THE OLD TIME FARM-HAND
With all my industries thus increasing, the necessity for more help became imperative. French and Judson had their hands more than full in the dairy barns, and had to be helped out by Thompson. Anderson could not give the swine all the attention they needed, and was assisted by Otto, who proved an excellent swineherd. Sam had the aid of Lars’s boys with the poultry, and very efficient aid it was, considering the time they could give to it. They had to be off with the market wagon at 7.40, and did not return from school until 4 P.M. Lars was busy in the carriage barn; and though we spared him as much as possible from driving, he had to be helped out by Johnson at such times as the latter could spare from his greenhouse and hotbeds. Zeb took care of the farm teams; but the winter’s work of distributing forage and grain, getting up wood and ice, hauling manure, and so forth, had to be done in a desultory and irregular manner. The spring work would find us wofully behindhand if I did not look sharp. I had been looking sharp since January set in, and had experienced, for the first time, real difficulties in finding anything like good help. Hitherto I had been especially fortunate in this regard. I had met some reverses, but in the main good luck had followed me. I had nine good men who seemed contented and who were all saving money,—an excellent sign of stability and contentment. Even Lars had not fallen from grace but once, and that could hardly be charged against him, for Jack and Jarvis had tempted him beyond resistance; while Sam’s nose was quite blanched, and he was to all appearances firmly seated on the water wagon. Really, I did not know what labor troubles meant until 1898, but since then I have not had clear sailing.
From my previous experience with working-men, I had formed the opinion that they were reasoning and reasonable human beings,—with peculiarities, of course; and that as a class they were ready to give good service for fair wages and decent treatment. In early life I had been a working-man myself, and I thought I could understand the feelings and sympathize with the trials of the laborer from the standpoint of personal experience. I was sorely mistaken. The laboring man of to-day is a different proposition from the man who did manual labor “before the war.” That he is more intelligent, more provident, happier, or better in any way, I sincerely doubt; that he is restless, dissatisfied, and less efficient, I believe; that he is unreasonable in his demands and regardless of the interests of his employer, I know. There are many shining exceptions, and to these I look for the ultimate regeneration of labor; but the rule holds true.