It was my Uncle’s farm and as a lad I was a (hired hand) to do everything from slopping hogs to raising 2,000 turkeys.
During the ‘depression’ years even a kid was expected to contribute to the well-being of a family. Most certainly our Pops had no allowance to shell out so we shifted for ourselves.
Although Uncle didn’t pay, I got room and board. In the spring of 1944, I was sent to the field to plow until chore time and then to start milking. Uncle milked 21 Jerseys and my quota was seven.
Shortly before before milk time, my Deere hit a dead ‘furrow’ and stopped abruptly. The tractor pulling the plough was a John Deere and it had to be cranked to re-start the engine. No automatic starter but I knew the routine, set the spark at the wheel, climb down off the tractor and turn an iron crank. Usually a half turn would do the trick but Mr. Deere wasn’t always in a working mode.
That particular day I forgot to set the spark so I was ‘kicked’ to the ground, not realizing I broke my wrist. It was later called a compound facture of my right arm and I walked a mile over played ground holding my right arm with my left hand.
Each slip off a clod was almost more than a 14-year-old could bear. A local GP and a Nurse set my broken bone and applied a temporary splint so I could go back to work.
World War 2 was on so no sympathy on the home front after being ‘kicked’ by a crank.
In the 1930s farm land around Morton was nothing short of black gold. Farms producing 60 bushels of corn to the acre were among the best, but Commercial Fertilizer hardly existed.
Manure was scooped from the barn, thrown into a spreader and hauled to the field to make tall corn grow taller. I’m guessing the Yordy’s and the Ackerman’s were among the top producers, but Cullinan and the Henderson Farms weren’t exactly slackers.
A field of oats threshed out at about 40 bushel to the acre, a number to be scoffed at today.
Nicknames stuck if you stayed in Morton. There was a Getz kid we called ‘Spiv,’ but don’t recall his given name, perhaps Marvin.
He was born about 1927, lived across from the high school and was always at the top of his game. Spiv just seemed to fit but for no particular reason.
Another kid was called Itchy Augsburger and I’m assuming his given name was Richard, but was known simply as ‘itchy’ to the groovy crowd.
Both of these Potters may have been Nuclear Scientists as adults for all I know.
I had a brother who was known only as ‘Ton,’ but born as Calvin. A farm boy we nicknamed ‘Tub,’ but few knew him as Roy Rassi, the son of John. Wayne Strunk was always ‘Wimp’ and Jim Anderson was always ‘Gump,’ otherwise they didn’t respond.
Chink Wanner was seldom called Bob, and mild mannered Tuff Fort wasn’t tough at all but was a fighter pilot during World War 2. Rocky Nohl drove race cars, thus his nickname fit.
There was an Ella Marie we called ‘Steve’ who hung a Stieglitz as a surname, and my Sister Doris was known simply as ‘Zib’ at Morton High. Seems she was a classmate of ‘Dut’ Wuthrich, who was also known as Lowell. Nathan Rapp was called ‘Nig,’ though we never saw the connection.
Nicknames had impact and status.
What did Sam Landis, Jack Stout and Ben Block have in common? The answer is “they could have sold ice to an Eskimo.” Block sold insurance, Landis sold ‘products’ and Stout sold thread.
Stout sold me seven spools of thread and my wife didn’t sew. He said she’d never learn without thread, and showed me five different ways to thread a needle. Somehow, I ended up taking him to supper.
Landis carried a line of ‘products’ to satisfy almost any household, and Deer Creek is where he hung his hat. Like Stout, he was honest as the day was long. Block would sell you a policy on an unborn child, and you can bet he knew the due date.
God bless ‘em all.