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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Saline County Century Farm: Mullins family recalls previous generation's technology advances

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Jack and Fern Dell (Lewis) Buie were married in 1933. They lived their entire life on the family farm south of Marshall. In addition to farming, they operated a bus route for Elgin School. In 1993 they celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary.
(Contributed photo)
Darlene Mullins can remember her father, Jack (James Harvey) Buie working the ground on their family farm south of Marshall with horses.

"Then he bought a tractor," she said, recalling it was a Ford. "I remember his first corn picker was a one-row corn picker. Can you imagine picking corn with a one row picker now?"

However, she said the corn picker, pulled behind the tractor, was a big step up from picking corn by hand. Later, he purchased a two-row mounted picker.

Today, his grandson, Duane Mullins, lives in the same house and raises cattle, hay and a few chickens on the 94-acre farm where Jack was born and lived his entire life.

The home and chicken house are still standing, but other old barns have been lost to several storms through the years.

In November, the land was recognized as one of Saline County's newest Century Farms for belonging to the same family for 100 years or more.

Family ownership of the farm traces back to 1896, and was operated by Darlene's grandparents, Harvey Christopher and Ethel Virginia (Chapman) Buie. Jack, an only child, took over at age 16, when his father died.

In 1993, Jack and Fern Buie celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary.
(Contributed photo)
Jack and Fern Dell Lewis, were married in 1933. They raised corn, soybeans, wheat and sometimes, oats.

They also kept cows -- including three milk cows -- pigs and horses.

For 19 years, they owned a school bus and Jack drove the route for nearby Elgin School.

"I tell you, kids loved him," Darlene said. "When my mom and dad celebrated their 60th anniversary, you've never seen so many kids (at the celebration.)"

Although her father died in 1994 and her mother two years later, Darlene has many memories of growing up on the farm with few modern conveniences.

"We had no electricity in the house until probably 1944 or '45," she said, adding their refrigerator at the time was a wooden ice box. "You had to go to town and get a block of ice and put it in that box."

An aerial view of the Buie farm south of Marshall, shows the farm when Jack and Fern Dell Buie lived there. Their grandson, Duane Mullins still lives at the farm in the house, which has been there since at least 1896 when the farm was purchased into the family. The home and a chicken house are the only original buildings left. The farm was recently named a Saline County Century Farm.
(Contributed photo)
They didn't get indoor plumbing until the 1960s, so baths were taken in a galvanized tub by the stove.

"In wintertime, it was good if you washed your hair once a month," she said. "They always thought it was too cold and you'd take pneumonia. Now you wash your hair once or twice a day."

When they got indoor plumbing, her father dug a basement under the home to keep the pipes from freezing.

"They put it under the living room and the kitchen and he hand dug the basement out himself," she said, adding some neighbors helped. "He got it to where he could get his tractor under there and got a scraper."

Before that, laundry was done by hand every Monday, no matter the weather.

"You used a ringer-type washer. Then you had two tubs. You rinsed once, then you rinsed again," she said, adding she wasn't sure how they even got the clothes clean because they used the same water. "We started with the white clothes and the last thing we did were the overalls."

She also remembers hanging the clothes out on the line during the cold winter.

"Your fingers would freeze hanging them out," Mullins said. "Then you'd have to pry them off the line to get them into the house. They would be stiff as a board. You'd bring them in to where we had the wood stove."

Mullins also remembers their first phone.

"It was mounted on the wall and you'd have to crank it to get the operators," she said.

"It was an eight-party line," she said, explaining each family had a different ring. "You never could get the phone, because somebody was always talking. It was horrible."

She said they then went to four-party, then two-party and eventually to a private phone line.

Like most farm families of the time, they were very self-sufficient.

Darlene Mullins (second from right) and one of her sons, Duane, (far left) were presented a sign at the annual Century Farm Celebration and Recognition in November. Also pictured are three of Mullins' three grandchildren (front), along with County commissioner Monty Fenner, Farm Bureau President Vince Buck and Saline County Extension specialist Amanda Struchtemeyer. Duane still lives on the farm which has been in the family since 1896.
(Marcia Gorrell/Democrat-News)
"You raised chickens, you dressed chickens, butchered your own beef, butchered your own hogs," Mullins said.

The rest of their food was provided by their large garden. Her mother was thrifty, not wanting to waste anything, so she would can everything they could grow.

"You'd have so many vegetables, but that's all you ate," she said. "You didn't go to town to buy food. You raised it and you canned it."

They didn't have a freezer, but instead had a locker in town where they would take 25 to 30 chickens at a time, after they were butchered and dressed. The locker is also where they kept other vegetables and meat, until they were ready to use them.

On Saturday nights, they would go into Marshall to sell eggs and cream. With that money they would buy their feed and any staples they didn't grow or make themselves, such as flour and sugar.

At the feed store, they would go to the back room and pick out brightly-colored cloth feedsacks for clothes.

"I had many seedsack clothes," she said, adding her mother, also an avid quilter, would sew the outfits. "You didn't buy material."

She marvels now at her mother's ability to bake without the regulated heat of today's ovens.

"I can never figure out how my my mother baked bread or pies in a wood kitchen stove without burning them," she said.

Her mother and other neighborhood women used their cooking skills every summer when the threshing crew came.

After cutting their wheat and shocking it, a man she remembers as Mr. Herndon would travel through the neighborhood with his threshing machine. The men would travel from farm to farm to help with the work and the women would feed the crews

"They would take sawhorses and boards for tables and set up under the shade tree," she said. "They'd have fried chicken and mashed potatoes, green beans, whatever they had they'd cook that. Pies -- they'd make 10 or 12 pies. Then they would feed them again in the afternoon."

"Then we had all the dishes to do, you didn't have paper plates," she said. "It was a job."

Although she wasn't older than 7 at the time, she would carry water to the crews on her pony.

"They had big jugs and they'd wrap them in gunny sacks and fill them full and away you'd go to give them water," she said.

As an only child (an older sister died in infancy), Darlene helped her father in the field when needed.

"I'd drive the tractor, chase cows and haul in hay," she said. They baled square bales and later very small round bales, which they'd throw onto a hay trailer using a hay hook.

She still remembers her father sowing wheat, using a horse-pulled wagon.

She also remembers him sowing wheat by hand, with a bag seeder hung around his neck.

All of the changes remind Darlene of how different life is today from when she was growing up.

"People don't realize how lucky we have it now," she said.

Darlene has three sons, Duane, Kevin and the late Danny Mullins and one daughter, Renee Holmes. She also has 10 grandchildren.

Contact Marcia Gorrell at mgorrell@marshallnews.com

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