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|Chapter 43: Some Generalizations||Contents||Chapter 41: Milk and What We Ate|
My great-grandfather, Booth Bond, drove cattle to Baltimore over the mountains from Hackers Creek. This was an heroic venture, but it was common at the time. As mentioned above, hogs and turkeys were also driven over the mountains. This self-transporting nature of the product is doubtless the reason that meat has always been an important source of protein in cities, along with fish, which can be brought large distances with ease and little expense on the boats that catch them. The roads were terrible, and animals could walk to market without investment in wagons and draft animals. If you sold grain in the cities, wagons and draft animals had to be brought home. If you wanted to sell agricultural products, there was nothing else but the local market – adjoining cash poor farms and small cities a few miles away.
In my grandfather’s, Thomas Marsden Bond’s, lifetime rail traffic came in. Cattle, sheep and hogs were moved out to the East, and flour, sugar, grain were moved in from the West. Lost Creek was the greatest shipping point for cattle between St. Louis and Baltimore on the B & O Railroad at one point in time. Grandfather Bond hauled apples from the newly acquired Lost Creek farm to Salem and sold them door-to-door with horse and wagon. There was a lively local market for food to the coal miners and the glass plant workers in Clarksburg and other towns. Grandfather raised turkeys and cattle for cash.
Of course, the traditional farm animals which have always characterized the general farm in the United States, and before that in Northern Europe, were present. They are milk cows, sheep, pigs, chickens for eggs and meat, heavy work horses, a light horse for fast transportation, dogs for protection (they served as an alarm for anything unusual, and a defense against wild animals), and a cat or two in the house to catch mice. (Absence of mice helped keep snakes away.) This ensemble goes back to times well before the Romans came North. Farms near cities grew vegetables for sale, but both my grandfather and greatgrandfather farmed far enough from town that only apples would have been grown for sale outside the family. Also, Grandfather had time to grow several varieties of roses, some of which were still around when I was a child, although he died before I was born.
The streetcar system around cities brought in milk and cream and eggs, very perishable food before refrigeration. Uncle Erlo Davis, who married Grandfather’s sister, Aunt Antha, was a very prosperous farmer, in part because he lived by the streetcar tracks and could use it to ship his produce to Clarksburg and Weston. He was also a great worker. He had invested in a Jane Lew Bank before the Great Depression, a serious mistake discussed below.
My father inherited the Lost Creek farm, as discussed above, during the depression. He needed a house after he married mom in 1932, so he bought one of the frame company houses that were for sale after the zinc plant at Spelter failed, and moved it to the Lost Creek Farm. He hired Kenneth Hulin of Salem, a carpenter, who had married a cousin, Mary Randolph, daughter of Uncle Roy and Aunt Cora, another of grandfather’s sisters, to help rebuild it in the new location. It was small compared to the houses that most farm people lived in. My mother was proud that the older women called it “the doll house.” It had a slate roof, which is still on it today, which has proved very serviceable in all ways, except that repair of slate roofs is now an almost forgotten art.
My father told me that he remembered when they lived at Lost Creek the first time (before WWI). At that time great herds of imported Western cattle moved from the rail head at Lost Creek to the West, a few being dropped off at this farm, a few at that, some going all the way to Doddridge County. Some of these herds belonged to the Maxwells. The largest herds would take all day to pass the house. These cattle would be fattened on the bluegrass and white clover of our area, then driven back to the railhead and shipped east to the big cities where the consumers and the ports were located. Dad said you had to keep a very good road fence in those days because if you didn’t you lost your meadow or anything they could get into.
Trucking came in during Dads mature years. In the 20’s and 30’s people would sometimes ship to Pittsburgh or Baltimore by truck but farmers shipped animals to the local markets most of the time. There was an heroic character to the long hauls, and a lot of very good stories which are now lost went with the era. Animals escaping, animals being trampled, truckers getting lost, etc., were standard occurrences on these long trips. But sometimes the shipper hit the jackpot, too. That’s what motivated the long hauls.
This era saw the introduction of heavier, all metal equipment. Some farm implements were manufactured at home during my grandfather’s era, and some were purchased at the hardware store, or sent for by mail order. From the twenties on there were machine dealers, who soon became identified with their most expensive item, the farm tractor. Today tractor dealers sell almost all farm equipment.
It is safe to say there were few materials brought in from some other place before Booth Bond’s time. China, silverware, some furniture for those who could afford it, and guns for all, and raw iron were the principal imports. The roads were a muddy morass in the winter and a rough dusty track at best in the summer. The implements were traditional, and skills of the wheel maker, the barrel maker, and the blacksmith sufficed. During Booth Bond’s lifetime factory made farm machinery, nails and fence wire and glass and furniture became more common. When he and Rebecca moved to Salem, situated on the railroad, later in life, they moved into a new age where the industrial world was beginning to supply most of the basic needs.
My father bought his tractors and most of his equipment from Salem. Sam Stalnaker had a Ford distributorship (the level above dealership) there and had a great variety of equipment. Sam was a great salesman, and Dad bought a lot from him. Sam got seriously over extended and came to a bad end, and after his time the farm machine dealership was separated from the car and truck business. Junior Kelly was the chief mechanic and took over the tractor and equipment business. It was first B & K, with Junior Kelly as the tractor partner downstairs and Jennings Broadwater upstairs selling hardware. Later the tractor dealership moved out of town, to what had formerly been a bowling alley, still doing business as B & K, and Junior was the owner, with his able brother Bob Kelly as partsman. The business faded away as the farm business declined in Doddridge County, and was slow elsewhere. The last tractor we bought of them was a Ford 3000, about 1964. Junior has “gone on to his reward” and Bob is now a parts man at Hayhurst Equipment in Pennsboro.
Today I have one tractor from Schott Equipment Company, located in Washington, PA. It is an Agco-Allis 5670 with a Westendorf loader. The other is from Sewell Valley Equipment, Rainelle, WV. It is a Same (pronounced sah-me) Explorer Top 90 II, also with a Westendorf loader. I need two loaders to haul hay from one farm to the other. One tractor loads on one farm, and the other unloads on the receiving farm. Much of the rest of my equipment is from King and Sons, of Morgantown. Both tractors are made in Italy by Same, although sold under different brand names and distributed through different companies. The equipment I have from King come from Pella, Iowa, made by the Vermeer Company. This illustrates two things: how far I have to go for specialized equipment to farm with and how concentrated the farm equipment business is today.
When he was young, Dad dug limestone and burned it on the ridge behind our house at Lost Creek. Not much, because it was a terrible labor. Mostly he hauled lime from Elkins or beyond a couple of tons at a time, a days trip. I remember two lime spreaders we had when I was a kid. One had two rotors, steel wheels and fastened on behind the truck bed. One or two men rode in the back of the truck, shoveling the lime into the spreader, while one drove. The second one was made from an old car differential. The drive shaft was moved to a vertical position. Above this was a bin about three feet in diameter and a little more than three feet deep. A rotor turned below the bin and an agitator in the bin, and there were adjustable slots to let the lime fall through onto the rotor. This was filled and pulled behind the tractor. The first one was useful only on relatively flat ground, but the second one could be used on hillside too. The farm was never properly limed, because it was too expensive. Much of the pasture on the Lost Creek farm has never been limed.
I’m not sure when we first began to use fertilizer, but it was in use when I was a small child. It was applied in the row by the corn planter, or with a drill, never broadcast. We didn’t get to broadcasting fertilizer until grassland farming came in. It wasn’t used much on grass until the 80’s.
Now fertilizer is trucked in one ton bags. It is mixed in Ohio but it is hard to guess where the raw materials come from. The urea is manufactured using natural gas, the phosphate comes from one of the few deposits worldwide, perhaps the SE Georgia-Florida area and the potassium probably from the Western United States. They set the bags on my truck at Wilbur Swisher’s feed store in Weston and I unload them with a five gallon bucket into the spreader on the back of the tractor. Lime comes in triaxle trucks, from Kentucky or Ohio, and I load it into the lime spreader with a front loader on the tractor.
My cattle have been sold in recent years through the local cattle sales, at Weston. They have special feeder calf sales in the fall, modeled on the graded calf sales sponsored by the extension service at Jackson’s Mill. I used to market through the Jackson’s Mill sales but they now require you to send steers on one day and heifers on another, making it necessary to round up your cattle twice. At feeder calf sales the cattle are divided into uniform groups by weight, sex and by the US Department of Agriculture grade. This makes them more attractive to buyers, because they want uniform lots to feed together. They go to Ohio or Pennsylvania in eighteen wheel trucks, or further, where they have the feed to grow and fatten them.
In the near future this may change. We now sell to people who produce commodity beef. It is sold as
This old store building survives in Weston. It was a typical, but rather small,
various cuts, but not under a brand name. The experts seem to think that branded beef – that is, packaged and sold under a brand name – is in the foreseeable future. When that happens feeder calf producers will have to follow a lot of new regulations about their breeding stock and handling the animals, all demanded by the packer. We will have an arrangement with the packer-feeder and animals will go to him year after year. Another thing that seems to be in the offing is some sort of universal identification. Already in Europe cattle can be traced back from the meat counter to the butcher to the farms where they have lived each part of their lives.
Aside When I was very small my parents bought groceries in stores in Lost Creek, primarily. There were two or three stores then. Typically stores of the time were rooms about 20 to 30 feet across and thirty to fifty feet deep, with twelve to fifteen foot high ceilings. The walls would be lined with shelves all around and one side would have a row of counters. The other side would have a potbellied stove and a few chairs or boxes to sit on. They sold food items, some veterinary items, and a little hardware. Hardware was a specialty that had developed a few decades before my time, and the hardware in a food store was limited to washboards, wash tubs, cooking utensils, and a few other items. The store was usually dark. Food consisted of dry items, like flour and sugar; canned goods, which were expensive; bottled items, like cider, vinegar, pop; some solid items like bread, tobacco products, and candy; a few pickled items sold in bulk, and local produce, such as butter, eggs, various kinds of meat, with some vegetables in season. Bananas and oysters were available in season. Such stores also sold soap and some personal items like shaving cream and toiletries. The storekeeper fetched these items from the shelves, barrels, and from hanging quarters of meat as you asked for them
When I was about 10 or 12 the family went to Scarboro (West Virginia) to visit Mom’s sister, Kathryn (Kennedy) Idleman and Glen Idleman, her husband, and their children Janet and Barbara. (Rosemary and Michael weren’t born yet.) While we were there Uncle Glen invited Dad and Mom to go with him to the grocery store in Oak Hill. It was an early A&P supermarket, and my parents were amazed at the variety of goods and that they let you walk around with a cart and pickup what ever you wanted to buy. In telling about the visit at home, Dad always emphasized that Glen had bought over one hundred dollar’s worth of food at one time, even thought the prices were lower than in other grocery stores. “He didn’t go to the store but once every ten days or so,” Dad told folks.
As soon as the A&P came to West End of Clarksburg, the family began to buy groceries there. This was probably the most abrupt change in how we bought necessary things in my lifetime. Today we buy at Kroger in Clarksburg. I marvel at the number of different items that stock Kroger’s shelves. I once asked the manager, whose children I had in my classes when teaching at Bridgeport High School, how many items they stock. He told me the carry 110,000 different items in the one store, which are picked from a catalog of 130,000 items.
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|Chapter 43: Some Generalizations||Contents||Chapter 41: Milk and What We Ate|
Copyright © 1998, 2006, 2008, 2011 S. Tom Bond (stombond at hughes.net)