In the spring of 1925 Dad rented a section of land from Fred Davis who owned the hotel in Veteran. The farm was 7 miles south east of Veteran so we were 2 1/2 miles from Jewett school which Ronnie and I attended until grade 8. We took our lunch to the school which was so cold our lunches would freeze by dinnertime, the teacher would have us put our lunches by the heater and had everyone march around the school to get warm. The school board offered $2.00 a month for anyone to come early enough to get the fire started . I took the offer for one winter, I thought I was rich -
When we moved into the house Mother pulled the wallpaper off the wall and the bed bugs fell off by the dustpan full. We ended up sleeping in the granary for 2 weeks while they fumigated and cleaned the place.
On October 31, 1925 my brother Robert was born with the neighbor Mrs. Roth acting as midwife. When he was about 2 years old he stuck his hand in the cream separator and lost a finger. The summer he was to start school he got run over by the tire of the car. it rubbed his scull and pushed the scalp off his forehead requiring 32 stitches.
Ronnie and I trapped gophers, hunted crows and magpie eggs. Gopher tails were 1 cent each, crow legs 5 cents a pair; we would take them to school and the teacher would count them and report the results to the county and they would give her the money. Rabbit ears were 10 cents a pair and the hides were 15 to 30 cents each. One year the rabbits were so bad the farmers had to put fences around their feed. Another year the army worms or tent caterpillars were a problem. The train stopped at Little Gem and couldn't get started as the tracks were so slippery from the worms. They had some farmers sweep the tracks so they could get moving. In the morning they would crawl east and in the afternoon to the west. The sides of houses would be completely covered with worms.
The crops were very short so Dad got a McCormick Deering header. The pole was behind the platform and it seemed like the horses were pushing it. The pole had a caster wheel that had a stem which came through a small platform where the driver would stand. The stem had a board 6X18 inches which you stood over to steer the header. It had a bundle carrier and knotter the same as a binder. For short crops you took them off and put a 16 foot conveyor on to elevate the heads of the crops into a 8X14 barge which was pulled by another 4 horses. When harvest time came I was in the barge and Ronnie drove the 4 horses; the grasshoppers would jump into the corners to a height of 18 inches. When full we would haul it to the yard. The barge had a plank in the front with a rope on one end long enough to come out the back door, the barge would tip up and you would punch a crow bar in the ground and drop the two ropes over the crow bar and the horses would pull the stack out. The grasshoppers would come out of the stack and the geese and turkeys would walk around the stack and pick the hoppers until they were so full they stick out their mouths. When the grasshoppers first came into the area you could see them fly in; like the locusts as seen on TV. The government supplied the bait which was saw dust and arsenic mixed with water and had to be spread early in the morning. Everything was so dry that when it hit the ground the poison was dry and worthless. The second year the government supplied it again but with some kind of oil which was more effective. We would have to grease our hands and gloves with grease and had to be careful not to get the mixture under our fingernails. Our neighbor Mr. Brein had a tub on a wagon and would throw the bait out bare handed in front of himself over the horses while he was driving. He lost all his fingernails and the horses lost their hoofs-
The years 1925 to 1930 hold a lot of memories, I will try to remember them but some may not be in the proper sequence as the dates are hard to remember.
I remember the first of July 1926 and Dad and his hired man Billy Wilson were working and finally called it a day. Billy had a driving team and after dinner we all got in the democrat and headed to Veteran for the first of July celebrations. They tied the horses to the democrat and laid out a couple sheaves of oats for them to eat. We used to have school picnics and everything was free, Ronnie and I thought this would be the same. We went to the counter and asked for ice cream cones and they asked us for 10 cents which we didn't have. We went looking for Dad and we thought we had better not eat the ice cream cones until dad paid for them in case they wanted them back. We had ice cream running down our elbows. After that Dad never took us any place unless we had a few cents spending money in our pockets.
Dad bought the first 15/30 McCormick Deering tractor in the area. The neighbors said "Chris, you are going to go broke". In 1928 he bought a 1/2 section of Hudson's Bay land of prairie and by 1929 he and the hired man by the name of Vic Sandstorm had broke 225 acres. Ronnie and I disked one summer with four horses each and an eight disk. The young rabbits would hide behind the clumps of sod. We would stop and catch them and between the two of us would make 50 cents a day for their ears. At noon or suppertime we would be 1/2 to a mile from home. We would unhook the horses and while they were still 4 abreast Ronnie and I would stand on their backs and ride them home like the Romans did. Mom used to say "My God boys, you are going to get killed", Dad would just say "Oh Mom, they know what they are doing". We never did get hurt and had lots of fun.
In the summer of 1927 had had an immigrant from the Ukraine to work for him, his name was Max Bader. On New Years Eve of 1928 we were asked to go to the Jewett families for supper. It was very cold and calm. We headed home in the sleigh near midnight. It was a bright clear moonlight night and as we drove into the yard we could see something laying in the yard about 60 feet from the house. Dad went to see what it was and found the hired man froze to death. He didn't want to come with us because he couldn't speak English. He had met Johnny Fisher who spoke German and they had become good friends. They thought he was trying to catch a horse to go visit Johnny as they found an oat pail and bridal beside him. He had been kicked on the side of the head and the tracks showed that he had tried to crawl to the house. The door to the house was open and everything was frozen solid. They phoned the neighbors and they all came over and sat with us. They also called the Doctor and Police and they said not to touch the body until they arrived in the morning with a team and sleigh .They didn't arrive until about 10 O'clock the next morning and the neighbors would take turns watching all night from the kitchen window for coyotes that were howling and coming closely to the body. It was a very exhausting night for everyone. I can still see the body laying there in the moonlight with the coyotes howling close by.
That summer was very dry, no hay for winter, pastures were bare, cattle and horsed would wander into the yard looking for something to eat. Dad decided to build a hammer mill from parts of old machinery. There were no welders in those days. For the hammers on the mill he used old car springs, the drum that held the hammers was made from the disk blades off our old seed drill, the screens were made from the bull wheel of a Massey Harris binder as it had wooden wheels about 12 inches with metal bands used for the screen. We made 3 screens with different sized holes. The larges holes were 1 1/4 inch that were used to out oat bundles , straw, pig weed, Russian thistle etc. I think Ronnie and I must have drilled close to a thousand holes with the old post drill. We used stove pipes to blow the hammered feed into the loft. There was little straw for bedding for the cattle. The feed would settle in the crown of the horses as they grazed closer to the ground and would form a mud ball in their stomach. It didn't affect the cattle as they chewed their cud.
In the fall of 1929 a dust storm blew in from the north west and lasted for 3 days. It got so dark that by about 3 o'clock Mother would have to light the lamp in the kitchen. Some friends of Mom and Dad's started out from Youngstown to see us at Veteran and got caught in the dust storm. They got about a half mile form our place where they had to cross a grade about 100 feet long over a slough, it was so dusty that one of them got out of the car and hung on to the fender to guide them so they wouldn't run off the grade. After the storm was over and you could see the barn the wind had pushed it over so it leaned about 8 feet at the top. We used telephone poles and crow bars to push it back. The barn was 28 x 32 feet and 29 feet high with a 16 x 32 lean-
In the spring Dad had 3 six horse outfits working plus Dad on the tractor. Mom would drive one of the outfits. I done a lot of the cooking, baked bread and cake and also done some of the washing and looked after my brothers Robert and Ronnie who always seemed to be sick. Then we got the news that the police were questioning Mother's brother John as his neighbor Hank had been murdered. They came and inspected the house and found blood on his coveralls, so they were suspicious of him, Uncle John told them he had just butchered a pig. The police took the coveralls and had them tested and the results cleared uncle John. Pat Lee was an Irish policeman with a dishonorable discharge from the force so Pat Lee and brother Mike came to Canada. Pat Mike and Hank each had a quarter of land. Hank was known for making moonshine but the police could never catch him until after he was killed and they found that he had a pit behind his shop with scrap iron and lumber over it. He had an old binder there as well with a stove pipe coming out under the platform; very inconspicuous to say the least. Pat had a housekeeper and Hank used to call on her. The police felt that Pat was the guilty one but the case was never solved. The police looked for days to find the body and found him buried in the chicken coop under the roosts covered with straw and chicken manure.