Tuesday, August 23, 2011


A while back, we entertained a few questions about growing beans as an agricultural crop "back in the day," and Chris recalled her dad telling her about hoeing beans when he was a teenager. She volunteered to ask him to refresh her memory and report back. Here's what she said:

"I had a chance to ask Dad about his experience hoeing beans.  He did it the summers he was 14 and 15, so that would have been 1937 and 1938.  He said he worked on Central Ridge.  The pay was $2 for a 10-hour day hoeing, and $2.50 for a 12-hour day during harvest.  He said he slept on the floor in a tool shed using a couple of quilts he'd brought, and that the food was good and provided as part of the job.  

"He said again that the farmer carried his checkbook with him (I was thinking it was a wallet), and if someone didn't do a good job on the weeds or sharpened his hoe too often, he'd pay him off on the spot and hire someone waiting on the sidelines.  Dad said each hoer had his own row and worked his way down.  He said he thought it was a good job to get.  I can't imagine.  Times are so different now.  I think he said the name of one of the farmers was Mossman, and he mentioned another but it wasn't familiar to me. 
"Oh, and he said they were 'regular' white or red beans, sounding like small red beans and navy beans."
That's just great information. And you know, hoeing isn't an easy job. You have to get down under the weed and lift it out by the root, not just chop off the top. And hoeing acres of beans! Well -- it boggles my mind. And to think we had the kids do it! I'm sure it was a good kid job. Not only is he earning money, but he's eating and sleeping away from home.What could be better? 

Now I wonder how many times the beans had to be hoed between planting and harvesting. Does anyone know?
Neighbor Pete recently recounted how his dad used to tell him stories about the good old days at Gilbert. "You know," Pete said, "I got so tired of hearing about those things. Dad would tell it over and over and when he got real old and began to make mistakes in his stories, I'd correct him. And now do you think I can remember those old stories? I would give anything to hear Dad tell me again." I suppose it's that way for most of us. We should do more oral history work.
[The picture above is of my childhood friend, Chris, with her dad, Harry. Harry and Mary Lou live in the house they built where Chris mostly grew up, and they're the only people I can think of in my old hometown who are still right where they were when I was a child. I'm comforted by that.] KW


Leah said...

Such sweet faces. Thanks for the wonderful photo of Chris & Harry.

Now you might think this is a really dumb question...When & how were the beans dried before getting to market?

Kathy said...

That's a good picture of Chris and her dad and I agree that both faces carry appealing expression. (I'm not sure Harry would like it if I called his face sweet.)

I have to admit I don't know about the drying of the beans. Perhaps this info will come to light in some way . . .

Hallie said...

This is TOTALLY off topic, but look at Aunt Chris' fun watch. I can't quite make out what the face of the watch is--I can make something out, but I don't want to be silly with my guess.

Kathy said...

I enlarged the photo and zoomed in on the watch. Then I picked my computer up so that I could view the screen upside down. However, the results were inconclusive. When she comes here, she will have to enlighten us.

Hallie said...

Well...I'll tell you what I see. I see a blonde girl with a bow in her hair. Above her head it looks like it says "oh no". Ha ha! Now Aunt Chris can tell me how far off I am.

drMolly, the BeanQueen said...

WOW!! and here are the answers right from the BeanQueen's brain, LOL.
Odds are the beans would have had to be hoed many times. Beans are not good competitors with weeds and need to be "weed-free" until they set their crop of seed.
dry beans were allowed to dry on the vine, but before they started to shatter (pods breaking open) they would be undercut and piled into rows for the thresher to pick up and thresh out the beans.
Dry beans were grown out here until the disease problems got too bad to allow a good harvest. Beans are a good "cash-crop" out in the mid-west (where most dry beans are now produced).
If the beans need a bit of help to be a bit drier before being sent off to the processors they would be dried in a manner similar to wheat, ie. gas fired drying areas/sheds.
any more ????? just give me a ring.

Chris said...

Ha, I'm not sure Dad would like it said he has a sweet face, either! :-) But I do love that picture so much!

Hallie, you are correct! It's a Mary Engelbriet watch I got from my brother and his wife years ago and I just love it. It's her signature face--Ann Estelle--with her hands over her mouth and the words "OH.NO" above.

Dad did tell me about the harvest. After the rows were cut there would be three people working together over several rows: the center person would be the piler, starting with his row, and the other two would bring in their rows to be ready for the thresher. They would do this every so far down the rows. Dr. Molly's comment reminded me when I read it.

Kathy said...

What great local bean history we have garnered, what with the bean doc and the oral history. My dad glossed over such details. People just don't realize how quickly this info is lost.

Our former operator, Neil Miller, told me that beans were a good crop until the desert country in central Washington was irrigated. That area had better access to market, so it was no longer feasible to grow beans here. This is the first I heard about disease.

But -- we still grow garbanzos. Are garbanzos different? And of course, we still grow lentils on the Palouse, right? At least, they still have a lentil fest, don't they?

Thanks for telling us about the watch, Chris.

drMolly, the BeanQueen said...

Oh yes 'garbs' & lentils are different genus of plants: to-whit garbs are also called chick-peas and are genus Cicer, lentils are genus Lens - mostly different requirements and different diseases, etc. And you are right about the water requirements, too. That is why beans are mostly grown in areas that have natural summer rainfall (not too much). However, beans (Phaseolus type) are grown in southern ID as it is an area where most of the diseases can't live due to the dryness. Thusly seed beans (for seed industry) can be grown there and be certified 'disease free' - providing of course that they really are, LOL.

Kathy said...

We have spoken before of rain. Regionally, we used to have more rainfall in this area -- even in my lifetime. Neighbor Pete has said, "Yes, we can grow tomatoes here; of course, we have to water." When I questioned that, he explained that it used to rain.

Thanks for providing additional enlightenment on beans, Dr. Molly.