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Archive for June, 2011

MORE MEMORIES

(THIS PICTURE MAY BE ENLARGED BY LEFT CLICKING ON IT)

As the lead-in to the Lone Ranger radio shows began with “return with me now to the days of yesteryear” and then from the distance would be heard “Hi Yo Silver, Away”.  Well, maybe I didn’t get it exactly right but it is pleasant to remember those times.  Perhaps it is because we were young then and we long to be young again, or perhaps it is that in spite of all that was going on then, economy,  no jobs, etc. it was a great time to be alive.  Those were the times, even though we were unaware of it then, that  were  heralding the impending death of Patriotism, love of our country right or wrong, and a population and government that still believed that the United States was founded on and practiced religious beliefs and principles.

That was a time when an immigrant came to our country, he or she entered legally.  It was a time when that immigrant did not lobby or demonstrate for our government and citizens to change and conform to  him but was willing to change to live as a free American as had been done since king George was kicked out of the U.S. in the late 1700s.  As we grew the gates were always open to the hungry, the downtrodden, and the oppressed, but he came in a legal and honorable manner, learning our way of life and becoming “just another American citizen” and proud to display and salute our flag when it was near.

It was a time when there was a Bible in every classroom, a prayer in each school day, and prayer at all public events, whether private or government sponsored.  There was sharing among friends and neighbors, not the “I got mine now you get yours” attitude.  If some one was hungry, a church member, friend, or neighbor. would feed him.  If he were cold or wet, they would give him shelter.  Today, people turn to the government.  When this crept in back in the 1930’s, I doubt that anyone could have ever visualized a situation as it exists today.  We have and are giving up individual and states rights that were so precious back then.  It is not to late for this to be turned around, however, I doubt that our population has the will to take the necessary steps and make the necessary sacrifices to accomplish this.

What does all of this have to do with the above picture?  Well, that picture portrays a happy population in the 1930s.  The season is Christmas.  It is in downtown Huntington, WV.  There were  no shopping centers to rush through, just downtown stores with large glass windows to display the treasures inside and to foster the most wonderful of Christmas decorations.  Remember, this right in the middle of one of the worst depressions this country has ever known.  We don’t even see crowds like that in todays busy stores and the downtowns are dead.  Can’t you remember going to Huntington, Louisa, Ashland and other surrounding communities to just “window shop”.  It was all free and took no money.  It was a family event.  Can you remember the window decorations that Anderson-Newcomb used to put up a Christmas.  They were always the center of attractions in downtown Huntington.

I think that “window shopping” raised people’s standard of living by inspiring them to work toward the objective of a better life and better job so  that they might someday not just look through the window but go inside and become the proud owner of that desirable merchandise they saw there.  That, folks, is what moves the economy, not the promise of a government dole.

Would I like to go back to that time?  YES, however, that is not possible.  So, what is left?  To continually instill in the minds of your children and grandchildren the lessons and principles we learned  back then.

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MEMORIES

The original roller coaster at Camden Park was named “The New Sensation.” It was built around 1912, according to Paul Fulks. “In 1916, Eustace Via bought the park and ran it until the end of the Second World War,” he said. “By 1957, the new owners decided the old coaster was less than safe. One of owners, Harry Nudd (who also was the man in charge of maintaining the park), purchased coaster plans from a Dayton, Ohio, amusement ride company and in seven weeks between the 1957 and 1958 park season built what is now known as the Big Dipper. This coaster is one a only a few of the all-wood coasters left in the United States.” Camden Park, started as a picnic by the Camden Interstate Railway Co. in 1902 to generate patronage for its streetcars, still operates today. Date is unknown.

This camden park train is probably from sometime in the 50’s.  I worked there in the summer of 1947, and the train that was in service was a replica of a real stearm engine except much smaller.  I knew the gentleman that ran it and I recall him saying that it was the dirtiest job he had ever had.

I worked, as did everyone else, directly for Harry Nudd who was one of the owners.  He was a real hard nosed taskmaster but he would not ask anything of anyone that he would not do himself.  I recall hauling broken concrete up out of the swimming pool and Harry right there alongside pushing a wheelbarrow.  Try wheeling a wheelbarrow loaded with broken concrete up a ramp out of a swimming pool sometime.  Not an easy task, especially for a kid just out of high school that weighed about 130 pounds “soaking wet with pockets filled with sand”.

I found the above pictures of Camden Park from 60 years or so ago and thought they might bring back a pleasent memory for some from long ago.  Whether you were there with your favorite girl or boy friend, family, church group or by yourself, it was a fun place to be.

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The following information, honoring a FGHS graduate that many of you probably knew,  was sent to me by Bill Wellman.  The article is written by Diane Pottorff of the Wayne County News.  I am sure that many of you knew Chester as either a friend or a classmate.  I did not know,  however, his brother Vernon was a classmate of mine, class of 1947.  It is sad that one who gave his life in the cause of freedom had to wait so long to be so honored

.Pictured on the left are some of Chesters family members.  On the left is Vernon, Chesters brother.  By left clicking on the article you may bring all three columns in view.

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There was a post earlier today on the blog site from Wanda Boys Hollingsworth telling me that QUEENS CREEK IS BACK ON THE MAP!!!!  To get mail on Queens Creek it took a “Paul Beckley”, a horse and a mail cart, and finally, an address of Prichard, Route 1, and a box number.  This is the way it was done before I was born and has always been done that way since I had the misfortune to move away from the garden spot of Wayne County in the “Almost Heaven” state.  I was taken aback at why this was changing until she explained.  They now have 911 coverage on Queens Creek, therefore, there must be specific destinations that can be found easily by emergency personnel.  Now the address has changed from Route 1 to Queens Creek Road, along with a house number, Prichard, WV.  It will no longer be shown on maps as Route 2 but will be shown as Queens Creek Road. 

     Wanda Boys Hollingsworth, the lady that passed this information along, was the longest resident on Queens Creek.  I mention “was”, because I believe she has packed up and moved to Florida as a permanent resident.  I attended school with Wanda but she was a few  years ahead of me in school.  If I were guessing, I imagine she is probably 85 or 86 years young.  All of these many years were spent at the same farm on Queens Creek.  If there is anything about the history and the people of Queens Creek, Wanda would know it.

Wanda attended Queens Creek school and graduated from FGHS.  Upon graduation, she simply decided to stay in the area and care for her parents in their later years and raise her family in the same house in which she grew up.  She is a long-term member of Big Hurricane Baptist Church.  She was their bell-ringer for many years.  As you might imagine, a bell-ringer simply rings the church bell on Sunday mornings to call all to worship.  Big Hurricane Baptist has a bell tower with a church bell that is rung by pulling a long rope attached to the church bell in the tower.  My brother John and I were visiting in the area a few years ago and decided we would attend BHBC for worship services on a Sunday morning.  John asked Wanda if he could ring the church bell to which she readily agreed.  John gave the rope a couple of mighty tugs and, as you may have already guessed, broke the rope.  The first time in the history of having a bell at BHBC that this had happened.  John did make amends a short time later by sending the church several feet of new bell rope.  Would they ever let him pull the rope again?  I am not sure but I am not aware of them asking him again.

Speaking of 911 and emergency services, nothing like that existed when I was growing up.  If it had, there would have been no phones to call 911.  I believe the nearest phone my have been in Prichard.  There could have been one at Hubbards Town but I don’t recall ever seeing it.  Since Ed Bellamy’s store was the center of activity there, it could have had a phone.  I know that whenever an emergency arose at our house or a neighbors, someone would get in a car and drive somewhere to notify the needed service provider.  It didn’t seem important to me where they went to call so I never asked.

Speaking of telephones, I recall my Grandfather had a phone on Mill Creek.  It was a party line and I believe his ring was three longs and a short.  I am sure that some of you that lived on Mill Creek in the 30s and 40s will remember those old wall phones.  I have his in my house and it is usable.  I had a modern receiver put in it many years ago without removing all of the works.  We are able to use the old mouthpiece and listening device.  When his phone would ring and you answered it, you could hear phones click all up and down the line.  There certainly were no secrets or privacy.  It could be used for long distance but it was a kind of long process.  First you had to call someone who he alway called “Central”.  I can see him now, cranking the crank that rang the bell and got “central” whoever she was or wherever she was located.  He would give it a few hearty cranks and in a booming voice into the mouthpiece say,  “hello central, this is Matt Rains, get me Elsie Wriston in Kingston, WV”.  In an appreciable amount of time “central”  would get the person you asked for on a telephone.  As a kid, I always wondered what “central” looked like.  Was she pretty, did she live an adventurous life talking with people all over the area, or maybe even the world every day, did she make a lot of money, and how did you ever get a job like that.  Oh well, I guess those are questions that I will never get answers to.

The closest we had to 911 on Queens Creek at the time I lived there would have been one of the following;  someone at Ben Curnuttes house blowing on an old conch shell, one of the housewives beating on a metal dish pan or similar noise maker, some house would have a dinner bell mounted that they could ring, or some of the folks that lived around us could have done real well in an Arkansas hog calling contest so they merely would go into the back or front yard and scream.  All of the above methods seemed to usually get some sort of response.  Wow! what you could have done with a couple of walkie talky radios back then.

I mentioned a conch shell that someone from the Curnutte family would blow and make a noise when they had a need.  I believe that was the first conch shell that I had ever seen.  I was even told that you could place the conch shell to your ear and hear the ocean.  You know, I tried it and sure enough you could.  A five year old will believe about anything.  I have no idea where they got the shell because the folks on Queens Creek didn’t go to the beach a lot in the summer.  Maybe to Louisa occasionally for ice cream or Ben Cooksey’s store in Prichard for and item.  Maybe even Thompsons store in Fort Gay for horse shoes and then on to Carl Frashers for a haircut.  As a matter of fact, I don’t think I knew anyone back then that ever went to the beach.  A beach was a sand bar in Big Hurricane Creek, Mill Creek, or perhaps a small waterhole in Queens Creek.  Not knowing where the Curnutte conch shell came from has bothered me for many years so if there is anyone out there that has the answer please let me know.  Strange how little things from many years ago hang in your memory and the big, important things become harder to remember.

After Wanda had told me about Queens Creek being placed on the map, I began to think of all of the things that Queens Creek has that was not there when I was a child.  The residents have a city water system, telephone service, electricity, a paved road, mail delivery service to the last house on “the creek”, fire plugs, a cell tower somewhere in the area because the last time I was there I was able to use my cell phone, oh, and now 911 emergency service.  Somehow, sometime, the place has lost its pioneering spirit.

To Wanda, I can only say have a wonderful time and life in your new surroundings in Florida.  God Bless, be well, you have earned it.

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A recent visit to a small city in North Carolina prompted me to relate this event. Yep, I am going to revisit chickens, the pride and joy of my brother Richard. If there was ever a person that was anti-chicken it is Richard. If it has feathers Richard would banish it from his surroundings.  He dislikes chickens even more than mosquitos. He does, however, like eggs.  His reasoning is that for every egg he eats means there is one less chicken in the world. But enough of this, I will get right to the meat of this tale.
 
As I said, a recent visit to a small town in N.C. is the reason for this story. The people of this town have taken chickens as their farm animal to premier. I know of places that have chosen other animals to have around, but this is a chicken town.  I know of a town in Florida that has a flock (infestation) of peacocks. It is interesting to drive through a neighborhood and have a large peacock stare at you through your car window. I know of an area in N.C. that has a community of game chickens. If you know anything about game chickens, you know you don’t mess around with a gamecock (rooster) of the gamecock genera. They geta little fiesty. In Lexington, Ky. Richard showed me an area that was surrounded by residence that was home to many ground hogs.  It seems the houses had been built around what appeared to be ten acres where the ground hogs lived.  They were surrounded by residences and highways. No way to escape without running a hazardous gauntlet.
As we all know, chickens are animals that are generally thought of as being farm creatures.  We raise them for meat, eggs, and commerce. Some people may on occasion  raise one or two as  pets. I have done this and they are interesting to watch as they go about their chickeny ways. Roosters also make early morning bragging that starts your day off with a cock-a -doodle-doo.
 
Back to the small N.C. town.  My son John A. lives in Carrboro, N.C.  Carrboro is  one of the bedroom communities for those people that work in the triangle area of N.C. which includes Raleight, Durham, and Chapel Hill. This is a typical university type town with liberals that would like to get back to basics, but would not make the sacrifices that are necessary to live by as we did when we grew up.  They wear raggidy geans to symbolize poverty that they paid premium dollars for. I think this should give you a picture of what I am trying to get across.
 
All of this talk but still no chickens.  Well here they come. While having conversaions with my son (John A.) he related to my that he was going to raise chickens.  I was a little surprised, but didnt question the idea.  He said the was going to raise six chickens. I am not talking Leghorns or Rhode Island Reds. The chickens he has are breeds I never heard of. They are exotic.Some look strange.  They are beautiful if you see beauty in chickens but they are not the kind we raised on Queens Creek.  I thought six as a reasonable number but ask why six. It seems that the IN thing to do in Carrboro to demonstrate you are in tune with living off the land and being self sufficient; raise chickens. I don’t know why chickens because it could just as easily have been rabbits, sheep, or any other farm animal that woule produce an edible product.  In order to be in compliance with the city code you must go before the city council and get a permit to raise animals. (chickens)  Your permit must state how many chickens you are going to raise and pay the fee.  You will probably  be visited to see if you are in compliance.  However, raising chickens in a city is only part of this interesting story.  The chicken houses are another story.  I refer to them as the GREENBRIER of chickendom. The chicken house designs are as varied as the number of chickens. They are not large houses because they are to house only a few chickens. The houses are made of pine, cedar, poplar, and most other wood that you can imagine. They are lighted from the inside as well as lighting on the outside.  Some use what appears as Christmas tree lights to make them stand out. And the houses are not put in an obscure location in relation to the residence where they are located. Some appear to be in the front yeard. The houses are really a thing of art.  Each person tries to out do others.  I really don’t know where all this getting back to basics will end, but I think it is a good healthy idea. I have a small garden along my pool fence wher I grow cucumber, peppers, tomatoes, lettuce and other vegetables.  I tried a few chickens but my wife said either she or the chickens had to go. My wife is still here.
 
So the next time you are near the little town of Carrboro, pay close attention to the little buildings along side of the residences.  Even get out and ask to see what is being housed there.  However, if you do, be careful where you step.
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
John Plymale

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Many years ago, one day while John Plymale was thinning and hoeing corn in a hill side newground, he took a break and went to sleep under a large shade tree.  While asleep he was visited by “the little people”, his description, not mine.  They divulged secrets to John that were known only to them.  Below is one of those secrets.  The only other explanation for such strange behavior would be that he ate a strange mushroom for lunch. 

Written by: Helmut Spieser – Engineer/OMAF

Table of Contents

  1. Why Burn Corn?
  2. Table 1. Heat Energy of On-Farm Fuel Sources
  3. Basics of Corn Stoves
  4. Types of Stoves
  5. Cost of Heating with Corn
  6. Table 2. Heat Content and Heating Efficiency of Various Fuels                                                                                       

  7. Limitations of Burning Corn for Heat
  8. Stove Buying Criteria

A number of manufacturers now make stoves which will burn shelled corn. Although similar to wood stoves, these new stoves have been specifically designed to burn a dry granular fuel, such as shelled corn. Corn burning stoves usually have a combustion air fan and a fuel stoker, both of which are not common in standard wood stove construction.


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Why burn corn?

In Ontario we have an abundant source of dry shelled corn. The corn used as a fuel in stoves does not have to be Grade No. 1, but can be of lower quality. There are however two requirements of this corn fuel:

  1. The shelled corn must be dry, preferably 15% moisture content or less. Corn which is higher in moisture will have a lower heat value per unit weight than “dry” corn. Moist corn may also cause flow problems through the fuel loading auger.
     
  2. The shelled corn must be free of fines. Dirty corn which has a lot of fines and cob pieces will cause problems with the fuel loading auger.

The storage, moving and handling of grain corn has evolved to a point where there are very few unknowns. Every year farmers harvest, dry, convey, and store millions of bushels of corn. The equipment to do all these things is readily available. Consequently putting a corn storage system together for a home heating set up is possible with augers, conveyors and storage bins which are readily available.

Two reasons it is so attractive as a heat source are that dry shelled corn is so easily handled and in plentiful supply. Shelled corn also has a high heat energy per unit weight. Here’s how shelled corn measures up to other solid fuels.

Table 1.   Heat Energy of On-Farm Fuel Sources

Shelled Corn 7000 BTU/lb (16,200 kJ/kg) at 15% Moisture Content
Straw 6550 BTU/lb (15,200 kJ/kg) Air Dried
Corn Stover 7540 BTU/lb (17,500 kJ/kg) Air Dried
Wood 8000 BTU/lb (18,500 kJ/kg) Air Dried


You can see from this table that shelled corn has heat energy close to that of wood.


Basics of Corn Stoves

Corn stoves are specifically designed to burn a granular fuel. Because this fuel is metered into the burning chamber, most stoves have a storage hopper to contain a supply of fuel. In some ways corn burning stoves are very similar to pellet burning stoves. In both cases, corn and pellets are very dense. Consequently, neither of these fuels will burn readily in an open pile in a fire chamber.

To get these fuels to burn, some manufacturers use a small combustion chamber into which the corn is fed and combustion air is pumped through. The corn can be either dribbled into this combustion chamber from above, or it can be stoked into the chamber from below by means of an auger. The feed rate of this auger can be adjusted to regulate the amount of corn burned, which in turn controls the amount of heat produced. The second requirement for burning to occur is oxygen. In order to support combustion, oxygen is blown into the combustion chamber by means of a small fan. The combustion air is usually brought in from outside, not room air. This combustion chamber is actually quite small and could easily fit into a child’s lunch box.

As corn burns it produces a clinker. Because of the small size of the combustion chamber the clinker should be removed daily. With practice, the removal of the clinker can be done without having to shut down and then relight the stove. A specially designed poker is used to upend the clinker, then tongs are used to remove it.

Inside the stove, a heat exchanger is used to remove heat from the flue gases and heat the room air. A fan is used to move the room air through the stove where it is warmed. This fan may also help in moving the heat further away from the stove.
A different style of corn stove also exists which does not use augers to feed in the corn or fans to provide combustion air or move heated air to the room. By careful design, these stoves will burn corn at the bottom of a hopper and radiate heat to the surrounding room. Unlike the previous type where electricity is used to stoke the fire and move the heat to the room, these stoves are not affected by electrical power outages.

The type of flue pipe required to vent the exhaust gases from the stove will depend on the design of the stove or corn burning appliance. These flue pipes can range from those commonly used in wood stoves to through-the-wall vent pipes which actually preheat the combustion air by removing heat from the flue gases. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations regarding the type of flue pipe required. It is best to keep the flue pipe as short and straight as possible (keep the number of elbows to a minimum) to maximize the stove’s performance.


Types of Stoves

A number of different manufactures are presently making corn burning stoves. They are available in a variety of sizes and styles. Here are some of the configurations available:

  • Stove (some can be modified as a fireplace insert)
  • Space heater
  • Hot air furnace
  • Hot water boiler

The size of fuel hoppers also varies greatly. This hopper size can range from holding one day to ten days supply of fuel.

One thing to consider with the freestanding stove or space heaters is the surface temperature of exposed metal parts. This is especially important if there are small children in the house.


Cost of Heating with Corn

Before you can accurately compare heating with corn to other heating fuels you have to look at a number of factors. Not only is price of the fuel important, but also the heating efficiency of the heating system and the energy content of a unit of each fuel.

Here is a formula which you can use to calculate your cost per Million BTU’s of useable energy. This formula takes into account all these factors:

  • Cost per unit of fuel
  • Energy content per unit of fuel
  • Seasonal heating efficiency

Cost per Million BTU’s of useable energy =

(Cost Per Unit Of Fuel x 1,000,000) ÷ (Energy Content Per Unit Of Fuel (BTU) x Seasonal Heating Efficiency)

Where: Cost per unit of fuel is in Dollars Energy Content Per Unit of Fuel in BTU’s Seasonal Heating Efficiency is in decimal form ie (70% = 0.7)

Example: Lets look at an example where you are using corn at $2.50 per bushel in a stove which has a seasonal heating efficiency of 60%. What is the cost per million BTU’s of useable energy?

Corn Cost = $2.50 per bushel
Energy content per bushel = 7000 BTU/lb x 56 lb/bu. = 392,000 BTU
Seasonal Heating Efficiency = 60% = .6

Dollars per Million BTU’s Useable Energy =

(Cost per unit of fuel ($) x 1,000,000) ÷ (Energy Content Per Unit Of Fuel (BTU) x Seasonal Heating Efficiency)

=($2.50 x 1,000,000) ÷ (392,000 x .6)

= $10.63

Therefore to supply one million BTU’s of heat to the house costs $10.63 when this stove operates at 60% efficiency, burning corn at $2.50 per bushel. The average older home requires approximately 100 million BTU’s of useable energy per year. When you do the calculations for your situation, keep in mind that the price charged per bushel of corn may vary from the market price when small quantities are purchased. Check the prices carefully before doing these calculations.


Table 2.   Heat Content and Heating Efficiency of Various Fuels

 

Fuel Type Energy Content per Unit Seasonal Heating Efficiency
Shelled Corn
7000 BTU/lb. (16,200 kJ/kg)
70% – 85%
56 lb./Bushel
392,000 BTU/56 Pound Bushel
 
48 lb./Bushel
336,000 BTU/48 Pound Bushel
 
Furnace Oil
36,700 BTU/L (38,700 kJ/L)
70% – 85%
Propane
25,300 BTU/L (26,900 kJ/L)
70% – 85%
Natural Gas
35,700 BTU/M3 (37,700 kJ/M3)
70% – 85%
Electricity-Resistance
3413 BTU/KWh (3600 kJ/kwh)
100%
Air Source Heat Pump
C.O.P. = 2.75
275%
Water Source H.P.
C.O.P. = 4.0
400%
Wood
8000 BTU/lb. (18,500 kJ/kg)
60%

Limitations of Burning Corn for Heat

Possibly the first and most important limitation of corn as a fuel is the stove itself. If the stove uses augers to feed the corn into the combustion chamber and fans to maintain combustion and move heated air to the room then an electrical power interruption will shut the stove down. Very simply with this style of stove, no electrical power means no heat from your corn stove. Some stoves require a manual reset after a power interruption, as a safety feature.

Second, since most house layouts do not allow the free movement of air through the house, a centrally located stove will not heat the whole house. If this is your case, size the stove to heat the room where the stove is located. Oversizing the stove will result in the room housing the stove becoming unbearably hot.


Stove Buying Criteria

When purchasing a corn stove there are some questions which you should answer:

  1. (What is the heat output of the stove? Do you know how much heat you require to maintain the heated space at the desired temperature?
  2. If you are trying to heat your whole house with a stove or space heater, does the house layout allow for the convective movement of heat through the whole house? Most newer houses are not built to allow convective air movement.
  3. What is the size of the fuel hopper? Will it require filling on a daily, weekly or biweekly schedule?
  4. What is the seasonal heating efficiency of the corn stove?
  5. Does the unit meet UL and CSA standards?
  6. Does the unit have hot exposed surfaces which could cause burns to skin?
  7. What type of exhaust venting is required? Does it require a chimney with a flue liner or can a combination flue/fresh air vent pipe be used?
  8. Are you prepared to clean out the clinker daily and clean the heat exchanger of ash on a weekly basis?
  9. Will the stove handle granular solid fuels other than shelled corn? This is important in the event that the economics of burning corn become unattractive or an alternative low cost pelleted fuel becomes available.
  10. Will this corn burning appliance be a primary heat source or act as a supplementary heat source? Stoves with small fuel hoppers will not keep a house warm for long periods of time, unattended.
  11. How will corn be stored for winter operation?

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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It is early June but one would hardly know it, with temps ranging from the high eighties to the mid nineties.  It certainly feels like mid July or August.  The nice thing is that you can rapidly do the few necessary chores outside the house in a short time and quickly retreat to the cool air-conditioned inside for some iced tea or cold beverage of your choice. 

All of the above was not possible in the thirties and forties while growing up on the farm on Queens Creek, Post Office, Prichard, West Virginia.  There was no air conditioned inside to retreat to when the heat became oppressive nor was there an iced beverage waiting in an electric refrigerator to cool ones insides.  A major reason was that there was no electricity.  You simply would retreat to the outside well and draw a cool bucket of water and dip up a large dipper of fresh water to consume and perhaps dash a little of the what was left in the dipper over the top of your head.  You might then retreat to the shade of a large walnut tree nearby or head for the porch swing and swing back and forth to stir up the semblance of a breeze.  However, the problem was that many times you might be a fair distance away from the above comforts and then it was simply a drink of warm water that you had taken into the field in a large canning jar or similar container.  With no means of keeping it cold it was usually as warm or warmer than the temperature of the thermometer.

Speaking of thermometers, I am not sure that we owned one on the farm.  There may have been but I don’t recall it.  Today our lives today are sometimes ruled by whatever the outside temp is, whether it is going to school, going to work, performing some leisure activity.  We are so negatively influenced by numbers.  When I was a kid, you knew when it was cold and when it was hot but it did not have an effect on what you did or your life.  Things went on whether the temp was 40 or 80.  You didn’t check the weather forecast for rain, thunderstorms, snow, or whatever.  Someone in the family just instinctively knew when these things were likely to happen.   I don’t even know if there was a weather forecast.  We not only did not get the weather channel because we had no TV.  Our nearest radio station was probably Huntington and I doubt we got a very strong signal from it plus I am sure that they did not give out frequent forecasts.  There was no weather radar or similar electronic monitoring devices to forewarn of approaching weather changes. 

By this time of year, you were out of school, fear of frost or freeze had passed, crops were planted and up, and it was time to cultivate.  Cultivation of crops on a non-mechanized farm was very hard work.  When cultivating on the farm, you walked behind a horse pulling a plow, swung a garden hoe, or thinned corn.  You might say, “That doesn’t sound so hard”.  Well, I am here to tell you it is hard.  There are many out there, who did the above,  that would vouch for what I am saying. 

First let’s take a look at the cultivating plow.  Large farms might have had a plow that had wheels and a seat to on ride and was towed by a team of horses and plowed a wide swath with each pass of the plow.  The kind of plow I am talking about using was called a “double shovel” plow and it did one row of corn or whatever crop you were cultivating at a pass.  Doesn’t sound to hard, but try it for a while when you are ten or twelve years of age.  You have to guide the plow, guide the horse, and dodge things you might plow up and not want to step on, all of the while being very careful not to destroy the rows of crop you are plowing.  Speaking of things you might not want to step on, in following a horse through the field you are pretty close to the “business end”.  They don’t choose when they want to “go to the bathroom” they just do it.  As Colonel Potter used to say on the TV show “MASH”, you might need to dodge a little “horse hockey” on occasion.  Then, there was always the task of wrestling the plow around at the end of the row and heading back in the opposite direction.  Pretty boring, hard, and not very creative work to say the least, but as they say, “it went with the territory”. 

Speaking of cultivating, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how the soil got to the condition it would be in for planting.  During the winter and early spring, preparation of the field for planting would be done by spreading lime, fertilizer, or barn manure (that’s the stuff produced by politicians) or a combination of the above.  The plow we used was a turning plow that was pulled by a team of horses.  It was a heavy plow that would be used in both directions by releasing a catch with your foot when you reached the end of the furrow and then lifting the plow and turning the mole board to the other side permitting you to go back in the other direction thereby having the furrows all fall in the same direction, either right or left.  You would plow up lots of things, perhaps an indian arrowhead, a long-lost pocket knife, and occasionally a nest of snakes.  Just watch where you put your feet.  Try doing this on a hot day in a large field. 

The next step in soil preparation would have been to get out a machine that we called a disc.  It consisted of rows of round steel discs with a sharp edge.  Fortunately this machine had a seat for the operator to drive the team of horses from and was not a bad job at all.  The device looked a bit dangerous, sort of like a giant “slice and dice” machine, but I never knew anyone that got injured on it, although I am sure that it happened.  Falling under the discs was always a possibility.

The next step in soil preparation was to use something called a harrow.  It was a wooden frame, usually in a “V” shape as I recall, with a lot of what appeared to be railroad spikes driven through the frame.  Again a team of horses or mules would be hitched to this and it would be dragged through the field to further loosen the soil.  Once this was done, a wooden platform, usually something made on the farm, would be hitched to the team of horses and weights placed on the platform.  This would then be drug around the field to level the surface and finish the field ready for planting.  Once this was done seed would be spread by hand or a shoulder carried spreader where one would turn a crank and the seed would be broadcast about the field.  If it were to be a row crop, the field would then be laid of in straight rows by a small plow called a layoff plow pulled by a single horse or a mule. 

If the row crop were to be a corn crop, a corn planter would be used.  It was a device in which corn grains would be put and when the handles were pulled apart a measured amount of corn grains would drop out of the hopper into the lower portion of the planter which would be then plunged into the ground and the handles closed together thereby leaving the corn grains in the ground.  The planter would then be retracted allowing the grains to be covered with dirt and the cycle would be started again.  I can almost hear someone operating a planter today.  The sounds would be a rhythmic “clack”, “chunk”, whack”.  The rhythm exactly in step with the person operating the planter.  Try those sounds around an old person and he is apt to say: “Child you  sound like you’re planting corn”.

Thinning corn alway seemed to  me to be useless labor.  It was always assigned to the youngest family members.  When planting corn, the farmer always set the planter to plant four or five grains.  When about four or five inches high, one would go through and pull up all of the corn plants but two.  I suppose the theory was that any more than that the ground couldn’t sustain.  I never asked why, I just did it.  Ask a young person today to that and you had better be ready to explain it.  After thinning the corn, it would be hoed.  You simply went through the field and chopped the weeds out and loosened the soil around the plant.  This procedure was done two or three times during the growing season.  All of this back-breaking and strenuous work.  If farms were operated in this manner today, there would be a great shortage of food crops.

Growing up on a small farm with not a lot of creek bottom land, it was necessary to do a lot of hill-top farming.  This was done by selecting a tract of hillside or hilltop land and removing all of the trees, brush, and whatever else might be in the way of cultivation.  These tracts were known as “new ground” and were generally a distance away from the  home.  This presented logistical problems when lunch time or dinner time came.  On the farm we had three meals; breakfast, dinner, and supper.  I don’t know where the term lunch came from but it was never used around the farm.  My mother would prepare full meals for dinner for the workers and transport it to the hill-top field by carrying it or if there were a spare horse around the barn, she might place the food on a sled and deliver our food in that manner.  I don’t think men ever really appreciated the role the farm  wife played in seeing that everyone  was fed three meals every day.  In the absence of paper plates, she had to  haul all of the dirty dishes back to her kitchen, wash them, put them away, and then begin preparation for supper (city folks called it dinner).

Along about 5 or 6 o’clock in the afternoon, whomever was in charge of what you were doing would usually call a halt to the days work, at least work in the field.  Now the rest of the work day would begin.  After watering livestock and putting things away it would be time to do the milking, feed cattle, feed hogs, and gather firewood for the kitchen woodbox so that everything would be ready for food preparation to begin for tomorrows workday.  By then supper would be on the table and everyone sat at the table, not in front of a TV, a blessing would be asked and we would restore our bodies with energy in preparing for another work day tomorrow. If there was a few minutes of daylight left you would head for the nearest water hole in Queens Creek.  There was such a water hole within a couple of hundred yards of our house so all of the kids would head for it for a cool soak.  By the time you returned to the house it would be bedtime and you would go to sleep quickly because you were tired  and 6 AM came quickly. 

If this sounds like a boring existence, well, it wasn’t.  There was lots of love floating around, appreciation for what God had given you, and the part that you played in making it all possible.  It truly was, “A Kinder, Gentler, Time.”  A time in which I learned many, many lessons that have enabled  me to live a life filled  with good memories and few regrets.

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