Chapter V -- Agriculture - The Hard Way

I made a deal with an old farmer to make a crop with his son. He said that he would board me and do what was right about my part of the prospective crop, and on Christmas day 1865, with an old, worn-out pole axe I mounted an old pine log to chop it up to get it out of the way for the coming crop. It seemed to me that I had never seen so many logs on a ten acre field. I would stand on a log and strike a few licks with my old axe and I would be out of breath, then I would look around at, and count the logs and figure in my mind how long it would take to get them ready to pile and burn, and wonder what sins I had committed to merit such terrible punishment.

Time is a great healer of all ills and I was soon able to cut an ordinary log half off without stopping, and I soon found that my log job was not half as bad as expected.

Our stock of tools for the two of us consisted of one worn-out, home-made, diamond wing plow, the old axe I have described, and a grubbing hoe, made by cutting an old blade from an old eye hoe and riveting it to the blade of another.

Our team consisted of a team of large oxen, used for breaking our land, and one old bay horse that, like both of us had been through the Civil War in the service of the Confederate army. With this outfit and ten or twelve bushels of corn and plenty of grass to graze on, we made about five hundred bushels of corn and fifteen thousand pounds of cotton. The cotton sold for five and a half cents a pound in the seed, and what corn was sold brought a dollar and a half per bushel. By the time this crop was made and gathered I had become reconciled to Arkansas, and within her borders I have spent most of my life.

After this first year of farming it was not such an up-hill business, for I bought two Hall and Spear cast plows for ten dollars each and two brand new eye hoes for another dollar and fifty cents each. Our crops were cultivated entirely with our turning plows. Our cotton was planted on a ridge or bed made with a turning plow and opened with a wooden opener, made for the purpose, and covered with a wooden, home-made harrow. Our cotton, owing to the lack of proper plows, required a great deal of hoeing, which for a peck of corn a day we could hire Indians to do; they boarding themselves. They usually did good, honest work, but were slow and were not being paid to hurry.

When the time came to gather the crops the Indians usually did all of our cotton picking, some of them being experts at the business. I well remember the first time one of them tried to play a trick on me. He came to my house late one evening claiming to be very hungry and looked as if he had been in the company of bad luck and hard times. My wife gave him a good square meal of meat and bread and sweet potatoes, and after his meal he wanted a job of work making rails, and as some of them were good rail makers I decided to hire him to make me some rails at one dollar per hundred. I gave him an axe, an iron wedge and a skillet; let him have a piece of meat and a peck of meal to be paid for out of his wages. I went with him and showed him the timber that I wanted worked up, and as it was about night he said he would camp and go to work the next morning. For some days I heard nothing from my Indian, so one evening I went to see what had become of him. The axe, wedge and skillet were on a stump, but the meat, meal and the Indian were gone.

The next summer some Indians came to see me for a job of cotton hoeing. I told the spokesman that I would hire them and the trade was made, however one of them kept conspicuously in the background. I called him up and asked if he wanted to work also, and he said that he did. I then recognized him as being the one who had failed to make the rails for me. I asked him why he took my meal and meat and made no rails upon which he replied in broken English: "That way white man do." I saw that he was right about that and said no more to him about the trick.

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