It is all about leaves ….
It is all about leaves this week. Some are still turning. Others are beautiful and then the sad story. Many are laying on the ground. I have one maple that is just about bare, but the other two, the big ones, have a few yellow leaves but the majority are still green. Like a lot of others around the country. Haying would be done, but Mother Nature has been blessing us with showers every day which make drying an impossibility. Chopping corn seems to be slowing down and what is standing is just waiting for the picker as are the soybeans. Hopefully October will give us some nice dry days for those chores. One sure sign that fall is here is the large flocks of geese that like to collect on the Legion Pond or the little one over on Bluebird Lane. This morning I was in Marshfield and took my lunch out to Wildwood Park and watched the geese playing in the pond there. On the way out, I found a few a little bit bolder on the street over by the locomotive. They were having a great time in the street and didn’t really care much if they held up traffic or not.
I came up with a question and I’m wondering if anyone has an answer for it. Out at Willard we have North Mound and South Mound. Do we have a name for the mound that sits on the Loyal and York town line south of Loyal? I’ve driven by it for years but the other day I was approaching it from the east as I drove toward County Trunk K on Bobwhite Road. About the time I was going past the little Mennonite school, I looked ahead and there was this big mound. I think the fact that most of the trees had turned color made it more impressive. If you turn on Miller Avenue and go north to Poplar Road, then west to Cardinal Avenue, you can drive right over the mound. Maybe for now I’ll just call it Ben and Sonia’s Mound as it sits right behind their new building, which helps to make it even more impressive.
When did hauling cattle in trailers pulled by pickup trucks become the norm for moving cattle? I guess I haven’t paid that much attention but this morning, on the way to Marshfield, I drove by the Oberholter Cattle Auction barn. The yard was full of pickup trucks and trailers and the overflow was parked along the highway. It is for sure a better system than the cattle trucks used back in the days when I was growing up. At that time it seemed like all the cattle, pigs and sheep were hauled to South St. Paul to the slaughter houses there. I also remember that as I worked for a short time right out of high school at Swift & Company. The trucks were just regular trucks with this huge rack on the back. A ramp slid under the truck until loading and unloading time and slid out for the gang way. Sides for the ramp hung on the sides of the truck. I can recall sometimes it was a tough job trying to get a cow to walk up the ramp. Not every animal for slaughter got shipped to South St. Paul. My dad always had a pig or two and a cow that he would slaughter right on the farm and cut it up himself. I remember we had this old frame that held our grinder on it and we used the gas engine from the washing machine to power it. Sausage, ham and bacon were smoked in our little smokehouse. Dad always took care of that. It had to be done just so and it must have worked as none of us ever got sick. In the days before freezers, we kept our meat inside an old barrel that sat out in the yard. I’m not sure what happened when we had a winter thaw. I guess we just hoped it would stay frozen until the next cold snap came.
My days at Swift & Company still are pretty fresh in my mind. This was the summer of 1948, and workers at Swift had been on strike during the winter and spring and had just signed a new contract. Union members were identified by the little blue button they wore, but you had to work 90 days before you could join. It sure made a difference how friendly the other employees became when you started wearing your blue button. Starting wages were $1.07 an hour. When I told my Mother how much I was making she said, “There is no one worth that kind of money”. I worked in two departments there. First in sausage packing and I was responsible for bringing the huge racks of wieners in from the smokehouse rooms to the packing area where girls packed them in those little packages you see in the store. The problem I ran into was that the smokehouses would be warm, but the packing rooms cool and the combination just didn’t mix. A couple bouts of strep throat and they transferred me to the baby food department. There were only three men in that department. The foreman, a machine operator and me, the last guy that had to keep things clean and bring in empty racks of cans to be filled and sealed. The one thing I remember about the machine operator is that he chewed tobacco, ate onion sandwiches for lunch and washed it down with peppermint schnaaps which he kept in his thermos. Now he wasn’t someone to be close to when he exhaled.
The first thing I thought of this morning, when I heard the news, was the old saying, “Play with fire long enough and you’ll probably get burned”. I shouldn’t be wishing anyone bad luck, but after all he had been telling us for a long time it was just a hoax. We should really be holding our breath as Wisconsin is right now one of the high states in the country for people to be getting the virus. So we should be listening to Lester Holt from NBC News who signs off every night telling us to, “be careful and take care of yourself”.