The August Season
By John D. Fogg
'Recollections Of A Salt Marsh Farmer'
Edited by Eric N. Small -- 1983
It was nice down there in the August season. A soft breeze would blow most of the time, but if it did happen to be a particularly windy day, it didn't bother our pitching. While using the drag, we could leave the load every time on the windward side and would pitch the hay on to the stack with the wind. It was unthinkable in the early days to pitch all the hay from the same side for they couldn't watch the stack to see how it was going, they thought, but we got the hay stacked just as well and had none fall over. We would always be bothered with mosquitoes on the way down the paths to the marsh but never on the edge or out on the marsh.
A second crop of greenhead flies were seldom seen in August, but I have seen them. They didn't bother us as much as they would those who were poling the hay because we had one hand free to bat at them. As for the horses, we made blankets of burlap bags and put them outside the harness, leaving an air space beneath. The bag would hang down over the shaft, making a shady area under the horse's belly. You see, greenhead flies won't bite in the shade.
After the 1916 time, Porter Brown, Billy Davis and I just cut for each other. Having the drag I would mow Porter's and he helped on ours. I mowed in the morning while the others were raking what was mowed the morning before.
That marsh cutting in the August season was something to remember. The weather was nice, more dependable, very little rain if any, not even a thunder shower that I can remember. The bog shoes would get white with salt when mowing and it did dull the knives faster, but we would have three sharp new knives to change oftener when it was so dry. It was nicer working when dry with the mowing machine. Last year's stubble would not catch under the knife as it would when the ground was wet.
There were two incidents with the horses while working on the marsh that I don't seem to forget. One was August 23, 1916. 1 was mowing with Jack on the Dan Evans' five acres on Hunt's South Creek. It was an extremely hot and humid day, no breeze at all and being in a cove-like place. When I was resting Jack, you should have seen the sweat run off his belly the whole length, not drops, but steady streams. I gave him plenty of water, not much, but often. That's why horses can stand the heat, sweat evaporating keeps the body cool. Cattle don't sweat so can't stand the heat.
The other incident was years later while mowing with Nellie but on the same piece of marsh. It was one of those second crop of greenhead flies. We had that blanket of burlap that was used before. I had strips of leather fastened on the bridle so when walking, those strips would move enough to keep the flies off her face. While she was resting, l tried to count the number of flies on one of her front legs. From the blanket by the knee down was over 50 on the back side and the same on the front. When walking, that kept them off her legs.
The September season was different from the August season, it being the time of year when the Fall rains start, also it is the time of the equinoctial storm. But we would have a lot of good weather in September to work on the marsh just the same. When speaking of rain, the older folks used to say that the marsh grass needed the rain as much as the fresh upland hay, that is when the tides were low.
In getting ready for another marsh season, it was not only new parts for the cutter bar and knives, but it was also important to have new leather for the straps and loops for the bog shoes. We got the leather at a place in South Boston where they were making flat belts for the factories. We would get what they could not use, short or narrow pieces, just what we needed and at a very low cost. That would be leather off the backs of the steers, leather which would not stretch when wet. If off the belly, it would stretch badly. They also gave me a special knife to strip the leather at the proper width.
For the mowing machine I had the blacksmith, "Harrison," make an extension for the outer shoe of the cutting bar to keep the bar from dropping into a ditch when no one was striking out another piece to be mowed. It worked well if the ditch was quite wide. It would hit the other side and slide right up out without catching or yanking sideways.
There has been some controversy over the length of time there would be in each month, or thirty.-day period, to work on the marsh cutting and stacking of the hay. One man that I read about said the tide runs the marsh twenty days of every month, leaving only 10 days to cut and stack that marsh hay.
The following is a copy of one page from my account book of the August season in 1916, showing what was actually done that season. The seasons vary each month depending on the moon and the tides. The August season may start in July and the September season in August.
MOWING THE MARSH THE AUGUST SEASON OF 1916
|August 17||Stacy Walton||Seabrook||5½|
|August 18||John D & George A Fogg||Mrs. Aiken's marsh||4|
|August 20||Stacy Walton||Seabrook||1½|
|August 21||John D & George A Fogg||6 ours & 1 Poor's||7|
|August 22||John D & George A Fogg||Godfrey marsh||4|
|August 22||Charles Robie||Kensington||2½|
|August 23||Dan Evans||East Kingston||5|
|August 24||Percy Weare||Hampton Falls||3|
|August 24||Dan Merrill||Hampton Falls||1½|
|August 25||George Weare||Kensington||4½|
|August 26||George Weare||Kensington||2½|
|August 28||Sam Perkins||Seabrook||1¼|
|August 29||Percy Weare||Hampton Falls||2½|
|August 30||Joseph H. Weare||Hampton Falls||4|
|August 31||George A. Philbrick||Seabrook||2|
In fourteen days we mowed 53 acres (39½ acres on Seabrook marsh and 13½ on Hampton Falls marsh). Now, Joseph H. Weare and George Philbrick just had time to rake and stack theirs before the tide came on. That mowing was done with Jack and Brownie - two days with Jack, then one day with Brownie.
According to my account book we worked 53 acres in August, 22½ in September and 22¾ in October, making a total of 98¼ acres for the 1916 summer season.