By Charlene Shields
Notes from the White County Historical Society as they appear in "The Carmi Times."
Copyright ©2001 by "The Carmi Times" Permission to reprint granted to Cindy Birk Conley and the ILGenWeb by Barry Cleveland, editor, "The Carmi Times."
The memoirs of 86-year-old Maunie native Cyril Barton, as written in
book, So Grows The Tree, make for interesting reading.
In the beginning chapter he tells of the family moving to a hill farm
"Life began to get interesting to a small barefooted boy with a big
imagination and a little adventuresome bent. We were very poor, and in
the summer my mother would pick blackberries--both for our own larder
and to sell to neighbors at ten cents a gallon. She also planted white
beans with corn, which were pulled when ripe, and put in a large wooden
box. When completely dry, they were tromped by foot, and the hulls were
shook, sifted and sorted by hand. The cleaned beans were kept to be
eaten, and any left over were sold.
"Here I first began to hunt and fish. Dad made my first slingshot and
my first bow and arrow.... I got fairly proficient with both bow and
"I can still picture a giant steam-powered threshing rig puffing slowly
up the road, coming to thresh wheat and oats at our farm--how thrilled
and fascinated I was! It needed a large crew of men to keep it
operating and almost as many women in the kitchen to feed them. That was
when I made up my mind that someday I would have my own threshing rig.
Of course, when I got mine in 1937, the steam engine was nearly extinct.
Though there were still a few threshers being pulled by steam, mine was
pulled by a large gas tractor...
"Dad grew corn, wheat and cow peas. The corn was cultivated with a
one-row riding cultivator pulled with two horses or mules, the cow peas
were cut and put in shocks for our cows, and the wheat was cut with a
binder that put it in bundles tied by string. The binders were pulled by
four horses, which took only one driver, and there were usually two men
trying to keep up with the shocking. Sometimes I got to ride the binder
with Dad, and chased down young rabbits. Even at that early age,
barefooted, in wheat stubble, vines or whatever, I caught more than I
let get away. We ate every one of them, too.
"After two seasons, we moved to a farm in the Big Wabash river bottoms.
The new place had 100 acres of rich bottom soil, plus a three-room
house, a corn crib and a small barn. My mother and sister papered the
bare walls with newspapers....
"Our new farm was three miles from school--with dirt roads that I walked
twice a day. This was the summer of 1924, when I was 9 years old, and my
chores consisted only of feeding and watering the horses noon and night,
carrying the firewood in and the ashes out, and other odd chores....
When the corn got up a foot or so high, anyone who had any time at all
was put on a hoe--the garden variety--and we hoed the cornfield. That
rich bottom ground grew horse weeds that were a sight to behold; if
left unchecked, they grew seven to ten feet high, and thick as could be.
In fact, the men used to kid each other about treeing coons up a horse
weed in their corn fields. We fought those weeds with hoes, every one of
us--sister, brother, mother and all. It was hoe, hoe, hoe, every day
except Sunday; through July, August and into September--we hoed, and
hoed, and hoed. But we raised a wonderful corn crop: Dad had a
50-bushel yield, and got a dollar per bushel, which was a lot of money
in those days."
Reading this evokes memories of my own childhood on the farm. Our
neighbor, Lewis Pritchard, had a threshing rig. I remember hearing that
steam engine coming up the road at the end of a day. I'd run down the
road to meet it and climb on that big black engine for a ride. Binders,
threshing crews and hoeing corn were part of farming with which I was
familiar. As a child, it was my job, too, to keep the watering trough
full for the livestock. I remember many times pumping that trough full,
then wielding a stick to keep the thirsty stock away, so I'd have a full
trough to show my parents I'd done my job!
So Grows The Tree is available for $19.95 at the Genealogy Library.
The Genealogy Library is open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m.
Address letters to Genealogy, White County Historical Society, PO Box
121, Carmi, IL 62821.
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