Life on a Hagenbuch Farm, Part 2: Sibling Memories
As this website deals with facts (although sometimes an unprovable family story is included), the adage “write what you know” attributed to Mark Twain is the usual standard. In that vein, I asked my sister, Barbara, and brothers, David and Bob, to send me their memories about our family’s farm in Limestone Township, Montour County, Pennsylvania.
Bob had already started a sketch of the machinery shed and has written his memories of it. This article opens with that sketch and his memories. Following that are some of the other memories we four have of the buildings and the unforgettable times we spent on that farm.
Bob: The machinery or tractor shed on our farm was a unique building. I do not recall any of the neighboring farms that had one arranged as ours. It consisted of three drive-through bays: two ground floor (one on each side) and one in the center, elevated between the two ground floor bays. These had corn cribs running the full length of the shed. They were about 3 feet wide by 18 feet or so high.
There also were full-length lofts for corn above the ground-floor bays, which we rarely used. The corn cribs and lofts were all slatted construction to allow for air circulation. Under the elevated center bay we stored equipment such as plows, harrows, discs and any other machinery that would fit due to the low headroom.
To give you an idea of the bay sizes, Dad (Homer S. Hagenbuch) parked his 36-passenger school bus inside one. The two lower bays had hinged double doors at each end, and the upper bay had double rolling doors. The lower doors had to be closed in order to open the upper rolling doors. There were inclined ramps leading up to either end of the center bay.
The center bay had a stout plank floor. We routinely drove tractors, loaded wagons and a 3/4 ton pickup onto it. Above this was a large loft with lots of “junk”, most of which I do not remember. Two things, though, stand out and I shall never forget: A “one-horse open sleigh” (which had seen better days) hanging from the rafters, and a hand-operated drill press mounted on the wall. As you turned the crank on the drill, an escapement mechanism lowered the bit into the workpiece. I spent many hours as a young lad drilling holes in scrap pieces of wood. I wish I had the sleigh or the drill press now!
We kept tools for working on the farm machines in the center bay. It’s also where we always changed oil in the tractors. One wall in the center bay was covered with vintage license plates, mostly sequential years.
One year we had a bumper crop of corn and had to store it in the lofts. It was picked wetter than Dad liked, and was piled fairly deep. Dad always was well-aware of spontaneous combustion in wet crops. He would check the temperature in the middle of the pile by thrusting in a long wooden handle for a length of time. If it was too hot to touch when pulled out, we did some quick re-arranging of the crop! One night we spent many hours moving corn about in the lofts and directing fans onto the hot spots.
Once in the middle of the night (I think around 3am) we were awakened by a loud, strange sound. It took us several long minutes (we were all groggy from sleep) to figure out what the noise was: Dad’s school bus horn had somehow started blowing and was stuck! Dad and I rushed out but he could not get it to stop. Finally, he yanked open the hood, but since he didn’t have the right tools handy he took the emergency axe from inside the bus and cut the horn wires!
Mark: The shed wasn’t the only area that held curious objects within its timeworn walls. A small building attached to the side of the barn which one had to enter to go to the stables held mysteries. We called it the entryway. I remembered it as having cupboards on both sides filled with cobweb covered bottles of what was called “horse medicine”. My brother, Dave, had similar memories of the entryway only more specific.
Dave: I remember the stuff in the entryway cupboard. There was only one cupboard on the left going down the steps. There was a window on the right and a lot of junk piled on a shelf under the window. The stuff in the closet was “horse liniment”, etc. And there were some harnesses and bridles hung in there. There was a harness with bells, and I used them in a Christmas play at Limestoneville School. I was Santa. We had a plywood sleigh, and I held the reins that were tacked above the blackboard. Is that why they are called reindeer?!
Mark: As the oldest of the three boys, Bob and Dave were Dad’s right and left hand “men”. They have the most memories of driving tractors and the actual field work. So, as the only daughter, Barb has the memories of working in the house, as she was Mom’s main helper. She remembers washing and washing and washing dishes, especially when Mom (Irene “Faus” Hagenbuch) was out in the garden which was probably a 1/2 acre or more. Barb was relieved when Grandma Faus (Mom’s mother) came to visit and would help wash those dishes.
Barb also remembers pulling 1000 ears of corn with Mom for Ruth Hagenbuch to use. Ruth was married to Norman Hagenbuch, son of Percy Hagenbuch (great Uncle Perce). It’s interesting that we boys have a similar story of pulling 1000 ears of corn. When I talked to Barb about this the other day, we believe these are two separate incidents and pulling 1000 ears was memorable to our young minds.
Along with the 1/2 acre plus garden, we had a large patch of sweet corn each year. Although my older siblings say I was “spoiled”, being the youngest, I remember working just as hard with my young body, feeding the young cattle, forking manure, stacking hay and straw, chaining and feeding the milk cows, even running a milker and carrying milk all on my own when the others were working late in the fields. I was also the one who seemed to always get caught by Dad doing something wrong, because Dave could run away faster than me!
But, back to the sweet corn. I remember Mom sitting me down by the mailbox with a pile of corn to sell at one cent an ear. I never had any business since all the farmers around us grew their own sweet corn! Maybe Mom just wanted to get me out of the house for a few hours. What we three boys do remember is the time we pulled 1000 ears one evening when Mom and Dad were not there.
Dave: The thousand ears of corn! This was in 1958 or 1959? The guy showed up one Saturday when Mom and Dad went to Milton for groceries. His mother was with him. He was 30 to 35 years old and she was in her 60s. He drove a ’52 or ’53 light green Chevy four door. I’m pretty sure all four of us helped pull corn (Note: Barb says she does not remember this.); as did the guy and his mother.
He loaded it in the trunk and where the cushion of the rear seat was, because he left the cushion with us and came back the next week for more corn and took the seat cushion back. There was even corn on the front floorboard under his mother’s feet! I think we got 2 cents an ear, 25 cents a dozen. I remember it being $20 and we each got $5. They were buying corn for a church festival.
Mark: As with many of our stories, we remember things a bit differently. No problem with that because it makes it more interesting, and as we hash out the details my siblings and I remember more stories. Many of our stories probably seem uninteresting to others, but they all provide a small view of what life was like 50 and more years ago.
There are stories about the outhouse, our cold house where Barb remembers the ice freezing in the wash basin in the winter, our cat Beauty with the crooked tail, us boys driving tractors when we were as young as 8 years old (Dave remembers he and Bob chasing each other on the township roads on tractors, one driving the old Silver King!), the strange closet with a seat located behind the kitchen stove (no one seems to remember the original purpose of this), and the list goes on and on.
Our farm life stories will continue in Part 3.