Chapter 4 The Elmore Farm and the Changing World
In the fall of 1941, Russel and Mabel received a letter from their landlord informing them that they would have to move as the farm was going to be rented to someone else. The letter allowed only six weeks to vacate the property. Harvest was completed and unofficial farming law said that the man who planted a crop would be allowed to harvest the crop. It wasn’t yet the best planting time and the landlord did not give Russel time to get next year’s crop planted. Six weeks was a very short time to locate another farm. There was no dissatisfaction with Russel’s farming but the property was going to be made available to a relative.
A new farm
There were a very few properties available, and none that appeared able to support a family. The prospective ranches were even more bleak than the Sandhills property. Russel visited Lind one afternoon to ask if anyone knew of a job that might be available. “Urque” Urquart, who managed the local grain elevator, suggested that Russel should call on Ted Elmore, who was past eighty years old and retiring from the active management of his land. Russel drove to the farm to ask if the farm were to be rented. Mr. Elmore told Russel that he had already spoken to a neighbor (Strohmaier) and planned to rent to him. A dejected Russel returned to town and related the situation to the Urque and to the banker, Harry Sneed. These gentlemen stated that the town needed young people like Russel and Mabel. They told Russel to wait while they paid a visit to Mr. Elmore. An hour later the two returned and told Russel that he could have a six-year lease on the ranch. This was an dramatic good fortune, as Russel had never before enjoyed a profitable farm nor the promise of a multiyear lease. This was a large farm and the rental terms were generous. The business friends had negotiated terms that allowed Russel and Mabel to retain 2/3 of the income from the farm. Russel realized that the farm equipment he owned would not be suitable for a farm this large but the banker had an answer for that. Just sell what you have and borrow the rest. This was a farm with great prospects but also a debt that Russel had never experienced.
Each farm has a name and this farm will always be referred to as The Elmore Property. Ted Elmore died shortly after the Clines arrived And Mr Elmore had no legal relationship with the property.
Home at the Elmore property
The World at War
The United States entered the Second World War during the time of the move to the new farm. The family huddled around the radio to listen to President Roosevelt make the declaration of war. This war strongly affected the life of every person. Men were called into the services and women assumed tasks previously all male. Draft cards were issued to all adult male citizens. A classification was assigned to each man determining his susceptibility to being called into the army. A classification of 1-A indicated that you would likely be drafted soon. Russel was initially classified 3-C based on being head of the household and an essential business. A nation could live without nylon stockings, new bathtubs, or new automobiles but people still needed to eat. Subsequently he was declared too old and classified 4-F, giving him the lowest probability of being drafted. Everything was dedicated to the war effort.
Each person had a ration card that permitted them a certain quantity of life’s necessities. The family learned to use saccharin to sweeten ice tea thus saving the restricted sugar. Feeding a harvest crew became a challenge. Mabel had to request the crewmen to supply their ration cards so that she could obtain sufficient quantities of staples.
WWII ration card, Color indicates the type of product, The number defines the numbert of points
Ration stamps were issued for each person. The red stamps were good for meat. The blue stamps were other foodstuffs. Each stamp had a value in points shown here as 1, 2, 5, and 8 points. The OPA administered rationing for nearly everything, different food staples, auto tires and gasoline, clothing, appliances, etc.
Many new activities were dictated by the need to conserve materials for the war. Every child collected tinfoil and wadded it into a ball. The school sponsored scrap iron drives which yielded tons of iron. Cooks saved cooking fats that could be rendered to produce glycerine. Extra money was invested into war bonds. The speed limit that had been 50 miles per hour was lowered to 35 miles per hour. Chocolate was almost unobtainable. Every one was urged to raise a “victory garden’ to take care of their own food needs. And scarce as water was, the Clines grew a small plot of vegetables during those years. Other things such as gasoline and tires were rationed. However farmers were less handicapped than most people as items such as gasoline and tires were considered essential to the food supply.
Even a small boy was privy to the secrets of the war. Vern Conklin told Russel of one of his jobs. Vern had worked for a few months in an area called Hanford. They were making a large excavation for some secret military device. The hole was so large Vern struggles for descriptive words. No one had any concept that this was the birth of the atom bomb. A second secret dealt with the presence of Japanese incendiary balloons. The Japanese could launch cheap balloons with incendiary devices that would drift cross the ocean in the high altitude winds and then descend in US forests and fields to cause numerous fires. It was official policy, to not publish stories about the devices, so that the Japanese would think the project was a failure. There was some damage from the balloons but it was not extensive.
The challenge of the Elmore farm
The new ranch was a blessing to Russel who had been so despondent over his bleak future such a short time before. Situated one mile to the south of highway 395, there were farm roads approaching the buildings from both the north and the south. The “Elmore place”, as it was to be called, was 1100 acres of crop land one year and 1200 the next. It was situated in a range of hills that received a bit more moisture than the neighboring areas. The soil was an ideal mix of loam, rather than the Sandhills loose sand. Happily, it was close enough to their old neighborhood that they could still easily visit their friends and participate in Grange activities.
On Mabel’s first visit to the farm Russel took here out to a clear spot of ground and pointed out the property line limits. To the south the property stretched 1 1/5 miles to the crest of a distant ridge. To the West the property extended an unbroken mile. To the North and the East the property stretched a full mile to where vision was obscured by a hilltop. (There was not a tree in sight.) It was a dramatic improvement in the eyes of a farmer. The farm was not so wonderful in the kids’ eyes. Everywhere there was wheat. The wonderful Sandhills playground they had enjoyed was only a memory. Still, the numerous farm buildings offered lots of opportunity for exploration.
The new farm caused Russel a great deal of worry. In order to purchase suitable farming equipment for a farm of this size he was forced to go into debt far more deeply than he had ever envisioned, even more deeply than he thought possible. However Mr. Sneed was reassuring. He told Russel and Mabel to list all their present assets and borrow against them. It was a surprise to learn that money could be borrowed that way. Would the crops fail? There was no pasture for a milk cow or for raising steers. Water supply, from a deep well, was not dependable. It took a good wind for the windmill to lift water from a deep well.
The move was accomplished with the resources at hand. Everything was loaded onto the farm trucks. The farmers were very resourceful in loading things like heavy farm equipment without special apparatus. With the final load of furniture and miscellaneous possessions, Dick rode in a corner of the truck bed holding his favorite kitten. All the land surrounding the buildings was cropland. The only pasture for cows was well over a mile distant. It wasn’t long after this that the Deatons, on the farm just to the south of Elmore’s, had a pony stray onto the highway. A truck hit the pony, and the ensuing lawsuit convinced Russel that it was smart to buy beef rather than worry about livestock.
An introduction to the Elmore farm
The house was larger. A kitchen, separate dining room and a living room on the main floor, then an upstairs with three bedrooms. The house, however, was a disaster. There was rotting food in the kitchen. The house wasn’t just dirty; there was a thick layer of grime throughout. In the dining room was a small old pump organ. Mr. Elmore was deaf but he liked to make loud sounds on the organ to see if he could hear them. In one of the upstairs bedrooms there was a pile of old blankets and clothing that belonged to the landlord. Mabel cleaned these and subsequently delivered them to him at his new home outside Cheney. He was impressed that someone would do these things and not expect to be paid for the work.
A more spacious home was still a disappointment in one aspect. Electricity had come to the Sandhills just six months before the move, but the family was again without. In its place was a system of bottled gas. The recently purchased electric stove and refrigerator were useless. In a stroke of luck, Bill and Nell Curry had just received electricity were planning to replace their gas appliances. A trade was negotiated. The gas stove, though a little expensive to operate, proved very satisfactory. There was again no running water, a hand pump, and the outhouse was 40 yards to the west.
The three rooms on the main floor of the house had Flamo gas (Trade name for propane) piped across the ceiling to permanent light fixtures — a mantle consisting of a gauze-like fabric that covered the gas jet which when lit produced a wonderfully bright light. The one hazard was that the mantle was very fragile. The kids could not play upstairs with normal childhood enthusiasm because the ceiling would vibrate enough to cause the mantle to disintegrate.
Other aspects of the house soon became apparent. The kitchen and dining room had originally been a teacher’s cottage to which the living room (rumored to be a one-room bachelor’s shack) had been attached. The kitchen contained only one small unit of cupboards, and that with a counter made of a sheet of tin, well dented and covered with linoleum. No windowpane was the proper size for the place it was installed. Nor did any top and bottom pane meet in the middle, but rather overlapped, leaving a space in the center large enough to stick one’s arm through. There were doors everywhere, frequently two on a wall. A section of iron water pipe was attached to the ceiling in the center of the kitchen as a chinning bar.
Friends continue to help
After some initial cleanup, the DeVores and Huses came for a daylong papering party. More interesting things were discovered. Removing old paper disclosed newspapers from an early year had been used as wallpaper at one time. Some of the superfluous doors were sealed off and the trusty unit of kitchen cabinetry from the Sandhills fire days was installed. The oil heater from the Sandhills also came along and was to warm the living room of the Elmore place. It was still an old house that leaked dust every time the wind blew, but the house had become a home.
Once again there was no heat for the bedrooms. This time however, with the bedrooms upstairs, they seemed much colder. The upstairs was completely unheated. Children donned pajamas behind the oil stove, and then carried a warmed blanket to bed. In the morning they raced down the stairs to that warm spot to dress for the day. Despite the cold, Dick commonly slept with a window open. On one occasion awakening with snow atop the bed.
The outside, layout and appearance
Outside, the yard was filled with weeds that stood head high to an 8-year old boy. The two old workhorses in the corral appeared wonderful to the kids. Russel, however had not changed his view of horses, and they were the first of the unnecessary things to go. There were buildings spread over what seemed a vast area. Two large barns, around 5,000 sq. ft. each. They had been converted to bulk grain storage and were filled with wheat. There were more than 40,000 bushels. This was the equivalent to an entire year’s crop. Farm storage was common so the owner could supplement a poor year with stored grain. At the west end of this drive was another barn, now a machine shed with a large central bay and two side openings. Several buildings filled the space in between the barns. Two chicken houses pleased Mabel, but the chickens inside did not. They were white and brown leghorns, notorious for being flighty. A huge old rooster with vicious spurs on his legs did not approve of this strange women coming into his domain and attacked each time she came near. He succeeded in stabbing Mabel in the knee, a feat that quickly brought about his demise.
The pigpen was nearly empty but this aged facility had housed 40 pigs in earlier years. There was a second outhouse at the lower edge of the pigpen. An ancient shop building held a collection of tools and a forge worthy of an antique shop. This building was so badly askew that the children were cautioned not to enter. A multipurpose shed contained five stalls, each about the size of a one-car garage, was used for a variety of purposes. One end contained sacks of chicken feed while several of the units were filled with collections of horse harness. The feed room had numerous rodents so this is where the family made a home for the pet cats.
The Elmore farm, like all farms, had its own garbage dump in some steep useless piece of ground. Combustable material was put in the burn barrel. Cats were rodent control Dogs announced the arrival of everyone. All families had recently been through the great depression and it influenced every expenditure. There were stacks, rolled f unused barbed wire, a stack of old railroad ties, a scrap heap of iron salvaged from broken implements, an old broken truck, and dust.
The pigpen with machine shop in background.
Old barns that had been converted for bulk grain storage.
Elsewhere the family discovered a buckboard, a hay wagon and a truck dating from the 1920’s. A small structure used to store coal and wood, and two cellars completed the farm site. The older of the cellars contained a few empty jars, but had not been used for many years. The newer cellar has walls of concrete, clean, free of spiders, and wonderful! It was covered with dirt for thermal protection and a wooden cover to limit erosion. The top became the favorite lookout station for the family dog. It was a fascinating playground.
Family vist by Roning families from Spokane
As Mabel cleaned the house, Russel was relentless organizing the farm. This was not without reason. The various junk contributed to the fire hazard and the places for rats and mice to multiply. He gathered everything lacking obvious value and torched it along with the old shop. The remaining buildings were sound although size and shape were better suited for working horse management. He covered the parking areas with cinders, a gravel sized residue available as a waste from coal fired trains. The children quickly discovered the very sharp edgs. Ultimately the entry road became the site of an underground fuel tank and a gas pump providing fuel to all the vehicles. The old outhouse was replaced with a new privy. The old dirt cellar filled in. The coal shed remained for a few years as it contained coal needed for the large forge that was in the rickety old machine shop that was torn down and the forge moved to the new machine shed after the new machine shed was construced – but that is another story. In hindsight there were things that may have had collector value. There were a couple old guns that were buried, They were badly rusted and Russel deemed them useless. A remaining sack of old black powder shotgun shells provided diversion for a young boy – until discovered.
During the first few years at the Elmore farm there were many large dust storms. Farmers were slowly learning that careful farming practices were necessary to prevent the soil from blowing badly. They learned to cultivate the ground less frequently, cultivate around hills rather than up and down in straight rows, During harvest, let the straw fall on the ground to hold the soil. Dust storms were a frequent annoyance. During the stronger storms we could even not see the coal shed from the kitchen window even though it was only 40 feet distant. The dust inside the house was nearly as bad. Mabel placed dinner plates on the table 15 minutes before dinner and by the time everyone was ready to be seated, it was possible to trace a visible line across the dust accumulated on the plate. The dirt did not delay dinner.
More than inconvenience, dust could also be dangerous. Gene Phillips and wife were driving on dusty afternoon and Gene’s wife wanted to talk to son-in-law Lee Bricky who was plowing. She started walking toward the tractor but became lost because visibility was so bad. She wandered around the field until they could organize a search party. Driving was a hazard as the road was often invisible. It is not possible to move safely but stopping was worse, some other driver will continue moving.
For a young boy there were always interesting places on the farm. The barns provided challenging places to climb. Every farm had a junk pile where scrap iron was piled. This iron frequently was used to repair some other implement. Russel did not like the dirty nesting habits of the numerous English Sparrows so this was a challenge to destroy the maximum number of sparrow nests.
Additions to the farm
Now it was time for building. A first step, really the second year on the farm, was the addition of an indoor bathroom. This was accomplished by closing off the end of a porch that ran the length of the kitchen and dining room. It was now during World War II, and such things as bathroom fixtures were not being manufactured. Russel was fortunate to find a used sink and toilet, and find an old bathtub. A wonderful antique tub, six feet long, with ball and eagle-claw feet. The installation of a gasoline powered pump in the cellar assured water pressure. A water heater allowed the family to finally enjoy the pleasure of running water in the house. However living was still very frugal. The pressurized water only lasted for a short time and than one needed to go back to the cellar and start the gasoline power pressure pump. The water heater used large amounts of gas so we operated the heater only briefly before bath time. Water for washing dishes still came from a kettle heated on the stove.
Every farm needs a shop, so Russel set out to build one. Farmers, and Russel especially, were self-sufficient people. He had never built a building, but this did not dim his ambition. He purchased a small cement mixer and poured a concrete floor and foundation. The four walls were framed. He had not reckoned with bracing, however, and soon his nice new structure was leaning at a slight angle, growing more precarious daily. A neighbor with more building experience identified the problem. There were no diagonal supports between the studs. The tractor pulled the shed vertical, diagonal braces were added, and the shed stood proud on that glorous day.
Russel built a new bedroom on the ground floor so that he and Mabel could enjoy a comfortable bedroom. This was adjacent to the living room so it would get some of the heat from the oil heater.
The crew hired at harvest deserved better shelter than the open barns provided, so Russel went to Moses Lake. An air base established for the war was closing and small structures were offered for sale. He purchased a building — just one room large enough for three single beds, hauled it home on the wheat truck, and placed it in the vicinity of the outhouse. A tour of the junkyard produced a quaint wood-burning parlor stove. Mabel prepared generous meals, so hired men, though working long hard hours, enjoyed a reasonable bed, warmth on cool nights and good food. There is one humorous incident concerning the stove. Vern call Dick to the bunkhouse one afternoon during a severe dust storm. Anyone touching the stove received a strong shock. Dick was seriously accused of connecting a Ford coil to the stove. Finally, all accepted that static electricity from the storm had transferred electric charge to the stove.
An elevator for the storage of bulk grain was constructed. The farmers had learned that it was best to sell half of a crop in one year and half during the next year. This allowed one to average out the market price. However it required facilities on the farm to store a large amount of grain. The old barns had been used for storage of hold grain were very inconvenient. The wide, low buildings made it difficult to load and unload bulk wheat. The new building was properly designed for handling bulk wheat. The building was constructed following a prepared plan. It was assembled of pre fabricated parts like a toy building.
A first Crop
The first crop at the Elmore farm started poorly. The fall seeding froze and needed reseeding. This meant borrowing more money. The cost of seed wheat alone was about the profit Russel was accustomed to at the Sandhills farm. However reseeding in the spring was to change the fortunes of life. The year was unusually wet and the land that normally produced less than 20 bushels per acre yielded a generous 30 bushels. It was possible to pay off all the out-standing debts and go through the next year without debt. Vern enjoyed pulling the combine along the highway where summer tourists would often stop and leap out of their cars with camera in hand. Whenever a camera appeared, Vern stopped the tractor and proudly posed.
Concerns over farm ownership
Ted Elmore died that year, and his nephew promptly put the land up for sale. Russel did not have funds to purchase the farm. He and Mabel were concerned, but scrutiny of the lease proved that they would have five more years with the farm, regardless of whom the new owner was. Ollie Watkins, who lived on the neighboring farm, purchased the property. His plan was to transfer a large segment of the acreage to his farm and set up his nephew from Missouri. Russel argued that the farm would not be enough to provide his needs, and he would not farm under those circumstances. It was certainly known the Russel was a good farmer and his fields consistently out-produced neighboring farms. Ollie was aware that Russel was a valuable tenant, and the nephew already had a very adequate farm.
Farm management and Prosperity
The farm prospered.
While cultivating or planting fields was a boring job, Russel was an intelligent farm manager and worked hard to operate a successful business. The size of the farm justified full-time additional help and Russel began to hire men for fieldwork. A small four-room house on the South road, close to its entrance to Highway 395 still had an operable well and provided adequate shelter for George Rapp and his family. George worked for Russel for 5 years. After George retired, Russel sought to find another hired man. He hired “Blackie, an experienced, hard worker and recently married. One day Blackie simply did not show up for work. The next day a Federal Investigator came to the ranch hunting for Blackie who was wanted for a robbery in Montana. Blackie’s wife was totally bewildered when he disappeared, as she knew little of his background.
Russel was adept in the annual repair of machinery. Attention to all machinery, combine, trucks, tractor, road maintenance, meant the the harvest would be completed without delays for repair. In general, it was continually difficult to retain a responsible hired man. Ross and Violet Hunt were invited to work on the farm. Ross, who was a nephew of Russel’s, the son of Russel’s oldest sister Florence, had been working as a welder for the construction of Anderson Dam in central Idaho. The job required that he be separated from his family throughout the week. He spent his day climbing on the uppermost steel webbing and welding rebar for the subsequent concrete pour. A dangerous occupation for a family man. The Hunts became especially close friends and a big influence on the lives of each of the Cline family. While Russel tended to worry a lot and sometimes created a feeling of tension, Ross was relaxed and full of humor. The Clines and the Hunts became close social friends. Ross’s humor and creative background had enormous impact on a teenager, Dick.
Technical improvements continually changed farming methods. Grain was handled in bulk, rather than sacks. Russel quickly adopted university proven methods of plowing and seeding in contours to minimize the damage from water runoff or from blowing dust. He recognized that excess tillage of the land made it sensitive to blowing so implements were selected to minimize soil movement. Russel was one of the first to utilize aerial spraying for weed control and further limit ground cultivation. He was one of the first in the community to use a header with pickup fingers to lift fallen grain. The harvest crew that had once required 8 men was reduced to four men. Average crop yields grew from 20 bushels per acre to 40 bushels per acre. Wheat prices soared due to demand. Buicks become more common than Chevrolets.
Social life centered visiting neighbors, group parties, and fraternal organizations. Card games were frequent playing pinochile, Canasta, bridge, hearts, etc. The Sandhills events had evolved into a group of peers who met, during winter months, at homes every couple of weeks. The typical party had six tables of pinochle or Canasta. The regular card game would end about midnight and a prize would be awarded for the best cumulative score. Then the men started a serious poker game that might last another four hours. The snacks were abundant and the drinks were hard. It must be noted that the farmers maintained an active social life to compensate for the solitude of work.
At one particular party Russel thoroughly enjoyed some homemade wine made by Ruth Huse’s father. When it came time to drive home, Russel found that he saw two highways in front of the car. He didn’t know which road to follow. Finally he discovered confusion was removed using one eye. He confidently drove home while Mabel held a cover over the second eye.
On another occasion the Cline family along with Ken and Shirley DeVore traveled to Camano Island on the Puget Sound for a week of vacation. The only accommodations were very crowded. In order to provide some privacy they hung a blanket between the Clines bed and the DeVores bed. Shirley DeVore was pregnant at the time and had spent the first day enjoying many pickles. During the night she very uncomfortable and made repeated trips to the bathroom — which meant walking through the Cline ‘bedroom’. The next day the pickle jar could not be found. It was suspected that the disappearance was intentional. Mabel had been the first one out of bed that morning.
The Elmore property was just seven miles south of Lind and Russel found it easy to drive to town for errands. Often there were parts to purchase, or even just to get the daily mail. He often spent a couple evening hours socializing and shooting pool with the other men. Mabel had attempted driving, but found it beyond her realm, so she was bound to remain alone on the farm. Evenings were especially long with the day’s chores finished and no one to talk to.
The kids were both in school, and left home each morning in a little yellow school bus. He drove a mile-long dirt road to the house.. This new bus ride seemed a real treat to Pat and Dick who had ridden over an hour from the Sandhills. They were now among the last to board in the morning and the first off at night. “Gravy” was the driver’s nickname, acquired surely from his portly figure. There was endless teasing — and treats for special occasions.
For Mabel, life become lonelier. Leaving the Sandhills had separated her from the family-like group of neighbors. This farm by its very nature seemed more isolated. The nearest neighbor was a daunting three and a half miles away and there was no place to walk except through the wheat fields. Evenings were especially long with the day’s chores finished and no one to talk to. Needlework, that wonderful talent developed in childhood, occupied much of her time.
The Greyhound bus allowed Mabel a new bit of freedom. The bus route stopped in Lind early in the morning on its way to Spokane, and returned in the evening. Russel would take Mabel to town where she could board the bus, enjoy a day of shopping, visit with family, and return in the evening. She often waited for the bus in Carlock’s Hotel. There were many stories about how badly the hotel was maintained but the fact remained, Lind had a hotel.
Mabel and Russel were always grateful for the help others had provided during their times of need. As a result they tried to be helpful in providing loans to others when they needed help. When Pa and Ma Roning moved to Pasco they needed some immediate money. Mabel and Russel purchased the house in Spokane and then resold it at no profit. When Carl and Lee wanted to purchase a small farm outside of Spokane they loaned money. They loaned money to Vern Conklin so that he could purchase a small asparagus farm in Sunnyside.
Russel loved baseball. The family took occasional trips to Spokane to watch their professional baseball team, the Spokane Indians. The games were fun; the stadium was attractive and well maintained. Spokane typically had a good team and it was a family activity.
Kids growing up
Pat grew up as an attractive teenager. She was active in school plays That required nightly transportation home. There were frequent visits to the farm from her boyfriend Loren. Pat worked during the summers to help Mabel feed the harvest crew. Pat had the responsibility of baking pies each day.
At age 13 it was decided that Dick was old enough to work on the harvest crew. He would work as “header puncher” where Russel could oversee his performance and provide help as needed. The most difficult thing was to overlook the miserable working conditions and concentrate on the job. After about a week as a header puncher, Russel terminated one of the unreliable truck drivers and Dick became a truck driver. Dick was very happy with the change, as truck driving was not as dirty.
Further growth of the farm
The combine that Russel started using at the Elmore farm continued in service for the full twelve years that Russel operated the farm. However in later years it was supplemented with a self propelled combine. The new machine did not need a separate tractor.
1950 Modern Self Propelled Combine
During Dick’s last year of working on the farm he moved to the more responsible job of driving the self-propelled combine. This combine supplemented the old combine Russel had been using at the Elmore farm for full twelve years. The newer machine did not need a separate tractor. Working together the two combines allowed the crop to be cut more quickly and there was less loss of grain due to shattering. In previous years Russel had run the self propel while Ross operated the main combine. The season went favorably until the last days when they were cutting the barley field. The barley aggravated Dick’s hay fever and Russel offered to take over running the combine for the final day. In short order he managed to fill the thresher with dirt and Dick climbed inside to clean it out. Russel then proceeded down the hill only to appear a short time later with the header high out of the grain. He had again thoroughly plugged the combine with dirt. Russel said, “I believe we will finish with one machine.”