When I started school, my shoes were simply gunny sacks I wore on my feet. In the wintertime, I often went barefooted because there weren’t enough gunny sacks to go around. Sometimes, I had to crawl under a haystack to get warm before I finished my long trip home.
One cold winter day, I fell in the snow and couldn’t get out. I froze. A lady who lived two miles away thawed me out. I had to walk home without any shoes nor coat. Dad just didn’t make enough money to buy them. When I got home that day, Dad saw the condition I was in. He looked at me and said, “You can’t go to school anymore.” I guess I was a little disappointed, because I was only in the sixth grade.
I didn’t have any money in the bank, so I kept it in my purse. A kid was lucky to have 10 cents to spend. If I saw a penny and picked it up, I’d be scared because they’d think I’d stolen it. Kids were supposed to take 15 cents to school to help fund it. I had to work mine out.
One day we saved a baby lamb from a ewe that was going to die. When the lamb grew up, we made him carry water for us for the distance of one-half mile. We were lucky because we had a windmill fed by a real deep spring.
One day Dad looked at me, “Would you like for me to take you to town to see if you can find a job?” He cranked up his Model T and we headed for town. Well, I didn’t find a job, but Dad stared at me, “I have an aunt that needs someone to work for her.”
He took me to see this aunt, I’ll let you work for me. How much pay do you want?” My response was simply, “All I want is a place to stay and a place to eat.”
When we traveled to her home, we had to take the dirt road which was more of a path lined with hedge posts than it was a road. I didn’t have anything but the clothes on my back. The next three months, I slept on the ground and ate out of the timber.
One day, Dad in his Model T drove up to see me. He drove his car into a gravel pile. It cost him $10 for someone to pull him out. That was a lot of money when people only made $15 to $20 a month.
As the years passed, I married Gilbert in spite of the hard times. The soil wasn’t producing any crops. Gilbert and I went to the timber and sawed lumber for our sawmill in order to have grocery money. He sawed the logs and tossed the sawed lumber in one pile and the slabs in another. We threw the slabs away, but sold the lumber.
The livestock were skin and bones. Many of the ditches reeked of the smell of dead animals. We had 50-60 laying hens, but still due to lack of proper feed, some days we’d be lucky to get two or three eggs. We had no choice, but to turn the hens out to eat worms. Still this wasn’t always successful because the chicken hawks would swoop down after the chickens.
The old Holstein’s bones were showing and they barely had enough milk to nurse their baby calves. We’d always depended on the cows milk and cream to buy our chicken feed, but it certainly wouldn’t do it now. In order to have feed for the cows, we’d cut down trees and let them eat the leaves. We sold the trees for the lumber.
Due to the feed shortage, butcher hogs had very little fat. We were fortunate to have fruit trees and the fruit had fallen to the ground. The hogs fed on what small fruit was there.
If anyone had a worse Depression than what I went through, I feel sorry for them. We didn’t know how we’d live.”
— written by Wilbur Bush of Gallatin, MO