They were among the earliest of my patients, and they are easily first among our friends. I have watched more than a half-dozen of their children from infancy to adult life, and this alone would be a strong bond; but in addition to this is the fact that the whole family, from father to youngest child, possess in a wonderful degree that subtle sense of true camaraderie which is as rare as it is charming.
The Kyrles lived in the city, but they were foot-free, and we could count on having them often. Four Oaks was to be, if we had our way, a country home for them almost as much as for us. Indeed, one of the rooms was called the Kyrles’ room, and they came to it at will. Enough about our friends. We must go back to the farm interests, which are, indeed, the only excuse for this history.
THE HEADMAN’S JOB
Our life at Four Oaks began in earnest in January, 1897. Even during the winter months there was no lack of employment and interest for the Headman. I breakfasted at seven, and from that time until noon I was as busy as if I were working for $20 a month. The master’s eye is worth more than his hand in a factory like mine. My men were, and are, an unusual lot,—intelligent, sober, and willing,—but they, like others, are apt to fall into routine ways, and thereby to miss points which an observing proprietor would not overlook.
The cows, for instance, were all fed the same ration. Fifteen pounds of mixed grains was none too much for the big Holstein milk-makers, who were yielding well and looking in perfect health; but the common cows were taking on too much flesh and falling off in milk. I at once changed the ration for these six cows by leaving out the corn entirely and substituting oat straw for alfalfa in the cut feed. The change brought good results in five of the cows; the other one did not pick up in her milk, and after a reasonable trial I sold her.
The herd was doing excellently for mid-winter,—the yield amounted to a daily average of 840 pounds throughout the month, and I was able to make good my contract with the middleman. I could see breakers ahead, however, and it behooved me to make ready for them. I decided to buy ten more thoroughbreds in new milk, if I could find them. I wrote to the people from whom I had purchased the first herd, and after a little delay secured nine cows in fresh milk and about four years old. This addition came in February, and kept my milk supply above the danger point. Since then I have bought no cows. Thirty-four of these thoroughbreds are still at Four Oaks—two of them have died, and three have been sold for not keeping up to the standard—and are doing grand service. Their numbers have been reenforced by twenty of their best daughters, so there are at this writing fifty-four milch cows and five yearling heifers in the herd. Most of the calves have been disposed of as soon as weaned. I have no room for more stock on my place, and it doesn’t pay to keep them to sell as cows. Four Oaks is not a breeding farm, but a factory farm, and everything has to be subordinated to the factory idea.