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Looking Back

New Opportunity for Blacksmiths a Century Ago

Sam MooreIn 1920, the horse and mule population in the United States peaked at about 25 million animals, but fell rapidly after that. Also in 1920 there were more than 9 million motor vehicles, up from just 8,000 20 years earlier. At the same time more and more folks were retiring their buggies and horses in favor of a motor car, resulting in the number of these mechanical wonders more than doubling in the next five years.

At the time of World War I there were an unknown number of blacksmiths in the country – every country hamlet had at least one – and these worthies realized a big chunk of their business from shoeing horses and repairing wagons and buggies. A large number of blacksmiths were content to continue the way they always had, but some far-seeing smiths realized that “times, they were ‘a changin’.” The American Blacksmith magazine ran the following poem in the August 1918 issue to try to point out to the old-time smiths that there was money to be made from the “horseless carriages” then seen more and more on the roads.

The Opportunity Grabber

Old Timon T. Tinker, a blacksmith I neighbored, for thirty-eight years at the anvil had labored.
He knew all the ins and the outs of the trade and a comfortable living and money had made.
He knew all the wagons and horses around and could tell who was coming up the road by the sound.
His wagons and carts were built of best stock; they stood up to wear like an ocean swept rock.
He knew all there was to know of his craft, from the fittings, to Dobbin, or repairs for a shaft.

But Timon T. Tinker was set in his ways and figgered old methods would do in these days.
When asked if he’d fix up a spark plug or tire, he’d rip, roar and snort and rise up in his ire,
to condemn the guy proper with nerve so colossal as to ask him to touch a mere auto the fossil!
He damned all the motor pulled wagons on earth, and at autos and tractors he poked fun and mirth
said gasoline buggies and tractors and such “are traps of the devil and ain’t worth very much.
There ain’t no machine in heaven or hell that’ll take up the place that the horse fills so well!”

So Timon T. Tinker kept pounding out junk, and his business went down till his credit was punk.
His former contentment skipped out of the coop, his knees got all shaky and shoulders to stoop.
His once fat wallet is thin as a slat and folks seldom come now with work or to chat.
Folks don’t want to trade with a back numbered skate, but seek out the chaps who are right up to date.

Now young Cyrus Getdough, a motor-bike had twas not very good nor yet very bad.
He tinkered and tampered from morning to night, a tryin’ to get that old bike to run right.
Then one day while tinkering, a thought hit Cy’s thinker—twas surely ambitious for just a mere tinker.
He said as he turned up a nut on a spoke “As a clever mechanic I may be a joke,
but brains are the thing if you put them to use. In fact it’s a shame to let good brains run loose.
I’m wiser than most of the chaps in this town; I’ll open a shop and pull some kale down.”

And so our hero, young Cy, took out a lease on Gordon’s old livery down the road just a piece.
He cleaned up the place with whitewash and paint and made that old barn look like what it ain’t.
The signs big and yellow he put on the place were glaringly lettered and spoke face to face.
And all who saw them could read at a glance that Cy was an expert on motoring plants.
That motors and autos and tractors and such were to most folks a mystery, but to Cy not so much.

The equipment Cy had you could count on your thumb, and what there was of it was all rather bum.
His mechanical knowledge you know was so lean that oiling a bicycle would trouble his bean.
But bluffing was just where young Cy was t’home, and believe me he bluffed from his toes to his dome.
His auto repair shop the first one in town just prospered and prospered and grew in renown,
‘til sections and acres were added and built, for work just crowded his shop to the hilt.
Today Cy is rich as Croesus B.C., a sterling example of a successful O.G. (Opportunity Grabber).

– Sam Moore

Automobile being pushed to a repair shop
Cartoon from the August 1916 issue of American Blacksmith magazine.

Old Christmas Celebrations in England

Christmas tree
The family gathered around the Christmas Tree and receiving their gifts. Illustrations from William Sandys’ 1852 book.

“At Christmas be mery, and thanke god of all;
And feast thy pore neighbours, the great with the small.”

Sam MooreI recently found an old book called Christmastide, by William Sandys and published in London in 1852, which tells the story of ancient Christmas celebrations in England. Of course, the stories are mostly of the festivities of the royal household and those of the landed gentry – poor folks had to celebrate as best they could with very little or nothing. The following is an example of the manner of keeping Christmas by an English gentleman, as told in Armin’s 1601 book, Nest of Ninnies. “At a Christmas time, when good logs furnish the hall fire, when brawne [head cheese] is in season, and indeed all reveling is regarded, this gallant knight kept open house for all commers, where beefe, beere, and bread was plentiful. Amongst all the pleasures provided, a noyse of minstrells and a Lincolnshire bagpipe was prepared; the minstrells for the great chamber, the bagpipe for the hall; the minstrells to serve up the knight’s meate, and the bagpipe for the common dauncing.”

While the Christmas-block or yule log is not much in evidence these days, it once was an important part of Christmas. “Heap on more wood – the wind is chill; But let it whistle as it will, We’ll keep our Christmas merry still.”

A large log was dragged in and placed, with rejoicing and merriment, in the fireplace of the great hall or kitchen. A small portion of the log was to be carefully preserved to light the one of the following year; and on the last day of its being in use, usually Candlemas Day [2 February], a chunk of this year’s log was ignited to satisfy the old custom of “Kindle the Christmas brand and then till sunne-set let it burne; Which quench, then lay it up agen, Till Christmas next returne.”

After lighting the log, each family member then sat down on it in turn, sang a Yule song, and drank to a merry Christmas and happy New Year: after which they had, as part of their feast, currant-filled Yule upon which cakes which were impressed the figure of the infant Jesus. The wassail bowl, or the tankard of spiced ale, formed a prominent part of the entertainment as well.

Groaning board
Gathered around the “groaning board” as be-wigged servants pour the wine.

We would recognize some of the Yuletide decorations of the day. An almanac from 1695 tells us: “With holly and ivy so green and so gay, We deck up our houses as fresh as the day; With bays and rosemary and laurel compleat, And every one now is a king in conceite.” Other evergreens were used as well, including myrtle and the “mystic mistletoe,” but most of these were taken down after Twelfth Day [Epiphaney].

Today we see gaily lit Christmas trees everywhere but this decoration made its first appearance in England sometime in the 1830s. Mr. Sandys tells us, “In recent times the Christmas tree has been introduced from the continent, and is productive of much amusement to old and young, and much taste can be displayed and expense also incurred in preparing its glittering and attractive fruit. It is delightful to watch the animated expectation and enjoyment of the children as the treasures are displayed and distributed; the parents equally participating in the pleasure, and enjoying the sports of their childhood over again.”

Then, as now, feasting was a huge part of the Christmas celebrations, and strong drink was much in evidence as well – one ditty ran: “Fill up the bowl, then, fill it high, Fill all the glasses then, for why, Should every creature drink but I? Why, man of morals, tell me why?”

Yule log and mistletoe
Enjoying the yule log and the “mystic mistletoe,” as well as food and drink and “dauncing.” The party is getting a little rowdy by now.

Gervase Markham in his 1651 English Housewife, describes an ideal holiday dinner of this time. He wrote that the first course should consist of “sixteen full dishes; that is, dishes of meat that are of substance, and not empty, or for show – as thus, for example; first, a shield of brawn [head cheese], with mustard; secondly, a boyl’d capon; thirdly, a boyl’d piece of beef; fourthly, a chine [back bone] of beef, rosted; fifthly, a neat’s [cow’s] tongue, rosted; sixthly, a pig, rosted; seventhly, chewets [mince-meat] baked; eighthly, a goose, rosted; ninthly, a swan, rosted; tenthly, a turkey, rosted; the eleventh, a haunch of venison, rosted; the twelfth, a pasty of venison; the thirteenth, a kid, with a pudding in the belly; the fourteenth, an olive-pye; the fifteenth, a couple of capons; the sixteenth, a custard. Now, to these full dishes may be added, sallets [spinach cooked with vinegar], fricases [soups], quelque choses [?], and devised paste [a fruit dish], as many dishes more, which make the full service no less than two and thirty dishes; which is as much as can conveniently stand on one table. And after this manner you may proportion both your second and third courses, holding fulness on one half of the dishes, and show in the other; which will be both frugal in the splendour, contentment to the guest, and much pleasure and delight to the beholder.” This mountain of food was washed down with copious amounts of ale, porter, wine and cider, making one wonder why all English lords and ladies didn’t weigh 25 stone [350 pounds].

Gifts were given by an inferior to his superior, who gave something in return, usually money, and gifts were exchanged between equals. Tenants often gave capons to their landlords at this season, and some leases even required a capon at Christmas as part of the rent. Other gifts were given in a more generous spirit as this poem points out: “These giftes the husband gives his wife, And father eke [give] the childe, And maister on his men bestowes The like, with favour milde.”

So lavish celebrations of the Lord’s birth have been around for many millennia, and we see echoes of those long ago days in some our traditions today.

Merry Christmas and a Wonderful New Year to you all.

– Sam Moore

Threshing, Then and Now

Sam MooreIn 1907, a man named Edgar L. Vincent [no address given] reminisced about his younger years on the farm in a letter to The American Thresherman magazine.

“The first threshing machine I ever saw was a flail. After the frost came in the fall the neighbors would come in and ‘exchange work’ with each other, going from one farm to the other until the scanty harvest was all pounded out. It was a great time for us youngsters when the thud, thud, thud of the flails sounded over the hills and far away. We boys helped clean the grain and we turned the mill till our strength ran down so that we could scarcely make one more turn on the crank.

Next came the open-cylinder machine. I well remember the first time one of these machines set up in our barn. The barn was new, and as we had recently burned the logs of the old house to make way for the new frame house that was to be our home, we had moved to the barn and were living in the stable. No cattle had ever yet been in the stable and it was as neat and clean as any house could be and we liked the smell of the fresh-sawn lumber.

Well, that job of threshing was a great one, and no mistake! We had hung bed quilts along the sides of the barn floor to keep wheat kernels from scattering all over and into the stable. And when the bundles of grain hit that cylinder how the grain did fly everywhere! Up to the roof, all about the floor, into the eyes of the hands, peppering us all like hail stones in a storm. Queer that no one had yet thought to provide a cover over that cylinder! But the thresher was evolving and, as bright ideas came into men’s minds, they were adopted after no small struggle.

Two men threshing with flails.

Even then, cleaning the grain was still done with a fanning mill – the idea of combining a thresher with a separator was off in the future. After the threshing was done and the machine out of the barn, we had to sweep and shovel the grain into a heap and run it through the fanning mill. It was a big thing, though, to have the grain pounded off the bundles by something easier than the flail.

But that old fanning mill – what fun it was to us boys! On days when father was away from home we used to take the wind doors off and proceed to ‘thresh’ hay and straw by holding it directly against the fan blades while someone turned the crank for dear life. We always shut the big barn door so no one would know what we were up to, but one sorry day grandmother appeared on the scene after quietly opening the door. She stood for a moment looking at what we were doing to the old mill and then, raising her voice, she cried in her quaint down-east voice, ’What on airth be you a-doin’!

Claas Lexion combine at work. [Both illustrations courtesy of Wikimedia Commons]

The cold chills ran down our backs as we hustled to show the old dear that we could easily restore the mill to its former good condition, and we never knew if she told father about our escapade. He never said anything, so she probably didn’t mention it, she loved us too well for that, I am sure.

But now it makes one almost dizzy to think of the changes in the beautiful machines that come to do our threshing! Perfect – not a thing lacking, so far as human ingenuity can provide, to enable them to do the best possible work and to do it in almost the twinkling of the eye! Run by engines that drive the cylinder and all other parts like lightning, they sweep across the country like tornadoes, taking the great stacks of grain and devouring them like mighty monsters with appetites that cannot be stayed and leaving in their wake only the sacks of clean, beautiful grain.”

Mr. Vincent ends his letter by wondering if “there can possibly be as much improvement in the next few years as there has been in the past.” Think of how astonished he would be to see one of today’s huge combines with a 40-foot header sweeping across a quarter section of wheat! He talked of threshers “devouring” grain stacks; now it’s more like gulping the crops – and think what a shock it would be if a modern farmer could gaze upon crop harvesting 100 years in the future.

– Sam Moore

Mother's Slipper

Sam MooreWe hear a lot these days about the sad state of discipline among our youngsters, and, on the other hand, of calls to the police if someone happens to witness a parent administering to a recalcitrant child any more than a mild talking to. Along these lines I thought this editorial by Bascome B. Clarke, founder and long-time editor of The American Thresherman, was interesting. It appeared in the August 1907 issue of the paper under Clarke’s byline, “Uncle Silas.”

I remember how mother used to take us on her knee when we had allowed our wrath to be kindled against some little playmate, and how she would smooth back our hair and gently calm the rising storm, and then tell us that dog story:

‘Let dogs delight to bark and bite, for God hath made them so.
Let bears and lions growl and fight, for tis their nature, too.
But little children should never let their angry passions rise,
Your little hands were never meant to tear each other’s eyes.’

That was the way mother used to do when we were little, but alas! Too many of mother’s precepts and examples are forgotten when mother has gone to heaven. We go back to where we left off that morning when our bristles were up, and we bark and bite and snap and snarl at our fellowman. We feel that we are men in the middle of the road and eleven feet high; that we are the Cardiff giants of creation and are entitled to the best seat in the big show. We trample upon the rights of others, crushing the weak, cursing the strong. Whoever doesn’t agree with us is wrong, and he deserves to be kicked through his suspenders for it. We declare ourselves the raging lions, entitled to do all the growling, and a mighty roar proceeds from our wind stackers [The wind stacker was the large fan and long pipe at the rear of a threshing machine that blew the threshed straw into a straw stack; they did make a mighty roar.] whenever anybody else has an opinion that did not emanate from our dome of thought.

There are other lasting impressions that mother used to make besides the dog story. Sometimes when she had been tormented by our continued snapping and snarling, and when we smashed each other in the face with those tiny hands of ours, mother felt called upon to tell us about the old woman who lived in the shoe, and use her slipper as a pointer. [There was an old woman who lived in a shoe. She had so many children, she didn't know what to do. She gave them some broth without any bread; then whipped them all soundly and put them to bed.] Sometimes she didn’t find out about it until after we had gone to bed and were dreaming of better things. But when we felt mother’s arms around us and gently drawing us across her knee and with her slipper performing her duty, however distressing to her it might be, we recalled another little stanza: ‘Who took me from my warm, warm cot, and spanked me good till I was hot? My mother!’

Some of the most lasting impressions of our lives were made with mother’s slipper. They felt like a sprinkling of tobacco sauce then, but they made lasting impressions on us in after life, and made us more considerate of the rights of others, and somehow did much to eradicate the dog theory from our systems. Oh, the crying need for more mothers’ slippers in the world! This greedy, selfish nature that will not down, but gets up on its hind legs and barks and bites and growls and fights, requires clubs and guns to cure in manhood. God bless our mothers for every love lick made with slipper or shingle too. Both were good for us then; they are with us in memory still.

Here it is, more than a century later and Mr. Clarke’s words still apply.

– Sam Moore

Mother disciplining child
What is a home without a mother? [Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons]

The Calf Path

A while back I ran across this little poem by Samuel Foss. Foss, who was born in 1858 and died in 1911, was an American librarian and poet whose works included The House by the Side of the Road and The Coming American.

The Calf Path

One day through the primeval wood
A calf walked home, as good calves should.
But made a trail all bent askew,
A crooked trail, as all calves do.
Since then, two hundred years have fled,
And, I infer the calf is dead.
But still he left behind his trail,
And thereby hangs my moral tale.
The trail was taken up next day
By a lone dog that passed that way;
And then a wise, bell-wether sheep
Pursued the trail o'er vale and steep,
And drew the flock behind him too,
As good bell-wethers always do.
And from that day, o'er hill and glade,
Through those old woods a path was made.
And many men wound in and out,
And dodged and turned and bent about,
And uttered words of righteous wrath,
Because ’twas such a crooked path;
But still they followed – do not laugh –
The first migrations of that calf,
And through this winding wood-way stalked,
Because he wabbled when he walked.
This forest path became a lane,
That bent and turned and turned again;
This crooked lane became a road
Where many a poor horse, with his load,
Toiled on beneath the burning sun
And traveled some three miles in one.
And thus a century and a half
They trod the footsteps of that calf.
The years passed on in swiftness fleet,
The road became a village street,
And this, before men were aware,
A city's crowded thoroughfare.
And soon the central street was this
Of a renowned metropolis,
And men two centuries and a half
Trod in the footsteps of that calf.
Each day a hundred thousand rout
Followed the zigzag calf about;
And o'er his crooked journey went
The traffic of a continent.
A hundred thousand men were led
By one calf near three centuries dead;
They followed still his crooked way,
And lost one hundred years a day –
For thus such reverence is lent
To well-established precedent.
A moral lesson this might teach,
Were I ordained and called to preach,
For men are prone to go it blind
Along the calf paths of the mind;
And work away from sun to sun
To do what other men have done.
They follow in the beaten track.
And out and in and forth and back,
And still their devious course pursue,
To keep the path that others do.

You see, it is so hard to get out of the rut.

– Sam Moore

Painting of cows
A painting by Charles Franklin Pierce, titled “The Cow Path.”

Farmer Newstyle and Farmer Oldstyle

Sam MooreIn an old book titled Grain and Chaff from an English Manor, written by Arthur H. Savory and published in 1920 is the following little rhyme about an old Scottish farmer visiting a young and progressive “new” farmer.

Savory introduces the poem by writing, “The following lines, which have never been published except in a local newspaper, though written many years ago, apply quite well in these days of the hoped-for revival of agriculture. I am not at liberty to disclose the writer's identity beyond his initials, E.W.”


“Good day,” said Farmer Oldstyle, taking Farmer Newstyle by the arm;
“I be come to look aboot me, wilt 'ee show me o'er thy farm?”
Young Newstyle took his wideawake [a wide-brimmed, low-crowned hat], and lighted a cigar.
He said, “Won't I astonish you, old-fashioned as you are!”

“No doubt you have an aneroid [old barometer]? ere starting you shall see
How truly mine prognosticates what weather there will be.”
“I ain't got no such gimcracks; but I knows there'll be a flush
When I sees t'ould ram take shelter wi' his tail agin a bush.”

“Allow me first to show you the analysis I keep,
And the compounds to explain of this experimental heap [of manure],
Where hydrogen and nitrogen and oxygen abound,
To hasten germination and to fertilize the ground.”

“A pretty sight o' learning you have piled up of a ruck;
The only name it went by in my father's time was muck.
I knows not how the tool you call a nallysis may work,
I turns it when it's rotten pretty handy wi' a fork.

“Here's a famous pen of Cotswolds [sheep], just pass your hand along the back,
Fleeces fit for stuffing the Lord Chancellor's woolsack!
For premiums e'en 'Inquisitor' would own these wethers [castrated male sheep] are fit,
If you want to purchase good uns you must go to Mr. Garsit [a prominent sheep breeder].”

“Two bulls first rate, of different breeds, the judges all protest,
Both are so super-excellent, they know not which is best.
Fair [A cattle breeder] could he see this Ayrshire, would with jealousy be riled;
That hairy one's a Welshman, and was bred by Mr. Wild [A Highland cattle breeder].”

“Well, well, that little hairy bull, he shanna be so bad:
But what be yonder beast I hear, a-bellowing like mad,
A-snorting fire and smoke out? be it some big Rooshian gun!
Or be it twenty bullocks squeez together into one?”

"My steam factotum [handyman], that, Sir, doing all I have to do,
My ploughman and my reaper, and my jolly thrasher, too!
Steam's yet but in its infancy, no mortal man alive
Can tell to what perfection modern farming will arrive.”

“Steam as yet is but an infant” – he had scarcely said the word,
When through the entire farmstead was a loud explosion heard;
The engine dealing death around, destruction and dismay;
Though steam be but an infant this indeed was no child's play.

The women screamed like blazes, as the blazing hayrick burned,
The sucking pigs were in a crack, all into crackling turned;
Grilled chickens clog the hencoop, roasted ducklings choke the gutter,
And turkeys round the poultry yard on crispy pinions flutter.

Two feet deep in buttermilk the fireman's two feet lie,
The cook before she bakes it finds a finger in the pie;
The labourers for their lost legs are looking round the farm,
They couldn't lend a hand because they had not got an arm.

Oldstyle, all soot from head to foot, looked like a big black sheep,
Newstyle was thrown upon his own experimental dung heap;
"That weather-glass,” said Oldstyle, “canna be in proper fettle,
Or it might as well a told us there was thunder in the kettle.”

“Steam is so expansive.” “Aye,” said Oldstyle, “so I see.
So expensive, as you call it, that it wilna do for me;
According to my notion, that's a beast that canna pay,
Who chomps up for his morning feed a hundred ton of hay.”

Then to himself, said Oldstyle, as he homewards quickly went,
"I'll tak' no farm where doctors' bills be heavier than the rent;
I've never in hot water been, steam shanna speed my plough,
I'd liefer thrash my grain out by the sweat of my own brow.

“I neither want to scald my pigs, nor toast my cheese, not I,
Afore the butcher sticks 'em or the factor [cheese dealer] comes to buy;
They shanna catch me here again to risk my limbs and life;
I've nought at home to blow me up except it be my wife.”

– Sam Moore

Highland cow

A Highland cow. [Courtesy Wikimedia Commons]

The Joys of Gardening

Sam MooreThis is the time of year when gardeners (and would-be gardeners) are poring over seed catalogs and being pleasantly seduced into thinking that they can reproduce the same results in their back yard gardens as appear in the luscious catalog photos of fruits and vegetables – forlorn hope!

Following is a story of the joys of gardening that I’ve adapted from a chapter in John Kendrick Bangs’ 1900 book titled, The Idiot at Home.

Bart Bumble, an order clerk down at the Ajax plow Company, his only connection with growing a crop of any kind, had a small house with a fair-sized yard only one block from the factory.

One day in 1918, Bart’s brother, Bert, visited and said, “Bart, with this big yard I’d think you’d have a Victory Garden.”

“Why, I do," replied Bart. “I've got a garden patch down behind the wagon shed. The stuff we get is almost as good as canned goods, too. We had a stalk of asparagus the other night that was great as far as it went. It was edible for an inch I was told, although that part of it had already been nibbled off by my son Benny while it was waiting to be served. However, the inedible end which survived was quite sturdy, and might have substituted for a tent peg if needed.”

“One stalk of asparagus is a pretty poor crop, I should say,” said Bert, laughing.

“Maybe,” said Bart. “But Mrs. Bumble and I were proud of our asparagus crop, and regretted that it did not survive to be properly served at dinner. Benny was severely scolded for biting off the green end of it before I even saw it.”

“Twasn't very good,” said Benny.

“I’m very glad it wasn’t, son,” said Bart. “I’d be sorry to hear that you had any pleasure from your inexcusable act.”

“Do you usually serve such small portions of the stuff from your garden?” asked Bert.

“Often we don't serve anything at all from it," said Bart, “which you see is smaller yet. In this instance Mrs. Bumble had intended a little surprise for me. We had struggled with that asparagus-bed for some time. She had studied asparagus in her botany book. I had looked it up in the encyclopedia. We had ordered it in various styles when we dined out, and we had frequently bought cans of it in order to familiarize ourselves with its general appearance. Then we consulted experienced gardeners and did what they told us to do, but somehow it didn't work. Our asparagus crop languished. We sprinkled it in person. We put all sorts of fertilizers and bug sprays on it, but nothing worked, and finally when I added up the costs, I discovered that we had paid out enough money, without satisfactory results, to have kept us in canned asparagus for four years, I got discouraged, but then Mrs. Bumble discovered that one perfect stalk. She was elated our work had not been entirely wasted, and cooked the stalk as a surprise for me. As I have told you, then Benny, over whom we seem to have no control, got ahead of us –”

“You was surprised, wasn't you, pa?” demanded the boy.

“Somewhat, son,” said Bumble, “but not in exactly the way your mother had planned.”

“Is asparagus the only thing you’ve grown?” queried Bert.

“Oh no!” replied Bart. “We've had peas and beets and beans and egg-plant and corn – almost everything. Our pea crop was lovely. We had five podfuls for dinner on the Fourth of July, and the children celebrated the day by shelling them for their mother. They popped open almost as noisily as a torpedo. It was really very enjoyable.”

“Is it true,” asked Bert, “that home-raised peas are sweeter than any other?”

“Of course,” replied Bart. “That Fourth-of-July night when we ate those five podfuls we discovered that fact. Five podfuls of peas are not enough to feed a family of four, so we mixed them in with a few more that we bought at the grocer's, and we could tell ours from the others right away, they were so much sweeter.”

“Pooh!” said Bert. “How did you know that they were yours that were sweet, and not the store-bought peas?”

“How does a father know his own children?” asked his brother. “If you'd labored over those five pods as hard as we did, carefully planting, weeding, and guarding them against bugs, tenderly watching their development from infancy into mature peahood, I guess you'd know your own from others.”

“Tell Uncle Bert about the strawberry, pa,” said Benny, who liked to hear his father talk.

“Well,” said Bumble, “it's not much of a story. There was one. We had a strawberry patch twenty feet by ten. We had plenty of straw and plenty of patch, but the berries were quite shy about appearing. The results were disappointing. I found one berry trying to hide itself under a pile of straw one morning, and while I went to call the Mrs. to come and see it, a miserable robin came along and ate it! I hope the bird enjoyed it, because I estimate that berry cost twenty dollars. That is one of the things I hate about gardening. I don't mind spending forty-four dollars on a stalk of asparagus that is eaten, even surreptitiously, by a member of my own family; but to pay twenty dollars for a strawberry to be gobbled by a lousy robin is too much!”

“You forget, Bart,” said his wife, “that we got fifteen boxes out of the strawberry-patch later.”

“No, I don't,” said Bumble. “I was coming to that, and it’s really a confession. You were so unhappy about the loss of our one beautiful berry that I decided to make that patch yield. The fifteen boxes of berries that we eventually harvested were bought at the local fruit-stand and judiciously scattered about the patch where you would find them. I had hoped you would never find it out, but when you talked about spending thirty-eight dollars on that strawberry-patch next year, I decided it was better to tell you the truth.”

“Well! I never!” Exclaimed Mrs. B.

“But really,” asked Bert, “haven't you raised anything in your garden?”

“Oh yes,” said Bart. “I've raised my water bill! I used to pay twelve dollars a quarter for water, but now the bill’s at least twenty-five dollars. Truly, a garden does profit someone.”

– Sam Moore

Man watering a garden
“We sprinkled it in person.” [Illustration from the book, which is available on the Gutenberg Project]


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