Reinhardt Family History
Memories of Eggs and Chickens
Stories from Neil Reinhardt
First Year of Farming
I had lived and worked on a farm all my first 29 years. This first year of actually operating a farm on my own made me wonder if I had made the right decision. Hearing of a farm for rent, with livestock and most of the machinery furnished, we made the big move Oct. 1, 1940.
The farm had no electricity or running water. It was like taking a step back in time. I began to wonder the first day, as we tried to take the bedsprings upstairs. The only way it could be done was to take it apart and reassemble it upstairs. The mattress was able to make the bend around the turn in the stairs.
The tenant before us was evicted. I soon found the reason. The herd of milk cows had several that were not going to calve. Brood sows were not going to have litters. The machinery, while nearly new, was not kept in good running condition.
Things got worse. The house was heated by a wood stove. During one night a terrible storm came up, with the winds howling at over 75 miles per hour and the temperature dropping. We awoke to find the fire in the stove out, all the house plants frozen. This was only November 11.
I hurried to the barn to find water pipes frozen. The windmill, used to pump water for the livestock, had been wrecked by the high winds.
Things looked much better on Dec. 29, when our first daughter was born.
The November sudden storm, which had caused the temperature to fall from sixty degrees to below zero in a few hours, had also brought a halt to shredding corn in the neighborhood until Spring. Toward the end of March the following year the snow was gone and the fields were dry. The job that was interrupted by the November storm could be completed, so a neighboring farmer came with his corn shredder, a crew was assembled, and the job was underway. The stalks from the shredder were being blown on the remains of the straw stack. The high winds blew the husks and leaves of the corn over the farmyard.
Busy shoveling corn into the corn crib, I smelled smoke. It was coming from the stack. It boiled out of the cornstalks like water from a spring. Men quickly moved horses and machinery to safety while I ran to the house to call the Fire Dept. This was all before the use of the radio to summon the men that comprise the many village and town volunteer Fire Departments. When I came out of the house the fire ran across the yard like waves of water burning leaves and husks as it went. Some leaves had blown into the chicken coop through the open door. I beat the fire out with a shovel and closed the door.
The first fire department to arrive was from Brandon, two men in a pick-up truck with hand extinguishers. Then the Oakfield department arrived with a pumper truck. They wet down the end of the barn and put out the fire in the shed nearby. There was not enough water to put the fire completely out, all that could be done was to wet the straw as it was loaded on to wagons and hauled into the fields away from the buildings. The very strong winds from the southeast had a whirlwind effect, carrying the burning straw up and over the barn, which was only sixteen feet from the burning straw stack.
If the barn had caught fire there wasn't much that could have been done. We would have been out of farming before we had a good start. The fire in March destroyed the shreddings and a straw stack, but nothing more.
The early spring was beautiful, and we planted fifteen acres of peas as a cash crop. When they were about two inches high and looked beautiful, there came a week of rainy cold weather, and all but three acres of the peas were destroyed.
The land was then planted to corn, using some of the first hybrid seed corn. It was the best crop in the neighborhood.
My personal experience of our farm fire taught me to be very humble indeed. Today, with the aid of the radio, the trucks are on the way in minutes, as volunteers drop whatever they are doing and answer the alarm. The Volunteer Departments also have tanker trucks that haul water, and if more help is needed, neighboring departments are only a radio call away. I have seen several barns that had the entire upper part of the building burn away, but due to the cement ceiling in the structure and the quick action of the volunteers, the cows were returned to the basement of the barn the same night and milked there. I later became a Charter member of the Town of Fond du Lac Volunteers when it was formed, and the township roads were named and fire numbers distributed to all farms and residences in the township.
Looking back, I can remember several bad years of farming, but none were as bad as the first.