In the 1930s, a mighty work­horse helped this fam­ily sur­vive.

Grandpa’s beloved work­horse helped our fam­ily sur­vive the first year on the farm.

Country - - CONTENTS - BY LILA BIRCHFIELD El­gin, Illi­nois

In the sum­mer of 1935, my grand­par­ents Fred and Emma Ross bought an 80-acre farm 5 miles west of Shel­byville, Illi­nois. My fa­ther, Ju­lian, was 12 years old. The land came with a two-story white clap­board house and a red barn. A di­lap­i­dated corn­crib stood to the east of the barn. The 1935-’36 win­ter was bru­tally cold in cen­tral Illi­nois, but it gave way to one of the hottest sum­mers on record. By the end of May, the soil had warmed up for plant­ing so Grandpa and Dad hitched their only work­horse, Lindy, to a onebot­tom plow. Af­ter ready­ing the soil, Lindy pulled the planter to fin­ish the job of sow­ing corn. While work­horses were not pets, Dad loved Lindy. That sum­mer, Grandpa be­gan fix­ing up the old corn­crib. The build­ing had shifted a bit off its rock foun­da­tion and was miss­ing many wooden slats. Grandpa was fru­gal, so he and Dad dug rocks out of the fields, and un­der Lindy’s horse­power hauled them to the build­ing to re­in­force the stone foun­da­tion. Dad said that as they filled in the holes, they no­ticed bits of iron and other metal ob­jects un­der the corn­crib. Har­vest­time ar­rived af­ter a long, hot, dry sum­mer. Grandpa and Dad took the corn out of the field by hand. Grandpa wore a shuck­ing peg on his hand to cut each ear of corn from the stalk. Dad sim­ply wore gloves and broke off the ears. In an al­most syn­chro­nized move­ment, fa­ther and son cut the corn with their right hands and tossed the ears into the wagon with their left hands. The small ears of corn hit the high side of the wagon be­fore slid­ing to the bot­tom. It didn’t take long for them to fin­ish. As Grandpa had feared, that first har­vest barely filled the bot­tom of the wagon. Grandpa and Dad drove Lindy and the wagon to the corn­crib. While they may have felt blue over their di­min­ished har­vest, the weather on that early fall day was spec­tac­u­lar. The sky was crys­tal clear. Dad opened the back gate of the wagon and was in the process of scoop­ing a shov­el­ful of corn into the crib when he felt the wagon lurch to one side. He was knocked off bal­ance and fell, slid­ing out of the wagon and onto a pile of corn. Grandpa hollered, “Lindy’s down!” Dad pulled him­self up and scram­bled to the front of the wagon. On the ground, ly­ing on her side, was his beloved horse. She was dead. Grandpa called the vet­eri­nar­ian to check her out be­cause Lindy had never shown any signs of ill­ness. The vet sug­gested that light­ning could have caused her death. Dad hadn’t heard any thun­der­claps nor seen any light­ning flashes, but light­ning can travel miles from a thun­der­storm. Maybe all that the iron un­der the build­ing at­tracted the bolt that struck Lindy. Un­til the corn­crib was torn down in 1956, my fam­ily wit­nessed sev­eral more light­ning strikes around it.

Lila’s dad (Ju­lian, left, with sib­lings Richard and Eloise) adored Lindy, the farm’s work­horse.

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