Rick Houser:
When a wrong was a right

Rick Houser

As we all learn or have already learned sometimes what appears to be wrong can turn out to be way better than you ever thought it would be. This happened to my brother and me one year when we were farming. I had just graduated from high school and Ben was preparing to go back to college to get his law degree. He at the time had his bachelors in education and had been teaching fourth grade at Moscow school.

Rick Houser

We had gone together as partners and the plan was to increase the farming operation as I had been increasing each year as I went through school and was farming at full time. But now with a partner and one in need of tuition and living money the operation was going to have to enlarge at a much faster pace than it had been. But Ben and I were young and felt more than up to the challenge. So we took on the increase from five acres of tobacco to ten acres. We enlarged the cattle herds to have more livestock going to market on a more frequent basis and even about 60 acres of corn when in the past it had been 40 acres. The idea was to sell the extra corn to farmers we knew who would need some corn. Along with my custom hay baling business that would put some bucks in our pockets as the other crops grew to harvest.

So we had a plan and each of us knew what was going to have to be done and there wouldn’t be any time to argue like brothers. This we agreed before the first day of the growing year. (Dad said we had to agree or we would fail.) When the spring gave way to good weather we hit the fields on the run and worked six days a week from sun up until sundown on most all days. We accomplished a lot but that much work can make for grumpy boys. So when a rainy day would occur we took a break and a needed one for certain. Finally on a late April Saturday we began to plant our corn crops. We had bought a new 2 row Ford corn planter and since it was new we had to adjust the settings to their proper setting and make certain all were in align so when we hit the field no interruptions would come into play. Since there was a lot to look at it was decided that since Ben had been the teacher he would read the manual and tell us how to set things.

The sun was rising and we were getting anxious to begin and we began to hurry going through the manual check list. So much were we in a hurry that when we got to the boxes that held the seed corn a major error was made. At the bottom of what we referred to as the seed boxes where the seed left the box to enter the ground there was a circular disc with notches that would take each kernel to be planted. These notches were spaced to make certain the grains were spaced evenly. But on this day and in our hurry Ben didn’t read closely and he placed the plates in upside down! Honestly they did fit ok so we didn’t notice.

Once we were done with the planter we took all the equipment and fertilizer and seeds we would need for our first field. This field was a little over 7.5 acres and when beginning it seemed the process begins slowly and with smooth sailing speed was gained until you could see the new rows taking over the place where bare land had just been. (A look that brings a smile of satisfaction to any farmers face.) I drove the planter and Ben kept the fertilizer and seed coming as we worked as a team. But a funny thing was happening. It seemed we were going through our seed corn faster than we thought we should. But we kept on planting and near the end of this field knew something just wasn’t correct. So when we were done and we returned back to the barn yard we opened the seed boxes only to find out that when those plates are put in upside down the seed pours out and into the ground at a pace of almost continual speed. We both were very upset and knew we were going to have to disc up the field and plant it correctly. But before that could be done a rain stopped us and the crop began to sprout. And sprout it did! It came thicker than anything I had ever seen before. Of course I was ready to blame Ben for this and he was unable to deny it since he had done it but we agreed we were stuck with it.

We corrected the plates and completed the rest of the planting and did so making it a fast done task. We set out all of the tobacco and began raising that as we began to bale hay and straw etc. In those days an acre of corn would yield somewhere between 85 bushels to 115 bushels. In that range was the range for some profit. The tobacco was growing at a pace that was going to give us a bumper crop. All the crops that year grew very well. But for Ben and me we watched that 7.5 acre field as it grew. For some reason that corn grew far exceeding any of the rest we had planted. We knew it looked great but figured when the ears began to grow there wouldn’t be enough nutrition or space for them to fill out well. Well surprise! They didn’t just fill out the field burst with abundance of fully filled out ears and of greater size also. When we picked that field the old Wood Brothers one row picker wasn’t built to handle the yield it was harvesting. I spent a lot of my time having to stop to allow the corn to move through it. When we were done we realized we had yielded 150 bushels to the acre! This was a first for us and most of the neighbors I think. With that yield we earned some greatly needed money and by the time we finished telling about this yield the error of the plates being put in wrong was somehow forgotten and really wasn’t an important part of our successful ability at farming. You see accidents aren’t always accidents. We just were succeeding backwards.

Rick Houser grew up on a farm near Moscow in Clermont County and loves to share stories about his youth and other topics. He may be reached at houser734@yahoo.com.