By Marie F. Martin
Some time in the middle 1930s, my grandfather Yeats wrote the following poem. He homesteaded a Montana flatland spread just north of Gilford, near a town named Goldstone. In the evenings after chores, he wrote the rhythms that ran through his mind while doing endless chores in his Red Chief tablet . The ranch is gone, the town is gone but the poems live on. I have several newspaper clippings from the Havre newspaper and tried to scan different ones, but the letters were too small to read. I chose this poem to share because it shows determination. My heritage goes deep into Montana soil, but also the desire to put words on paper was passed along. In the photo is my father on the tractor and my grandfather on the combine. This is before Mom and Dad were married. Yep, she married the hired hand.
Wheat for 40 cents
By William Yeats in the 1930s
Oh, please tell me how the farmers in Montana
Can ever pay their taxes and the Rents,
And keep their poor old trucks and tractors running,
When they have to sell their wheat for forty cents?
For at that price you cannot make expenses,
And keep your equipment up in shape,
When you know its worth at least six-bits to raise it,
You can’t help that you’re Just an ape.
Now the tractor needs a set of sleeves and pistons.
For the way it is pumping oil near breaks my heart.
And I’ve cranked and cracked, till my poor back is broken,
Trying to get that cussed thing to start.
The timing gears are rattling and banging.
The old crankshaft is getting mighty flat,
The radiator leaks like a spraying fountain
And nothing that I do seems to help that.
Twas many moons ago it shed the skidrims,
The broken worn out lugs have lost their grip.
And every time the plow hooks on a boulder,
The tractor stands still while the clutch does slip.
And the old truck isn’t faring any better.
To tell the truth, its nothing but a wreck.
And some day, crossing the O’brien coulee,
I’ll have to spill and break my dog gone neck.
When in the rattletrap I go ariding,
I thank the Lord, my heart is good and stout
As in the cab I sit with nerves aquiver
A listening for the rear tires to blow out.
Yes, it sure is great to be an honest farmer
A horny-handed tiller of the soil,
But right now, I’d pass for a first class scare-crow,
All smeared from head to toe with grease and oil.
Didn’t dare to go to church on Easter,
For through my shoes the folks could see my toes.
Indeed there’s very little joy in living,
When you’re wearing gunny sacks for underclothes.
They say, of everything there is surplus,
Just what to do with it nobody knows.
Now really, if there’s such an awful surplus,
Why can’t I have a suit of Sunday Clothes.
Oh, I’m sure if people only had the money,
There’d be an awful jam in every store.
They’d soon clean up that over-rated surplus,
And have them jumping round, a rustling more.
(Originially published October 16, 2013)