Earlier today Fred of Mesa, Arizona called my attention to an article published in the Parade Sunday Magazine entitled "The Bodacious Hoedown of Cuming County by David Oliver Rolin. It is about what amazing thing done by eight friends from Nemaha, Iowa who call themselves the Farmall Promenade -- dazzlers with their "fancy-foot and wheelwork" on vintage tractors. It is a nice article and I enjoyed reading it, however, what caught my eye was the quote: " .... farming's been awful tough lately. Hog prices are atrociously low, and we've had a dry summer and a short crop."
In and around Nuckolls County, several years preceding 1934 it had been unusually hot and dry in the summers and little snow in the winters. Crops often failed to return the seeds that were planted.
Heat records were broken -- sunflowers and thistles went into silage. Russian thistlehay, when made of spring's tender growth, nearly equaled alfalfa in feeding stock. Cattle were herded along the sides of the roads and were sold to the Government for two cents a pound.
During this time there were the famous grasshopper raids. My relatives would purchase a form of arsenic and mix it into crude molasses, banana oil and water. My cousins would sit on the back of a wagon, pulled by horses and help distribute this concoction through the fields. As they rode along, my cousin has said, they saw that the fences looked like ropes, there were so many hoppers.
Nebraska is a land of weather extremes. My kin watched the sky and the clouds. First, wondering if those clouds would bring the needed rain; then, wondering if the rain would stop before any damage was done to the crops.
In the 1920s, the desert's hot fingers extended into Nebraska. Nuckolls and surrounding counties were seriously hurt by the drouths. With a lack of rain the stored moisture exhausted itself. By 1934, with little winter snow and no spring rains, the situation became desperate. Those crops that were planted may have started to grow, but dried up and blew away. Even the prairie grasses failed. Feed for the livestock was non-existent.
As things went from bad to worse, the Federal Government set up a livestock buying program. With the local veterinarian as judge as to the worth of individual animals they were purchased at from four to twenty dollars.
Farmers, though, are eternal optimists. On the first day of the buying programs farmers brought only the thinnest and weakest animals, hoping the rain would come and save their herds. Of course, as the season progressed more and more cattle were brought in until whole herds had been disposed of.
The story does not end yet. If cattle couldn't be fed neither could hogs, turkeys or even chickens. One story told by my family said: "Before it got better, the jack-rabbits leaned to run along the fence lines rather than through the open fields so that they could rest and cool off by stretching out in the long narrow shade produced by a fence post."
To tie this together with the opening paragraphs; when it hadn't rained for so long and spring came and it was time to plant, many farmers would decide not to plant, as it would not grow anyway. The young fellows would get together in someone's pasture and play baseball, much as our city youth did in the streets. Each community made up their own teams. At that time three or four families were living on each section of land and most families were large. Practically every family had a player or two or three to help make up a team. Games were played every Sunday and on holidays.
When the times got tough, Nebraskans get going!! AAPSS!!
The tough get going. Same difference. Wado,