Grandpa’s truck.

Green may be sitting in my driveway, but I am the third family owner in his lineage, and the family is the second owner. His arrival on Hilltop in 1973 meant he was coming into a family.

R. Welling Roskelley was the second owner and first “my family” owner.  In 1973 he was still a professor at Utah State University and headed the Sociology Department.  In the evenings he was a gentleman farmer, meaning that he rode around and supervised and the son, son-in-law (my dad), and the grandkids, who did the actual work (nah–that wasn’t bitter, was it?).

To be fair and truthfully honest, he was a dirt farmer from way back and had worked harder as a young man than I ever did or ever have.  That is probably what sent him first to the Utah State Agricultural College and then to the University of Wisconsin, where he became Dr. Roskelley.  He’d raised corn, wheat, potatoes, lucerne (alfalfa), and oats in the annual-crop lottery that farming always required. He’d also milked cows (by hand in the family dairy) and driven horses. I grumbled about it, but he’d earned his role as supervisor.

The family still owns a pair of 20-acre parcels west of Smithfield that grandpa’s father and perhaps grandfather had owned.  One was simply “the field”–as in, “I’m goin’ out t’the field”–and had on it (still has) a pair of natural springs with wonderfully cold water bubbling up through the sand.  The steep sides and quicksand bottoms made drinking out of it a very occasional and supervised proposition for young kids.  Even the adults didn’t do it often.  The other parcel was “the pasture.” Grandpa had farmed both as a young man and once time told me that the two springs in “the field” were nothing more than wet spots on the ground the last time he ploughed it with horses. I’d guess that was in the late 1930s.  It was also the place he took me on my first pheasant hunt.

I was a city-bred kid, but as the oldest grandson I frequently drove Green to the field, which was usually sown in corn or wheat.  With plenty of “idle” help during the summer, grandpa put his three or four oldest grand-boys to work spraying field bindweed or morning glory–the one invasive demon we could not control with a tractor-drawn cultivator.  Grandpa wasn’t about to buy a sprayer for two fields, so chemical weed control was done by hand, all 20 acres, with a potent brew of Banvel, 2,4-D, and Roundup (glyphosate), lugging hand sprayers up and down the rows seemingly forever. My brother Chris and cousin Richard (i.e., Little Richard; I was Big Richard) were always on the press-gang; I think Richard’s brother Nate came along the last time we did it. As the oldest, I got the biggest sprayer–a four-gallon, steel-hulled monster that fully loaded I could hardly carry any distance even at 16.  I just swung it ahead of me like a third leg as we walked rows. The job typically took us two to three days to spray the crop (and only if it was corn that was planted), and happened usually twice a year: once when the corn shoots were about six inches high and again when they were above my knee, just before the spreading leaves effectively hid the ground from sight. Grandpa watched us from the truck and bellowed occasional instructions, which one of us would have to run over to get him to repeat intelligibly, then relay back.

We watered the field with sprinkler pipe.  Setting the pipe was partly my job but mostly my cousins’, who lived closer.  My uncle Gene Richard was in charge of the propane-fueled pump that drew water with a four-inch flexible siphon from the north or south spring for that end of the field.  A big eight-inch line would run down the center of the field and small 2-inch irrigation line sprinklers would be run at right angles from it.  Green was fitted on the right side with a pipe rack to haul pipe to the field and back. The weight made him drive canted over at a crazy angle, like you were driving on a side-hill. Pipe would be set in the morning and run all day, then be moved at night and run all night. If one didn’t irrigate, the Great Basin did not provide enough precipitation to dry-farm in the valley.

No, I don’t have any pictures. Everyone has looked and there do not seem to be any family pictures which show Green in action–or even inaction.  We just didn’t shoot many photos at work, and precious few at family gatherings.

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