Thursday, May 5, 2011

Life on a Mink Ranch

 This looks like "Honeysuckle"

Life on a Mink Ranch, 1948. I got to know goats well in 1948.  That was the summer my parents sent me to Virginia, to stay with my aunt, since my Dad didn't want to have me hanging around as a troublesome, worrisome fourteen year-old, in Port Arthur.
            My aunt  shared a farm with her daughter and her husband, and they ran a mink ranch, and kept a couple of cows, many chickens and ducks, about 20 cats, three dogs, five goats and a pet mink named Oliver Twist.  The farm was near the little town of White Stone, on the Northern Neck of Virginia, right on the Rappahannock River, near where it opened into Chesapeake Bay. 
            I enjoyed talking with my aunt and cousins, because they were very educated people, and they had a continual string of interesting visitors.  Cousin Gig had spent World War II (which had just ended three years before) as a merchant seaman on board the ships convoying Lend Lease arms to the Soviet Union at Murmansk. He had a lot of stories about those trips through Arctic waters!  (Thirty-three years later I visited Murmansk when I was assigned to duty in the USSR, and found that the older Russians still talked fondly about the Amerikanskis who brought them so much help during the war.)
            Every morning I would take the goats out to pasture and bring them back in the evening.  I can remember a young goat named Honeysuckle, and another old billy was named Monk. 
            After taking care of the goats, I would prepare a mix of ground-up fish and vegetables, along with vitamins and grain, and mix up about 75 pounds of this in a shiny wheelbarrow especially for this, and feed the minks by patting on a hamburger-sized blob of food on the top of each cage.  Some of the food would drop down below the cages, as well as all the mink mess, and we had a large flock of ducks to patrol this area and eat it up.  Of course they didn’t eat it all, and they made their own mess, so one of my jobs was to clean up under the cages once a week.
            They had 200 to 300 mink, and raising mink is a complicated and very tricky business.  The mink are very fickle and nervous.  When the kits have been born, a jet plane flying over the farm can spook the mothers into eating the babies.  At that time, the pelt of a male mink would bring about $50 and a female, which was smaller, about $30.
(And this was all before the Animal Rights Activists started their protests.)
            Then there was always weeding a large vegetable garden, and tending a buckwheat and field corn crop. 
            This was right on the river which was in the Tidewater  area, with salty seawater from Chesapeake Bay and so I often went crabbing at night.  I’d walk down to a pier, with big lights overhead.  The crabs would come up, attracted by the light, and I would scoop them up with a net on a long pole. 
            One night I scooped up a sea nettle along with a crab, and they have tentacles that sting like the devil.  When I flipped the crab into my bushel basket, a tentacle flipped into my eye, and man, did that hurt!  I wore an eye-patch for the next several days.
            I was never idle on that farm!
            For those who weren’t even alive in 1948, rural Virginia was really different from today.  First, it was segregated. Blacks were expected to sit at the back of a bus.  There were many black farmers in rural Virginia, and white farmers, too.  They all seemed pretty poor—no big mansions like you would see there now.

Washing clothes in the old days

            My aunt would take me with her when she took the wash to a black lady who lived on a nearby farm, and she would put the laundry in a big, black cauldron that she heated over a wood fire in the yard. She’d use blueing.  After she scrubbed the clothes by hand, she’d wring them by hand and starch them and hang them out on a line.  Then she’d iron them, and when we came to pick them up, they were beautiful!

NOTE:  In my Blog about Visit from the Red Cell in Japan, (April 23, 2011)  I wrote about Dick Marcinko.  In the wake of the killing of Osama bin Laden by SEAL Team Six,  it is reported that Marcinko started Team Six in 1980.
"It's a self-contained unit that can go any place in the world and literally do nothing but kick ass," said Richard Marcinko, a former Navy SEAL.

Now here are some books and papers the Personal Navigator offers:

Adriance Buckeye and Adriance Mowers and Reapers, 1904 Price-list of extra parts 1903 Poughkeepsie, NY: Adriance, Platt & Co. Catalogue for parts for mowers, reapers, with detailed drawings showing gears, blades, springs, more gears, springs, pinions, screws, scythes, oil cups, bushings, nuts, wrenches, etc. 36 pp. 15 x 23.6 cm. paper booklet, cover lightly soiled, good. (8046) $40.00. Farming

Farming As It Is! An Original Treatise on Agriculture with the Rights and Duties of Farmers by Pinkham, T.J.         1860 Boston, MA: Bradley, Dayton and Company.   Pinkham takes on the dark influences upon New England farming. First, the Agricultural Society of Massachusetts, “which collects an annual stipend from the Commonwealth and the aristocratic farmers of State Street  have a good dinner, and do nothing more!”  Next is "Happiness"-- and Pinkham lists various towns in the Commonwealth with their population, then the number of paupers, insane persons and idiots. Much discussion of manure.   Incompetence of the Board of Agriculture. "They are fond of nice roasts, porter-house steaks, and plum pudding..."  Still more on the perfidy of the Board of Agriculture (Chas. L. Flint, Secretary) ...Author clearly has an axe to grind.  393 pp. 12 x 19 cm. Blindstamped black cloth on board, spine torn, biopredation on cloth on back cover, poor.  (5221) $28.00. Farming.

Massachusetts Agriculture: Twenty-fourth Annual Report of the Secretary of the Massachusetts Board of Agriculture, 1876; with an appendix containing reports of delegates to visit county exhibitions By Flint, Charles L., Secretary of the Board of Agriculture. 1877. Boston, MA: Albert J. Wright, State Printer. Frontispiece chromo-lithograph of Plymouth Rock fowls from breeding stock of Edward A. Samuels, Waltham, MA. Report notes that the American Centennial Year of 1876 has passed without bringing any material relief to the general depression of the business and financial  interests of the Commonwealth or of the country. Remedies against the Colorado Potato-Beetle. Paris Green. People of Philadelphia are much better served with milk supply than are people of Boston. Discussion on the home: "Kept rooms, curtained and fine, and hung with photographs and smelling of the varnish of new furniture you never use, are dreadful places. In the country.. they smack of funerals, or of Dorcas societies..." Discussion on manures and chemical fertilizers by Hon. Levi Stockbridge. The Danvers Onion is "probably the best onion that has ever been grown for profit." Abstract of Returns of the Agricultural Societies of Massachusetts. Engraving shows Rye and Onion Smut and spores of Corn Smut. . 207 pp. 15 x 23 cm. Black cloth on board, blindstamped design, very good. (1610) $29.00. Farming

Park's Floral Magazine, 1899, bound copy of 12 monthly issues; A Monthly Magazine of Floriculture 1899 Libonia, PA: Park's Floral Magazine. ~432 pp. 14 x 24 cm. Marvelous collection of offerings for flowers and advertisements. Tuberous Begonias and Hybrid Gloxinias, Acalypha Sanderiana, Fragrant Calla and St. Brigid Anemone, Golden-Rayed Japan Lily, Tulips, Pompom Hyacinths,  Roemer's Giant Prize Pansies, and much more.  Ads offer women with weak lungs to get help, thin women to get fat, weak women made strong, bright and hearty; buy a Wing Concert Grand Upright Piano, New Cure for Kidney  and Bladder Diseases, Order the Slocum System of Treatment now for cure of consumption, grip and all lung diseases; Dr. Rice's Cure for Rupture; Send one dollar for 100-piece vitreous white china dinner set from Sears, Roebuck & Co. Send for this wonderful shrub--cures kidney and bladder diseases, rhoumatism, Gravel, Bright's disease, dropsy, too frequent passing water, & c. from Church Kidney Cure Company. Cloth on board, 12 issues of Park's bound, very good. (2232)  $46.00. Farming/Gardening/Advertising

 Plates from "Wild Flowers" by Homer D. House

Wild Flowers; Three hundred and sixty-four full-color illustrations with complete descriptive text; popular edition in one volume, Second printing, September 1935 by Homer D. House. 1935 New York, NY: The MacMillan Co This edition is based on a work of similar title originally issued by the State of New York. This work is reproduced by permission of the Board of Regents of the State of New York. Marvelous introductory description, 24 pp. Descriptions and color plates include Families: Cat-tail, Water Plantain, Arum, Spiderwort, Bunchflower, Lily, Orchid, Buckwheat, Poppy, Fumewort, Mustard, Pitcher Plant, Virginia Stonecrop, Saxifrage, Rose, Apple, Pea, Geranium, Wood Sorrel, Jewelweed, Milkwort, Mallow, Violet, Loosestrife, Wintergreen, Heath, many more.. 362 pp. 23.5 x 29.7 cm. Light green buckram cloth on board, spine lightly sunfaded; gilt lettering. Half-title page shows diagonal crease, no dj, very good. (7987) $58.00. Scientific/Nature

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1 comment:

  1. Sam, all of your stories are so interesting. This is a great way to get it out, in bite-size chunks. I remember that we went to Florida in the summer of 1948, when you were 14. Did you go after or before Florida? Summer is a great time to go to Florida, especially if you want to bring back coconuts to freshen up in the back of an unairconditioned Nash 600.