He Can Who Thinks He Can
By Dorothy Dean Holman
(Edited by John M. Holman, Contributing Writer)
HAMPTON, NH ..... "Why, he does more work with his one hand than any man with two!" How often I've heard that remark from people who had watched my 1ate husband at work! After 47 years of marriage, I now realize what a remarkable person he was.
He was a successful market gardener having arrived the hard way, starting with a hoe and a Model-T pick-up truck, one arm and a lot of grit and determination,
The first few years following the loss of his right arm by a shotgun accident, he worked on the state roads with pick and shovel for the unbelievable small sum of fifteen dollars a week. To pay for a home and bring up two children on such small wages was no small task, so to supplement it he decided to make the land work for him. He claimed what really gave him his start was the faith the Ford dealer had in him, selling him a secondhand tractor for two hundred and fifty dollars, with no down payment required and time to pay for it as he could. This he did in small amounts until he could call it his, by doing custom plowing after his day's work on the road was done.
Throughout the years, he acquired three tractors and a two-ton truck, besides a spraying outfit, potato planter & digger, plow, harrow, cultivator, mowing machine, manure spreader, fertilizer distributor and other implements necessary to the successful growing of vegetables,
In the spring, he worked the land after his day's work (on town roads with his truck) was done, and on weekends, and planned successive plantings so that vegetables came into production right along through the summer without any break. Some nights he worked long after dark, plowing or harrowing by the light from the tractor headlights. From the fourteen acres he started with, he increased the acreage through the years by acquiring the use of land from six different neighbors, who were glad to have their idle land so improved.
He manipulated all vehicles with ease, as though he had two hands instead of one, and without apparent awkwardness. In some of them, he had the emergency brake put over on to the left side for safer and more immediate access.
I watched him spraying our seventy-five tree orchard one evening. The spray tank was mounted on a Model-T chassis, and he stood on the seat (it had no cab) applying the spray with the hose in his one hand, while the truck moved along at a regulated speed at about five miles an hour. Now and again I saw him maneuver the steering wheel with his knee, if the truck ran a little off course, a procedure not recommended by any committee on safe driving. But on the road in truck or family car, a safer or more conscientious driver could not be found anywhere. My mother once remarked that she felt safer riding with him than with anyone she knew, and in his many years of driving, he never had an accident.
A new piece of farm machinery seldom stayed the way it was bought on our farm, for my ingenious husband saw some way it could be improved upon for more efficient use or handling, and made several trips to the welding shop for the purpose of having these changes made. "If I could only do my own welding," he used to say, "I'd be all set."
Once, several years ago, he made over an old car into a tractor, by shortening the wheel base, among other changes, and used it in various farm practices until he acquired the tractor. He knew motors from A to Z and made all his own minor repairs, calling for an expert only when he found it necessary. There were times when one would think it utterly impossible to do things with one hand, but "impossible" was a word seldom found in his vocabulary. I have known him to work for an hour or more to loosen a stubborn screw, or to fit a part in a difficult place. "Never say die" could well have been one of his mottoes.
He was never so happy as when on stormy days he was working in his farm shop, repairing, rebuilding or painting his equipment. Being well-liked in the community, he had many friends, some of whom called on him as he worked, and over pipe and cigarette, the latest news was exchanged on sports, politics and local gossip. It was not uncommon to see three or four cars parked in front of the shop on days when the weather prevented any outside work. It was his domain, and through the years, he acquired all the tools necessary to make his work easier. An old wood-burning stove kept the place comfortable, and chairs, stools, boxes or up-turned kegs provided seats for all. His friends had to visit him if they wanted to see him, for he was a home-body and never went anywhere unless obliged to. He was a tireless worker. I once told him he should have a hobby and his answer was, "I HAVE a hobby. It is my work." At his death at age 67, he had worked since he was about ten. One summer when a small boy, he took a neighbor's cows to pasture and went after them at night for fifty cents a week. And another summer he worked the whole season on his father's farm for a bicycle in the fall, and a second-hand one at that. At sixteen, he quit school to take a job in a furniture store as a salesman, and at seventeen, he enlisted in the Vermont National Guard, lying about his age, saying he was eighteen.
He belonged to no lodge or club though he was a charter member of the local American Legion Post 35. He never went to church, but that does not mean he had no religion. If one can watch the miracle of green things growing without believing in a Higher Power. As the little poem says," Whoever plants a seed beneath the sod, And waits to see it push away the clod, He trusts in God."
Being a farmer means one must be many things. A mechanic is only one of them. A farmer has to know how to carpenter also, and my husband can hold up his end of a job with the best of them.
"I'm what you might call a crude carpenter," he modestly explained, but one would have to scrutinize his work pretty closely to detect any major flaws. He built kitchen cabinets, hutch shelves, and closets in our home, and outside, several implement sheds, a garage for the tractors, several trailers, helped our son build a greenhouse and built one for himself.
It is interesting to note how he started a nail. With nail and hammer in hand, nail head against the broad side of thehammerr head, he starts it with one blow, and then continued to drive it in the usual way. He used various parts of his body in his work as substitutes for the lost limb; head, shoulder, knee, feet, and even his teeth in some instances came into play.
I think the most remarkable piece of carpentry work he ever did was shingling the barn roof single handedly, and that, literally. Ours was a big barn with a twenty foot drop from the eaves to the ground. And though he disliked working on high places, he put up the staging, and the roof brackets, carried up huge bundles of shingles and laid them over the old roof, and all with assistance from no one. I like to think my prayers were heard, for my faith was sorely tried that day. While going about my housework I could visualize him leaning far to the right at the roof's edge, cutting off the overlap with his left hand and nothing to hold on by. But he accomplished the feat as he did about everything he attempted. I can't think of any time when he ever gave up a job he had started.
Just the other night he came in to supper and told me of a big rock he had struck in the new field he was plowing.
"That's got to come out of there," he said, "I shan't be able to sleep tonight until it is. I'll just ease the tractor bucket under it and lift it out easy as pie." After supper he went back to his plowing and just before dark he came in to say, with a satisfied grin, "Mission accomplished."
A farmer has to be a mason too, and my husband could mix and lay cement as well as the next one. Since we came to the farm he cemented the cellar floor, made barn and garage wharfings, cemented the garage floor, made cement hotbeds andcold framess, and put in the cement foundation for his greenhouse. He even built a chimney for the workshop of cement blocks, cementing each block in place to result in a fine stone-like chimney.
His woodshed was always full and was the envy of all who saw it, and if the old saying that a full woodshed is the sign of a good provider, then my husband was one of the best. He cut his own wood supply from the farm woodlot every winter and though once he felt he needed help in felling the trees, he later did it himself with his chain saw. It is said that a man who cuts wood warms himself twice, but I would go a little further and say that he warms himself five times, since there are five operations from stump to kitchen stove; sawing the tree down, limbing it (cutting off the side branches) sawing it to four foot lengths, splitting into quarters and sawing to stove lengths, all of which my diligent partner accomplished with his one hand.
He saw service on the Mexican border with the First Vermont Regiment, and when World War I broke out, his organization became part of the 26th (Yankee) Division, and he spent eighteen months in France, taking part in all the major battles of that war as a sergeant in the Ammunition Train. He returned unharmed except for a slight shrapnel wound, only to lose his right arm a few years later in a shotgun accident.
He called himself a "Vermonter", though he was born in the little town of Goshen in western Massachusetts, but his parents moved into Vermont when he was only a few months old. By association, if not by birth, he was a Green Mountain boy and had many of the characteristics of such. Like Calvin Coolidge, he didn't say anything if he had nothing to say.
Tall, lean, though he once weighed a hundred and ninety-six, he had frank, blue eyes, that like Longfellow's Village Blacksmith, could "look the whole world in the face, for he owed not any man." Keeping his bills paid through the years had been almost a mania with him, and when, he made the last mortgage payment on the farm, the bank officials said, "We are sorry to lose you. You've been a good customer." Never once did he fail to make the monthly payment on time, though it must have been very difficult on occasion, to scrape the amount together. His stick-to-itiveness is evidenced in his strong, purposeful chin, which perhaps led famous American sculptress Malvina Hoffman to speak of him as "a bit of New Hampshire granite."
He had a lot of the yankee trader in him and seldom payed the price asked of a thing he was buying. Once he was bartering for some equipment for his vegetable stand. I said, "The man wants ten dollars for it." His answer was, "I'll give him seven-fifty." Another time he bought a second-hand parlor stove for ten dollars, and upon getting it home and while setting it up, he said, "What's the matter with me? I paid the price he asked!"
On the other hand, he'd bend over backwards in trying to be fair when it came to charging for work done. One day, a neighbor asked plow and harrow a piece of ground for him. But he refused for time since he was working eight hours on the road every day and was in his own spring work.
"Can't do it," my husband told him, "but I'll tell you what YOU can do. Take the tractor and do it yourself." The neighbor accepted the offer and on completion of the work, brought the outfit back.
"How much do I owe you?" he asked. And my husband replied, "I don't know. How long did you have it?"
"Oh, practically the whole day," the neighbor said. "Will ten dollars cover it?" holding out the ten.
"Hell, no," my husband answered, "five's enough!"
He did all the work on the twenty-five acres with the help in the summer of neighbor boys. Extra hands were hired at strawberry picking time, but the plowing, harrowing, planting, cultivating and spraying was done by the hand, the only hand of that remarkable person, my husband, Marshall Sidney Holman.
Wayside Farm, Built In 1780
Purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Robert Hanscom
The Merchants Review
Thursday, June 8, 1967
HAMPTON -- The Holman property at 263 Mill Road has been sold to Mr. and Mrs. Robert Hanscom of Hutchinson Drive.
Built around 1780, it was owned and occupied by four generations of a Godfrey family, according to (Joseph) Dow's History of Hampton (1638-1892), beginning with Jonathan, through Nathan and Albert and ending with George Washington Godfrey (known locally as George Wash) and his sister, Jane Godfrey Thompson.
Albert Locke of North Hampton bought it and in the early 1920's, sold it to Jacob Purington, from whom the late Marshall Holman acquired the property in the fall of 1925.
Known as Wayside Farm, Mr. Holman operated the 18 acres, more or less, as a market garden for 40 years.
The new owners will take possession in the near future and plan to continue selling fruits and vegetables, along with Mr. Hanscom's work of painting and paper hanging.
(Footnote: Marshall Sidney and Dorothy Dean Holman had two sons, William Dean Holman, born March 15, 1923, died October 24, 1998; and John Marshall Holman, born December 16, 1928 who lives in Hampton with his wife Constance A. (Purington) Holman. Connie's grandfather, ironically, was Jacob Purington who owned the Holman property in 1925 and sold it to Marshall & Dorothy Holman in 1925.
Marshall was born in Goshen, MA on 1/25/1898 and died in Exeter, NH on 8/5/1965 at the age of 67 years. Dorothy was born in Millis, MA on 8/13/1895 and died in Hampton on 4/17/1984 at the age of 89 years. They were married in Millis, MA on April 23, 1920 having been married for 45 years at the time of Mr. Holman's death.