Hard work…little pay

Here’s another installment from Bea Farrar’s manuscript. It details Harry and Bea moving back to the farm in 1924.

“After we came back to the farm Harry sold off some timber. The man who bought it also bought timber on two adjourning farms. A lot not far from our house was selected as the site for a sawmill. What a busy time followed as machinery for the mill was brought in and trees were marked for cutting. Plans were made that the men were to room and board with us.

“At this time Baby Rebecca decided to join her brothers and sisters. As there was no bed room downstairs I fixed a wooden box on a low chest for the baby’s crib. How many times a day I climbed those stairs to care for her.

“The little two year old girl that lived in the other part of the house was delighted with Baby Rebecca. She would come into my part of the house, whenever she could get the door open, scramble upstairs, saying ‘I want to see your dolly.’ So I would have to hurry up after her, to see she did not hurt the baby.

Harry Farrar farm in 1918. Photo provided by Ron Patch

“There were ten men that worked in the mill and in the woods and what a job to fit them into two bedrooms upstairs. There were nine in my family Harry and I and five children, a girl to help me with housework and a hired man.

“My dining room was small so I had to serve the mill help first. Then when they were cared for the hired girl and I would clear the table and reset for our family.

“I had to be up early mornings to get the breakfast for the mill help as they had to be at the mill when the whistle blew at seven, and had to have dinner ready for then when they arrived shortly after the whistle blew at twelve and then again have supper ready promptly at five p.m.

“What appetites those men had meat, potatoes, vegetables, pies doughnuts + cookies never lasted very long. I was often cooking until ten and eleven at night. We had a good supply of vegetables and made our own butter and baked plenty of beans + made bread.

One night when some of the men returned from spending some time at a show, they raided my pantry. And the next morning some things I had planned to use at breakfast were missing. Well breakfast was more or less a scanty one, and believe me I read the riot act to those men. ‘If any of you men step foot in my pantry again, you will have to find a different place to stay.’ And I added ‘If I feel you need refreshments when you return from an evening out, you will find something left on the table in the kitchen.’

“I usually left a few cookies, doughnuts or pieces of pie and a pitcher of milk on the table. I never had any more trouble with raiding parties. The men knew I meant what I said. It was hard work with very little left over when bills were paid and I was not sorry when the sawmill closed and the extra men left.

“There were lots of tops left when the logs were taken to the mill and Harry had them worked them up in cord wood and the small limbs cut for sugar wood. Besides his hired man he hired a sixteen year old boy to help on the farm.

“One day Harry and Francis had gone to the village with a load of cord wood, and the boy Charles was trimming some of the tree tops getting them ready to cut into cord lengths. It was a warm day and soon thunder was rumbling in the distance, George was playing near the wagon shed with his sisters and a neighbor’s boy and as thunder grew louder and sky was looking more like storm.

“I went out to call the children to come into the house, before I could call them, I heard a boy crying loudly ‘Oh I have shot Charlie,’ and down through the night pasture, he came running. He was a neighbor’s boy and had been up in the woods with Charles. He had brought his father’s gun and he and Charles had been target shooting.”

To be continued…

  In Bea Farrar’s previous installment, Bea mentioned a farmer who had lost both feet at the ankles. A man in North Springfield called to tell me the farmer was his grandfather. That will be a follow-up article.

  The photo with this article is the Harry Farrar farm in 1918. This is one of approximately 275 photos in Chester Historical Society’s new book, “Pictorial History of Chester, Andover, Weston and Londonderry.” It’s available at select stores in Chester, Weston, Londonderry, and Bellows Falls.

This week’s old saying refers to someone down in the dumps. “She’s having a ‘Sinking spell.’”

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