BELDEN — Comparing this year’s drought and heat to the 1930s doesn’t seem reasonable to Lawrence Fuchs who lives in Belden.
Fuchs, born in 1927, was a young boy during the 30s growing up on a farm near Stanton.
After high school, Fuchs earned a degree in agriculture at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. He and his wife, Julia, moved to Cedar County in 1954 when he became the administrator of the Farmers Home Administration, Hartington. When he took a position at the Belden Bank the family moved to Belden.
“It was a different life in the 30s. Everything was smaller. The farms were not so big then. There was more pasture back then and we did a lot of the farm work with horses,” Fuchs said. “The horses pulled the wagon through the field and the corn was picked by hand. The horses just kept walking a ways ahead of you, they knew what to do. You didn’t even look, you just kept swinging those ears in to the wagon if you wanted to pick a hundred bushels in a day.”
It was Fuchs’s job as a young boy during the summer months to herd the dairy cows up and down about four miles of road so they could eat the grass in the ditches.
“Our family fared better then some. We pumped water from Union Creek. We built a wood trough on bamboo poles across the field to get water to the other side of the field. Even in the dry years there was some alfalfa as the roots go down deep.”
During the 30s most farmers saved seed from the corn they had raised and used it for the next year’s planting. They would pick out the best seed ears.
Fuchs remembers his father did get a hold of some hybrid seed corn from a company in Iowa.
“We were able to get a better yield with the hybrid corn,” he said.
Thinking about the thirties brought back a lot of memories for Fuchs.
He remembered the hot nights and the skies lit up with lightning.
“It was dry lightning, time and time again you would see it, but it would not rain,” he said.
Not everyone had electricity at that time. With no air conditioning and no fans the windows were kept open to try and deal with the heat.
Sometimes people would climb out the upstairs bedroom windows and sleep on the porch roof at night to try and get some relief according to Fuchs.
The dust presented another problem according to Lawrence’s wife Julia, who grew up in southern Nebraska.
“It was so hot the doors would be left open. My mother would hang wet sheets in the doorway to try and keep the dust out of the house,” Julia said.
Lawrence remembered the skies would turn kind of dark when the dust storms came.
The red dust would came up from Oklahoma he said.
Fuchs remembers the abundance of grasshoppers.
“The grasshoppers were everywhere – they chewed on everything,” Fuchs said. “You could see them sitting on the barbwire fence – they would be lined up all the way down the wire.”
The family would go to town and haul back a wagon load of sawdust and oat hulls that had been mixed with poison.
They would spread it out on the ground by hand to kill the grasshoppers.
Most families had gardens and the women did a lot of canning.
Water could be scarce in the thirties. If you had water you carried it to the garden. People shared vegetables from the gardens with their neighbors.
“You lived off the land,” Fuchs said. “It was a different time back then.
We lived on money from the cream and eggs we sold and we ate the vegetables from the garden.”
Nothing was quite as sanitary back then. Everything is cleaner now Fuchs said.
“People just built up immunity to things back then. We would milk the cows and the milk would sometimes have flies in it. We still drank it,” Fuchs said.
The milk was kept in an ice box that sat in the corner of the kitchen. The cream was put down in the well to keep it cold. The house the family lived in had a deep basement and the eggs were kept down there.
Ice was cut in the winter months and hauled to the ice house and stored.
Julia’s family lived in town and bought the ice they needed.
It was a different life back then Fuchs said.