Originally Published 09/19/2011
Photo Source: Library of Congress
“Well, it cain’t possibly be worse than the last few years,” Eth Slocum proclaimed to his wife Madge. They were burning the oil at the kitchen table, going over the numbers from the potato harvest of 1938 and 1939 and looking ahead to the start of the 1940 season the next day. The threat of rain and rot was constant, but the recent dry spell gave them some hope.
All the children of Aroostook County Maine worked the fields five days a week, 6:30 AM – 5:00 PM, and an army of French Canadian migrants came across the border from Quebec in order to work the harvest every year. Low overhead and good weather gave the Slocums hope even as a raw wind beat against the windows.
Eth poured another cup from the percolator for Madge and himself. “Only got 250 acres, so we’ll only need about ten boys this year, and we won’t need no Canucks,” Eth said, scratching the numbers out on a copy of the Bangor Daily News. “Ten boys at 30 cents an hour times 150 hours each is $450. I think we can clear between $700 and $1,000 for the crop. That’ll hold us over real nice.”
Madge knew how Eth had been fretting about the harvest this year. The last two years they had barely made a profit. He had worked like crazy this summer, making sure the tractor and harvester were working smoothly and picking as many rocks as he could out of the fields so the machines wouldn’t break down. It was the busiest and most worrisome time of the year. Madge wished she could take away the worry, but even still she offered all the support she could, taking odd jobs to help make ends meet and never letting her own worry cloud her mood.
“I know we’ll be just fine, Eth,” she said, rubbing his shoulders. “Why don’t you turn in? There’s nothing more we can do now.”
Eth smiled, gave Madge a peck on the lips and headed for bed. “Heard on the Top of the Farm News on the radio this morning that tomorrow looks good: sunny, warm, no rain. Good money making weather, I hope.”
Madge smiled back, turned and put the dishes in the sink. She sat back at the table and looked at the paper absentmindedly. Tomorrow was the start of next year. Make or break. She read the weather predictions. The forecast looked good. Good money making weather ahead…