MoboReader> Literature > Hiram the Young Farmer

   Chapter 23 TOMATOES AND TROUBLE

Hiram the Young Farmer By Burbank L. Todd Characters: 8071

Updated: 2017-11-28 00:07


Hiram Strong had decided that the market prospects of Scoville prophesied a good price for early tomatoes. He advised, therefore, a good sized patch of this vegetable.

He had planted in the window boxes seed of several different varieties. He had transplanted to the coldframe strong plants numbering nearly five hundred. He believed that, under garden cultivation, a tomato plant that would not yield fifty cents worth of fruit was not worth bothering with, while a dollar from a single plant was not beyond the bounds of probability.

It was safe, Hiram very well knew, to set out tomato plants in this locality much before the middle of May; yet he was willing to take some risks, and go to some trouble, for the sake of getting early ripened tomatoes into the Scoville market.

As Henry Pollock had prophesied, Hiram did not see much of his friend during corn-planting time. The Pollocks put nearly fifty acres in corn, and the whole family helped in the work, including Mrs. Pollock herself, and down to the child next to the baby. This little toddler amused his younger brother, and brought water to the field for the workers.

Other families in the neighborhood did the same, Hiram noticed. They all strained every effort to put in corn, cultivating as big a crop as they possibly could handle.

This was why locally grown vegetables were scarce in Scoville. And the young farmer proposed to take advantage of this condition of affairs to the best of his ability.

If they were only to remain here on the farm long enough to handle this one crop, Hiram determined to make that crop pay his employer as well as possible, although he, himself, had no share in such profit.

Henry Pollock, however, came along while Hiram was making ready his plat in the garden for tomatoes. The young farmer was setting several rows of two-inch thick stakes across the garden, sixteen feet apart in the row, the rows four feet apart. The stakes themselves were about four feet out of the ground.

"What ye doin' there, Hiram?" asked Henry, curiously. "Building a fence?"

"Not exactly."

"Ain't goin' to have a chicken run out here in the garden, be ye?"

"I should hope not! The chickens on this place will never mix with the garden trucks, if I have any say about it," declared Hiram, laughing.

"By Jo!" exclaimed Henry. "Dad says Maw's dratted hens eat up a couple hundred dollars' worth of corn and clover every year for him-runnin' loose as they do."

"Why doesn't he build your mother proper runs, then, plant green stuff in several yards, and change the flock over, from yard to yard?" "Oh, hens won't do well shut up; Maw says so," said Henry, repeating the lazy farmer's unfounded declaration-probably originated ages ago, when poultry was first domesticated.

"I'll show you, next year, if we are around here," said Hiram, "whether poultry will do well enclosed in yards."

"I told mother you didn't let your chickens run free, and had no hens with them," said Henry, thoughtfully.

"No. I do not believe in letting anything on a farm get into lazy habits. A hen is primarily intended to lay eggs. I send them back to work when they have hatched out their brood.

"Those home-made brooders of ours keep the chicks quite as warm, and never peck the little fellows, or step upon them, as the old hen often does."

"That's right, I allow," admitted Henry, grinning broadly.

"And some hens will traipse chicks through the grass and weeds as far as turkeys. No, sir! Send the hens back to business, and let the chicks shift for themselves. They'll do better."

"Them there in the pens certainly do look healthy," said his friend. "But you ain't said what you was doin' here, Hiram, setting these stakes?"

"Why, I'll tell you," returned Hiram. "This is my tomato patch."

"By Jo!" ejaculated Henry. "You don't want to set tomatoes so fur apart, do you?"

"No, no," laughed Hiram. "The posts are to string wires on. The tomatoes will be two feet apart in the row. As they grow I tie them to the

wires, and so keep the fruit off the ground.

"The tomato ripens better and more evenly, and the fruit will come earlier, especially if I pinch back the ends of the vine from time to time, and remove some of the side branches."

"We don't do all that to raise a tomato crop. And we'll put in five acres for the cannery this year, as usual," said Henry, with some scorn.

"We run the rows out four feet apart, like you do, throwing up a list, in fact. Then father goes ahead with a stick, making a hole for the plant every three feet, so't they'll be check-rowed and we can cultivate them both ways-and we all set the plants.

"We never hand-hoe 'em-it don't pay. The cannery isn't giving but fifteen cents a basket this year-and it's got to be a full five-eighths basket, too, for they weigh 'em."

Hiram looked at him with a quizzical smile.

"So you set about thirty-six hundred and forty plants to the acre?" he said.

"I reckon so."

"And you'll have five acres of tomatoes?"

"Yep. So Dad says. He has contracted for that many. But our plants don't begin to be big enough to set out yet. We have to keep 'em covered nights."

"And I expect to have about five hundred plants in this patch," said Hiram, smiling. "I tell you what, Henry."

"Huh?" said the other boy. "I bet I take in from my patch-net income, I mean-this year as much as your father gets at the cannery for his whole crop."

"Nonsense!" cried Henry. "Maybe Dad'll make a hundred, or a hundred and twenty-five dollars. Sometimes tomatoes run as high as thirty dollars an acre around here."

"Wait and see," said Hiram, laughing. "It is going to cost me more to raise my crop, and market it, that's true. But if your father doesn't do better with his five acres than you say, I'll beat him."

"You can't do it, Hiram," cried Henry. "I can try, anyway," said Hiram, more quietly, but with confidence. "We'll see."

"And say," Henry added, suddenly, "I was going to tell you something. You won't raise these tomatoes-nor no other crop-if Pete Dickerson can stop ye."

"What's the matter with Pete now?" asked Hiram, troubled by thought of the secret enemy who had already struck at him in the dark.

"He was blowing about what he'd do to you down at the crossroads last evening," said Henry. "He and his father both hate you like poison, I expect.

"And the fellers down to Cale Schell's are always stirrin' up trouble. They think it is sport. Why, Pete got so mad last night he could ha' chewed tacks!"

"I have said nothing about Pete to anybody," said Hiram, firmly.

"That don't matter. They say you have. They tell Pete a whole lot of stuff just to see him git riled.

"And last night he slopped over. He said if you reported around that he put fire to Mis' Atterson's woods, he'd put it to the house and barns! Oh, he was wild."

Hiram's face flushed, and then paled.

"Did Pete try to bum the woods, Hiram?" queried Henry, shrewdly.

"I never even said I thought so to you, have I?" asked the young farmer, sternly.

"Nope. I only heard that fire got into the woods by accident, when I was in town. Somebody was hunting through there for coon, and saw the burned-over place. That's all the fellers at Cale's place knew, too, I reckon; but they jest put it up to Pete to mad him."

"And they succeeded, did they?" said Hiram, sternly.

"I reckon."

"Loose-mouthed people make more trouble in a community than downright mean ones," declared Hiram. "If I have any serious trouble with the Dickersons, like enough it will be because of the interference of the other neighbors."

"But," said Henry, preparing to go on, "Pete wouldn't dare fire your stable now-after sayin' he'd do it. He ain't quite so big a fool as all that."

But Hiram was not so sure. He had this additional trouble on his mind from this very hour, though he never said a word to Mrs. Atterson about it.

But every night before he went to bed be made around of the outbuildings to make sure that everything was right before he slept.

Free to Download MoboReader
(← Keyboard shortcut) Previous Contents (Keyboard shortcut →)
 Novels To Read Online Free

Scan the QR code to download MoboReader app.

Back to Top

shares