Some time after Luther Cole passed away, See post: A Young Farm Hand in The 1950’s, I started working for his son Everett Cole, at 4070 Morton Road a short distance from his fathers farm. As part of the original barn that I remember working in has now been demolished, I will attempt to describe it from a picture of it today. Keep in mind that I can’t remember what I had for lunch yesterday but I do have vivid memories of that old barn from well over sixty five years ago! Looking at the picture, note the roof line of the missing barn. The original attractive stone foundation lined with the large hay bales, allows you to imagine its length, and most of the buildings in the background were not there when I was. there was a small building across the driveway that Everett once told me was a former ‘ice house’ they now used for storage.
I remember that they had almost as many children as did my parents: Linda, Sharon (had a crush on her), Larry, Carol, Donna, Tom and Sid. The Cole’s at this time ran a dairy operation and milked many cows. I was never involved in the milking, but cleaned many a gutter and even more calf pens, and was back to the loading of a wheel barrow and pushing it out to the farm yard and emptying it onto the manure pile. The barn here was very large in size and required a lot of work to run. I well remember being re-united here with the old ‘row-crop’ Case tractor. One day while out ploughing a field south of the barn and in first gear, climbing a very steep hill, the Case came to an abrupt halt with the front end of the tractor about a foot off the ground and about to roll over backwards! Quickly dis-engaging the hand clutch, the front wheels dropped back onto the ground. Seems the plow had struck a large rock in the soil and of course tractor roll-bars were unheard of at that time. I mumbled a few choice words that day! Speaking of choice words, I never did hear any Cole ever swear. When kicked by a cow or tripping over an obstacle, they would only say “gee whiz or gosh that hurt” and my favorite “wasn’t that a corker”, since starting to write this post, I find myself repeating the latter often!
Haying season on this farm was relatively easy, rather than baling the hay (or straw) and then stacking them by hand several rows high onto the hay wagon later, Everett had a wagon hitch attached to the baler so they came off the baler chute directly onto the wagon and were stacked in an interlocking fashion to hold them together. With more than one wagon and tractor you could keep the baler operating continuously and get the crop into the barn quickly. As I recall, the barn here was L shaped with part of it facing west and part facing east. The west barn had a very steep ramp to reach the mow. This part of the barn was only partially ‘banked’ so the wagon had to be backed up a very steep ramp to access the mow, if you have ever tried backing up a four wheel wagon loaded with hay up a steep ramp, you will appreciate another Everett Cole idea. Again, attach a trailer hitch to the front of the tractor so you can better see and control where you are going! In the mow bales of hay (or straw) were unloaded from the wagon into the upper reaches of the barn by a portable electrical powered elevator. The guy at the top of the elevator, the hottest and second most dusty job on the farm was usually the Ranger! Most early barns were what was known as a ‘bank’ barn, this half was not. The east section of the barn was constructed so as the foundation was below ground level providing an easy and level access to the mow. This provided great insulation for the water supply, the stables and calf pens below. With the hay and straw on the upper floor as insulation and the heat generated by the livestock it was always warm in the barn in the coldest weather. For a description and pictures of a ‘Bank’ barn see post: The Rise And Decline Of The Ontario Barn.
One day checking the tractor for gas using a yardstick, (no gas gauge on tractors) but there was an oil pressure gauge! At the field, I noticed the gauge reading low when the engine was idling, which I now know is normal, who knew? Returning to the farm in a panic, I told Mr. Cole, the tractor needed some oil. It was explained to me that this gauge only measure oil pressure, not quantity. Feeling a bit embarrassed, actually a lot embarrassed found me again heading out to the ‘back forty’ for plowing, discing (to prepare soil for planting or sowing, by breaking up the clods and destroying weeds) or harrowing (to pulverize soil by breaking up crop residue, uproot weeds or to cover seeds) in large fields, the dustiest job on a farm! On a long day in a large field, Mrs. Cole (Ferris) would magically appear around lunch time with a lot of tasty sandwiches and a large thermos of greatly appreciated ice cold water or lemonade. Excuse me here, I suddenly have an urge for a tall glass of diet Seven-up in a tall glass of ice!
Back in the day, I never wore a hat and you very seldom seen a tractor with even an umbrella over the driver. Seems I was forever suffering from sun burn, who knew the dangers of sun radiation? My favorite tractor of three on this farm and a rare treat to drive was the green Oliver 66, this tractor was usually reserved for the ‘boss’ and it had an extremely quiet but very powerful six cylinder engine, very unusual back in the day, most were four cylinder. One day, heading south on Morton Road with a farm wagon to pick up a load of hay bales about a mile away, I put the transmission into ‘road gear’ not even knowing what that was and popped the clutch, that tractor took off like a bat out of hell, nearly throwing me backwards onto the hay wagon behind! Lesson learned here…maybe tractors really should have had roll bars and possibly even seat belts!
On another day, I was asked to drive the old standard shift International half ton truck down that same road to pick up a load of grain from the combine (harvester). I, of course was too young to possess a drivers license, not sure you even needed one for a farm vehicle. Never having driven a car (or a truck) before, but I could drive a tractor very well, I figured how hard could it be? Without admitting that this was a new experience for me, away I went! In the truck bed was a cone shaped metal bin which would be filled from the combine auger with grain harvested from the field. I would then drive back to the barn, reverse the truck to line up with a very small auger bin, much like threading a string through a needle head, quite a feat for a novice truck driver and unload the truck by opening a gate in the bottom chute of the bin. This allowed the grain to pour into an auger which emptied into the granary on the upper floor of the barn. I then had to have the truck back to the field in time for another load! At this time, this wheat, rye or oats would later be ground into ‘chop’ using a machine called a hammer mill and the chop would be mixed with hay as a supplement in the mangers for cattle feed. The hammer mill was a small portable grinding machine powered by a long leather ‘loop’ belt connected to the tractors side power take-off pulley connected to the hammer mill pulley, you had to be very careful this belt did not rub on the tractor’s front wheel, a serious fire threat so near to the barn. The chop would be stored in burlap bags or a bin near the stable.
On winter Saturdays, Ferris would pick me up at my home in their new, blue 1960 Chevrolet (what a memory, eh?) and return me home after the evening meal. Every farm wife I have ever known were the best cooks ever! Occasionally after supper and waiting for my ride home while Ferris was attending some kitchen duties, I would relax in the living room and watch TV, this was the first time I had ever seen “The Beverly Hillbillies” which became my favorite show for many years after. Some years later Everett and Ferris retired from farming and built a new home a short distance away. Larry and Joyce Cole then took over the farm, making them and their family at least the fifth generation to run this farm which today is called Coral Farms Ltd. This marked the end of my life as a farm hand. Today, they have switched from a dairy operation to beef production and cash crops. Here a a couple for Larry: “why don’t cows have money? because the farmer milks them dry” or “what are the spots on a white cows? “holstains”. As for the Ranger, I moved on to a short stint in a paint and wallpaper store in Cobourg owned by my uncle Stewart and aunt Ella Houston. I then went on to a forty year career as a quality control technician at an international food company, General Foods and Kraft Corporations. Here I started a salaried job at fifty dollars a week, much better than farm wages but was a lot less physical!
Stay tuned for the last post of this series, A Young Farm Hand in The 1950’s. Part Three. More great memories and tales working on other local farms, and how farm life has changed today.