Sometimes when people talk about changing times, they seem to assume that before times began changing a few years ago, things had been remaining much the same before that. What we may forget, when we are not really paying attention, is that probably the times have always been changing. It may well be that the people we have thought of as stuck in the past actually lived lives of great change, maybe greater change than we have so far experienced ourselves. Yes, change doesn't always happen at the same rate, and some things may continue essentially unchanged for a long time, but each generation has its own experiences and adjustments to make during their changing times. It has been said, and I think well said, that the only thing that remains constant is change!
When my life began, at the beginning of the 1940s, Pea Ridge was a little farming town, only a few streets were paved, most roads in the country were gravel roads, including Arkansas Highways 94 and 72 to Rogers and Bentonville. About 100 people lived "in town." Most people in the area lived on farms and made their living on their land. Many continued to be subsistence farmers, as had been the case since early white settlement began in our area in the 1830s. By the time I began to be aware of being alive, most of our once abundant local apple orchards had faded away. Apples had been a major variation from the pattern of subsistence farming. Apples gave people a crop they could produce and market, and apple sales supplied some money income for families. Some had done very well with apple orchards from the 1870s until the 1920s.
In the later years of the apple industry, the work became much harder and the income thinner because of pests, disease and competition from producers in other areas of the country like Washington state. The Frisco Railroad was established through our area in the early 1880s to serve largely the apple industry. Apples from Benton County and Washington County were shipped all over the United States by railroad. The coming of the railroad also brought into being new towns like Rogers, Avoca, Brightwater, Garfield and Springdale.
I can recall in our own neighborhood, along the road which we now call Hayden Road (Ark. Hwy. 265), that only one man that we knew lived on a farm but was employed somewhere in Bentonville. Almost every rural family we knew made their living on their own farm, with cows, hogs, horses, chickens, gardens, truck patches, pastures, hay fields, corn fields, oats for the horses and so on. Saturday was "goin' to town day." By my time, most people had cars and pickups, most of them 10 years old or more. Between 1941 and 1945, the car and truck factories were all producing tanks and jeeps and trucks for the War effort, and no new cars or pickups were being built. During World War II, many things were rationed, goods such as gasoline, tires, sugar and certain other scarce items. We couldn't just go to the gas station and say "fill-er-up." We had to have the ration stamps to get a certain amount of fuel.
Through the War Years 1941 through 1945, we, and most farm families, were still farming our land with a team of horses. It is amazing to me to think of what heavy work was done on the farms, given that there were very few tractors and power equipment in those days. Many fields were plowed with horse-drawn moldboard plows, which turned over the upper 6 to 8 inches of the soil. That was heavy work, with the farmer day after day trudging behind the straining horses to plow the fields and scatter the good seed on the land. Many farms had corn fields, which called for regular cultivation to keep down the weeds and intrusive grasses.
Pesticides and herbicides were for the most part unknown for field crops, and too expensive to use even when available. One had to have money to buy such things, and money was what most people didn't have, especially farm people. We weren't necessarily poor, but we didn't have money. In those days, if you had land and livestock you might be reasonably well off even if you didn't have money. At least if we were poor, we didn't know it, or we didn't worry about it. The changing times have really changed the way people in our area make a living. Today, almost no one makes their living farming their land.
Pea Ridge has become a bedroom community, where people live in their houses, but make their living by being employed in Bentonville or Rogers or Lowell or Springdale. Even the people who retain small farms so they can have a few cattle and horses don't actually make their living on their land, they farm part-time and hold a job to supply a money income. Most main roads around us today are paved roads and reasonably well maintained. We drive 60 miles per hour on roads that used to limit us to 35 MPH, and we complain if we encounter a pothole. We hardly remember the gravel roads which used to rattle our pickup fenders with their washboard surfaces and potholes at every turn. And, the dust! That memorable dust in summertime, thoroughly coating the ever-present ragweed leaves along the roads.
Editor's note: Jerry Nichols, a native of Pea Ridge and an award-winning columnist, is vice president of Pea Ridge Historical Society. He can be contacted by e-mail at email@example.com, or call 621-1621.Editorial on 05/08/2019
Print Headline: "Is It New, or Old?" The times have long been changing!