On The Farm
by Betty Sodomka (1976)
Farming was hard hard work
The field work was done by hand or horse-drawn machinery. One of the least popular tasks was making hay in the meadow overlooking the Minnesota River, which was cut with a hand scythe. Two flexible poplar trees were trimmed of branches and pointed at the ends to make poles to slip under the loose hay. Two men carried this "stretcher fashion" to the haystack and another man stacked it with a pitchfork.
Farmers hauling potatoes to market was a familiar sight on the route between Burnsville and St. Paul. Enous Gallagher recalls the stop at "Halfway House" on the way to and from St. Paul. A glass of beer was five cents and they gave away free ham sandwiches. Bill Lannon recalls "the longest day of his life." He left home at 3:15 a.m. with a wagon loaded with potatoes, journeyed to St. Paul over the High Bridge and because of a wagon breakdown didn't get home until 8:15 at night. (Potatoes sold for 3.5 cents a bushel at that time.)
Jim Connelly tells about the hard times. As a young man, he remembers thinking about "hard cash" in his pocket as he was hauling potatoes to market for his father. To his disappointment the merchants would pay only in groceries in exchange for produce. At the height of the Depression Johnny Connelly was unable to find buyers for his potatoes. Rather than haul his full load home he pulled out the tailgate of his wagon as he drove his team up the hill at 6th Street and Exchange near downtown St. Paul. The "spuds" rolled out and the housewive scrambled to pick them up in their aprons.
- According to Merrill Jarchow, there were 10,000 more oxen than horses in Minnesota in 1860. By 1870 horses outnumbered oxen by 50,000. The Minnesota Historical Society published an excellent survey of farm development in Minnesota (link) http://www.dot.state.mn.us/culturalresources/docs/crunit/devperiods.pdf
- This could have a "hired man." This was a common job description well into modern times, before titles became more sophisticated. Often the "hired man" would live on the farm with the family. Similarly, across farmland, the local grain elevators similarly had a manager and a "second man."