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CHUCK HINMAN, IJMA: The Kinney Farm, Part I

This It's Just Me Again column was originally sent out by Chuck Hinman on May 13, 2005. It's a long read, a curl up with your Kindle on a Sunday with CM and savor. It's about a special farm, one without the glitter, but with lore, legend, lives which made it so very special
The next earlier Chuck Hinman column on CM: CHUCK HINMAN: It's Just Me No. 048: Trouble in OK Corral

by Chuck Hinman

My name is Chuck Hinman. I am 83 years old and I have an insatiable interest in writing memories of my life. I am the son of Arley and Merle (Mouser) Hinman and the brother of Bob Hinman and Joy Ann English. My folk's farm was a half mile east of the Kinney farm and I grew up and lived there from 1926 to 1939. After the war came along I moved from that area never to return to live. But I have many memories of that area and time "among my souvenirs."

And in my interest in writing I never wanted to stop until I wrote what I know about the title of this article, "Kinney, Nebraska, and Kinney Farm Lore."

Other than my own memories I have "picked the minds" of two authorities on the subject, Bus Norris and his sister Irene (Norris) Bruensbach, both current residents of Wymore, Nebraska, with their spouses, Margaret Norris and Merle Bruensbach.

Bus Norris is 95 and Irene is "getting there." And who better than Bus and Irene to talk about the subject of Kinney, Nebraska, and Kinney Farm Lore. They lived there!

I always felt the Kinney farm had more things of interest than the average Nebraska farm. No, it didn't have the glitter of modern super-farms with their Morton Buildings but it had the interesting things and activities of which memories are made -- Americana at it's best!

The owners of the Kinney Farm were Guy and Gracha Kinney. They had a daughter, Blanche. The Kinney's were pillars of the community. The farm was busy enough they needed a hired man. That hired man was Bus Norris, a neighbor kid who at the time was 17 years old. He lived with the Kinney's. In later years when Guy and Gracha moved to Wymore in retirement, Bus continued to farm the place until his own retirement and move to Wymore where he and wife, Margaret presently live.

What made the Kinney farm unique?

Well, take for example -- in my childhood, there was a food storage cave along the west entrance to the farmstead. According to Bus and Irene, the cave is still there. Perhaps a cave isn't uncommon but beyond the cave there was an ice storage shed, not there now, but it was unique back then. The shed was 6 to 8 feet below ground level. Bus said kids liked to play on the roof over the ice shed because they could get on the roof without a ladder!Harvesting the ice in the dead of winter was unique. The ice came from the Blue River south of landmark -- Raleigh Hill. They sawed the ice with cross cut saws in approximately 50 to 100 pound blocks. That size kept better when packed below ground level with straw and sawdust. It lasted until "into the summer" depending on how deep it was piled and weather conditions. The neighbors all helped in the harvest of the ice as well as used it in their ice boxes at home. Bear in mind, this is before the time of rural electricity and refrigerators.Bus said that usually someone fell in the icy water while the harvesting was going on -- one came up out of the water with his hat still on spitting water!

Then as the driveway circled around the house there was a blacksmith shop with a forge. It wasn't much of a building, but when the forge was in use, it was so hot in that building you didn't want much siding -- just a roof to protect from the elements. I remember as a kid seeing Bus or Guy Kinney hammering away on a plow share that had been heated to red hot in the forge. I remember parts of horse harness hanging in the blacksmith shop, probably for repair. In no way was this farmstead a "showplace" for sissy farmers. It was a WORKING FARM and the work was often hot and dirty.

Continuing around the driveway you came to a stone building which is still there. Back then it was used mainly for butchering livestock. It was common, as with ice harvesting, for several neighbors to get together to help each other butcher. It was done in the coldest of winter. The cow or hog was killed, bled, skinned, gutted, and then hung by halves from a high enclosed place with block and tackle to keep varmints from feasting. After it had frozen stiff and cured the appropriate time (a few days), it was brought down to ground level and the neighbor men and women regathered to aid in cutting up the meat for canning and making "goodies" such as head cheese, liverwurst, and other delicacies. Organs including the heart, liver, brains, tongue were not wasted. I have eaten sliced tongue. Although not one of my favorites, brains were scrambled with eggs and liked by some. Not me -- ooh! shudder-shudder!

If a hog was butchered, I remember seeing the sausage processed at the Kinney's. The casing in which the sausage meat was packed was the animal's lengthy intestines. It sounds gross unless you have seen it done. The intestine is ridded and turned inside out. Don't ask me how they did that trick. I haven't a clue. There was a need for a lot of water in this process.

The neighbor women took the long intestine and with sharp butcher knives carefully scraped the membrane lining from the inverted intestine. Then it is rinsed and washed any number of times. The casing is squeaky clean before it is threaded on a metal tube at the bottom of the sausage press. The seasoned sausage is forced by the action of the sausage press into the cleaned gut. Finally it is cut in links ready for canning.

Farm butchering takes a lot of people as well as time -- but the camaraderie was what made Nebraska farm life special. The Kinney farm was in the forefront of wholesome living typical of the day.

This rock building which incidentally still stands, was not used for smoking meat but it was the place where bacon and hams were salted down in a barrel or hung away from scavengers. Bus added that back (north) of this rock building was a pressure tank that was the water supply for the house.

Around the corner to the east driveway was the huge 3-story barn. Nebraska is the home of many unusual large historic barns, the Kinney barn being one of those. At first glimpse, it would appear that this is just a large barn with a hay mow. But the ground level fell off sharply on the east and south side of the barn and there was a third level to the barn that wasn't obvious from the road. This was the cow barn. The cows were milked there. I don't remember ever being in that part of the barn.

On the northeast corner of the front of the barn, there was the remnant of what had been a silo. The main entrance to the barn was on the North side. The barn was unique in that the second floor, or the hay mow was served by a two-direction stairway -- not a built-in ladder as most barns had. I was always fascinated with a large horse-drawn sleigh stored in the upstairs of the barn. I don't remember that sleigh anywhere but in storage. I am sure that in earlier days there is an interesting story about it. Bus said that he supposed the sleigh sold when the Kinney's had their farm sale before retirement.

The ground floor was for the horses and mules. Guy Kinney was the only one in the neighborhood who had mules. Bus said their names (horses/mules) were Jinny, Maggie, Pete, and Jack. It has always struck me that farm animals, particularly horses and mules were part of the family and when they passed, it was like the loss of a family member.

Bus didn't mention it but I remember that probably around 1935 or so there was a terrible sleeping-sickness epidemic that affected horses. And most people's horses succumbed to this dreadful disease. Doc Walsh, the local veterinarian was kept busy night and day doctoring the sick horse population but it was a losing battle. All were eventually lost to the disease also called encephalitis.

It was a sad time and tractors and tractor drawn farm machinery soon filled the gap and horses and horse-drawn machinery became obsolete before our eyes. Tons of harness became obsolete. It was a sign of the time.

But I digress. The Kinney barn was multi-functional. Besides being a working barn, it was the original "party barn" -- although I admit THAT is my term -- not Bus's or the Kinney's. Our neighborhood was unusual in that the neighbors got along so well and did so many work details together. So it is not difficult to understand that when the work was done, they partied together.

Some of the things we did frequently was to have Friday night pot luck suppers together. On the spur of the moment ice cream parties were common. We had all the ingredients. And the piece de resistance was the Halloween parties staged at one time or another by the "gang." More about those later.

Not all the neighbors were regular participants but these are the names of the ones I remember -- Guy and Gracha Kinney and daughter Blanche, their hired man, Bus Norris, not the Glen Prices, Arley and Merle Hinman and kids, Bob, Chuck, and Joy Ann, Dill and Allie Dillow and their kids Dot, Bob, Sam, and Fern, sometimes Aunt Fern Stahl (Allie's sister), not the Brogans, not the Earnharts, and perhaps infrequently Albert and Zazel Hurtz and daughter, June Peggy, and many, many years ago, Erie and Marie Douglas who lived just east of Dillow's, George and Myrtle Fulton and kids Velma and Marjorie and later Don and Robert, and last of all Loree and Merle Douglas and daughter Blythe. They were most distant from the neighborhood but nevertheless considered part of "THE NEIGHBORHOOD GANG" who partied at the drop of a hat.

I can remember in the very earliest days of those get-togethers, it included putting the babies and little tykes to bed on the front room bed where the overcoats were stored, rolling up the rug, if any, and dancing to Victrola music with 78 records. Our house had an ideal large living room floor suitable for the "in" dance steps of the day. I was so young, I have no idea what they were.

And then there were the Halloween extravaganzas which most every member of the gang hosted one year or another. They weren't for the faint of heart!

One year, when the Kinney's hosted the Halloween party, Bus said he helped ready the Kinney barn which was made to order for such a whing-ding! Bus recounted making tunnels in the loose hay in the hay mow. Rather than coming up into the mow the easy way, by the wide stairway, they put up a ladder and everyone women, men, grandmas, and kids climbed the ladder through a window into the barn -- then on their hands and knees through the scary tunnel. Bus said there were two old setting hens along the obstacle course whose permanent home was in the barn naturally so they added some scariness to the party atmosphere.

I can still hear the laughter and screams of participants. It was ear-splitting but there was no question everyone was having the time of their lives. The worries of the day, and there were many, were left at home. This was party time -- and believe you me, the gang knew how to have fun when the time came!

Bus couldn't recall all the other things they thought of to scare the "bjeebers" out of everyone. I'm sure there were kerosene lanterns around for some eerie light.

When everyone completed the scary obstacle course through both the ground floor and the hay mow, they were doused with a jar of water colored with mustard when they emerged. I didn't remember that. You had to be a good sport and everyone was.

One of the hilarious things that happened was when Loree Douglas (Blythe Douglas Taylor's mom) got caught somewhere in the course and had to be untangled from the ogreish setting to the howling delight of everyone present. But Loree was a "party animal" in her day as was her husband Merle. That, of course, was the subject of much laughter at later parties -- "remember when Loree -- ha ha ha etc."

I remember being at gang parties in the Kinney's HOUSE, as well. They had a piano in the front room and there was a piece of sheet music entitled "When It's Springtime In the Rockies" -- a popular song of the day. What memories!

Finally, years later we were having a Sunday noon pot-luck dinner in the wide front entrance of the barn on the ground level. The Kinney's only daughter Blanche (later Cameron) who was older than the rest of the gang member's kids -- had gone off to Wyoming to pursue her fortunes. But she was home for this particular get-together.

It was rare at the time for a woman to smoke cigarettes. But Blanche was her own person and she "lit up." I was a young impressionable teenager at the time and all of us ornery teenage boys gathered around her to watch her smoke and long for the day when we could sneak a puff! Blanche only encouraged that forbidden desire by blowing smoke in our faces to our delight.

And who thought people of that time didn't have any fun! It was a grand time and I bring it out for enjoyment frequently from "among my souvenirs." This was the forerunner of what has been dubbed "The Greatest Generation."

There is truly "no place like Nebraska" ! I was fortunate to have my roots there!

Now after a brief intermission, we will proceed with Part 2 -- Kinney, Nebraska, Lore.

Chuck Hinman sent this in an email dated Friday, May 13, 2005. -ROBERT STONE.

This story was posted on 2012-01-08 05:20:15
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