Butter And Plug Hats On Jackson Farm In 1866


Since I’m presently editing the family book of my great grandfather’s and his brothers’ and cousins’ childhood stories, and noticing once more how very humorous they really are, I thought I’d share them with you.

They are tales of a different age and different lives than today’s hectic existence.

Here’s the first:

Butter And Plug Hats On Jackson Farm In 1866

This farm, some four miles south of Racine [Wisconsin] on the Lathrop Road, was not the most lonesome place in the world while the two sons, Charley and Chester [my great grandfather], were about 15 and 18 years of age. The writer was some years younger. There was something doing all the time. This was one reason why the Bush boys, Roll and Cash, were so fond of visiting the farm at each opportunity. (They lived in a house which [in the 1990s] is still standing on College Avenue, facing the park.)

One of the favorite performances was to bell Levi, the Merino ram.  This just made him furious, a veritable raging demon among the other farm animals. He was bad medicine at any time, but with the bell on, he was more belligerent than usual.

Usually, the first thing after being released he made desperate efforts to get after his tormentors who had to flee to the tall timber a fence, or the feed rack in the yard. Failing in not getting back at us, his next move was to go through the flock, hunting anything that stood still an instant, or looking for Rudolph. That was another Merino ram, not as pugnacious as Levi, but able to stand up to him for about three rounds, after which he would make a run for safety. I surmise he had been injured in his head or neck at some time so that, although heavier, he could not stand up to Levi.

Now Deacon Jackson, my mother’s grandfather, almost always wore a high hat, as was customary in those times. President Lincoln wore one of the same kind. This hat was just to grandfather’s liking, and he wore it on any occasion.

On the afternoon I have in mind the cows were in the stable, and the sheep in the yard, and all unbeknown to us, the boys’ father had gone in at the north door of the stable and had started to milk, having on, of course, the plug hat. We boys had got the sheep huddled up in a corner so there was no room for Levi to fight. We got hold of him, the cow bell was strapped on, and I made a jump for a feed rack: there was not an instant to spare. Levi came against it with a crash. Then he went looking for Rudolph, butting anything he could reach, until he found him. They squared off and charged, head on. My! What a bump they gave each other, but Rudolph got all he needed and ran.

We were having a whole quart of fun watching the excitement, when the wind blew the east stable door open. Rudolph, with Levi right behind, ran right in where Grandfather was sedately milking the cows in their stanchions. He rushed in behind the cows and then to the other end of the stable. Being cornered, he turned to fight it out. The cows did not seem to approve of the program, and began kicking. One foot came up and got into the milk pail which was slammed against the side of the barn. The next instant, the foot caught grandfather behind his neck, throwing him with the stool bang up against the fighting rams. The plug hat, pail, stool, and the rams made a great setting for the aged patriarch, veteran of the War of 1812, deacon of the church. It was some mix up, and that cow bell was going strong all the time.

Of course, when the rams went into the stable, we followed as far as the door but halted aghast when we saw the turmoil with the deacon in its midst. As far as I was concerned, it was no place for us. The Bush boys left, too. The Jackson boys went in and separated the various articles, animated and otherwise. The hat came through in fairly good condition, which was more than could be said of the milk pail and grandfather’s temper. I do not remember seeing this most excellent man angry, but this affair was almost too much for him.

The Jackson boys went about the next few hours bearing sedate countenances, and their father was not singing his usual “‘Tis the old time religion, and it’s good enough for me”.

–But the hat did service for many a day after being in a mix-up with the “butter”.


One of my favorites; now married, leaving me with only memories.

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