The Life and Times, Page 12
As Told to Dan Reddell
Mom and Pop wanted to go back to farming, and they had visited Mom's sister-in-law, who was living in Porterville, a small town in the San Joaquin Valley near Bakersfield. This was the sister of Henry, Mom's sister Clara's husband.
They found 10 acres of land that they liked and Pop wanted me to go look at it. I came up and looked at it and found out a new freeway was scheduled to be built caddy- cornered across it, so they didn't want to buy it.
I was talking to a realtor who said he had 40 acres in the nearby farming community of Poplar that was a real good buy at $20,000.
Mom and Pop didn't want that much land, but I went and looked at it, and it was just as level as a floor. I knew my back would be better if I went into farming, and it would give my two boys something to do besides get into mischief in the city, so I bought it.
Mom and Pop bought 15 acres about 3 miles north of our farm a little while later. Dan was nine months old when we moved to the farm in 1948.
I sold one of the houses in L.A. before we moved, and Pop sold the other later on. I used that money to pay off the farm.
Our fourth son, Ricky, was born just after we were moved there. Five years later, our daughter, Sheril, was born.
Living on that farm wasn't easy. I made a cotton crop every year, getting about 30 cents a pound; cut alfalfa each month, seven months of the year, baled the hay and sold it for $25 a ton. I also baled hay for neighbors at night, after the dew came in. Gene and Dale worked hard and went to school, too.
The first day we got to the farm, a sandstorm blew up, and Dorothy was sick from being pregnant again. Dan was just a baby, and she was depressed, saying it was as bad as when she had lived in Texas. Maybe so, I said, but its ours, and it's paid for.
The house we moved into did not make Dorothy any happier. It was a garage that had been converted into a 9' x 20' living room, with a kitchen and very small bedroom. In back of that was a built-on bedroom with a bath, but no tub or shower.
The built-on part had no floor, other than subfloor boards with large cracks between each board. It was infested with mice, bugs, spiders, cockroaches, and then I discovered that the water tank had been coated with tar, and large chunks of tar were floating in our drinking water.
The toilet kept stopping up, there wasn't any air conditioning, and we only had a little oil stove to cook on. I would set poison grain out for the mice, but they seemed to thrive on it. Once, a polecat got under the house, and stunk up the place so bad we could hardly sleep. I finally caught him with a steel trap.
Soon, we had a new worry. A large irrigation canal was being built near the old house, and we had to worry about our younger kids falling in and drowning. We made sure they learned how to swim. Dan learned to swim when he was only three years old by wearing an old cork life vest.
I remodeled that shack, adding a bedroom and bath, and putting in a shower and new floor, but it was five years before I was able to build a new three bedroom house a few hundred feet away. After we moved into the new house, Dorothy liked the farm much better, but she didn't like farming. She wanted to live in town.
I liked seeing the soil being turned over by a plow, seeing things grow, and being my own boss.
In 1948, I traded our 1941 DeSoto to Gib for his Plymouth, and then I traded Gib's Plymouth in for a new 1948 Dodge pickup, which was the only vehicle we had for the next two years.