The day the bank closed

The day the bank closed.

The main cash crop for the farms around Brighton Colorado was the Sugar Beet.  There were three beet checks and the last one of the year was the last Friday in October.

The Sugar Beet Check was the one the farmer used to settle the accounts with the suppliers who helped him raise the crop.

There were three checks and the first two were usually spent to defray the labor cost to get the beets ready for  the growth period that got the beets grown big enough for harvest.  We planted them as early as the ground was warm enough to have the seeds germinate and they kept on growing until they were finally stopped by frost.

The sugar beet seeds grew in a cluster so that when the beets came up in the spring they needed to be thinned so that the beet could grow separated from others in order for it to reach its optimum size.   If the beets were not thinned, the tonnage for the crop would not pay the expense of growing it.   If the beets were allowed plenty of room and nutrients for growth they could become much larger and of course were more valuable. 

The worker who thinned the beats would use a short handled hoe and work either stooped over, or worked on his hands and knees and removed the beets so that the beets were 8 to 12 inches apart.

When the beets were thinned they were cultivated with either a horse drawn device or a tractor that had knives that cut the weeds that naturally invade any crop.  The second cultivation put a small ditch between the rows of beets so they could be watered with irrigation.  Then they might need to be cultivated another time and maybe had to be gone through with a hoe to remove the weeds. 

This hand labor was the largest crop expense and the thinning and hoeing were all piece work the workers were paid so much per acre.  They needed to be paid as soon as the job was completed and the sugar company gave the farmer two  early checks to enable him to pay for this expense. 

When the beet tops grew so they covered the rows then the wheeled machines could no longer go through the fields without damaging the crop so there might be one more trip through the field with a hoe to get more weeds.  The hand labor was a big part of the expense in raising the beets.

The other expenses were for the farm machinery, equipment, repairs, fuel and other items that became a part of the cost.

We had a small three room house on the farm for the farm laborers.  They would come in the spring and be there in time to thin the beets.  They were furnished the house had a cook stove and some furniture.  It would have a well and an outhouse for a toilet but even though it was not fancy it was usually better than what they had in Mexico.  When the thinning and hoeing of the beets were done there were other crops that gave them work and of course they could go wherever there were peas and beans to be picked or pickles to be harvested so they were able to  earn enough money to  pay for their trip and replace their cars and clothe their children.

If they were here during school time the children would be accepted in our schools.  The district 10 school was very near our farm and we would have several Mexican students come in for a part of the years school while they were here.  It wasn’t much for the kids but it was certainly more than they had at home. 

The harvest time was also another opportunity for them to earn good wages.  They would be paid for harvesting  according to the tons of beets that came off the field so if they were skilled at harvesting and topping they were continually employed. 

All this work activity was finally paid for with the beet check.

My dad intended to buy the farm from his mother who was a daughter of the original homesteader.  My dad was R. Glenn  Scott and he and mom had bought two acres from his mother and built a house there in 1930 and 1931. 

They finally moved into the new house in the spring of 1932.  Dad was working for his dad, A.L. Scott who had a  nice  grocery store at 31st and Williams St. in Denver, Colorado.  He would commute to Denver daily for almost 20 years.    

The beet check came on the last Friday in October.  I can remember the excitement in Dad’s attitude when he saw the size of the check.  My mother, Eunice, (Eunice Willard McCampbell) reminded him that Joe Onaderas’s name was also on the check and he would get most of it.  Joe Onadera was the Japanese tenant farmer who raised the sugar beets.

He was also the grandfather of Herbie, my constant companion and friend for many years.  My younger brother was named Standley Herbert Scott after his uncle Standley and my faithful friend Herbie.  My brother became known as Bud Scott, his choice of a name.

Dad said we will have a busy weekend.   Tonight we have to go to Omar Bapst and Eimel Ehlen to buy eggs.  Dad would   buy eggs from these two farmers every week and take them to the  store on Saturday which was one of the biggest days of the week in the grocery business.   Of course the store was closed on Sunday.  Scott’s market was famous for its wonderful farm raised fresh eggs.

Then of course Dad was the main man in charge of the Store on Saturday

He made an  appointment with Joe Onadera for 2:00 PM on Sunday and he would go next door to the house his mother was raised in the old Sherart house and dad and Joe would settle up for the year’s work.

Dad would take his adding machine and Joe would use his abacus.  The abacus was a little wooden box with beads on  shafts that the operator would slide back and forth and the position of the beads then would give the answers of the transaction.  It was a very good system of checks and balances and at the end of the day a handshake would settle the  score between two good friends who respected each other. 

Herbie and I would like to witness the end of the meeting because it was  a special and almost sacred time for Dad and Joe and Dad would give the signed check to Joe and Joe would take it to the bank.

After that they would both pay their bills and hope there was enough left for their year’s wages.

Monday Joe took the check to the bank and deposited it the first thing in the morning.  I am sure there were many checks deposited that morning.

At noon the bank was closed and a sign in the window simply said the bank is closed.

It was the beginning of a terrible panic throughout the community.  Of course the bankers were gone.  They had planned to be gone ahead of time and they were hurting just like everybody else.  But at the time it was a change that spelled disaster for the community.

Joe came over and told Eunice about the problem in the afternoon.  Mom of course didn’t know what to do and dreaded the time was coming when dad came home for supper.

Herbie and I went off to play in the orchard before supper.

I saw dad’s pickup truck coming down our lane which ran by the orchard so I ran home to see him.

I was unprepared for the shock I saw on my powerful dad’s face.  I saw the most powerful man I knew reduced to a person who looked full of terror.  He and Mom hugged each other and dad’s first words were, “I don’t know what we are going to do”.

Our prayer of thanks before supper had all sorts of extra stuff in it that night and I couldn’t understand why they were so  sad and worried.

Dad gulped his supper and said I have to go see Uncle Frank.  That tickled me because uncle Frank Aichelman and aunt  Bab had a wonderful dairy farm.  We went there for the 4th of July and Thanksgiving every year.  Aunt Bab was a Sherart girl and she and my grandma Scott were sisters.  Their farm was just across the road and north about a half of a mile.

Uncle Frank was milking cows when we got there.  My big powerful and  strong dad was crying and pacing up and down behind the cows and telling uncle Frank I don’t know what I’m going to do.  Uncle Frank just kept on milking and listened and wondered.

When Uncle Frank finished milking the cow he got up and dumped the milk into the  strainer  funnel on  top of the  milk can .  Then he put the bucket down and came over and took dad by the  shoulders and  said, “I know, Glenn,  I got a  beet check too.”

His next speech was a classic and I can remember it like it was yesterday and as I write this 76 years later it is as true today as it was then and a powerful lesson when you are facing tough times.

Frank said,  ” I do my best thinking while I am sitting here milking cows!”

I came to the barn as discouraged as you were.   My  cows were glad to see me and come in and get their supper.  I have had time to think and I am  glad you came to see me.  As I thought while I was milking,  I still  have the farm and it can  produce as well as it ever has and it doesn’t depend on the bank to be open.

You have told me often and  excitedly that you don’t know what you are going to do.  I have decided what I am going to do.  I am going to stay right here and take good care of my cows and I know they are going to continue to take good care of  me.

What a  profound thought!  Even though I was only 6 years old it has changed my outlook on life and I am sure it was a partial motivator for my choice of life’s work. 

My prayer is that each of us has the chance from time to time to give a word of encouragement to a friend in trouble,

Uncle Frank gave my dad the courage to face life again and changed his life forever.

Each of has, with God’s help, that same power to do good with our friends.

Watch for the next story about Little Orphan Annie the lamb.

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