Old Timers’ Fun on the Farm!
By Norris Chambers
Cotton was a popular crop in our part of the country. It required a minimum amount of cultivating and provided cash for the things that a small family needed. The farm provided food and many of the items needed for a comfortable existence, but there were several necessities that required money. There was a constant demand for cotton and buyers were waiting at the gins with money to purchase the fluffy stuff directly from the famers offering it for sale.
About half of our 120 acres of cultivated land was composed of clay and the other half of sand. The heavy type soil produced corn, maize, and various types of grain, such as oats, barley or wheat. The sandy portion was ideal for peanuts, potatoes, melons and most vegetables.
Every family had a favorite, or main, crop. There were cotton farmers, peanut farmers, grain farmers (oats, wheat, etc.}, vegetable specialists and the group that depended on poultry, hogs, beef etc. For a decent living, as a comfortable existence was called, there had to be a certain amount of cash income available.
In addition to the peanut farming we had enough pasture land to keep about twenty cows and depend on the pasture grass to furnish most of the feed required for their upkeep. Most of the cows delivered a nice calf that was worth about twenty-five dollars in a few months. We kept from one to four milk cows with calves in a small pasture behind the barn. This little group supplied milk and butter for our use as well as milk for their calves.
Of course Clifton and I earned spending money by hunting ‘possums and selling the hides. If we needed a little cash between hunting seasons we could hatch, or buy, some baby chicks and sell the roosters in about six weeks. The pullets, or hens, were kept to lay eggs. There was a steady demand for eggs by the grocery stores in town. This was profitable because we didn’t have to buy feed for the baby chicks and the rest of the chicken flock!
As a young teenager I made enough money to buy my first automobile (with the exception a Model T)by raising ten hogs from tiny piglets to full grown porkers. I was able to do this because I didn’t have to buy feed. We had an old hammer mill that would pulverize anything from hay to peanuts and produce any mix from baby chick mash to cracked corn!
Since we were peanut farmers we spent more time working with that crop than any other. The first operation was performed early in the spring. The soil was broken, or turned over with a plow, and plowed in rows about three feet apart. This was done with a riding planter and what was called a double-wing sweep point. This plow point threw dirt in either direction and made a nice row in the sandy soil. It was now time for planting. My dad had done the preparation work but now that we were finished with school work until fall it was time for me to help. We did not have a peanut planter. We used a regular planter and dropped the seed by hand. Dropping the seed was my job. I wore an apron filled with peanuts and sat on the planter in position to drop the nuts in the tube that carried them down and let them fall behind the plow. Two little covering plows, one on each side, pushed fresh soil over them as the planter moved down the row.
My dad walked behind and guided the horses down the row. It took several days to get the big field planted. With proper rainfall the nuts soon sprouted and started growing.
Along with the peanut vines’ growth came Johnson grass, crab grass, a few weeds and other unwanted vegetation. The big field was plowed with a cultivator that removed most of the grass almost to the peanut vine and that remaining directly on the row had to be removed with a hoe.
Clifton and I, with occasional help from some of his brothers, were official hoe hands and spent most of the summer keeping the peanut crop clean.
The harvest was accomplished with a thresher. Most farmers didn’t own an expensive thresher but there were a few men in the community with machines and they threshed the nuts for a percentage of the crop or for a set amount per bushel. We had ours threshed on a percentage basis and stacked the hay in neat stacks for animal feed. Most farm animals liked peanut hay and the few peanuts that the thresher missed.
When asked if there was anything funny about peanut farming I had to tell about the time I was loading peanut hay from field shocks onto the wagon. Clifton was on the wagon stacking the hay properly for a big load. I heaved a large forkful of hay just as he stepped in front of it and as the fibers fell around him a long, slim snake remained around his waist. From his actions and attitude I gathered that he didn’t like snakes. He definitely didn’t think it was funny!