No Piece of Cake

A woman's work may have been the hardest job in the world, but farm men didn't have a gravy train.  Their tasks differed greatly with the seasons, the hardest period being the spring and summer when a 'crop' had to be made to secure the family's survival.  We will consider a typical day in the 'crop' period.

The rooster would crow a short while before daybreak, awakening the farmer (“Isn't he wonderful?” the hens would say).  Depending on the division of the duties with the wife, the farmer might build a fire in the kitchen stove and rekindle the fire in the fireplace if it was needed.  The next task was to water and feed the mules, preparing them for the day's work.

By then breakfast would be ready.  After breakfast, the day's plowing would begin.  The plow had to be made ready with the proper scooter, sweeps, and plow points in place for the task to be performed.  By early daylight, the day's plowing began.  This would continue without respite until lunch.  Following a short break after lunch, the plowing began again and didn't stop until near sundown.  The mules then had to be fed, watered, and the gear made ready for the next day when plowing day would be repeated.

This constant walking behind the plow for maybe 12-14 hours per day eliminated the need for diets.  My father would begin a crop in the spring at maybe 135 pounds.  By laying by time, he would be down to perhaps 115 pounds.  In the thirties, I only knew of one male who might be considered overweight.

The twelve to fifteen hour workdays continued from early spring through harvest season.  After the crop was gathered, the demands lessened and the workday matched the shorter days.  This was the time when wood for the fireplace and kitchen stove was cut and stocked.  Looking ahead, enough stove wood for the next summer also had to be cut and stocked and wood for the fireplace stored.  At our place, we would have a huge pile of firewood and cords and stove wood stacked.  While cutting the wood, land was also cleared to increase the cultivated acreage.

When we moved to the farm, where were only some 15-20 acres of cleared land.  Each winter more land was cleared to eventually reach 35-40 acres.  In the early thirties, this clearing was done by one man using an ax and a one-man saw, a very arduous task.

In addition to the wood cutting and clearing, the daily tasks continued-- the animals, hogs, mules, chickens cared for daily.

During rainy or inclement weather, there were tasks that required attention.  Corn had to be shucked and shelled to be ground into corn meal.  Peas stored in the barn needed to be shelled.  Perhaps peanuts stored in sacks or in the barn were picked off the vines.  The farm wagon could need greasing, and the gear for the mules might need repair.

While it might not be considered a desirable task, on occasions it was necessary to hunt for some supplement to the food larder.  A rabbit or squirrel could be a welcome change form a monotonous diet.

A leaking roof or other necessary repairs to farm buildings or equipment required much attention.

There was also the matter of handling the necessary business.  Sometimes this required a trip to the county courthouse and back to borrow or repay funds.  Since the only transportation was a wagon, one trip would require a full day.

Another duty of the man would be to handle the wife's activities should she be sick, recovering from child birth, or helping care for sick relatives.

While the farm woman's required duties were without doubt the hardest job in the world, the farm man did not hold an enviable position.  The remarkable item is: How did they find time to reproduce?

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