TALES OF THE FARM HIRED MAN
ANY record of New England rural life would be incomplete that left out the farm hired man.
The farm employer who does not make a careful study of how to get the best service he can from his help, and at the same time retain that good will and cheerful co-operation which are so essential to pleasant personal relations, is not likely to succeed to any satisfactory degree.
Hand Mowers at Murray's
Mr. Murray conducted a large and somewhat rocky farm in the days before farm machinery had been developed to anything like its present state of efficiency. He had a large field of grass that he was in a hurry to cut and put in the barn. The field was pretty nearly rectangular and one July day Mr. Murray devised a very ingenious plan.
There were four hired men to undertake the job of mowing the field with hand scythes. Three of these men were assigned brief tasks, the fourth taking his place to turn the grindstone while the proprietor ground the scythe. This man was then told to mow around the field.
Another man was called up to perform the same duty at the grindstone, after which he was sent after number one. The third and fourth each took their turn and was started after the others.
It took just about the same time at the grindstone as to mow across one side of the rectangular field. Consequently number one was just starting on the last lap when number four struck in behind the others.
The owner's scheme was now plain to the four mowers. He was expecting each man would exert himself to overtake the next one. But instead of being resentful, the humor of the situation appealed to them. They entered into the spirit of the occasion with enthusiasm and before twelve noon they had completed their tasks and made a record.
Naturally the owner of the farm was much pleased with the result of his carefully laid out plan. But it is not to be supposed that other occasions did not furnish opportunity for the hired men to get even. The farm holder who tries crafty methods to secure abnormal production by his employees must expect to see the score balanced sooner or later.
That "Hope springs eternal in the human breast," is shown by endless demonstrations. A conspicuous example of that hope appeared in the unique experience of the country editor.
Sporting Venture of the Country Editor
In a certain green valley of a New England state, there was a race course. . . . There were many gamey horses in that valley and the speeding fever ran high. Several successive trotting events associated with agricultural fairs, had drawn the attention of horse lovers to the excellent track. And so it came about that the editor of a little country weekly, who lived some distance away, conceived a brilliant plan. Tired of the meager rewards of news gathering, he decided to organize a trotting tournament on this popular track and make a grand coup.
Therefore he made his announcements of several races for which he solicited entries by well-known horsemen. The response in this respect was disappointing, but he felt sure the revenues from gate admissions would make the venture successful.
The eventful day was fair and the editor was quite elated to see a considerable crowd gathering to watch the races. This state of mind, however, received a rude shock when he sauntered out to the entrance to get an estimate on the receipts. He found to his dismay that a large proportion of the admissions had been on the strength of an annual pass.
Hastening to the secretary of the Association, he was blandly informed that the grading of the track had been done on a cooperative plan by which all the farmers of the valley who contributed a certain amount of labor were entitled to admission at all times, except during the week when the annual fair was being held.
This was a staggering blow. He was under obligations to pay the trotting purses and the prospects were that he would be several hundred dollars out of pocket. Accordingly he hastened to the owners of the trotting horses and proposed that they accept a pro rata percentage of the premiums as substitutes for the full amounts. He was coolly informed that they didn't do business that way. Considering themselves victimized, the owners began to take their horses off the grounds.
It was about at this point that real trouble began to loom up. Of those visitors who had actually paid good money for admission, there was a large element of farm hired men. They began to clamor for action. They wanted what they had paid for. Getting no satisfaction from the race horse people, they demanded an audience with the editor. He was invisible. Finally someone reported that he had been seen entering the woods in the rear of the grounds.
Just as the vociferous youths had about decided to organize a hunt and capture the fugitive dead or alive, a carriage came dashing through the gateway and a well-known citizen pulled up his horse before the crowd, and demanded the attention of all. He said the gentleman by his side was the man they were looking for and that, although he had been alarmed by their threatening manner and had hastened away, he had come back to face the music.
The editor now arose and announced that he had arranged for the race events to be carried out. The volatile spirits of the boys were quickly evident. The races were called. The horses performed in a satisfactory manner and harmony reigned.
But back in seclusion the poor country editor was signing time notes to make up the losses of the day.
And yet hope springs eternal!
The husky farm hand who works hard during the day might be expected to retire early. And indeed he often does; but there are occasions when he does not find it necessary.
It is really astonishing how much day and night work the healthy outdoor worker of twenty or twenty-five can endure.
Found the Spring"
It was late summer and very busy times on the farm, but this did not stand in the way of plans for a certain evening's festivities. These plans involved several young men, a robust but tender young rooster and a supply of fresh, green corn, also for roasting purposes.
The scenes of these activities were on the shore of a little lake. The fringe of trees stretching along the shore allowed the selection of a location which was invisible to all but the parties interested.
The banquet was a great success. The corn was delicious and the roast chicken even more so. There was an abundance of jokes and time passed rapidly.
A supply of fresh water had been brought from the lake, but it was warm and tasteless. Finally one of the boys suggested that he thought there was a cold spring near by, if they could only locate it.
Away from the cheerful blaze of the bonfire, the shores of the lake were dark as Egypt. But finally one of the boys said he believed he could find that spring. Taking a small, tin pail, which they had thoughtfully brought with them, he started out-
Nothing could be seen of the young man, but his flounderings about among the dense underbrush were plainly audible. Time passed and he seemed to have had considerable difficulty in locating the spring. Conversation died away, as all were watching and listening. Suddenly there came a noise of a succession of ramblings about in the bushes, followed by a loud splash as of someone falling heavily in the lake. The young men by the bonfire leaped to their feet. They were alarmed but speedily reassured.
There was a gurgling noise for a moment, next the sound of someone swimming in the lake and later pulling himself up by the bushes, and then the well-known voice of the missing man came back with the cheer words:
"Boys, I have found the spring!"
As before stated, it is the tactful farm owner who secures the most satisfactory production in the way of farm labor. The professional farm hand with years of experience behind him, is quite prone to be resentful of criticism.
Expert Who Repaired the Fences
One of these old-time laborers was employed by a man who owned several adjacent farms and there was always a superabundance of work on hand.
This farmer had a large mountain pasture for his young cattle and it was rather essential that the fences be secure, as otherwise the cattle might break through, wander away and be hopelessly astray before they were missed.
One spring an old veteran farm hand was intrusted with the task of repairing these fences. After several days, he reported that everything was all right and was assigned to other work. A day or two later, a man residing on the other side of the mountain, reported that the young cattle had broken out and were in his enclosure.
The "boys," including the veteran aforesaid, were sent after the strayers and devoted the entire afternoon in getting them back into their proper domain. The next morning the same veteran fence fixer set out again with instructions to make a thorough job of the repairs this time, so that there would be no further trouble. He spent another day on the fences and came back at night with positive assurances to the owner that the young cattle could not possibly go astray again.
Two or three days later, the same neighbor came from the same distant farm, informing them that the cattle had once more broken through the fences and again a rescue party was sent after the wanderers.
That evening at the supper table those present seemed disposed to consider the entire matter a pretty good joke on the fence builder, who expressed his unqualified amazement as to how the fence could have given away after all he had done to put it in repair.
The owner of the farm who had listened to the various jocose comments in silence, finally volunteered an explanation:
"Probably a chipmunk ran along the fence somewhere and broke it down."
When next the fence builder reported a satisfactory job, his guarantee was found to be reliable.
Sometimes the farm hand becomes a fixture in the family and is regarded with real affection by those whom he has seen grow up from childhood.
Man Who "Arrived In a Great Hurry"
In a certain bustling New England city, there was a young married woman who retained a very considerable regard for the "hired man" who had lived in her family from her earliest recollections, even until the present. It was her great desire to have "Uncle Harvey" come down to her city home and let her show him around. As he had scarcely ever left the town in which he was born and had passed his lifetime, this lady could see great possibilities of entertainment for herself as well as for Uncle Harvey. Making her annual summer visit at the old homestead, she repeated her invitation with such earnestness that Uncle Harvey was finally, but with evident reluctance, induced to promise to visit her without fail that fall.
Every time she wrote home she sent reminders that she had the old man's positive promise and that he must not fail her. Finally he decided he had to go.
Uncle Harvey had had very little experience in railroad travel and it was quite a good many miles from the farm to the city home where he was to be entertained. After considerable discussion as to whether he should take a very early train that stopped at all stations, or go on a later express train, he was finally induced to take his chances on the fast train, although if left to his own choice he would have preferred the slower train as probably being more safe to travel on.
With a new traveling bag, especially purchased for the occasion, carefully packed for him, Uncle Harvey, in a stunning new suit complete, was carried to the railroad station, assisted to buy his ticket and escorted onto the train. His excitement was manifest, although with pretended calmness he tried to keep it hidden. His escort shook the old man's hand warmly and reminded him that he had promised to write a postal card as soon as he reached his destination.
The train moved out of the station and Uncle Harvey was lost to sight, but true to his promise he sent the postal card which arrived at the farm the very next day- It was as follows:
I am here safe and sound. Ethel met me at the station. I am having a fine time.
P. S. I arrived in a great hurry about three o'clock.
It is one of the delightful tributes to our present civilization that it is perfectly possible for an intelligent woman to live an entire lifetime and still be so shielded from the sordid things in life as to be hardly aware of their existence.
In the cheery kitchen of an old but beautiful New England farmhouse, an elderly woman was busily engaged in preparing the evening meal. She was a woman of education and broad sympathies, prominent in the church and in all good works. Her kindly solicitude for the household took into account even the most transient laborer temporarily employed on the farm.
One of the hands who had lived at the farm for several years was taking a short vacation. It had vaguely come to the ears of the kind lady that this man had been known to indulge a little too freely in stimulants. It seemed to her, however, that there must be some mistake about these rumors, in view of the never-failing good behavior, respectful manner and general capability of the man in his relations with the family and the farm.
Sad to say on this occasion above mentioned, there was disillusionment in store for this friendly lady.
The kitchen door opened and the man who had been on vacation entered. The cheery welcome with which she was about to greet him was checked on her lips. Somehow he looked strange — different.
Standing in the entrance to the room and swaying slightly on his feet, the man, whose hat was tilted a little to one side, inquired in tones of solemn gravity:
The woman looked at him in utter bewilderment. He smiled a silly smile and again asked the question:
"Shay, where's Hadlock?"
And now it dawned upon this estimable old lady that those stories which had come to her in the past must have had some foundation. For the man who was asking this question was Hadlock himself.
Many tales have been told of the French-Canadian "habitant" which would imply that he is a very conservative person. It would appear, however, that when he becomes transplanted on a farm in "the States," he is quite capable of getting up to date.
French-Canadian Version of Employers' Liability Insurance
A wide awake "Canuck" who was branching out as a progressive farmer in a New England state, became much interested in a proposed employers' liability bill which was up for discussion in the legislature. Some of his friends, being a little skeptical, he proceeded to make the matter clear to them how successfully the reader may judge from the following:
"All dose farmer mans be protect so when hees ole mare kick himself up, broke it the harness, kill de wagon and de hire mans; or if the mow machine run away from de span hoss and kill the whole beesness, hire man, machine and horse, What for that farmer mans hees be blame in dis bill? No, sir; I guess not!"