Farm Boy – Joe DeJaeghere – working on the farm | News, Sports, Jobs
We heard from Joe DeJaeghere, who grew up on a farm seven miles southwest of Minneota in the 1930s and 1940s.
Public education in the rural county of Lyon then usually meant attending a country school until the eighth grade. Joe graduated in July 1945, but not all eighth grade graduates continued on to high school. Joe knew his father needed him, âI never went to high school. I had to work.”
Joe’s education moved from the classroom to the school of life. He worked to master the skills required of a small, diverse farming operation. He also began to sort out relationships with neighbors, friends, places of worship, businesses, and local government.
Joe explained that his father’s need for help went beyond farming work.
âI must have grown up quickly on the farm. I started driving a car when I was 13. My sister got married in July (1945). Dad said, ‘From now on you take mum shopping.’ She had once a month doctor’s appointments at Tyler and I took her to the Minneota grocery store (The Big Store) every Wednesday.
Joe recalled that his mother’s reliance on Flemish as a mother tongue was no obstacle on shopping trips to Minneota.
âWhen you went to The Big Store, there were half a dozen [shoppers] and everything they spoke was Belgian. The clerk was Belgian. My mother could order her groceries in Belgian.
He explained that his parents varied in fluency in English.
âMy father spoke English very well. My mother was not as good, but she could get by. My dad was fluent in English, but when he fucked me up it was in Belgian. he concludes with a laugh.
Joe learned farming when horses were the main source of energy. Another source of energy was the farmer.
âI picked corn by hand when I was 13-14 with a horse and cart all by myself. You had a tool in your hand that tore off the leaves – a corn husker. So you would break her ear and let her fly [into the wagon] as quickly as possible.
Joe learned to clean the dairy and the stable and to transport the manure to the fields with the horses.
âAt that time, we had ten to eleven dairy cows and about fourteen to fifteen reserve cows. We cleaned every day. I remember hauling it with a horse manure spreader through this plowed field. It was frozen hard and [the spreader] rebounded. The horses went straight ahead, but you just hung on the seat with both hands so as not to fall â, he finished laughing.
Working with horse teams involved many skills, including the use of horse-drawn equipment and assessment of the landscape. Like most learners, Joe’s lessons were painful at times.
âOnce I was missing the hay down a hill and fell from the seat under the wheel. I kept screaming for the horses to stop. It was a good team of horses, but it was only a fraction of a second when you fell off the seat right in front of the wheel before the wheel passed you. The rakes had these big [steel wheels], but a rake is light. It never bothered me, but the wheel crushed me and then they stopped â, Joe concludes with a laugh.
Joe continued to milk and feed their cattle, but also began to feed their pigs.
âWe farrowed around 10 to 12 sows for the little pigs and raised them. That was the fun part, boy! (Joe chuckles) You still had a 50 gallon barrel of slop – ground oats with water and milk. Your leftover milk after separating the cream went to the pigs. The pigs loved it. You would run for life after throwing it in pig troughs. They were behind you. By the time you came back with the next bucket, the first one was gone.
Joe’s father bought a tractor in 1940, but electricity was delayed due to wartime resource shortages.
âWe didn’t have electricity until ’49. We did chores with a bushel of fodder and a lamp to see where to walk. We have always used 2 lights to milk the cows. You haven’t seen much, but you’ve learned to feel your way.
The farm workload eased twice during the week: Saturday night for a trip to Minneota and Sunday morning for church.
âSaturday night was the only time you could go to town on the farm. We leave early to get to the stores on time. My mom stayed at home with my little brother, but dad and I have been there for the last 4-5 years my mom has been there. On Saturday night, there were so many people that there was sometimes barely enough room to meet and the sidewalks were not narrow.
While the Saturday night trip to Minneota involved Joe and his father, the Sunday church trip involved everyone.
âWe never missed mass and it was always the first mass. We were milking the cows and feeding the calves and at that time the speed limit was 45 MPH. You had to leave for church half an hour before it started. Then it was in Latin, which I didn’t understand anyway. Back then in Minneota you had your own bench – the same bench every Sunday. “
Joe’s mother, Leonie, died in March 1950. His father developed severe gum disease in June of the same year which slowed him down, often in bed, for almost three years. Joe and his brother Morris had to take on more responsibility. Additionally, Joe was eligible for military conscription.
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