By Norris Chambers

            The generous checks that are being received from the government reminds old timers of the dark depression days when farmers received checks for plowing up crops, not planting crops and killing cows. These operations were instituted to reduce the surplus of farm products and create a market for farm production. The present checks are to allow extra spending and stimulate the economy. It has not been determined if these remedies work, but it does help those who receive the money - now as well as back then.

            When the opportunity came to sell cattle to the government for slaughter it was welcomed by the farmers who had cattle but low market prices. We had about ten head of cows and calves that we felt should be liquidated for the nice price offered by the government. A farm had been chosen because of its large lots to serve as the receiving place for the cattle being offered. The government had officials there who would count the animals, destroy them and arrange for payment. No animals were to be butchered for food and the bodies would be burned.

            Just before the cattle kill day my dad was fortunate enough to sell our surplus to an oil field worker who had purchased some land about ten miles west of our place. On the kill day it was the duty of Clifton and me and all the help we could get to deliver the cattle. In real cowboy fashion we mounted our horses and about six of us drove the herd to its destination without incident. We were glad that our cattle were not among the condemned.

            We came back by way of the kill location to see the brutal work. There was a large crowd of spectators and there were two large pens filled with all kinds of cattle and calves. About ten o’clock the action started. Four men with high powered rifles were positioned on the east fence of one of the pens and began firing. The noise was deafening for those of us who were close to the guns. The repeating rifles were loaded and reloaded and the firing continued until no cattle remained standing. Most of the bodies lay still, but a few struggled and bawled. These were finished with another shot. The executioners moved to the other pen and the same action was repeated. 

            Several teams of horses dragged the bodies to an open area about a half mile from the house and arranged them in long rows. Dead wood had been collected and was piled over the rows and ignited. Soon smoke was soaring skyward and an odor was blanketing the area. Actually, the odor wasn’t that bad and it reminded us that it was well into the afternoon and we had not eaten since breakfast. After a quick conference we decided to head for home.

            Our place was about four miles from the kill spot and when we got home and looked back we could still see the smoke in the air. The smell of burning meat had not traveled that far.

            Did killing the cattle help the farmer sell his surplus stock? We didn’t notice much difference. We continued to keep the steers until the cattle buyers would pay $25 a head. They would pay that much when they believed they could haul them to Fort Worth and make a reasonable profit. Competition between the buyers kept them on their toes and kept us from having to wait too long to get our price.

            I received one good windfall from the plow-up and don’t-plant programs. My uncertain and meager income was boosted by being fortunate to find employment for a short time with the government program. The plots of land that were to be plowed up or left idle had to be measured and the acres calculated. This had been simplified by making aerial photographs of the agricultural areas of the county. My job was to work with another man and measure the distance between two well defined landmarks on the photographs of the farms and mark the areas to be involved in the program. From this information the amount of the owner’s checks could be calculated.

            The job didn’t last very long because there were many teams covering the county. Each measuring team was assigned to the local area that it knew well. Since we knew the roads and the farms and most of the people we had no trouble locating the proper fields on the aerial photos.

            Did we have fun seeing the cattle killed and the crops plowed up?  No. But we did appreciate the low prices when we needed to buy something. Could you use some nine cent gasoline today? Of course back then if you could find a job you were lucky to get a dollar a day!

            But we did have a lot of fun. There were very few dull moments!