HISTORY MYSTERY: New Life on the Sotherden Farm
Originally owned by Clarence Sotherden, this large farm was later owned by his son, Carl Sotherden, and his wife Martha, who I sat next to in the alto section of the church choir. She gave me a copy of his memoirs and her personal experiences for all the information here. Since Spring is the time for births on a farm, Carl tells us a little about his memories and experiences with their farm animals.
“Our first cow stable that I remember had eight wooded stanchions but soon we began to expand. Moving our grainery, we were able to add five more stanchions to this milking line. A few years later, we built on a 20 foot bent which allowed us another row of stanchions, a maternity pen and a driveway between the gutters. By this time, we had a milking machine and were able to produce more milk with the same amount of workers. Then as time went on, we rebuilt our machine shed into pens for young stock which we either put into a milk line or sold for cash.
“I maintain that a boy brought up on a dairy farm and taking an active part in helping deliver new-born animals and helping care of them afterward has a chance to learn many things that one could never get from a book. We were closer to our parents because we were brought up to assist in all areas of farming including births. We never saw a colt born because the mares do not want humans nearby when they are birthing. Checking the pasture the next morning, we would find the foals running briskly around right after birth.
“Many trips to the barn in the middle of the night is a common occurrence to check on the expectant mother and to see if help is needed. If so, someone else from the household is awakened and even a veterinary is summoned in an unusual case. One night, Dad and I did need help. We always had a set of light tackle blocks handy in the cow barn to help a laboring cow bring her offspring into this world. On this occasion we tried to help the cow but things were abnormal and we were unable to get the calf’s legs straightened. It was decided we needed a vet. Although it was very late in the evening when we got Dr. D. Long from Baldwinsville on the phone and told him of our predicament. Driving the ten miles, he arrived in record time. After the examination, he sympathetically said it was too late for the baby, but he would try to save the mother.”
Carl does not go into detail on what the doctor preceded to do to save the cow, only says that the mission was accomplished and how tired the doctor was. The cow survived but her milk production was light for a very long time. When asked how much the bill was, Dr. Long said $4.00, the same as a regular call. Carl states how appreciative they were for the expert help and the length of time spent, not to mention coming in the middle of the night! Not like doctors today!
Some quick memory flashes: they used the bull pen for a maternity pen for cows; for a brood sow if the weather was cold; and even for a lamb on occasion. Carl’s son, Ron, had a few sheep while in high school as well as turkeys. Another important farm job when he was young, Carl remembers was tending the fire in a brooder stove for a bunch of young chickens especially on a windy night. If the fire burned out and they all crowded toward the stove to keep warm, they smothered by piling on top of each other.
Everyone mentioned by name is gone and the farm also except for the silo. The photo taken in 1955 shows cabbage trimmings from local Sauerkraut factories in the fields. Sauerkraut production was a leading industry in Clay for over 50 years. Carl and his father before him hauled the sauerkraut waste and spread it on farm fields for fertilizer. The barns were burned in 1985 in a controlled practice burn by the Clay Fire Dept.
Dorothy Heller, Historian