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Hiram the Young Farmer By Burbank L. Todd Characters: 5819

Updated: 2017-11-28 00:07

But Hiram was not at all sure that he would ever see a celery crop in this bottom-land. Pepper still "hung fire" and he would not go to Mr. Strickland with his option.

"I don't hafter," he told Hiram. "When I git ready I'll let ye know, be sure o' that."

The fact was that the railroad had made no further move. Mr. Strickland admitted to Mrs. Atterson that if the strip along the east boundary of the farm was condemned by the railroad, she ought to get a thousand dollars for it.

"But if the railroad board should change its mind again," added the lawyer, "sixteen hundred dollars would not be a speculative price to pay for your farm-and well Pepper knows it."

"Then Mr. Damocles's sword has got to hang over us, has it?" demanded the old lady.

"I am afraid so," admitted the lawyer, smiling.

Mrs. Atterson could not be more troubled than was Hiram himself. Youth feels the sting of such arrows of fortune more keenly than does age. We get "case-hardened" to trouble as the years bend our shoulders.

The thought that he might, after all, get nothing but a hundred dollars and his board for all the work he had done in preparation for the second year's crop sometimes embittered Hiram's thoughts.

Once, when he spoke to Pepper, and the snaky man sneered at him and laughed, the young farmer came near attacking him then and there in the street.

"I certainly could have given that Pepper as good a thrashing as ever he got," muttered Hiram. "And even Pete Dickerson never deserved one more than Pepper."

Pete fought shy of Hiram these days, and as the summer waned the young farmer gradually became less watchful and expectant of trouble from the direction of the west boundary of the Atterson Eighty.

But there was little breathing spell for him in the work of the farm.

"When we lay by the corn, you bet dad an' me goes fishing!" Henry Pollock told Hiram, one day.

But it wasn't often that the young farmer could take half a day off for any such pleasure.

"You've bit off more'n you kin chaw," observed Henry.

"That's all right; I'll keep chewing at it, just the same," returned Hiram cheerfully.

For the truck crop was bringing them in a bigger sum of money than even Hiram had expected. The season had been very favorable, indeed; Hiram's vegetables had come along in good time, and even the barrels of sweet corn he shipped to Crawberry brought a fair price-much better than he could have got at the local cannery.

When the tomato pack came on, however, he did sell many baskets of his "seconds" to the cannery. But the selected tomatoes he continued to ship to Crawberry, and having established a reputation with his produce man for handsome and evenly ripened fruit, the prices received were good all through the season.

He saw the sum for tomatoes pass the hundred and fifty dollar mark before frost struck the vines. Even then he was not satisfie

d. There was a small cellar under the Atterson house, and when the frosty nights of October came, Hiram dragged up the vines still bearing fruit, by the roots, and hung them in the cellar, where the tomatoes continued to ripen slowly nearly up to Thanksgiving.

Other crops did almost as well in proportion. He had put in no late potatoes; but in September he harvested the balance of his early crop and, as they were a good keeping variety, he knew there would be enough to keep the family supplied until the next season.

Of other roots, including a patch of well-grown mangels for Mrs. Atterson's handsome flock of chickens, there were plenty to carry the family over the winter.

As the frosts became harder Hiram dug his root pits in the high, light soil of the garden, drew pinetags to cover them, and, gradually, as the winter advanced, heaped the earth over the various piles of roots to keep them through the winter.

Meanwhile, in September, corn harvest had come on. The four acres Hiram had planted below the stables yielded a fair crop, that part of the land he had been able to enrich with coarse manure showing a much better average than the remainder.

The four acres yielded them something over one hundred and sixty baskets of sound corn which, as corn was then selling for fifty cents per bushel, meant that the crop was worth about forty dollars.

As near as Hiram could figure it had cost about fifteen dollars to raise the crop; therefore the profit to Mrs. Atterson was some twenty-five dollars.

Besides the profit from some of the garden crops, this was very small indeed; as Hiram said, it did not pay well enough to plant small patches of corn for them to fool with it much.

"The only way to make a good profit out of corn corn a place like this," he said to Henry, who would not be convinced, "is to have a big drove of hogs and turn them into the field to fatten on the standing corn."

"But that would be wasteful!" cried Henry, shocked at the suggestion.

"Big pork producers do not find it so," returned Hiram, confidently. "Or else one wants a drove of cattle to fatten, and cuts the corn green and shreds it, blowing it into a silo.

"The idea is to get the cost of the corn crop back through the price paid by the butcher for your stock, or hogs."

"Nobody ever did that around here," declared young Pollock.

"And that's why nobody gets ahead very fast around here. Henry, why don't you strike out and do something new-just to surprise 'em?

"Stop selling a little tad of this, and a little tad of that off the farm and stick to the good farmer's rule: 'Never sell anything off the place that can't walk off.'"

"I've heard that before," said Henry, sighing.

"And even then just so much fertility goes with every yoke of steers or pair of fat hogs. But it is less loss, in proportion, than when the corn, or oats, or wheat itself is sold."

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