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What I Learned in High SchoolPosted Friday, August 27, 2010, at 5:18 PM
It has been 81 years since my first day in high school, and I still have most of the textbooks I used in that great adventure. I had to buy my own textbooks back then, and I sure had to sell a lot of possum hides to pay my way through high school.
Just a few days back, I was digging through my accumulation of books and came across my old textbook,"Principles Of Agriculture" that I used in the ninth grade.
This book of 592 pages stressed the fact that the proper care and feeding of farm animals, especially horses, was the most important factor in successful farming. It went on to say that in January 1920 there were over 21 million horses and 4 million mules furnishing the horsepower for farming in the United States. They also mentioned that some people had advocated that the tractor would some day replace the horse on the farm. The book went on to say on page 223: "This has not occured, nor will it ever occur."
Agriculture was a required subject back then, even for girls, and we all learned which breed of cows gave the most milk and which ones produced the most butterfat per gallon of milk. We all learned how to test milk for its butter content and how to operate a cream separator. There were eleven in our graduating class, and I seriously doubt that any one of the eleven ever owned a dairy cow.
This textbook showed some pretty pictures of chickens and plainly stated that every farm should have poultry. It went into great detail in telling us how to build a chicken house, indicating that there should be at least 400 square feet of floor space for every 100 hens, and the farmer should provide a "scratching shed with at least eight inches of straw on the ground, where grain could be fed in the straw, so the chickens would get exercise while scratching for the grain. It also told us how to provide a ration of feed that would produce equal amounts of egg yolks, whites and shell.
In growing wheat, this book recommended that the seed bed be prepared in July and left idle until planting time in late October or November. They suggested that the wheat be harvested with the binder, when the straw begins to turn yellow and the grain is just past the dough stage, with the bundles of wheat be put in shocks to mature and dry before threshing.
Today we harvest a crop of soybeans from a field in late October or November,and with very little tillage, we have it planted in wheat in a matter of hours. Back in 1929, 20 bushels was considered a good yield; whereas today we wait until the grain is completely mature and dry before harvesting it with the combine, with the expectation of getting a yeald of at least 60 bushels per acre.
I never considered myself as being an overly industrious student, but this book shows lots of wear, with notes scribbled on the pages, indicating that I surely must have put in many hours cramming my head with knowledge I would never need or use.
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Paul Corbin is a 100-year-old historian, humorist, and amateur archaeologist from Advance, Mo. He grew up in the Greenbrier area west of Advance, where he attended Stepp School on the banks of Cato Slough and the Castor River, important waterways throughout his life. In an age when many area residents did not go to high school, the young Corbin made the decision to walk the five miles to Zalma, graduating in 1933. Throughout his life, he was an enterprising businessman, selling Watkins products from house to house throughout a large area - and later opening a variety store in Advance. He and his wife Geneva traveled throughout the United States, even following the route that the Lewis and Clark expedition traveled. His knowledge of Native American culture is extensive, and he has donated a sizeable collection of his artifacts to the Cape Girardeau Conservation Nature Center and the Bollinger County Museum of Natural History in Marble Hill. Throughout the years, he has submitted articles to TBY, the North Stoddard Countian, the Ozark Mountaineer, and several other Missouri publications. He has also written two books - "Reflections in Missouri Mud," and "Fragments of my Feeble Mind." The first one is out of print.
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