Russell Darnold Memories
Dad's brother-in-law, Geo. Johnson, got him Interested in a farm down in Kansas - which he bought. 160 acres - fine improvements and very good land, for $8000. This was the spring of 1908.
There was a big house, a very large bar(barn), almost new, and other out-buildings for most all the needs. But when the Darnold's moved in things began to move. Our big well was almost a 1/4 mile from the house -16 ft. across and 35 ft. deep. We dug a small well beside it and put up a windmill over it. We laid a pipe line to the house - put up a supply tank - plumbed the house for bath and such - also for stock water at the barn. Mother then got some money from home and she had three more rooms put on the house. Then came the big cellar and a big silo. It was made of wood and shrunk up so bad that it became a nuisance so we took it down and made grain bins of it. A lot of work took place inside of the barn including cement floors and bins.
The family had now grown to six. I had reached the age of ten and had become my mothers helper. She kept me in the house until I was fourteen. This, I think, has contributed to the fact that I always preferred to have a female companion, even as a child in school. It was in Kansas (Allen County) that I did most of my growing up (1908-23) and acquired my eighth grade schooling consisting of seven months. As a rule as we grew older, we were forced to miss at least a month of school to help on the farm to get the crop in at springtime or to fill the silo in the fall.
Three boys growing up together sometimes could become a big problem for the parents. Our father was a strict manager of the tribe and firmly believed in the old saying, "spare the rod and spoil not the child", and our butts were well tanned. But this did not always stop the nonsense.
I could write a whole book on the things that we could get involved in. I recall one that turned out to be a very expensive one. We had a deep well (230 ft.) that we had never used as there was gas and oil drilling going on all around us at that time. We decided to do some drilling ourselves. We built a make-shift rig over the well of some pullies and some rope - tied on a large heavy bar and was going to do some drilling - but our rope softened in the water and down went the iron bar. Well - a year or so later, the well was called into use and the pipe would not go down. Thinking that the well had a cave-in, they moved in a rig and run the tools in the hole and they became caught. They had to cut the cable and leave the tool in the hole. It was at this time that they learned what had been going on. A new well had to be drilled. This was only one of our many tricks.
I must mention some of the many worthwhile things going on in our family life. The first was that our parents joined the Methodist Church early in their married life and pursued it very closely during our growing up years. There was morning and evening prayer and reading of the Bible. Father was Supt. of the Sunday School for many years. Prairie Hill Church was four and a half miles away. Come rain, mud or snow - the Darnold family were there. We had a fine team of horses and a two seater carriage with side curtains to protect us from the weather. This is where the social life was for all of us - the Boekens, Andrus, Gardner, Vancamp and many other families. Ice cream socials, baked good sales and many other functions were held to raise money so that the minister could eat and keep his family.
Two years ago (1965-66), I was back there. The church is gone - no one that we knew lives there, and it was then that it occurred to me how much that place meant to me in my early life. It was there that I united with the Methodist Church at the age of sixteen. My wife and I are still members of the same faith.
Going back to home - one of.the finer homes of the countryside -there was always something cooking. Dad was involved in so many things; school meetings, Theshermans group, rural phone, church affairs, township meetings, also oyster suppers, mellon feeds - you name it. Our home had electric lights, running water and plenty of room, plus a fine outdoor croquet court where many arguments often took place.
But on the other side of the book there was a lot of hard work to be done. As we boys grew up Dad took on more land - so much that at times we needed two hired men during World War I. We had sixteen head of work horses and boys were expected to do a mans work. Brother Francis was called for service in August of '18 and I was called on November 14th. The Armistice was signed November llth, so I did not get in the service.
If we had our work up in order, at times some of the neighbors would want a boy to lead the hay stacker horse at fifty cents a day. Think what a boy of today would think of that kind of job? One time I worked a whole month for a neighbor doing a mans work for $15.00, and then the man settled with my dad for a boar hog and I got nothing. This got to be quite a trick with dad. He would say - I will give you that calf - and we would have to wait a couple of years for the calf to grow up - and by then he would forget that he gave me that calf.
In this part of the country there was a lot of drilling for gas and oil and a lot of pipeline work. Us older boys would take off from the farm for a month or so in the winter to work on the pipelines. Very hard work but it paid $4.00 a day. Later I hauled water for the drilling rigs then went to work on the rig. This was a twelve hour shift for $8.00 and very dirty heavy work. The oil and gas has most all played out in that part of the country now,
I also found myself working in a blacksmith shop in the oil field as a helper to the "smithy" as there was a lot of work to be done. This was in the days when the smithy did all his welding from the forge. Electric welding was unheard of and this was somewhat of an art. Horse shoeing was a big part of his work as horses were used to move the rigs and haul pipe for casing the wells. It took eight to ten teams to move a rig.It took two days to set up the rig and five or six, with good luck, to drill in a well of 800 ft. Then a couple of more days to shoot it with nitro to loosen it up down below and case it and start pumping. In these parts our wells did not flow as the deep wells.
One of the things that always stayed in my mind was the stringing of the pipe for these big long lines from Oklahoma to Chicago. The contractors would send out about fifteen teams of the most wonderful horses to string the pipe which was from eight to twenty-four inch pipe - forty feet long. Their load as a rule was three joints. The drivers walked behind the wagon with forty-five foot lines. They had the finest of harness with large housings over the hames and collar to keep water from getting on the horses shoulders. This was a real circus.
These big monsters had to have shoes to get good footing at times and here again was a big problem for the smithy. Some of the horses were real problems. I have seen the smithy go rolling across the floor a number of times - but most of them drank a lot and it did not seem to bother them much. The cost of shoeing a team was $16.00 and sometimes they would throw a shoe the same day when they were pulling hard in the mud - and we always had plenty of that in the oil fields.
Another very interesting thing that was going on at this time was the zinc smelters at Iola, Gas City and LaHarpe. One could drive for eight miles and still he in the smelters. They all closed down after World War I as the gas played out in these parts. Iola went from 21,000 population to 7,000 and the other towns also went down. The land around these smelters was no good as it was full of sulphuric acid. I was.there in '73 and they have now began to grow some crops on the land.
It was a rather strange thing to see these men that worked on the furnaces. They were bleached out from the heat and their eye brows were burned off. Most of them died very young with lung trouble. My wife's father was one of them. At that time they used a mule to pull the cinder out from under the furnaces and his life was very short.
Many years after the smelters closed a company came in and reworked all the old cinder dumps for the acid in them.
The earlier part of our lives was mostly good, but also there was a considerable amount of discord as dad was of Scotch-Irish decent with a very determined mind to do things only his way. Of course, much of this rubbed off on his children and many times we found ourselves in trouble with each other. Mother was of Swedish-Irish decent and a lot more understanding. Dad knew only one way to settle anything and it was a sound licking. The last time he attempted to whip me I was sixteen and my brother Francis interceded and dad decided to think as to what he was doing. We were required to do a mans work very young and do it well. There was never any pay even after we were grown - just eats and clothes. I can look back over the way things went for him as he would not let us boys have one word in anything.
The year that I became 15, I tied bales on a three stroke hay baler. We would bale from eight to ten ton a day - load them on the wagon - drive home two miles - have supper - milk twenty cows - separate the milk - feed the calves and then stow away them ten tons of bales in the barn - and then up in the morning at five to start another day. Boys of today - how would you like a job of this kind and no pay? (1976).
Dad was an expert at so many different things that neighbors were always seeking his help at something; butchering, curing the meat, doctoring an animal, repairing a machine, splicing a big hay rope, cement work - you name it. He was a real leader in the community, but here again he was such a tempermental person he could not hold the friends that he did make. Some of the things I could understand when something went wrong - even small - he could not control himself. When he was in control of himself he was a pleasure to be around. Living on a farm one can have a lot of unwanted things to happen; your best horse to lay down and die - to go out to the pasture after a storm and find six or eight of your best cattle dead from lightning, and a host of other things.
As I try to recount and put things together as to what was the real weakness in this home, or should I say family, for things going as they did, I can think of several things. First dad met a young banker at Humboldt that took a shine to him. I can recall seeing the banker call dad to the window several times trying to interest him in some project and offer him the money. This looked too easy for dad. Some of the things did not work out as planned. Then a couple of dry summers and no crops. Also dad was a fellow that wanted a lot of things that he could not afford but would buy them on time - so in time things caved in and they lost everything. This was not an uncommon thing for a farmer that farmed big.
With what little they had left they made a deal for an old small hotel in Iola, Ks. where they stayed for about two years. Then they moved to Lincoln, Ne. where dad worked for the Telephone Co. for 16 years. At retirement time, mother's health was bad and they moved to San Diego, Cal.
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