Who Stayed On The Truck?

While going through a list of books I’ve read – some worth my time and some not – I found On The Road. I’ve been wondering a good many years why that caught on so well.

I was so curious about Jack Kerouac and what made him tick, that I even went to a late birthday sponsored by the Hungry Head Book Store. Apparently, I was the only one who failed to bring a jug. That may have accounted for the reason I heard so much rotten poetry.

The party occurred some twenty-five years ago and I’ve journal-ed many paragraphs about the celebration during that span of time. Apparently, my time was well spent.

There are many things about On The Road that have stayed with me. The scene that keeps coming back is the one where he and his friends are standing on the back of a flatbed truck that’s speeding westbound on route 6. The road was obviously rough because the contest was to see who will be the first one to piss is lengthy. No one ever described the tailwind washing back in their faces, so I’ve questioned if it truly happened. But that brings me to my point.

During my high school summers several of us bucked a lot of baled hay – thousands of bales. We all rode the truck to the barn to offload the bales, and then rode back to the hay-field standing on the back much in the same manner as did Jack and his friends.

One person always stayed on the truck to stack the bales while the others trotted along side swinging them up. Riding was easier, so that’s how we selected the fortunate one. The way back was much like a jeep road – very rough, so starting a stream was difficult, sometimes impossible. The first one who succeeded got to stay on board.

Scorched

https://n7net.me/2016/10/09/border/

(continued)

The Border war along the Missouri/Kansas line reached a point where President Lincoln dispatched General Thomas Ewing to the scene with orders to end the violence using whatever mean he deemed necessary.

The Red Legs, Jay Hawkers, Border Ruffians, and James Quantril’s Raides often crossed into Missouri raiding and killing. Ewing soon determined the sisters, wives, and girlfriends of these outlaws were helping them. He rounded them up and jailed them in a Kansas City warehouse. Unfortunately, the roof caved in and many of the woman will killed.

Quantril took revenge by traveling to Coffeyville, Kansas where he killed 184 men and boys and then burned most of the town. Reacting to this, Ewing gave the Missouri residents fifteen days to clear out and he burned every structure that stood in the four Missouri Counties leaning against the Kansas Line.

It was called it Ewing’s Scorched Earth Policy.

My great-grandfather David William road into Bates County in 1869 and purchased Tanglewood Farm for pennies on the dollar. Was he a Carpet Bagger?

Perhaps.

A side note – Suzan B. Anthony’s brother was second in command of Quantril’s Raiders. Only in one place have I found his name recorded in the annals of history. everywhere else he’s only Suzan B. Anthony’s brother.

<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/scorched/”>Scorched</a&gt;

Subdue

The first hard frost had arrived, setting the milk in the corn. Using the picker we harvested the crop from the 120 acre field, but in the process many kernels – bushels – had broken loose from the ears and dropped to the ground where they would be wasted. The solution was simple, turn the cattle into the field and allow them to harvest what they wanted. Then let the hogs in to finish the harvesting process.

However, a 40 acre field of alfalfa lay adjacent to the corn field. In order to keep the livestock from destroying the alfalfa, we erected a quarter-mile temporary fence that would be removed come spring.

In the meantime, it was necessary to “ring” the hog’s noses to keep them from tearing down the new fence we’d just installed. That, in itself, was a major chore.

Using a cable through a section of pipe we were able to subdue each hog until three rings were installed in their snouts. Evening was approaching and only one hog remained, a 400-pound sow with a mind of her own. We’d already caught her once with the cable and then snubbed it around a roof support. One good yank and she took the support out. We were boxed, my grandfather and I. Then along came Floyd.

Floyd was my grandmother’s brother. He was a giant of a man who had spent his working life doing a two-man job on truck tires.

“Don’t you fellers know how to do this?” he asked, grabbing the sow around the middle and holding her off the ground, subduing her, while I inserted the rings.

<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/subdued/”>Subdued</a&gt;

Border

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The Old John Brown Road

Grandpa never carried a watch. Instead, he relied on the sun. Being a farmer only three times were important to him, sunrise, dinnertime, and sunset.

We were done for the day and I’d finished putting the fence building tools in the trailer. I was about to spin the crank to start the tractor when he beckoned me to join him.

“See that notch in the trees, the place where they are shorter?” he asked.

“Yeah,” I responded with as much enthusiasm as a hungry fifteen-year-old can muster.

“The road to the Kansas Border used to go through that notch. Originally, the Fort Scott Stage came that way, followed our lane past the house and then meandered southeast across the Robert’s Field, and then forded Walnut Creek on it‘s way to Foster.”

“Did you ever ride that stage?” I asked.

“Many years after the Border War ended, I did.”

“Border War?” I echoed, his statement having piqued my interest.

“The Border War kind of paralleled the Civil War. It’s too complicated to start in the middle. While the Civil War was on the Kansas-Nebraska Act was in Congress. People took sides – Old John Brown, James Quantrill, the Younger Brothers. Jesse James even got his start right there on that road.”

“Really?”
“But that’s another story,” he said, glancing at the sun. Your grandmother will have supper waiting,” he added, climbing into the trailer. waiting for me to start the tractor.

As I brought the tractor around and headed for the house I glanced once more at the notch he’d pointed out. This must have been a rough place to call home back in that day, I thought to myself.

<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/border/”>Border</a&gt;

A Photo Assignment Post (Home)

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The fence blocking my way.

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The stone fence at home with his petrified stone chimney in the back ground

Work on the farm was a never-ending series event. And when all the pressing jobs were completed there were fences to mend. The winter of 1951, as I recall, was unseasonably cold. Working outside was uncomfortable, so that was the season Grandpa decided to replace the wire yard fence, at least the entryway, with one of stone. It was a project he’d contemplated for more than 20 years. With my help and his experience we moved into the basement and began.

He had an uncommon interest in rocks, but his favorite, it seems, was petrified wood. And he knew more facts about it than any person I ever met, before or since. Without a doubt, that intense interest is why his over-sized chimney was veneered with handpicked stones of that varity, as was his fireplace.

His project consumed much of the winter. When he was finished he applied a layer of fresh cement to a panel he’d left blank and inscribed on it a few lines written by Shakespeare.

These phrases meant nothing to me. After all, what could a man who had been dead some 500 years have in common with me, a 14-year-old who already had the world by the tail?

I was not in line to inherit the farm, so a few weeks following my graduation from high school I enlisted in the air force and didn’t return for nearly 40 years.

The early 1990s had arrived when I learned of my grandparents passing and that the place I’d called home was destroyed by fire.

The land belonged to someone else and it was posted. Taking a chance, I climbed the gate and hiked the quarter-mile lane to see if the stone fence I’d helped build was still there. It was, but the poem my grandfather had inscribed on it was totally obliterated with the exception of three words, sermons in stones. I had no idea what it meant, nor did anyone I knew.

After months of reading Shakespeare’s works I came upon the lines Grandpa had left in his wake.

And this our life, exempt from public haunt,

Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,

Sermons in stones, and good in everything.

I knew Grandma had been a school teacher. She was the poet and literary person of the two. These three lines were obviously her favorite and Grandpa had given them to her as a lasting gift.

 

Oats

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This photo is of a brood mare, taken sometime before I arrived on this earth.

The barn and Percheron horse were both gone by time I came on the scene.

Though they were the smallest of the draft breeds, the knights still

carried a ladder with them in order to mount up. Their hooves are the size of

a dinner plate.

I grew up on oatmeal and vowed that when I became an adult I would never allow it in my house. But notions change, I guess. Now that I’m cooking for Barb and I breakfast menus alternate between oatmeal with raisins and one prune and hotcakes with eggs.

Why as a youngster I grew to dislike oatmeal is a mystery…unless I was influenced was talk at school. Many of our ideas are borrowed.

As a youngster, oatmeal would hold me over until lunch. However, as a teenager earning extra money bucking hay bales, plowing, harvesting, or whatever the farmer needed, I soon learned that I needed more protein to get through the day. Why?

I came along to late to have much experience with draft animals doing the heavy work – plowing, cultivating, disking, harvesting. Like people, they need water and frequent rest periods. But while I require beef, pork, or poultry just to get through the day, the horses and mules put in a full days work on oats – the same oats that left me high and dry by ten am.

My grandfather raised Percheron Draft Horses during the pre-tractor era. (Percherons, the smaller of the draft breeds, which were the mount of choice for knights during King Arthur’s time.) He raised them, worked them, and sold them. In my youth, I failed to ask how long he did this. I only recall him statement that farmers couldn’t abuse a tractor like they did their draft animals.

Rather than working two-horse teams, he worked three. Usually two seasoned mares, one on each side. The young, green horse in the middle worked or was dragged along kicking and snorting until he learned the game plan.

Back to the oats. Oats is rolled in order to break the hull which, in turn, is blown away as chaff. Draft animals are fed oats with the hulls. And that may be the secret. During our morning discussions at the breakfast table Barb wondered if the hulls carry a large part of the nourishment, like potato peels do? Perhaps that is why a horse can do a days work on a measure of oats and I can’t.

The Doodlebug

In 1952 I was not yet old enough to drive. Being stuck down on the farm, fifteen miles from Rich Hill and twenty from Butler complicated my social life. Fact is, I didn’t have one, and no one took my plight seriously. Defeated, I finally took matters in my own hands.

My folks had given up any hopes of inheriting Tanglewood, packed up and moved back to Oregon. Me? I had one more year of high school and I didn’t want to change horses in midstream, so to speak, and I insisted on staying behind. I didn’t share any details about the redhead on Plum Street, the real reason for digging in my heels.

From the Hawks’ farm, some six miles south of Tanglewood, came the rumor of an ancient motor scooter – a Cushman? no one seemed to know – that could be had for $25 – a doodlebug, whatever that was, someone called it.
I considered the benefits of owning such a machine. First, and most important, I probably wouldn’t need a license. Such a unique vehicle would provide freedom and independence like I’d never known.

With my folks gone, I didn’t ask anyone else’s opinion. I simply saddled a horse and rode to the Hawks’ place to have a look. I found the Hawks kid, Don, slopping the hogs. He stopped his chores and lead the way to an implement shed where it was stored.

This Doodlebug, as Don called it, was smaller than I’d envisioned, and I wondered if it was going to do the job. Equally as troubling was that the muffler was missing, and there were no lights. Maybe I should mount up and ride away? Not a chance.

“No need for lights. Get where you’re going before dark,” said Don when I mentioned it.

Little did he know that after dark was when I would be on the move. But maybe I really wouldn’t need lights. I’d thumbed a hundred rides to Rich Hill and back, and many times I’d hoofed the fifteen miles in the dark. I knew that road as well as I knew the floor plan to my own bedroom. But there was one nagging issue. I didn’t have $25. 

“How much you got?”

“Seventeen,” I said through clenched teeth.” 

“Take it.”

Hell, if I’d known he was that easy I’d of seen how much he’d pay me to take it off his hands. But it was a done deal, and it was my fault for being so slow on the get go.

Since I couldn’t ride a horse and a scooter at the same time, Don delivered that same afternoon.

The old scooter looked pretty shabby after the initial thrill diminished. I didn’t know what my girl was going to think. I tried cleaning it up, but there’s only so much can be done with flaking paint. I soon gave up and waited the long week for Saturday evening to arrive.

I’d sent her a postcard, telling her he would be arriving at seven on my scooter. There wasn’t time for her to respond, so I could only assume she’d gotten it. 

Grandpa complained again about my Saturday nights in Rich Hill. 

“When I was your age, I stayed on the farm and worked. I only courted my girlfriend during late autumn and winter,” he growled, sending a stream of tobacco juice splattering into the dry, summer dirt. 

“I bet you didn’t keep her long.” 

“Oh? You can bet again, because she’s your grandmother,” he barked.

Obviously, he and I were not cut from the same bolt. 

Clad in new Levis, and a sporty, white polo shirt, I headed out to get my scooter, and found Grandpa walking in circles around it. When the engine roared to life, I knew my ancestors at The cemetery were wondering what was going on at the farm. Grandpa said something, but I couldn’t hear him over the engine noise, so he shook his head and frowned. He was still standing in the lane, watching, when I turned onto the county road.

The doodlebug had a top speed of about seventeen, that is, until I reached the first grade. The motor lugged down, and nearly conked out. However, kicking at the pavement helped, and eventually it chugged to the crest. The same thing happened on the second grade, and again on the third. By this time my kicking leg was done for. So on the fourth grade, which was steeper than the others, I bailed off, planning to run beside it. That was when I realized there was no throttle control. I had bought a go/no go scooter. My discovery was almost too late, because the engine flared and I was dropping behind. Somehow, I managed to scrambled onto the seat, only to repeat the conking-out episode. In spite of cramped legs and seared lungs I managed to reach the summit

My clothes were soaked through by the time he reached Plum Street.

“What happened to you?” she blurted, after responding to my knock, and glancing at my new Levi’s and sporty, white polo shirt. She didn’t wait for my explanation. We stayed home and played Monopoly because she didn’t want to be seen with me. She said it was because she knew I was tired, but she was lying.

The scooter didn’t make a second trip to Rich Hill. Instead, I parked it behind the horse barn, next to the rusty thrashing machine. My social life’s as back to square one, nil. The only thing that had changed was that I was out $17.

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Hoodwinked!

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Brilliant Disguise.”

When was the last time I was hoodwinked?

Everyone has an angle, it seems. Especially when you’re a kid. Cash money was a serious issue when I was a youngster. I was in high school and living on a farm. Opportunities for earning spending money were spotty. There was no paper routes, no afternoon bagging groceries, delivery jobs for drug stores, no Western Union jobs, or even lawns to mow. Usually I earned money helping with the harvest of summer crops, and most often that was storing bailed hay in farmer’s barns.

The first job was putting up hay for Joker, a neighbor farmer. The evening before we started my cousin’s dad gave us some advice.

I’ve known Joker for 40 years. He’s going to try to set the pace and make a hard day of for you. Don’t let him do that. You set the pace. Run as much as you can and he’ll head for the house before an hour has passed.”

We followed his advice and it wasn’t long before Joker told me he’d forgotten to feed a calf. We never saw him again until it was time to collect our pay.

We were strong, and filled with stamina. I could jog and buck baled hay all day in hundred degree temperatures (I could say without breaking a sweat, but I sweated like a pig). Clifford Moody, a fellow who baled hay for hire, usually got us hired where he had a job. He kept us busy. In fact, the last summer before I enlisted in the air force his bale counter indicated the two of us had put 135,000 bales in farmer’s barns.


The year was 1956, and our pay was almost a joking matter – five dollars a day, or fifty cents per hour, which ever the farmer would agree to. Five dollars a day was the best deal for us, because we’d pick up the pace and get it done.

Things weren’t so expensive in those days. Gasoline cost 25 cents per gallon. A new rayon tire could be bought for $20. For a Saturday date night I took my girl out for a movie, bought us each a hamburger, enough gasoline to get fifty miles down the road, and get back home by 0200 hours with change from a five-spot. Still, we had to account for every penny.

One Sunday we took our girls to the Missouri State Fair. The trip was one hundred miles each way, then there was admission fee, plus the midway games and the rides. It cost us a bundle. We had to plan for all those expenses.

That Sunday we came across this fellow hawking a black device about the size of a large aspirin bottle that fit between the distributor cap and coil wire. Of course he had a car there with the hood open and every time he switched in his aspirin bottle that contained some secret circuitry the engine sped up by about 500 hundred revolutions. We thought it was a trick, but with some fancy math we couldn’t follow, he proved to us that we could improve our mileage by no less than 30 miles per gallon. Hell, we weren’t getting that kind of mileage to start with! Obviously, we could use something like that. The only catch was they cost five dollars per copy. We complained about the price, so he pointed to a half-empty carton of these things that was setting near the front tire of his car, and assured us that when that box was empty he would have to close up shop. We needed to get it NOW.

That was a day’s pay for crying out loud, and we balked on him. But he kept the heat on, reminding us of the urgency of the matter, and the price of gasoline. We finally counted out ten dollars between us.

Following the instructions printed on a sheet of paper we plugged them in, and started our cars. Something was amiss. We didn’t achieve the results we saw at the fair. There were no results at all! There was no difference, plugged in or not!

Nothing!


After some serious consideration I used a hacksaw and proceeded to open mine up, thinking maybe something wasn’t properly soldered. I could always fix it and then tape it shut. No harm done.

However, when I got inside I found nothing but a length of copper wire connecting the two ends.

By this time fair was over and the hawker had left the territory. We’d been had big time.

We’d been hoodwinked.

We can laugh about it now, but it certainly wasn’t funny then.

<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/brilliant-disguise/”>Brilliant Disguise</a>

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I’M Coming Clean

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Dear Mom.”

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Dear Mom,

Remember the time I told you my cousin and I had tried to retrieve a rowboat from the river at flood stage? And the water was so high and so swift we had to let it go? Well, that wasn’t how it really happened, Mom.

One of us had read about abandoned ships at sea, how anyone who could climb aboard and claim as their own. In our young minds we reasoned that the same thing would hold true for a boat drifting in a river. The only catch was we had to set one adrift. We had no intention of stealing it. We just though a boat ride would be fun.

We found Cody’s boat chained to a tree. Knowing the ways of the river, he’d secured it with a very long chain, one that could be reached even during flood stage. It was a simple matter to get it loose, but a horse of a different color to retrieve it. A drifting log got tangled in the chain and the boat got away from us.

We weren’t old enough to drive. We’d ridden our horses to the river. With all the hoof prints around the tree, and the boat and chain gone, Cody quickly figured out what had really happened. By the time he found it in a brush pile fifty miles down stream he was mad as a hornet. And he promised us the sheriff was going to hear about this. We were scared stiff.

I guess the statute of limitations have passed and it’s safe to come clean?

Turn, Turn, Turn

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One of my grandfathers enjoyed spring most of all. As a youngster, I borrowed his preference at face value. But now that I’m the age he was when I knew him best, I’ve come to realize he, a farmer, viewed the world differently than others might see it. He didn’t own a television. His five-tube table-model radio announced the morning’s ever changing livestock and grain markets. His favorite publication was The Drover’s Telegram. He was a content man.

The winter I turned fourteen I helped him build a rock fence in front of his log house and I watched him scribe on one panel words left by William Shakespeare, words I failed to fully grasp:

And this our life, exempt from public haunt,

Finds tongues in trees, books in running brooks,

Sermons in stones, and good in everything.

I would not change it

He loved flowers, any variety, any color. So in the early days of spring he shoe-horned the time between feeding four hundred hogs and counting his cattle numbering more than one hundred head and preparing the soil for planting corn, wheat, oats, and barley.

In spite of the extra workload, the activities beginning before dawn and continued until daylight was only a memory, he enjoyed spring  most of all, or so it seemed. But the turn of seasons provided a change of venue. It was a time when he stood from his rocker visions of a bumper crops, fat hogs, and healthy cattle. Then summer arrived.

He didn’t spray chemicals for weeds in those days. Corn, which left space for those unwanted plants required cultivating. In so doing, his motorized cultivator shovels buried the weeds time and again, or until mid-June when the crop was too tall, and could no longer tolerate the passing of a tractor. By mid-summer, July, wheat and oats were usually harvested. Each morning he watched the greenish tint give way to gold, the indication that the grain was ripe and ready. And then there came the cutting and bailing of alfalfa.

Missouri summers were often hot, the temperatures surpassing the century mark. Evening, after a sweltering day, he often stepped to the edge of a corn field and listened to the growth, the squeaking as the stalks reacted to the heat they loved so dearly. In spite of summer being such a busy season, autumn was usually slow in arriving. But by the time it had arrived his straw hat was showing signs of wear.

During the early days of autumn he cut a portion of the corn for silage, winter cattle feed, and stored it in a silo. That which was left standing in the field was ear corn, harvested for winter hog feed. However, in order for it to keep throughout the winter months the “milk” had to set. That was accomplished at the first hard frost. Anytime after that occurred it was shucked or picked and taken to the crib. However, it would keep just as well on the stalks in the fielod, as was sometimes necessary, when other work was pressing – fence mending and such.

And then winter came. It was a time when the soil rested as did he.

But by Christmas he’d grown weary of the inactivity. If it was a dry winter he often plowed the fields, hoping to get a jump when spring, the planting season, returned.

Viewing an entirely through his eyes, deciding which season he enjoyed most is a tall order. However, thinking back some sixty-five years, recalling his comments, his ignoring of the screaming muscles, sunburns, frostbites, mud, dust, heat, rain, snow, and blazing sunshine I have to say each season was his favorite.