Welcome to the Farm!

In the summer of 1962, the Partin family moved to a farm three miles north of the village of Kalida in Putnam County Ohio. Kalida was a small farm community of about 1,000 people in northwest Ohio. It had a few stores, a bank, post office, two grain mills, a school, and a beautiful Catholic Church with a massive spire that could be seen from miles.

The farm of 40 acres included about seven acres of woods and a winding creek. In addition of an old farm house, a small barn and a half dozen, fairly primitive sheds served various purposes. The previous owner persistently used baling wire for most outdoor repairs. It soon became a family joke. “Hmm, loose door? Grab the baling wire.” Of course, that was long before duct tape, which a couple decades later became our go-to solution for most repairs.

Dad’s half sister Lorene (Extine) Bishop lived a mile to our north on the Blanchard River. When we lived in Lima, Don & I, along with Mike, Bud, and other friends, would camp next to the river on the Bishops small farm. We would cut small branches, strip the bark, and lash them to tress, making a frame to hold our large tarp. We had a cooler for food. We’d spend the days wading in the river – it usually wasn’t deep enough for swimming.

The idea of moving to a farm was intriguing. It was an adventure, at just the right time. The family raised hogs, chickens and a few steers and had the crops planted and harvested by a neighbor who split the profits. Dad kept working at what had become Clark Equipment in Lima. The farm was a great learning experience, though it never turned much of a profit. Seems like we always bought pigs at the top of the market and sold them at bottom.

We ordered chickens through mail order, and several dozen tiny chicks arrived in cardboard boxes, delivered by the postman. Most of them survived. We had Chester White pigs. They are pretty smart animals. If they escaped, we would just yell and they’d wander back. Cows were not nearly as cooperative. It was work getting them back in the pen.

Mom & Dad bought our first calf at a livestock auction. The vendor told them to pull around back, and he’d help them load it. He was quite amused when they rolled up in our tiny Renault Dauphine. The little calf had a comfortable ride home in the back seat.

One chilly winter night, I returned home from a basketball game. Mom told me to check on a pregnant sow before going to bed. I did and found pigs were already arriving. I ran to the house, and my parents quickly bundled up and started assisting the sow.

It set a record cold of -17 degrees that night. By morning 16 little pigs had been born. As they came out my parents put them into a large barrel, with heat lamps to keep them warm and alive. One small runt was pretty frail and appeared not likely to make it. When I entered the kitchen the next morning, I was stunned see that runt wrapped in a blanket in the middle of a warm kitchen oven (with the door open, of course). No fancy incubators on our farm. As usual my parents were resourceful and came up with another creative solution. The runt survived and became our pet pig.

We lived in an old farm house, that was poorly insulated, minimally heated, and chilly in the winter. Don and I had separate bedrooms upstairs. That was a luxury after years of sharing bunk beds in one tiny room. This great space seemed luxurious that summer! That would soon change.

Only the downstairs had any heat at all. Some winter mornings, I could easily see every breath roll up to the ceiling. Fortunately, the chimney from the space heater downstairs ran through the wall. I drove a nail in that wall, and put my clothes, including socks, on a hanger in front of the chimney. I had nice toasty warm clothes awaiting me in the morning. I could dress in less than five seconds. Understandably, Don felt cheated, as there was no chimney in his room. But often he did have the sense to just sleep downstairs on the couch, in a totally warm room!

On those cold winter nights, Mom would place several bricks on top of our living room stove that burned wood or coal. She would then wrap them in towels and Don and I would carry them upstairs and place them in our beds. I helped a little for a few minutes.

A few years later, electric blankets hit the market and we each got one. That made a big difference. Don would usually crank his up to maximum heat and leave his windows open at night!

Watering the livestock was a challenge in the winter. The primitive plumbing in the barn quickly froze, requiring us to carry 5-gallon buckets of water form the house to the barn. About half way there, a snow drift usually formed if we had enough snow. We always had enough wind in Northwest Ohio! As soon as we hit that drift, the water would slosh onto our overalls (yes, we had bibbed ones) freezing instantly. Some days, they were frozen so solid they could have stood by themselves.

A Hellish Experience

One skill we acquired fairly quickly was learning how to plow a straight row. I’d have never learned that skill in Lima! Long before either of us qualified for a driver’s license, we were driving the tractor, even towing grain wagons to the mill.

One day Don was plowing in the field on our little Case tractor when he plowed up a hornets’ nest. They came charging after him. He looked back and saw a black cloud chasing him. As he neared, the house his adrenaline kicked in, and he leapt from the seat racing to the back door.

He was safe, after a very close call. Except in his haste, he had not taken the tractor out of gear, and it was rolling past the house and out into the field. It slowly made its way across the entire field, only coming to a halt when it rammed a fence on the far side.

When Dad got home, he asked where the tractor was, and Don pointed across the field. Dad observed, “You could never have plowed such a straight row on your own!”

The Last Crank Telephones

Kalida Telephone Company was the last phone company in Ohio to use crank telephones – well into the early 60s. To get the operator’s attention, we cranked the phone. We would tell her who you wanted to call – often just by name. But we each had a number. Ours was “13 on 1” — the 13th phone on line one. Each phone had its distinctive ring. Ours was “two long and one short” rings. Of course when anyone on the line received a call, all the other phones also rang.

Obviously, you didn’t want to say anything on those phones you didn’t want everyone else in the community to know. It was amusing to say “goodbye,” then pause to hear “click, click, click…” as the nosier neighbors hung up their phones. It was a hobby for some lonely souls.

On nasty winter days, our Kalida school superintendant would check in with our neighbor, Ed Reiman, who was superintendent of the Miller City School District. Then they would decide whether school was to be cancelled. On those mornings, we’d listen in if we heard the Reiman’s phone ringing. That gave us a head start over everyone else, as we didn’t have to wait for it to be announced on the radio.