Thursday, June 7, 2012
Life was good on Muckland
The spring vacation in our schools was always set for planting time, because so many families made their living raising onions.
Otherwise, kids would be taken out of school to plant onions.
If you drove down Onion Town Road (now Warner’s Road), and many other, you would see lines of people on their hands and knees placing the plants in rows in the muck.
It was a way of life. While it was hard work, there were many happy times --times of togetherness -- families, friends, neighbors all gathering to work and enjoying the evenings together.
Sometimes the men would be working on the hand tools and the women would be preparing something for the lunches to be taken into the fields the next day.
But there was also time to sit and visit in the evening, too.
There wasn’t any electricity in the early days, but eventually Niagara Mohawk came along and modernized the mucklands.
Water came from a pump in the backyard and was carried into the house for use. But that water was nice and cold and welcome. Women did their washing in the yard next to the pump and the lines would be filled with the cleanest clothes. The women knew how to get laundry white without all the modern laundry products.
What was their secret? Perhaps it was the soap they made themselves. Also, the sun and even the grass had a lot to do with it. If you really want to bleach something, place it on the lawn in the bright sunlight.
If you take a ride down those roads today, there is something terribly sad about either these buildings ready to collapse or just seem to sit there with no purpose. They used to be such nice homes, barns, and storehouses.
Onion crates would be stacked in fields in pyramid fashion when it was coming harvest time and the onions would be topped and placed in the crates.
The crates would be drawn to the storehouse or up near the road, loaded onto trucks that all the villagers would watch going through the streets. The crates would go families’ warehouses in the village or to the train station on their way to buyers.
When the crops had all been harvested and the work was finished for the season, most of the village families moved back from their “summer homes” on the muck.
All of that life has now passed. Onions are still grown in a very few places in our community, but most of them are grown elsewhere. The summer homes, barns and storehouses are falling down or have been removed. The muck is mostly weeds, save for a small patch here at there someone roto-tills for a family vegetable garden.
The kids grew up, went to college and moved away. Hiring field workers wasn’t profitable for the small farmer, so they stopped growing onions. World War II took a lot of families off the farm, too.
Now it’s just all a memory and we buy our onions in the supermarket like everyone else.