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Big John Wallace
Chapter 2

“I will fight with you, Rob o’ the Highlands,
And prove I'm the better man
But in face of a common danger,
Will we both not fight for the Clan?”
Old Gaelic Song.

THE end of that first summer saw eight log cabins standing in as many tiny clearings scattered at distances of a mile to a mile and a half apart through the hardwoods. Autumn with her hazy gold, vivid colorings on leaf and fern, and harvest of hickory, beech and walnuts on ridges and in sheltered valleys saw no cessation to the labor of cutting the huge trees and the laying bare of the rich loam which in time was to yield the hardy toilers a livelihood. Winter with her gripping frosts and heavy snows could not check the onslaught of man against the impediment to his ambition; and so the endless slaughter of the grand trees went on.

There were no sluggards in our little colony. Each of us did his or her part. All day the axes of the inen “tacked” the battle cry, and those of us not yet strong enough to handle an axe, carried and piled in huge heaps the branches lopped from the bleeding tree-trunks. Wherever possible several monarchs would be felled across each other, and in the early Summer when the heat had dried the sap these were burned.

And so the first years in our new home passed, five of them. By now several more families had settled in our community.

The clearings expanded and stumpy fields grew up to be tilled by heavy, clumsy hoe and shovel. Later, crude ploughs built at the smithy shop that had been erected at the curve in the corduroy road, took the place 01 these unwieldy articles. Oxen were used to haul the plough and snake out timbers. A good span could be purchased for twenty dollars.

Corn and wheat were the staple products in the earlier of these strenuous days, just as they are to-day. The latter was sown broadcast and harvested first with a sickle, later with a scythe bearing a “laying” arm and called by the farmers a cradle. Sometimes the ripened grain was merely headed and the standing straw burned. The grain was threshed with a flail or by tramping oxen. The grain separator with its primitive treadmill or horse-power was yet unknown.

The land was black and rich, clay loam it was called, and yielded splendid crops. Of potatoes we had an abundance each season, while other vegetables flourished equally well.

In due time each .farm clearing was divided off into plots, or fields. Snake or “rail” fences of split ash and walnut were used for this purpose. Many of those fences are still doing duty today, and if the splendid trees from which they were taken were standing now, they would be worth a great deal of money.

We never lacked for an abundance of food. Game was plentiful in the woods and easy to secure. Deer were numerous; wild turkeys came in flocks to our fields. Black bears, urged by curiosity and sometimes by mischief, came to our very doors. Sometimes our pig-pens suffered from Bruin’s visits. Wolves, lynx, bot-cats and other fur-bearing animals were very numerous. Bevies of brown quail whistled from the uplands, partridge drummed in the thickets, and wild duck and geese were to be found in great numbers throughout the rushy swales and on the bay, which marked the southern boundary of the forest. Flocks of wild pigeon darkened the sky.

Reviewing those early years, comparing the primitive methods of tilling the soil with those we employ to-day and giving full credit to those staunch-hearted pioneers who shaped the rugged wilderness into the smiling agricultural garden of the present, I ask myself: What of the man who stood behind myself and fellow-fighter, the man whose inventive brain fashioned implements that made the fulfilment of our dream possible? Has he been given the credit justly due him?

As one who has been privileged to journey all the way along the jagged trail of progress in farming, from the sickle and hoe days to this, the day of the kerosene tractor, I would say that to the pioneer farmer and the pioneer manufacturer of farm implements honors are even. Together they have proven a wonderful combination toward the shaping of a great industry.

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