Reinhardt Family History
Memories of Eggs and Chickens
Stories from Neil Reinhardt
Growing Up on Martin Road
I was about seven years old when I first remember watching dad milking cows. Once in a while he would squirt milk at me while I played behind the cows. Soon he showed me how to get milk from a cow, and from then on I wanted to milk. One day he said "Get your pail", and I could milk 'Jessie'. Jessie was a very easy milker, and dad was drying her off, so he only milked her in the evening. I got a gallon syrup pail, and I was very proud when I got a little milk. Sometimes, when I got older and had to milk five or six cows every night and morning, I wished I had never learned to milk.
I was about ten when I could drive the horses in the spring, dragging the field after the grain was planted. In the fall after the grain was threshed, the field had to be plowed for the next year's crop. Dad would plow with a 3-horse team on a sulky plow. One time when I had carried a jug of cold water to dad while he was plowing, he asked me if I wanted to try. I was eager to try so I started out. Dad showed me how to adjust the plow and raise and lower it. He gave me instructions about keeping a straight furrow and about keeping the ends even when raising and lowering the plow. After he watched me for awhile, he went off to do something else and I had a steady job of plowing.
I had the three horses, Bud, Daisy and Star. Bud and Daisy were a team he usually drove together. Star was a long-legged black horse. He always drove Star in the middle because he was blind. Bud was in the furrow because he could walk in the furrow better. It wasn't a very good looking team as we plowed. They looked like they were three different sizes. I would have to jump on the lever to raise the plow while the horses were moving or I could not lift the plow out of the ground.
After I had learned to plow, I always had a job working the ground - anything except doing the planting. It was a little later before I could plant corn so the rows would be straight the way dad liked them.
The job I didn't care for very much was driving a team pulling a wagon that was loading hay with a hay loader. I was always afraid the horses would pull me off the front standard, as I had to climb higher and higher as the load of hay got bigger and bigger. After loading the hay on the wagon we hauled it to the barn. There was a door high in the peak of the barn and the hay was hauled up by horses. It went in on a track to the haymow. It was my job to drive the horses on the hayfork.
Dad was always fussy about keeping the horses clean. When he hauled milk it was my job to curry them. I could not reach their backs, so I had to stand on a box. First I would curry and brush them, and then brush their manes and tails. This was a job I had before I went to school.
Another job I had was cultivating corn. When the corn was small, dad always set the cultivator so that it went very close to the corn row. You had to drive the horses very slow and steer the gangs with your feet. It was a very sleepy job, especially as I grew older. One time I had a gallon jug of water I had taken with me to the field. It was very hot, so I put it on a little rope and hung it in an old dug well that was in the field. After a while I could not stay awake -- I suppose I had been out in the evening and was very sleepy -- so I wet a hanky with the cold water and put it on my head under my hat. You can imagine what I looked like when I got home for supper -- after the water had run down from the wet hanky and I had raised a lot of dust cultivating.
Harvesting the grain was a big job too. Dad always drove three horses on the grain binder. Sometimes the old binder would not tie some bundles. Dad would cut some twine the right length to tie a bundle, and I would go around the field to find the loose bundles and tie them by hand.
When I got a little bigger I helped shock the grain. It was a good time to shock in the evening after chores were finished. I helped dad stack the grain until the threshing machine got to our place. The stacks looked like a round building with a peaked roof. Later on we hauled the grain from the field to the thresher. Threshing was a big time when all the neighbors exchanged help and moved from farm to farm. The main thing was the big dinners. I think everyone tried to see who could put on the best - a big roast and potatoes, vegetables, pickles, all the fixin's, and apple pie and other desserts.
Silo filling was about like threshing. Because of his milk hauling, dad was not able to exchange help so he bought his own silo filler. This was before he had a tractor. It was not like the silo fillers used by most. It had an elevator. The filler was set back a ways from the silo and the elevator went up to the top of the silo. A ten-horsepower, single-cylinder, hit-and-miss gas engine was used to run the filler. Setting up the filler was always quite a job. First the elevator had to be put together and the chain put in. Then a tackle was used to hoist it to the top of the silo. Starting the engine was also a job, because one man could not turn it over. First a cock was opened to release the compression, then a little gasoline was poured into the petcock on the top of the cylinder. Dad would grab the flywheel on one side and I was on the other, and we would turn it over until it started.
The corn was cut with a corn binder. We had to load it with a fork or by hand, depending on how big the corn was. When going to the field to get a load, dad drove the horses. I would run into the barn to get some salt that was kept there for the cows. Then I ran to the apple tree to grab several apples, or I got tomatoes from the garden. I think I ate apples or tomatoes with a little salt for every load.
I think my dad had all the odd-ball machinery that was not made for very long. He had a six-foot mower when most others were five-foot. He had a side delivery rake that raked to the right when all others raked to the left, and a grain binder that was a right-hand cut. The corn binder was made by Deering and was a left-hand cut and open bull wheel to drive. It did have one good point. One year when it was very wet, dad bolted hard wood extensions on the bull wheel that caught in the row that had just been cut, and we could cut corn where others could not! Neighbors borrowed it to cut their corn that year.
Dad had all this left-hand machinery because he was left-handed. To complicate matters, it seemed he could not understand when he showed me how to do something, and I couldn't do it the way he did. The worst was when he gave me a haircut. He used a right hand clipper with his left hand. When he was clipping, the bottom blade moved instead of the top and seemed to pull the hair off. Then when it pulled, he wondered why I moved! It was much better when he got a cow clipper. It had a flexible shaft and someone had to turn the crank, but it did not pull when he used it on my hair.
I was about 14 or 15 years old when dad bought a McCormick-Deering 10-20 tractor, a model that was made for many years. At the same time he bought a tractor-plow -- a Sampson, another orphan. The stone hitch was made so that if you hit a stone, a wooden pin would shear off. Then you had to back up, and hook the plow to the tractor, and make a new wooden pin. It worked okay except for having to have a tool box full of wooden pins if one would shear off. He still had the 10-20 fourteen years later when I left home.
Life during the Great Depression was something the kids today would not believe. I did not think we were so poor. Everyone was in the same boat. We didn't have too much money, so we created our own entertainment. Young people would get together for a party, and someone would suggest a wiener roast. We would all gather round to roast wieners or toast marshmallows. We went ice-skating in the winter. Sometimes we went roller skating for 20 or 25 cents. We could stop on the way home and have a hamburger and soda for 15 cents. A piece of pie was 10 cents. Gas for the old Model T Ford at one time was 8 gallons for a dollar. We had parties at different homes and danced to the old Victrola. If Hank Friebig was there, he always had a guitar or accordion, or we would sit around and sing.
We would roller skate at Sheridan Hall or the Moonlight Gardens. There was a bar at Sheridan Hall. There were several cuspidors sitting on the floor, and one time a fellow dripped a nickel or dime into one. He just picked it up, went outside, emptied it, and got the change out. That's how hard up some people were during the depression.
Dances at Giebel's Hall were 25 cents, and the ladies were free. Wayne King or the Dorsey Brothers, or Cab Calloway, or other big bands played. Then the charge was 50 cents.
The WPA made public projects so men would have work. One project was to make a hockey rink on the river at Forest Avenue in Fond du Lac. Some of the fellows I chummed with formed a hockey team and played there. Nick Schmidlkofer got hit by a puck one night. We just took him to Dr. Leonard''s office, who was sitting there with nothing to do. Two of us held Nick's arms while the doctor sewed four stitches to close the cut.
Halloween was a big time. We would meet at someone's home, sit around for a while, then walk to a neighbor's who didn't get along well with the other neighbors. We might push some machinery from his place to another, and bring back something in its place. We never caused damage that I can recall.
The best trick of all took only a nail, a piece of rosin, and about 100 feet or more of masons line. All you had to do was tie one end of the line to the nail, push the nail under a clapboard on the house, then take the other end of the line and get behind a bush or tree. Then you drew the line very tight and rubbed it with rosin. The people would come running out of the house thinking someone was tearing it down.
We tried that prank one time on the Menge house across from South Hill's Clubhouse. We put the line up high enough so that when someone went around the house, they walked right under it. When everyone was back in the house, we tried it again. Out they would come. My dad told me how to do this prank.