right out in the cow yard. I was kicked plenty of times, and you had to watch out for the cow’s tail, in bur time, and in the fields I drove the team and picked up stones. Then when the day’s work was done I had to go in the house and work. I used to have to haul the milk two miles to the creamery, and then drive the team back and put them in the barn and then walk back the two miles to school. I sure did want an education; the Short Course at the agriculture college, available to boys like me, opened up my whole life for me.”
Gard, Robert, and Maryo Gard. My Land, My Home, My Wisconsin. Milwaukee, WI: Milwaukee Journal, 1978.p. 65
All is well with the world
Health, strength, competence, and peace attend upon on the farmer’s toil. The sun and the sky smile directly upon his head. The fruits and the flowers of the earth spring beneath his feet, obedient to his call. The fresh breezes fill his lungs and fan his manly brow. His condition is one of practical independence. He sits beneath his own vine and fig tree.
He eats the fruit of his own labor. His health and his honors depend not upon the smiles of princes or the favor of the populace, but upon his own right arm, and the blessing of that God who has set his bow in the Heavens, as a witness that summer and winter, seed-time and harvest shall not fail.
Among the ten thousand means which art has devised, for improving the condition of the human family, the enlightened pursuits of Agriculture still remain the most inviting, the most productive, the employment of the great mass of mankind; whatever lightens its burdens or elevates its votaries, must command the ready attention of all right-minded persons.
The Wisconsin Farmer should honor and love his calling. It is the occupation of primeval innocence. The purest and greatest of men have turned to it, when the world’s wealth and honors and stations palled upon their cloyed senses.
“Proceedings,” Wisconsin Agricultural Society, date unknown; Gard and Gard, My Land, My Home, My Wisconsin, p. 61.
Rose of Dutcher's Coolly
Author Hamlin Garland deftly captured the growing-up years of a young woman in nineteenth-century rural Wisconsin in his critically acclaimed Rose of Dutcher’s Coolly. The novel was published in 1895.
"Rose began to work early, but her work, like her playing was not that of other girls. As she never played with dolls, caring more for her hobbyhorses, so she early learned to do work in the barn. From taking care of make-believe stick horses, she came easily to take care of real horses.
"When a toddling babe, she had moved about under the huge plow-horses in their stalls, and put straw about them, and patted their columnar limbs were her little pads of palms, talking to them in soft indefinite gurgle of love and command.
"She knew how much hay and oats they needed, and she learned early to curry them, thought they resented her first trails with the comb. She cared less for the cows and pigs, but before she was ten she could milk the “easy” cows. She liked the chickens, and it part of her daily duty to feed the hens and gather the eggs.
"She could use a fork in the barn as deftly as a boy by the time she was twelve, and in stacking times she handed bundles across the stack to her father. It was the variety of work, perhaps, which prevented her from acquiring that pathetic and lamentable stoop (or crook) in the shoulders and back which many country girls have in varying degree.
"All things tended to make her powerful, lithe and erect. The naked facts of nature were hers to command. She touched undisguised and unrefined nature at all points. Her feet met not merely soil, but mud. Her hands smelled of the barn yard as well as of the flowers of the wild places of wood and meadow."
Who can be a farmer?
“Any damn fool can be a farmer,” Dad often said. But we knew plenty of damn fools who tried farming and went broke because they didn't budget time, money or resources, and didn't have the stamina or desire to work 14-hour days most of the year, but for successful farmers like Dad, farming was a calling, not just a way to earn a living.
Few things are more satisfying than seeing smooth black fields turn green as rows of new plants sprout in the spring, or seeing your barn filled with hay, your silo with corn, and your granary with golden oats at the end of the season. During the Great Depression, when money was scarce and jobs difficult to find, there was no better place to be than on a fertile farm. While people in the cities lost jobs and struggled to put food on the table, we always had work and an abundance of meat, vegetables and fruit, fresh in summer and canned in winter.
Knopes, Bob. Any Damn Fool Can Be a Farmer. Middleton, WI: Badger Books, 2005. p.7.
Ice skating made for farm fun
In his memoir, David Uihlein Sr. looked back on his growing-up years spent at Afterglow, the family's farm north of Port Washington, Wisconsin. During the winter, his father, Joe, nicknamed “Opa,” made a skating pond for area kids. However, this always worried young Uihlein's mother:
"Much to Oma's consternation, who had visions of catastrophe, Opa loved highballing the old truck out on the thick winter ice coating the pond near the chicken house. The pond spread over a low-lying site, now mostly overgrown with cattails and junk trees. Opa popped the clutch and spun like a merry-go-round on the glassy surface, with everyone hanging on tightly in the back. But the pond was more appropriately used for ice skating. The surface was cleared by a blade mounted in front of one of the tractors.
"Since there were not playgrounds for rural kids in those days, many of the neighborhood's farm youngsters were welcome to visit for hockey or to show off their figure-skating skills. Among them were Milton and Jean Karrell's six kids, who lived a half-mile west of Afterglow and the Poulls from the adjacent farm. The latter children sometimes packed into the manure spreader, albeit load frozen, and tractored over to Afterglow's pond. The Bialziks-Patsy, Greg, Paul, John, Bob, Marilyn and Ruthie-were also regular visitors to the winter pond. The entire mob then thawed out in the basement of the farm caretaker's house, since no outside bonfires were allowed by Opa.
"Afterwards, Opa brought out mugs of steaming hot chocolate to help warm the skating parties, much to their delight. Sometimes there would be simply big slabs of chocolate or peanut nut YES [“peanut nut” correct?] rolls to share. The sweets offset his reputation of being cantankerous, much of which was just bluster. Oma, on the other hand, was considered “a blessed lady” by the Poulls. She brought gifts to their farmhouse whenever a new child was born into that family."