Hard Times

Few periods in history have been discussed in such length as the 30's whenever the economic welfare of farmers is being evaluated.  No matter how bad things presently seem, nearly everyone can find comfort in the fact that its not as bad as in the 30's.  From the standpoint of money in circulation, there has been no parallel in this century.

My own recollection is remembering the hardships of my parents and as it related to me as a boy growing up on a Griggs County farm.

My mother worked as hard as or harder than my dad doing any job she could physically handle.  Once she went into the field to shock grain, taking my baby brother with her.  She made a bed in a shock of grain and began working as fast as she could.  Time passed quickly and she suddenly remembered her baby somewhere tucked away in a shock of grain.  The field had been partially shocked when she placed him there and paid little attention to where she had left him.  Looking back down the shocked field, she nearly panicked wondering where she had left him.  After searching in several rows of shocks, she found him asleep and safe.

Horses were being used to pull the farm implements and the minimum number required was five horses, barely enough to pull a gang plow.  My parents owned four and borrowed a fifth from an uncle.

1933 started a steep downhill trend for us.  The farm we were renting was sold that year and we were able to rent a farm with fewer acres, poorer buildings and less pasture.  My dad forbade my brothers and me from riding any of the draft horses.  Their energies were needed for fieldwork and they were getting a minimum amount of feed to sustain them.  Nonetheless, I bridled one of the grey horses we had and rode him to a nearby neighbor.  While helping the neighbor to round up his cows for milking, I rode Tom through an abandoned straw pile bottom and Tom stumbled and broke his neck.  Needless to say, I had trouble going home and telling dad.

I knew this had put a definite crimp in our farming, as we no longer had the required number of horses to pull the plow.  Well, it did seem like the beginning of the end.  That year, we somehow managed to seed some crop but none was harvested because of the heat and drought.

I remember dad hauling hay in the rear seat of our "Star" car from Hannaford.  The hay had been shipped in by rail and was being doled out to farmers to help them keep the few cattle they had left.  The hay was moldy and another one of our horses died from the spoiled hay.

Old "Libby" the mother and grandmother of many of the cattle we had left, died giving birth to her last calf.  Lack of nutrition had left her too weak to give birth.

The bank called in the loan we had on our livestock and the cows were sold for $10 each.  A subsidy of $8 was paid by the government, which made a total of $18 per cow.  That ended farming for our family and dad went to work for WPA for $40 a month.

My uncle had a house he wasn't using and we moved into it rent-free.  I remember the good neighbors who always shared their cream and eggs and other items with us.

The period of the thirties that presented these special problems taught people how to live and enjoy themselves in spite of everything else.  It is especially heartwarming to recall the close friendships of that time.  It seemed people were able to respond to other people's problems in a genuine way and derived a lot of satisfaction in being able to help one another.

Oh, yes, I remember the government agent who came to our house years later.  He was trying to collect the money we owed for the moldy hay.  Because this government agent may still be around and the debt could be visited on the second generation, I prefer to be anonymous.

Source: Cooperstown, North Dakota 1882-1982 Centennial page 104

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