by Hon. Andrew L. Felker GLADYS HASTY CARROLL in her story “As the Earth Turns” gives a delightful glimpse of rural New England life as if it was lived and enjoyed in the good old “horse and buggy days”; as one thrifty old New Hampshire Yankee termed them, “The Pod Auger days.” While one would […]
By Yankee Magazine
Nov 08 2018
by Hon. Andrew L. Felker
GLADYS HASTY CARROLL in her story “As the Earth Turns” gives a delightful glimpse of rural New England life as if it was lived and enjoyed in the good old “horse and buggy days”; as one thrifty old New Hampshire Yankee termed them, “The Pod Auger days.”
While one would not desire to give up the advantages that have come to this generation out of the struggle and the hardship that our ancestors endured in the establishment of their homes and in the carving of a state from a wilderness, a state that was destined to fill an important place as one of the keystones of a great empire, it is well for us to turn back the pages of the past more often than is our wont and get a mental picture of those rugged days and make comparison with our own.
It was a rugged and courageous race of men who lived here and who cut and burned the forests, and dug from a hard and stony soil the rocks that cleared the land for the building of their farms and the erection of their homes. How well they achieved one may readily observe by following the mile upon mile of the old stonewalls they builded as boundaries between neighboring farms and as dividing fences across their own fields and pasture lands. And the huge heaps of stone, piled high, remain as monuments to their strength of purpose and ambition, each and all in mute silence testifying to knotted muscles and backaches, yet of personalities and characters such as this generation sadly needs.
The story is told of a thrifty hard-working New Hampshire farmer who possessed two exceptionally good farms of practically the same value. When approaching the end of his life he called his two sons and told them he was about to give each a farm.
To one he said: “You being the older, you may take your choice.”
The son replied: “I’ll take the back farm.”
Later the father asked why he made the back farm his choice, and he received the astounding reply.
“Because there ain’t rocks enough on the other to wall it in.”
Those were the days when Yankee grit and Yankee thrift won victories. Amid scenes like these independence of thought, freedom of action, and love of liberty grew and thrived so that even a King learned to respect if he could not admire these New England Yankees.
Because they were poor, they were thrifty. The patient slow moving ox was their dumb companion in labor. Together with the wooden mould board plow, bound with strips of iron, and the spiketooth harrow, they turned and levelled the virgin. soil from which they harvested their meagre crops, plenty, however, for themselves and their livestock, and a surplus for exchange for the few needed supplies they could not produce. And when they passed on, they left for those who were to follow them, good farms, substantial homes, and many sizable bank accounts.
Loyal to the principles of self government and the preservation of their civil liberties, bought with the price of their own blood; steeped in a religious faith that was their heritage, made sacred through the trials of persecution; and strong in their regard for discipline and training; they made the home, the church, the town meeting, and the common school, the four cardinal principles of their faith and practice, none of which did they fail, in their loyalty and devotion, to defend and to preserve.
Such were the pioneer builders of New Hampshire. It might be said, paraphrasing the words of another, New Hampshire still has monuments to revere
Her destiny is not past, Her heritage is still here.
Great changes, however, have come to the agriculture of the state during the passing of the years due to many factors, the most important being those classified as economic.
Increasing taxes on falling real estate and personal property values; vicious competitive practices in markets to which her farm products move; low purchasing power of the consumer due to ever increasing foreign competition in industry and trade absorbing far too much of our domestic market demands; the inability of farmers to find part time employment with teams on public projects such as road repairs and snow removals as was the practice in former years; the rapidly increasing use of oil and electricity in place of wood for fuel purposes; the substitution of various products for lumber in the construction of buildings; the long distance transportation at low cost of agricultural products into local markets which in the past New Hampshire farmers have supplied successfully and satisfactorily; increased farm labor costs and a rapidly growing scarcity of experienced farm help; all these and others have been and are factors that have proven to be hurdles and handicaps to the farmers of this generation of which their predecessors of the earlier days knew nothing.
Under such powerful influences, farmers, in their effort to succeed, have turned from individual initiative and action, to group or cooperative enterprises in production and in marketing. Not only has this transition taken place by voluntary will and action, but also in these later days by actual state and federal legislative control under which they bend the neck and accept the added burden.
Farm and chattel mortgages have increased until banks shy at such loans, calling them frozen·securities. Thus the federal government has entered the field of finance as the farmer’s banker, making it easier than ever for him to secure needed funds to carry on, while they dig deeper, and borrow more to meet the ever mounting tax burden.
“If you will dance, you must pay the fiddler,” was one of the old time Yankee sayings, and we can imagine with what emphasis our Yankee forefathers would make that trite statement with reference to the fast living and prodigal spending of today.
The tax burden weighs heavily upon agriculture and serious consideration as well as remedial action must be given to this problem. Lavish spending under low earning power with deficits met by public borrowing will not bring us to the goal of prosperity.
If we hope to pass on to our children and grandchildren a continuing stable democratic government, if we would stem the rising tide of discontent and hopeless despair, we must reef our economic sails, install the wise philosophy of our Yankee fathers—“Pay as you go”—and adjust the private and public debt and tax burden to a program of not what we may desire but to what we can afford.
The greatest degree of happiness and contentment in life, as well as the greatest safety to our institutions and to civilization, comes through the ownership of land and the living thereon.
There should be no abandoned farm lands in New Hampshire. Her soil is not worn out nor dead. It only lies dormant waiting the hand and plow to bring it into fruitful bearing by those who are trained in the arts and science of agriculture at our agricultural colleges, and by many others who by force of circumstances are left to accept the dole of charity.
Idle acres in New Hampshire mean idle hands in New Hampshire.
Increasing· costs of those necessities of life, as well or better produced here, yet produced thousands of miles from the place of consumption, are proving too high to pay.
Industry, agriculture, and labor are so inextricably woven together that they form a trinity of purpose and ideals, the goal of which, if secured at all, must be by all three unitedly working together for the best interests of each and each for all in accord with the tenets of faith and practice of our New Hampshire Yankee forefathers.
Andrew L. Felker
July 28, 1935.