Letters to the Editor

Working for a living: 10 cents per stump

| February 2009

I had no idea what the stump hook was in the What-Is-It? section of the October 2008 issue. However, when I saw it identified in the December issue, it reminded me of a story my pappy told me years ago.

I was raised on a farm that has been in the family since the 1840s. At the time it was about 5 miles south of Columbia, Mo. The farm hasn't moved, but the property line on three and a half sides of the farm is now the Columbia city limits.

Pappy was born in 1899, and when he was growing up my grandpap was still cleaning ground on the farm. Pappy never mentioned a stump-pulling machine, but he told of grubbing stumps out by hand.

At that time, most farm wages were 50 cents per day. Pappy said Grandpap hired a man from Columbia to grub stumps for 10 cents apiece, regardless of size. Grandpap furnished a team of mules and all the necessary tools. Pappy said the man would grub out five small- to medium-size stumps to make his day's wages, and then he would work the rest of the day on a really big one. The next day he would switch back to the small and medium stumps until he had made 50 cents, and then he'd work the big one again. When he finally got a big stump out, that was an extra 10 cents for the day.

Pappy said when there weren't any stumps to grub, the man would split rails for so much per rail, or he would cut and shock corn by the shock, but he wouldn't work for straight wages, because he said, "Ain't nobody tellin' me how hard to work."

There are a lot of homeless people standing around Columbia these days, holding signs that say, "Will work for food," but I seriously doubt if you could find one who would be willing to grub stumps, especially for 10 cents apiece.


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