If you haven't already done so, you may want to read The Introduction to this series of posts.
Farming Life in the Early 20th Century
Papa had about 100 acres of tillable land to farm. The best 50 acres was Grandma's and Papa started clearing the woods, which was on good muck soil. He also started ditching to dry up our swamp, which was good only as pasture. A few years before, this swamp or prairie as Papa called it, was a cranberry bog. Mama said she always picked cranberries there when she was a girl.
The first year or two Papa raised crops like everyone else. Corn, oats, rye, etc. but he always had a problem getting help. When we first took over the farm in 1911, I was only nine years old, Jane and Bill were eight and six, and so we were no help. I remember one of the first hired men Papa got. They told us kids that Joe had been in prison. He had knifed a man and stuffed him into an outside toilet. The man had died and Joe went to prison for two years. Well, I don't think he liked to work very well and he soon left. Papa went to Fort Wayne and brought home John.
John Yosthrenski was Polish and could speak very little English; also, he wasn't much of a farmer. We all liked John and once during the summer he had three young men come for a Sunday. One was only fourteen years old, a large blonde, good looking boy and he had only been in the U.S. as long as John, but he spoke English as well as we did. His name was Buster Ostroski.
John stayed with us all summer and one day in late fall he went to town with Papa. They drank too much and on the way home John asked Papa to stop and he started to walk back home. When asked why, he said, "I won't let Hazlette see me like this." We never saw John again; I was probably ten years old when this happened. The folks then contacted an orphan's home and that is when we got Orville.
Orville Day was from Indiana Harbor and when his father died he was put in the orphanage. He was supposed to be fourteen years old, but the folks were sure he wasn't much older than me. He was a good boy, but had not gone to school and had a terrible personality. He lived with us as if he were our brother and when we eventually left the farm; he continued to stay on with whom ever bought it. We never knew where he finally went.
After Orville came, Papa began to raise tomatoes, cucumbers and cauliflower. He also tried onions. These crops he planned to take to Fort Wayne and sell at the Farmer's Market. He got a contract from Sears Company for the cauliflower. This one year he had a beautiful crop, about one acre. The plants were set out by hand, kid's hands, and it was hard work. We even tied up the plants so the cauliflower wouldn't sunburn. Sears reneged on the contract and all that hard work and money went down the drain.
This was what happened to much of Papa's farming. He stocked up on dairy cattle, and they got some kind of disease and had to be killed. About this time Papa got sick and was covered with boils and seemed to be out of his mind some of the time. The cattle probably had undulant fever and so Papa had that too. After feeling he was a complete failure, he rented the place to Uncle Harl and we moved to North Webster.