Remembering Clay: Carl Sotherden's Memoirs
March is almost here and thoughts of spring and planting are even stronger, so let’s do some more remembering with Carl of his life on the dairy farm on Caughdenoy Road. I thought it would be fun to think back and tell about some of the trials and tribulations of the Sotherden family as far as I can remember. I do not wish to imply that we didn’t have time for play. Our recreation and fun was somewhat different from that employed at present. Most of our ‘Good times’ were spent as a family unit and by the time I reached my teens we began to go to parties at church, neighborhood parties, the grange and once in a while to a show. Before we owned a car, we planned a picnic trip to Sylvan Beach, probably 1915, with Uncle Frank and Aunt Abie and Don. (Don was to become the grandfather of Bryan, who, with the help of his wife Lou, are remodeling the old Sotherden Mill on Route 31)/ here were six in our family and three in theirs so we all piled into their Model T for the trip which was rather uneventful until we reached the sandy road leading to the beach. I remember how we had to get out and push to get through the loose sand, but we all enjoyed this along with the bathing, and it was considered a day well spent. A trip of a few miles in those days had to be well planned, so we thought.
Anyone brought up in those times, especially on a farm, learned early in life that money didn’t grow on trees and it was necessary that each one in the family should help in bringing home the bacon…it seemed only natural that we children should try to earn a little money ‘on the side.' Harvey and Nettie Thompson who owned the farm across the road were elderly people living alone and many times I would help them do little odd jobs for which they gave me a nickel or dime, which looked big to me. I recall going over to hold the kerosene lantern for Nettie so she could see to milk the two or three cows they kept. This happened a few times when Harvey played cards with his buddies and imbibed and forgot he had cows to milk.
Speaking of making a little money on the side, my brother and I made a few bucks catching muskrats. In those days, the swamp had many muskrats and in the breaking of the ice in the spring, they would come up the ditches in the fields and along the roads if the water got high enough. We had a mongrel Bull Dog who loved to hunt muskrats and he was a great help in ‘sniffing’ them out. They generally traveled at night so we would take our dog ‘Rex’ after dusk and cover some of the ditches leading to the swamp. When we got tired of this, we would take Rex and travel the back roads, where with a flashlight we looked through the pipes used to carry the water underneath the roads. Rex could go through the pipe and bring out the muskrat. I recall one time that prime hides got up to $4.00 or $5.00 which; at that time was very good. One spring we did very well so I was able to use my share to buy a brand new bicycle, Motorbike Supreme, for $49.95. This was the first bike I had ever owned.
Retracing back a few years, I remember the farm just south of us for sale in 1914 and my Dad’s cousin, Alvah Heselton, purchased it and moved here in the spring of that year. They were living on a farm in Jamesville, N.Y, a distance of some twenty miles and as motor travel and moving vans were very scarce in those days in the country, Alvah decided he would have to move his belongings by team and wagon on steel tires. Well, either he asked my Dad or else he offered to go to their farm in Jamesville with his team and hayrack so they might bring it all at one time, that’s what they did. They had three or four cows, a small amount of farm machinery and their household goods. Well, Dad left as soon as the morning chores were done on the appointed moving day so as to get there early enough to load one of the rigs before night. The kitchen range was left, along with the needed table and chairs to get supper that night and breakfast the next morning before being loaded the next day. They tied the cows behind the hayrack with the farm machinery and with the help of their dog, Fritz. The other rig followed closely behind. Needless to say, it was a long day and I would call it a pioneering trip to say the least.
As I mentioned before, a lot of our recreation was a planned family outing. I recall Dad saying if we got the haying done and the oats harvested in time, we might take the day off and attend ‘The Farmers Picnic’ which was always held at Long Branch Park in the middle of August. Then another inducement for getting the work down on time was that we could go to the New York State Fair in September.
Dorothy Heller, Historian