I, William Prentice Lauck, was born near Williamsville, in Sangamon County, Illinois, on October 17, 1859. I was the fifth child of Simon Washington Lauck and Sarah Jane Lauck. I moved with my parents to Carroll County, Iowa, in April, 1866.
We went on the Northwestern Railway as far as Boone, Iowa, which was as far as the railroad was built at that time. That summer the railroad was built on through Iowa. At Boone, Father hired a man with a four horse team and wagon to take his goods and family on to Carroll County. Since there was no bridge across the Des Moines River west of Boone at that time, they used a ferry boat. The team and wagon were driven onto the boat which was pulled across with a rope on a windlass on the other side of the river.
We got to Carroll County in due time and drove to the home of a neighbor, Robert Dickson, who lived about two miles from father's farm. Mr. Dickson let us live in a small log house until father could get a house built on his farm. He built a small frame house about 12 x 14 feet and moved his family into it. Father's brother Nathaniel had entered this land from the government and later sold it to father for $8 per acre. My mother lived on this farm until she moved to Indianola in 1891.
After getting moved father bought a pair of oxen and commenced to break prairie sod for crops and garden. Potatoes were dropped at the edge of a furrow and were covered by the next furrow. Nothing more was done until fall when we took a fork and turned the sod back and picked up the potatoes which were nice and clean.
Later Father bought more oxen. At one time he had eight pairs, and he and my two older brothers, Fletcher and Simon, broke prairie sod for new neighbors. Simon would sit on the handles of the plow and hold a lever to control the plow. One man asked Simon once how many acres of prairie sod he would break for his girl. Simon told him he would not crack a root for her.
Three pairs of oxen would be used on an 18 inch plow, and five pairs of oxen on one 24 inch breaking plow which had a truck to hold it to the ground. This was before I was old enough to handle a plow or team.
Later I would take one yoke or team of oxen and plow stubble ground and harrow corn. When noon or night came, I would drop the chain that was hooked to the oxen yoke. Then I would put my foot in the ring in the center of the yoke and crawl up on the near ox and ride him to the house. I surely got tired walking along by the side of the oxen. Because I was barefooted, I would stub my toes and cry, but trudge on. One man told me I went so slow he had to set up a stake and sight past it to see whether I was moving or not. The harrow I was using was only wide enough to take one row of corn at a time. You see it would take a long time to harrow a big field of corn with slow oxen.
Father made a 10 foot harrow by taking a 2 x 8 foot board, into which he bored 2 inch holes six or eight inches apart. Then he cut plum trees that had large limbs and good brush. He would trim the big end small enough to go in the holes. After that he would split the end and wedge it so it would be held tight. Next he cut the large limbs a little next to the main body so the brush would lie close together. Next he would put a board on the main bunch of brush to hold them together. A man standing on the board would weight it down as it was drawn by a team. This made a good harrow.
Putting a yoke on the oxen was quite interesting. The oxen might be four or five rods apart. I would take the yoke on my shoulders and go to the off ox which might be lying down. After I got him up, I would put the yoke on top of his neck and slip the bow under his neck and up through a hole in it. The other ox by this time might be there waiting to put his head under the yoke. If not, all I had to do was to call him by name and say, "Come under here." He would come right up under as though he wanted to go to work. They were surely a good team to mind me, even as small as I was.
We used the oxen for other things. From a large tract of timber on our farm we got our wood to burn. Many of the trees were very large. Father first cut the large cottonwood trees and hauled them to a saw mill to be sawed into lumber to build a house and barn. He would cut the bodies of the trees, with a crosscut saw, into the lengths he wanted the lumber. I was too small to help with the crosscut saw, so I was put to splitting the coarse bark off the logs, which made good fuel for the cook stove. Then father made a large bob sled, wide and heavy, in order to haul the logs to the saw mill. The oxen were used for this hauling.
The oxen were also used to pull large rocks out of the ground, and to haul them to the place where he could use them in the foundation of a barn he wanted to build.
He built a wagon by sawing four blocks 10 or 12 inches long off a large cottonwood tree. Then he drilled holes through the centers of all four blocks, also making them circular. Next he made axles, hounds, holsters, and a tongue. In fact he made a complete wagon with a box by putting those four wood blocks on the axles for wheels.
White lime was high in price and hard to get, so father decided to burn some lime rock that was scattered over the prairie. We would hitch two yokes of oxen to the homemade wagon and go twenty miles around even as far as Carroll and gather lime rock, most of which was on high knolls.
In order to burn rock, he dug a round pit about eight or ten feet deep right by the edge of a steep bluff. Then down by the side of the bluff at the bottom of the pit, he tunneled in to connect with the pit to have a place to build the fire and keep the fire burning till the rock would crack and burst. Before he built the fire, he hauled the rock and piled the pit about full. After the rock was burned, he would take a chunk and put water on it. It would slack like any lime you might buy. The fire would be kept going all day and night until the rock was burned enough to slack. Some of the lime was used to make grout blocks four inches thick, six inches wide, and about ten inches long. Father made a lot of them and built a house or room close to this frame building which was later wrecked by a cyclone so badly it had to be torn down. Simon and I were out in this cyclone on horseback. It blew me off my horse, and I lost my hat and blanket, but we were not hurt.
Later the blocks from this house were used in the walls of the cellar of a new house. After father got the cyclone house torn down, he built a rough board one-room house and banked prairie sod all around it up to the roof except at the windows and doors.
By this time, we did not have much use for oxen any more, so father fed them and shipped them to Chicago. While he was in Chicago, he went to the Moody and Sanky meetings. These men were famous evangelists. After the oxen were sold, we got horses and mules and went to farming more since we three boys were older.
My first teacher was a woman, whose name was Carrie Vadar, whom we really liked. This was a summer school so the children were all small. She would go out at noon and play with us. I don't remember whether she taught more than one term or not.
Another time when I was small, the teacher, who was a man, was going to punish a small girl by putting her in the seat with me, but I wouldn't let him do it. I turned around on the end of the seat and kicked with both feet as hard as I could. This was going to punish me as much as the girl. The teacher just grinned and placed her by Dave Dickson, whom it didn't bother.
I had to take corn bread to school for lunch. Sometimes Dave Dickson would come to me and offer to trade a piece of pie for a piece of corn bread, which I was very glad to do.
I remember playing Pullaway at school when I was small. Once I was on one side, and Dave Dickson was on the other. We were trying to catch Dave, who was running with all his might, when I jumped in front of him. He almost lifted me off the ground and sent me backward full length on my back. I was knocked unconscious. The play was stopped, and I was carried to the school house and laid on a bench where I soon came to, but I was not much worse for the accident.
About a mile west of us lived a neighbor by the name of Enis Butrick. He was considered the first settler in Green County, and also the first settler in Carroll County. At that time he was a gray haired old man. He had made a living by hunting, fishing, and trapping. His grandson, William O. Buttrick, Glidden, Iowa, has lived on the John Merritt farm for thirty years up to this time in 1940. Enis Buttrick worked some for father by the day. His boys once asked us boys why our mother could make so much better corn bread than their mother.
Later I had one of his boys, Frank, work for me. George, my son, was small then but probably remembers him. He once said, "When I get big, you won't have to have Frank work for you."
During these first years, our food consisted mostly of corn in some form-corn pone, mush and milk, corn bread and milk, and corn pancakes. We had wheat bread only on Sundays in the form of soda biscuits.
We also had lots of wild grapes, plums, crabapples, strawberries, and gooseberries. Hazelnuts, black walnuts and butternuts were also abundant.
As for meat, we had lots of it in the form of prairie chickens, quail, rabbits, and tame chickens. Father killed several hogs each winter and sometimes a beef. There were lots of fish in the river at that time. We were allowed to seine, set traps, and to spear at night with a torch in order to see them. I have been out many nights helping in some way to get fish at spawning time. At that time there would be thousands of them on the ripples.
At the mouth of the creek where it emptied into the river I have seen fish sunning themselves by the thousands. They were called suckers because their mouths were round. They got their food by sucking it in. They were small, six or eight inches long and lay side by side. Then I have seen thousands of little cat fish (bull heads) one or two inches long sunning themselves at the same place.
I have helped to pull a seine several times taking out one hundred fish or more. The largest fish I ever caught was a pike weighing five pounds. The largest fish we ever caught was with a set hook at night‑ a blue cat fish which weighed twelve pounds. A neighbor once caught a large pike that was six feet long.
A little later but while I was still small, I remember setting traps to catch prairie chickens. Mr. Dickson had some shock corn near his house and gave us the privilege of setting traps among the shocks. We naturally set quite a lot of traps. I usually went to see the traps in the evening after school. I remember once going on Friday evening and not going again until Monday evening when I found over fifty chickens in the traps. How to kill and get them home was a real problem, but I borrowed a large hand sled from the Dicksons, gave them some of the chickens, piled the rest on the sled, and started for home. It had got late and the folks were worried, so Simon came to see what was wrong. I surely was glad to have help. We finally got home, and the family had chickens for quite awhile.
I have seen thousands of prairie chickens fly and light in tree tops when there was a heavy frost on the grass early in the morning. Many times I have been out with my brother-in-law and neighbors shooting rabbits in winter. I had a dog that would find the chickens; but when one would get up and fly, the dog would take after it. Once when he started to run after the chickens, I shot the dog instead of the chickens. He stopped so quickly, and turned a somersault, but he was quite a way off. I surprised him but did not hurt him.
Making fence was quite a problem. At that time, I had not seen wire of any kind, not even door or window screen. The first wire I remember was when I was sixteen years old. Our first fences were rail or board fences. We had boards six inches wide sawed from logs and made into fences. A fence of this kind took lots of posts and work. We had all the post timber we wanted, but they took work cutting, setting, and nailing the boards on. The only nails we had then were the square-cut nails. I remember helping to nail boards on, but all I did was to hold one end of the board so an older person could do the nailing.
Father and mother belonged to the Methodist Church and were very strict and taught us children to remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy. We were not allowed to fish, swim, play ball, or even watch a game of base ball on Sunday. They took us to Church and Sunday School whenever the weather was suitable. They always had family prayers morning and night. I remember going eight or ten miles to attend protracted meetings in winter when sleighing was good.
When I was twelve years old, I herded cattle on the prairie. This was a lonesome job. I rode a two year old colt, a great gangling horse. One morning I went out to the pasture to get this colt and some other horses, and was going to ride my horse to the house. I got them up as close to a board fence as I could. Then I got up on the fence and went to jump on the horse on my chest, and throw my leg over the horse's back. I jumped too far and went over the horse and down between the horses head first. I stuck out my arm to catch myself. When I struck the ground, my weight was too much for my arms. My left arm broke about half way between the wrist and elbow. I thought I was nearly killed. I left the horses and ran to the house crying as hard and as loud as I could. Father went to town to get a doctor, but they were not in town. He brought out a druggist who had had some practice in the army, and he set it very well. They gave me chloroform, but it did not put me completely to sleep so I knew what they were doing. When he put the splints on, my fingers were held straight out. In a little while my fingers hurt so badly they had to take me to town and have the splints cut off inside my hand. It was a long time before I could bend my fingers. They got a boy to take my place herding the cattle for a few days, but I was soon in the saddle again with my arm in a sling. In crossing a ditch, my horse stepped in a deep narrow ditch and fell on his nose and threw me out of my saddle on ahead of the horse on my left shoulder and broken arm, but I drew my arm up as close as I could to my chest and let my shoulder plow the ground. It was hurt but not broken again.
When I was small, we had very poor lights to work or read by. The first light I remember was just a pan or saucer with a twisted strip of cotton cloth doubled and laid in a pan of lard with the end up over the edge. Then the upper end would be lighted and the heat would keep the lard melted and burning to produce light. Later we used tallow candles which were made in molds. First a wick was put down through a small hole and tied in a knot to draw it tight. The mold would be filled again with tallow and left to cool. Next the knot would be cut off, the mold warmed, and the candle pulled out. We had molds to make five at once.
After a time we got to farming quite heavy. We had a corn planter called the old John Brown planter. We did not have any wire check row planters then, but we marked the ground out with a sled row marker. We took five short 2 x 6 pieces and made them sled runner shape and nailed planks on these runners by placing the runners as far apart under the boards as we wanted the rows of corn apart. We then put a tongue on these planks in the center. A team would be hitched to it, and a man standing on the center would drive either by stakes or markers and mark the field cross ways from the way we would drive the planter. A boy would sit on the planter and pull a lever every time the planter crossed a mark. The corn was supposed to drop in that mark, but it was quite a job to do it right. In our family I was the boy who got that job. I have done this work on several hundred acres. Sometimes I would get sleepy, and the driver could tell this by the way I jerked the lever.
We did not have binders to cut wheat and oats. About the first machine we had was a self rake called a John P. Manna Self Rake. It had a reel and a rake. The rake was about as wide as the machine with pins in the lower edge. It had an arm that was connected to the reel gearing that would come up over the driver's head and down between the reel so it made one round to all the reel's once around. The rake would drive down and bring the grain back and around behind the machine. It took four or five men to bind the grain as fast as the team would cut it. The men would be placed in stations. Each man would have one-fourth or one-fifth of the way around the field depending on whether four or five men were working. Father would drive faster or slower according to the number of men he had binding.
The next machine we had was what we called the Marsh Harvester, which was built for two men to stand on and bind all the grain it cut. I have stood on the Marsh Harvester and bound the grain alone when the grain was thin. It elevated the grain up to the men at a table at the front, where the two men would take turns picking up enough for a bundle and turn to the table and bind it. The machine cut strips four or five feet wide, but it kept the men moving when the grain was heavy.
There was another machine called a Draper which had stout strips about two inches wide fastened to a bar just back of the base as wide as the machine. These strips could be raised and lowered. When they were raised, they would catch the grain. When there was enough for a bundle, it would drop and the stubble would hold the grain. This grain had to be bound before the machine could come around again, as it was so close to the standing grain. I did not work with this machine much.
Before I was big enough to bind grain, I had to gather the bundles and put them in piles so an older man could shock it faster. The binder left the bundles scattered all over the ground or the men dropped them just where they bound them.
Before I was old enough to bind a station alone, father got a neighbor boy to help me. Each of us would take every other bundle. We worked that way through most of that harvest, father cutting the grain and changing work with different farmers. At one farm the boy's father would not let the boy help me, so I tried to bind my station alone, but it was too much for me. It was a hot day, and I had to hunt the shade and rest. Once father let me drive the team and he bound for awhile.
Next, came the wire binder, which was followed by the twine binder.
When I was 16 years old, I herded cattle again on the prairie farther west.
I had to go two miles or more to where I kept the cattle at night. Of course I had to carry my lunch in a sack, which had a strap to go over my head. The sack hung down at my side. At every jump of the horse, the lunch got a jolt so it was often quite solid by noon. I had several miles of range. I had a good pony or horse. I remember one cow that got some distance from the main
herd. I thought I would give her a lesson so she would stay with the herd better. I got her on the run going about as fast as she could go. She made a square turn. As my horse made the same turn, I went straight on and down on the road. The saddle gurth broke so the saddle went with me. It jarred me but did not hurt me much.
One Sunday one of our neighbor boys came out where I was just to pass the time. He had on a white shirt. I was standing holding my horse talking to him when he put his foot in the stirrup and swung into the saddle. The horse was eating grass and did not see who was in the saddle at first. When he raised his head and saw the white shirt, he jumped up and threw the boy over his head.
Once when I was riding my horse on the lope, his front foot went in a large hole and he fell to his knees. I went over his head and fell full length on my back on the hard ground. That hurt me, but I was able to get up and stay on my job.
That year we first used smooth wire for fences. To put barbs on the wire, we had a pair of pincers that was made in such a shape that we could pinch a barb on the wire. The barb was made from heavy tin, and the body of the barb was open so it would slip over the wire and the pincers would mash it down on the wire. The barbs were at one end, and this made three or four barbs sticking out from the wire. I have worked for days at a time putting on those barbs. We soon got barbed wire something like what we have now, but usually dark painted wire.
In those days very often bands of Indians would camp along the North Coon River. I remember one large band of men, women, and children camping southwest of us on the river banks. They would come to our house begging. One evening three or four men stopped and wanted something to eat. Mother set out some cold boiled meat and some corn bread. One man picked up a piece of meat in his hands and pulled it to pieces and handed it to the other men. Sometimes a woman would come on a horse with a papoose behind her. She would have a printed card telling about their troubles, and what they wanted. One time, a large band camped about a hundred rods north of us and came to our house quite often. One morning a man and his squaw came just after we had eaten our breakfast so mother set out something for them and made coffee. After the man had drunk five or six cups, he would still call for another cup. Finally, after his squaw said something to him, he said, "Half cup." She seemed to be ashamed of him.
Six or eight years after Anna and I were married, a big Indian and two or three women came to our house. Anna was afraid of him. He wanted some chickens. I went to the chicken house and caught one for him and gave it to him. He said, "One more," so I gave him another. Then he said, "One more," but I told him that was enough. He took the two and left. He thought I would be afraid to refuse him. My neighbor told me later that the same Indian stopped at his place with a gunny sack and wanted some oats. This neighbor put some in the sack and as the Indian kept saying, "A little more," each time he put in more until the sack was full.
After the corn was husked in the fall, I would go to school during the winter months, until the spring work on the farm had to be done to get things in shape for putting in the crops. This was after I was old enough to do the farm work. All winter on Saturdays and whenever we had time, we had to get up wood and cut it so we would have wood for heat during the winter and for cooking during the summer.
I don't remember what year the grasshoppers came, but they came suddenly and were so thick in the air they darkened the sun as if it were behind a cloud. They came in the middle of summer and ate not only everything green, but also vegetables, clothing, and wood. They even ate pitch fork handles. They would eat turnips and rutabagas down in the ground and leave a hole in the ground the shape of the turnip. We had very little crop that fall. Besides this, they laid eggs in the ground by the millions. In the spring these eggs hatched, and many young hoppers ate the early crops that year. As soon as their wings were strong enough, they suddenly rose in the air and flew away. Losing these crops was hard on the early settlers.
When I was quite young, we had a severe snow storm which commenced March 3 about four o'clock in the evening and lasted three days and nights. The wind blew and whistled so one could not see ten feet in any direction. Father and my older brothers had to work day and night to keep the stock from being buried alive. One calf froze to death standing by a fence. Some hogs were buried 10 feet under a snow drift but came out all right. Several men were lost in the storm, and one or two froze to death.
We did not have any trouble getting all the hay we wanted. All we had to do was to go put on the prairie and pick out the best piece of grass we could find and cut it. As the country got settled up, it was harder to get good grass. It was the custom for a man to go out and mow one swath around a large tract of land or grass. That gave him the right to all that was inside when it was ready for hay. Sometimes a man would get too greedy and mow around too large a tract of land, and his neighbors would object. I have stacked a good many stacks of wild hay myself. Once, Simon and I were hauling wild hay from quite a distance. We had four horses on each wagon and as we were going home, the one who was behind tried to go around the other, but the one ahead objected and started his team, so both four horse teams were going down the road on the run, drawing a load of hay. We had the hay tied on so we did not lose much. I don't suppose we ever told father about it.
One year when I was quite small, the North Coon River got very high and out of its banks one July 3. A bayou bridge near the river was not safe for a team to cross over. I was on the other side of the river, but father made arrangements to get me across the river in a log canoe so I could get home. When I got there, the man was ready to take me across. When we got in the canoe, the water came within three inches of dipping water, but by sitting still we got across safely. Just as we got across, a man came to the bayou bridge with a team wanting to cross because he had to take entertainment supplies over for the Fourth of July celebration the next day. The man who got me across told him that he had been told that any one crossing that bridge did so at his own risk. The bridge was raised by the water two feet at one end where he would have to drive on. He wanted to try it anyway. I watched him urge his horses on. They had to raise their feet to get them on the end of the bridge, but their weight brought it down in place, and he drove on. I suppose he got across without any mishap, but it was a great risk.
One night I was out alone when I was still small, but I don't remember why, because I was not brave. I was about forty rods from home when I met a large dog about as big as a yearling calf. When I was about eight rods from him, he came at me jumping and barking. I thought he would take me down, but when I yelled at him, he stopped and turned away, He was a Newfoundland dog. The only dog of that kind we know of belonged south of us about three miles.
The first threshing machine I remember was called a Chaff Piler. The straw and chaff all came out together and had to be got out of the way by men. The next threshing machine was some better. All were run by horse power taking six or eight teams to furnish power and speed enough to thresh grain. The machine was connected with the horse power by a tumbling rod to the gearing of the cylinder. The machine got all its speed from the gearing. A man fed the machine by hand. The bundles were put on a table by the feeder, and a boy stood there and cut the straw bands before the man fed them into the machine. The threshed grain came out of the machine near the ground in half bushels. A man would empty one in the wagon while the other was being filled. The man had a tally board to keep track of the number of bushels threshed. This machine had a straw stacker that carried the stacker farther from the machine. Finally a circular stacker was added as a later improvement.
One time we lost a cow for which we looked everywhere, we thought, but could not find her. Several weeks after, I was going down to the river. A little to one side of the road or path I saw something but did not know what it was until I got closer. There was just the top edge of the cow's back. She had got in a place where there was quicksand.
We had spelling bee schools about every two weeks. We would go first to one schoolhouse and then to another. One time at the Glidden schoolhouse my oldest sister Kate spelled down the entire school.
Our neighbors would have coasting parties. At Mr. Dickson's place, there was a good hill about 50 rods from top to bottom which was packed solid and slick and was excellent for coasting. I don't know just how many people did gather there usually in the evenings. Part of the fun was coasting down with the girls, and part of the fun was getting back up the hill with the sleds.
I remember a party and dinner that mother and father gave for some of the young folks. I think it was at Christmas. Mother baked a nice round cake and frosted it over very nicely. It was made of corn meal for a joke. When she cut it and passed it around, one of the smallest boys got in a hurry and tasted it, but could not keep still until the rest could taste it. He spoke up and said, “You are trying to fool someone, aren't you?”
I remember going to school to one school teacher who was very odd and half crazy. He would wear an overcoat and a heavy scarf around his neck all day in the school house. He was quite old and thin, but he had a dried up and bony hand. I knew for he hit me once on the side of the head. That was, all I needed that term. He would carry a long switch around with him when he went from seat to seat helping different pupils. One day he laid his switch down on the desk behind the person he was helping. This happened to be Dave Dickson's desk. There was a hole in the floor under the desk so Dave, just for fun, pushed the switch down through that hole. When the teacher got up to go on, he couldn't find his switch. He couldn't see what had happened to it. When Dave got home, he was telling his mother about what he did, but he did not notice his small brother Rob who heard the story. This teacher was boarding at Dickson's, so Rob went in the next room and said, “Mr. Huff, are you going to whip Dave for putting your switch down through the knot hole in the floor?” As the teacher went to school the next morning, he cut two or three switches. When Dave got there, he commenced on him before school took up. For some cause the teacher had a dislike for Dave and would whip him almost every day. One evening he whipped him until his nose bled. He would let him sit in his seat and then whip him across his shoulders.
A man south of us about two miles had about a hundred swarms of bees. Father would go over there and watch him work with them. Father said he could not depend on what he said he did with the bees so he preferred to see him work. Seeing this man work with bees got father in the notion of getting some. He got some, probably from this man, and they increased until we had about 50 swarms.
We got an extractor and aimed to extract almost all the honey the bees made. One time father was extracting honey and my oldest brother Fletcher, who was helping him, would taste the honey quite often. He told us younger children that we would get the stomach ache if we were not careful about tasting the honey. It was only a few minutes until he was rolling around with the stomach ache. Then we had the laugh on him.
I got so I could work with the bees very well. I remember once opening about fifty hives and moving most of the honey racks to see what the bees were doing. This I did in half a day without getting a sting. The worst sting I ever got was when the wind was blowing about forty miles an hour. A bee came with the wind and struck me on the end of the nose and stung when he hit me.
While Fletcher and Simon were at home, we three boys would work in the field during the summer. When noon came we would eat our dinner and then go to the river as quickly
as we could and spend as much time as we had in the river splashing and swimming. When it was time to go to work, father would call, "Boys, work time." Then we would dress and make for the field. The river was the best place we could find to rest.
Father was killed by lightning six weeks and three days before I was 21 years old. That left me to oversee most of the farm work. Mother had most of the business to see after with my help. Simon was away at school. At the time father was killed, mother and Simon were in Ohio visiting mother's brother. When we heard of father's death, George Scranton, Rob Waldron, and I went to Carroll and brought him home at night.
Father had rented me the farm before he was killed. After he rented me the farm, we decided to sow some rye on a farm two miles from the home farm that another man had rented. We wanted to sow the rye just ahead of his cultivator as he laid his corn by. Of course we had to get his consent and father sowed it himself by hand. That was all we did to it, but that fall after father died, the man came to me and wanted damage, claiming the rye was a damage to his corn. I tried to get him to let me get uninterested men to husk three or four rows of corn just in the edge of the rye and three or four rows just outside the rye and weigh the corn, and pay according to the difference in weight, but he would not do that. Finally we decided that each should pick a man, and if they could not agree, they should pick a third man. We picked our men. I told my man what I had offered to do. When we all four met at the farm, the renter wanted to go with the adjustors. I said no because the corn was right there and they were to decide the damage. He finally agreed, and the two men went down through and along the edge of the rye and then back through the rye field. On their return the renter's adjustor said," We may be doing some one a wrong, but we don't find that the rye had done any damage to the corn crop." That was quite a trial for me before I had even one crop for myself. It might be well to say that the rye took the place of the foxtail grass that showed in the corn just outside the rye. It was this same rye that I cut the next summer with the old Marsh Harvester and bound it myself. One of my sisters drove the horses on the machine. I am not sure whether it was Ada or Libbie. The ground was so rough we could hardly stay on the machine.
It was the summer of 1881 that I raised my first crop for myself. I sowed spring wheat and oats on this same farm where father sowed the rye in the corn the fall before. I sowed the wheat about the right time, but the weather was so bad that I did not get a very good yield. Ten days before it got ripe, it looked fine, but the weather was so bad it blighted, and I got only about six bushels to the acre.
It was about this time of year that I got a wire check row attachment out on that old John Brown planter. It was a very simple arrangement. It was just bolted on the planter boxes and projected out on each side so the wire would be far enough away and not bother the horses. It worked very much like our planters do now. I planted my own corn with it and some of my neighbor's corn as they wanted to save the expense of the old way of marking and having a boy sit on the machine and drop the corn.
About this time I worked in the timber alone in the winter getting up wood to burn. Sometimes I would cut large trees and would have trouble loading large logs. Sometimes I would put skids on the sled and put ropes around the log with the rope fast to the sled. Then I would hitch the team to the rope and roll the log on the sled with the team. Those logs then had to be cut up into stove lengths with a crosscut saw.
One winter I contracted to haul wood to just north of Glidden for Mr. McNaught. He had planned to burn brick or something of that kind, but for some reason had given it up. I had hauled several cords, but he paid me for what I had hauled. It was quite a hard job because the snow was so deep in places and on the road the snow kept drifting in the tracts so bad it built up a high grade. With a full cord of wood, it was just impossible to get off the road with out the sled tipping over with a load of wood. Once I met a man with a wagon box on his sled with some coal in it. He wanted me to give half of the road. I told him if I turned out any, my load would upset. I suggested that he go around and if he got stuck, I would hitch my team on ahead and pull him out. He went around but did not get stuck. I was glad when that wood hauling job was done.
It was about this time that I bought my first self-binding harvester. It was a P1ane, a second hand machine. I bought it at a sale, but it proved to be very satisfactory.
In June of 1881 I met Anna Merritt, but did not think about her ever becoming my wife. Then l was keeping company with another girl in Glidden. This June quite a group of young folks planned to have a boating and fishing party. I went to see my girl about taking her, but she wanted to go with another girl on horseback. Simon had been boarding at the Merritt's when he was teaching their school. He told Anna that some one would come to take her, and I was that one. My taking Anna, and the way the other girl planned to go changed my mind. I dropped the other girl and kept close watch on Anna Merritt. In about two years on June 6, 1883, we were married.
After this fishing party but before we were married, this other girl and a friend came out from town with same other people who were going north of our place. We lived about 50 rods off the road. When these people started back to town, those two girls got out and walked down to our house. It was about eleven o'clock, so we had them stay for dinner. They said they had to get back to town that day. I had planned to go to town with another young man on horseback. I gave that up and hitched up a team to take these girls to town. Mother had bought a new buggy mostly for me. I used it first to go to the fishing party. I used it to take these girls back to town. After we started, one of the girls said, "We thought we never going to get to ride in this buggy." I was letting the horses trot right along, when one of them said, "You want to get rid of us as soon as you can, do you?" I had to slow the horses down to please them. Well I got them to town safely.
Frank Prill was working for me the year we had the fishing party, and he took my sisters to the party. The year Anna and I were married Nelson McDowell was working for me. He took mother and the girls to our wedding.
I kept on working for mother or renting her land. Anna and I lived in part of mother's house for almost two years. While we were living there, Blanche was born.
We next moved to another house on the farm about one and one-half miles south of mother's home and rented part of her land. While we lived on this farm, George and Lottie were born.
Later we bought 80 acres about a half a mile south of this and lived there until we moved to Indianola, Warren County, Iowa. Roy was born after we moved to this farm.
While we lived on this farm, I put in several carloads of tile. The largest were 6 inch. Others were 5, 4, and 3 inch tile. I also drilled a deep well 150 feet deep. That demanded a windmill to lift the water.
In the meantime my mother and younger sisters and brother had moved to Indianola where college opportunities would be better. I visited them several times, one time driving there with a team and buggy. This took two days. We brought Blanche down to go to the Academy which was a part of Simpson College at that time.
While we lived on this farm we thought of making a change. Anna's brother and sister and their families were moving to Oklahoma. I went down there to see what the country was like as a farming country, but I did not like it. We later sold our farm and moved to a farm north of Indianola, Iowa. After living there a few years we moved to Indianola so the children could attend college more easily. A few years later we sold the farm and bought 640 acres of unimproved land in Osceola County in northern Iowa. We improved part of it and gradually sold off the land except 160 acres which Roy, our youngest son, was farming when he died of pneumonia in 1918. After his death we sold this farm and for a few years George and I had a partnership farm in Ringgold County. We soon decided we wanted to be back at Indianola so I bought a farm east of Indianola, which George has farmed since that time.
Anna and I have continued to live in Indianola. Anna was unfortunate and broke her hip and later an arm, from which she recovered very well. Though I had the asthma, we got along very well until Anna had a stroke, which left her almost helpless.
Completed by Blanche
After being nearly helpless for two and a half years, Mother passed away on Thanksgiving Day, November 26, 1942. Father lived a little over a year longer, suffering constantly from asthma until he passed away, December 24, 1943, at Indianola, Iowa.
~ Contributor's Note ~
"My great-grandfather, Simon (Washington) Lauck (1857-1929), older brother mentioned in W. P. Lauck's memoirs, is the 4th and last generation so named. The first Simon Lauck (1780-1815), with his older brother, Peter, marched to Boston in 1775 with Captain Daniel Morgan. There they joined forces with George Washington during the American Revolution."
This memoir has been graciously contributed by Joyce Lauck Fitzgerald.
Thank You Joyce!