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The Old Switchboard
Part Eleven
by Romaine Walburn & Maricia Mlynek

Updated on Wednesday*:

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Winter Gardening

The war years were hard on the little farm community of Key. Ration stamps didn’t go nearly far enough. When “Victory Gardens” were encouraged, the community joined in with 20 million other American families.

They planted everything they could get in the way of seeds and cuttings. No frills, just potatoes, corn, tomatoes, beans, peas and cabbage. Gardening became a major part of the areas summer activity.
When the war was over, the huge gardens dwindled to pre-war size. During the years of 1946-50, some families hardly gardened at all. Most were tired of all the extra work. Things would change again due to the winter of 1950.

Eastern Ohio was buried under one of the biggest snow storms of the century. One of the few bright spots was a couple of seed catalogs, Henry Fields and Burpee. These were successful in challenging the hearts of most snowbound farmers, especially the ones down on Pipe Creek.

The telephone line that ran that particular hollow was hot for weeks. There were 10 families on the line. Cabin fever had apparently gotten the best of all of the men. They discussed the new and unusual vegetables from daylight until dark and beyond.

The vegetable discussions started between two brothers. As luck would have it, two neighbors just happened to pick up and listen in on the brothers. Slowly, and without planning, a peaceful discussion turned into an all out feud.

Each of the farmers was sure he knew the best new products to try. Each had his own ideas about planting. Each knew which crops would be best. They cussed and discussed for three weeks. Finally, the snow stopped and the battle for the best garden started.

Though phone conversations were over, the farmers were in action. Each was determined to have the biggest and greatest garden. A couple of the men tried to call the seed companies to order the seed packets C.O.D. They were ahead of their time--no phone number was available, let alone a way to order.

The poor mailman was pulled into the feuding. He had a fulltime job just trying to keep up with all of the boxes of seed packets going to Pipe Creek. He told the operator that the families would have to plant 30 acres to get all those seeds in the ground. He questioned their sensibilities. What had happened to common sense, and just what would one man do with 300 lbs. of chili peppers?

Thankfully, the women folk of Pipe Creek became aware of the cultivating conflict. Once the deliveries were made and the gardening started, the females put an end to the planting of 50 packets of chili peppers and 30 packets of okra.

It had been a bitter cold winter. Most of the women agreed that it was hard to endure such freezing temperatures, but all stated firmly that hell itself would have to freeze before they would can 500 lbs. of okra.

There are many truths about men and women and the confusing interactions that can occur. Time, trouble, and wars may blur the lines of reason and rational thinking. Yet, when the snow has melted, the ground has been plowed, and the dust has settled, a man knows that he cannot fight any battle if his beloved does not stand beside him. The feud ended. Those old farmers were wiser than many men today. They knew that “A happy wife is a happy life.”

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