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The Benefit and Cost of Oxen

 

    "... ...So I went to school from, oh, I was about six and then I left school to when I was about 12 years and a half old. And I went to work; I went out to the mill, steaming in the mill, and I weighed 142 pounds. So I went in the mill steaming and that fall I was in the mill, why the teacher mailed me my report card saying Id passed from Grade 8 into Grade 9, so I only got Grade 8 education and I had to leave home and go to work. So I worked from that time right up until now. This last 10 years I retired but I had to work all my life and I didnt have a chance to go to college and I didnt have a chance to go to school to get high school education because my father was working in the lumbering woods in the winter and in the mills in the summer and he was only getting about 18 and 20 dollars a month to feed us 10 kids and we all had to work.

 

And before we got a team of oxen home - we was just kids - we had to put the garden all in by hand and we had to carry the hay in, mow the hay and cut that and carry that in on poles by hand . We had to go way down in the pasture about, oh, not quite a half a mile, a quarter of a mile little better - every night after school in the fall and winter time and spring - wed have to go down in the pasture and wed have to cut wood and carry it up on our backs, enough to last mother until we got home the next night. And in the summer time - when it was vacation time - why wed  go down in the pasture when we didnt have any other work, wed go down in the pasture and wed cut wood and pile it up there. Well then when fall come we had some piled ahead, why we'd go to work on Saturday - when school was on wed take Saturday and wed go down after we got our chores done - wed go down and carry wood up all day. Why wed have enough what wed carry up all day there was two older brothers and I wed have enough wood to last just till about, oh, maybe Tuesday.  Well then Tuesday night wed come home - we'd have to do our chores first - and then wed have to take the lantern - itd be dark in the wintertime - wed have to take the lantern and go down in the woods and wed have to carry that wood up on our back, and wed have to make, oh maybe, Id say about 10 trips apiece. We could carry two little grey birch about 8 feet long and maybe 2-3 inches through, wed put them on our shoulder and carry them up to the house.

 

So we kept going that way until we growed up a pair of steers . And after we grew up these pair of steers - till they was big enough to put in a neck yoke - well we made a pair of bobsleds and we broke these little steers in the neck yoke. And my second brother, hed go to work and hed take these steers down and wed load maybe oh, five, six, seven these little grey birch trees on the bobsled and he'd haul them up to house through the snow. And my brother and I wed be chopping some more of them and wed work till maybe 7-8 oclock that night - it was dark, wed have the lantern - and wed get enough up on Saturday to run us again until Tuesday, or Wednesday. Well then Tuesday night, Wednesday night wed take the steers again and wed go down and haul more wood and thats the way we kept the wood agoing until we got vacation time.

 

Well when vacation time came the next year the steers was big enough to haul wood on the wagon so whenever we got a spare day or half a day or a night after supper wed go down and cut the wood and haul it up in the yard. And then we could keep wood enough ahead so mother didn't have to burn green wood; we'd have her wood dry, she could burn dry wood. But me I had to work from the time we was little kids, Id say five or six years  old, right up till I left home, and all the work we could get was just 5 or 10 cents a day. And we had meadows to cut; we cut about, oh, maybe 30 ton of hay. We had two meadows back in the woods, we had to walk about a mile and a half in the woods to mow these big meadows. Well the meadow was so soft that you couldnt get the pair of oxen on them cause theyd go down in the mud and theyd get stuck and get mired and you couldnt get them out. So we had to build great big haystacks out in the meadow.  Oh we'd build maybe five or six big stacks - and the big stacks would look like a great big stack of hay - and wed build them and then down at the foot of the meadow where the brook went through we put the dam in when we was done and that would flow the meadow up to the top of the grass. And in the winter time why when the ice made on the meadow, and it got good and hard so it would hold the oxen, wed take the oxen back and the sled and the hay racks on the sled, and wed go back and hall that meadow hay back and put it in the barn and that kept the young cattle going until the next spring. ... ..."