Reinhardt Family History

Memories of Eggs and Chickens

Stories from Neil Reinhardt

<bgsound src="../../../music/peter_wolf.mid">

Memories
of Eggs & Chickens

MURDER IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD
(A TRUE STORY)

I was a typical farm boy, born in the first decade of the 20th century, before radio, TV's, automobiles, aeroplanes, and the tractors of today that made living on the farm a little more enjoyable. I first became acquainted with the farmer on the farm next door when I was five years old, and by the time I was 25 the thought of that neighbor made chills run up my spine.

One hot summer day mom filled a stone jug with cold water and sent me down the lane to a field where dad was working. I was accompanied by Shep, the farm dog, who was my constant companion whenever I went outside. Shep loved to chase birds. In his eagerness to chase birds one day he forgot where he was, and jumped over the sickle bar, with the result that his paw was cut off. He had to spend the rest of his life running on three legs. This particular day he went along with me on down the lane. I had to stop a few times to rest as the stone jug with water in it was very heavy for a five year old boy. The jug weighed as much as the water in it. I finally got to where dad was working in the field. He was glad to get a cool drink after working in the hot sun. After dad had quenched his thirst, he noticed the neighbor Charley working just across the fence, and told me to take the jug over and offer him a drink. Charley was glad to get a drink, and told me he would buy me an ice cream cone one day. I never did get that promised cone.

Charley was a very hard working man, very frugal. He had a handle-bar mustache and spoke with a German accent. He owned a large farm and was always looking for more land to work. It was rumored that he had a temper and it did not take much for him to fly into a rage.

Dad owned 109 acres, and in time he found outside work. Farming and the work was a little too much for one man. When our neighbor Charley heard this, he was right over to see if he could buy some of the land that joined his farm. A deal was made to sell 40 acres with the understanding that Charley would build all of the line fence between the two farms. With the added land and more work, he was slow about building the fence until a lawyer was hired and a few letters were written. Because of this, relations between Charley and dad were very strained.

I was about 8 years old by this time, and I still carried water to dad on a hot day. One day as Shep and I were trudging down the dusty lane with the jug of water I heard voices raised in anger. As I drew near I noticed Charley on one side of the fence and dad on the other. Suddenly Charley ran to his plow and grabbed a heavy iron bar about four foot long, which he carried on the plow for loosening stones when he hit them with his plow. He ran at dad with the upraised bar. Only the new fence kept dad from being struck with the iron bar.

As time went on Charley became more greedy for land, and lost his temper more often. He bought a tractor to help him with the work of the increased acreage. Tractors were just beginning to take the place of horses to do the plowing. Many improvements were made on tractors each succeeding year. Another neighbor of Charleys bought a tractor about a year and a half after he did. It had some improvements that were not on Charleys, who subsequently threatened to kill the salesman because of this.

Charley had two children, a boy named Emil who lived at home, and a daughter Leona who lived on a nearby farm with her husband Ted and their baby girl. Ted and Leona had bought the farm when they got married, and Charley had lent them the money to help them get started farming. Charley and Ted had several arguments about the interest payments on the money. One morning Charley called on Ted to collect the interest money and a big argument began. Charley returned home and got a gun he had recently purchased, returned to Ted's farm, called him out onto the porch, and shot him. Later his daughter stated that the interest had been paid to the bank, but it was too late then. She was widowed with a four month old baby and a large farm to operate.

Charley was sent to prison for life. He was serving a life sentence at Waupun and was up for parole when as a prison trustee he walked away to get home to see how his son Emil was operating the farm. As a result of this, more time was added to his sentence and he was confined to his cell. This was very tragic, as the confinement was too much for a man over 70 years old who had spent most of his life out of doors. He waited for an opportunity, finally committing suicide.

After the death of Charley and his wife, Emil and Leona inherited the farms, Emil and his wife remaining on the home farm. Leona continued farming with the aid of hired hands, finally remarrying a Mr. Albright. Everything went well for Emil. He worked hard, a trait he inherited from Charley. He decided to build a new barn. In the process of building the barn and running the farm he soon fell behind with the farm work. One day I heard a strange noise behind our barn. Investigating, I discovered five black and white pigs rooting around in the manure pile. Emil had black and white pigs, so dad and I went over to Emil's to see if they were his. Emil did not know exactly how many he had, but when he looked in the pig yard, most of the pigs were gone. The fence was in bad shape because he was too busy with building the barn and running the farm. Some things got neglected. He did say he had seven sows, all of their spring pigs and all of their fall litters.

This was in the Fall, and the corn was about ready to put in the silo. As dad and I were returning home, we noticed one of Emil's pigs coming out of our cornfield. Investigating further, we found all of the pigs in the high corn, where they had been living for several weeks getting fat on the almost ripe corn. One could only imagine the damage they caused, not only what they ate, but the trampled corn that could not be harvested. Dad and I spent the day chasing pigs out of the corn field, then went over and helped Emil fix the fences around his pigyard. When Emil was told of the damage the pigs had done, he said dad could keep the five pigs that were behind his barn. Emil did not have the temper of his father Charley. It was just that he had too much work and did not know which way to turn.

In the meantime, Leona and her new husband started to build a new barn. Trying to outdo Emil, it was said. The result was that Emil as well as Leona got so deep in debt, that when hard time came along they both lost everything that Charley had worked so hard to accumulate. It is a sad saga that happened to many in hard times.

I still remember Charley running at dad with the heavy iron bar, and being stopped by the fence. I often wonder what if I would have been without a father, as the little daughter of Leona Albright was.