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 I’d 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 didn’t have a chance to go to college and I didn’t 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 - we’d have to go down in the pasture and we’d 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 we’d go down in the pasture when we didn’t have any other work, we’d go down in the pasture and we’d 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 we’d take Saturday and we’d go down after we got our chores done - we’d go down and carry wood up all day. Why we’d have enough what we’d carry up all day – there was two older brothers and I – we’d have enough wood to last just till about, oh, maybe Tuesday. Well then Tuesday night we’d come home - we'd have to do our chores first - and then we’d have to take the lantern - it’d be dark in the wintertime - we’d have to take the lantern and go down in the woods and we’d have to carry that wood up on our back, and we’d have to make, oh maybe, I’d say about 10 trips apiece. We could carry two little grey birch about 8 feet long and maybe 2-3 inches through, we’d 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, he’d go to work and he’d take these steers down and we’d 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 we’d be chopping some more of them and we’d work till maybe 7-8 o’clock that night - it was dark, we’d have the lantern - and we’d get enough up on Saturday to run us again until Tuesday, or Wednesday. Well then Tuesday night, Wednesday night we’d take the steers again and we’d go down and haul more wood and that’s 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 we’d 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, I’d 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 couldn’t get the pair of oxen on them cause they’d go down in the mud and they’d get stuck and get mired and you couldn’t 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 stack’s would look like a great big stack of hay - and we’d 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, we’d take the oxen back and the sled and the hay racks on the sled, and we’d 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. ... ..."