Mail Call: September/October 2011

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Tractor pulls are an excellent source of small-town entertainment.
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Splitting wood by hand requires a few tricks as you become wiser to easier methods. Ready here to pick up one such tip.
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Brenda Brinkley's dad and his trusty International.
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Bob Chroninger and Jon Bednarski show off the Chroningers’ new Belted Galloway heifer.

GRIT’s reader mail printed in the September/October 2011 issue!

Pulling for Daddy

I was 12 years old the first time my dad “pulled” with a tractor. In those days, there were no hot-rod tractors or mechanical sleds. Farmers took their dusty tractors from the field to the county fair to see whose was best and to earn bragging rights among their peers.

Dad would pull out of the hayfield, unhook the baler, and away we’d go.

Today’s shiny pulling tractors never hook to anything but a mechanical sled. They might even rattle, bang and fall apart if anyone had the audacity to hook them to a piece of farm machinery.

Dad quit pulling for several years. He had work to do, children to raise — besides, tractor pulling is not an inexpensive hobby.

A few years ago, he went to a farm auction and came home with the most pitiful tractor. The cloth seat was threadbare. The engine wouldn’t run. He smiled and claimed, “I’ve got a pulling tractor.”

Most folks thought all he was pulling was their leg. But I had confidence.

He soon had the 560 International tractor up and running, and it was time to take it to a pull and see what it would do. The first few outings were dismal, but I wasn’t discouraged. I told my husband, “It won’t be long. I know Dad, and he won’t settle until he wins.”

While the skeptics saw a hunk of junk and smelled defeat, I saw Dad’s determination and could taste victory in the very near future. How does victory taste? Like a plump, red tomato plucked from the vine. Like a juicy slice of watermelon on Grandpa’s back-porch steps. Like a bowl of homemade ice cream on a 100-degree day. Once you’ve tasted victory, nothing less will do, and Dad won many times when I was a teenager. I knew he would do it again.

He never painted the rusty “piece of junk,” and he refused to put a different seat on that old tractor. It always makes me smile when he backs up to the sled, hooks on, and I hear somebody comment about “that old tractor.” They are about to get a surprise, but I’m too busy watching my 73-year-old dad to tell them.

When the green flag waves, that tractor roars to life, and so does Dad. Black smoke rolls, and I watch 20 years melt away as he drives “Lonesome George” into first place. I wipe tears from my eyes, and it’s not from the smoke. Watching Daddy pull is one of my favorite things.

The cost of admission: $10. The price for tractor parts: outrageous. The pride in a daughter’s heart as she watches her daddy compete in the hobby he loves: priceless.

Brenda Brinkley
Marshfield, Missouri 

Thanks for sharing a heartwarming personal experience, Brenda. Memories like this are good for the soul, and it’s amazing what fun can be had on a farm with nothing more than “simple” equipment. – Editors

Tasteless Maters

Love the magazine! I really enjoyed the latest editorial, and just had to chime in.

Last summer we went on a family vacation to Beaufort, North Carolina, taking with us a variety of items including virtually all of our groceries and one of our then-9-year-old daughter’s friends.

During lunch one day, I was slicing up a few Cherokee Purples from our garden as the children watched. I sprinkled the tomatoes with a little sea salt and fresh ground pepper, and then drizzled a little balsamic vinegar over them. I offered first choice to our little guest, and she politely declined, stating that she did not eat tomatoes: “They’re gross and they feel weird in my mouth.” To which I responded, “Have you ever had a tomato that didn’t come from a grocery store?”

When she replied that she didn’t think so, I gave her an out to spit out the Cherokee Purple if she didn’t like it and have some ice cream instead. Fortunately or unfortunately, she took me up on my offer, and then proceeded to eat all of the Cherokee Purples, and ask for more.

Take that, grocery store and GM ‘mater growers. The proof’s in the puddin’, and for those of us who want to actually enjoy the flavor of what we eat, well, we really don’t care how beautiful those things disguised as tomatoes are.

The children at church recently planted a small raised bed in one of the courtyards. The stars of the show: three big ol’ Cherokee Purples and an heirloom yellow currant. Children DO like tomatoes when they are REAL tomatoes! Thanks for a great read.

Joy Cobb
Greensboro, North Carolina  

Belted Galloway Giveaway

I first saw a herd of Belted Galloways around 1983 in East Texas. My children and I were fascinated with them. When they asked me what kind of cow they were, I had no idea, so I just said they were “Oreo Cows,” because to me they looked like a big Oreo cookie. Well, the name stuck, and my family has called them Oreo Cows ever since.

A few years ago, a local gentleman brought his own small herd of Belted Galloways here to our little town, and now I can see them frequently. Do I want one? You bet’cha! I am entering the contest today. It would really be grand if I got to have my own Oreo Cow!

And thank you for such a wonderful magazine. I enjoyed reading Grit growing up at my grandmother’s. Now my mother and I can enjoy it again.

Gail Wical
Troy, Texas

We received multiple similar responses from our readers regarding our successful Grit Belted Galloway Heifer Giveaway. Hopefully, we can give away animals to suitable homes in the future, but what made this one a particular success were the winners: Bob and Eleanor Chroninger and family, from outside of Greenfield, Ohio.

Back in October, Grit partnered with the U.S. Belted Galloway Society to deliver one young heifer to one of our readers, with proof they could provide a suitable home. Jon Bednarski, vice president of the U.S. Belted Galloway Society, delivered a halter-broke heifer May 20 (and actually went a step further and gave the Chroningers a companion heifer), and couldn’t have been more pleased with what he saw.

“What a great family,” says Bednarski. “We couldn’t have asked for a better situation.”

Bob Chroninger and family have ex-pressed many thanks to Grit and the U.S. Belted Galloway Society for the new additions to their farm. Although they’ve kept cattle in the past, this might be the first big leap into permanently raising a multitude of animals on their farm. – Editors

Sour Cream Question

Many thanks for the reading pleasure that you provide in Grit magazine. It has been enjoyed for a very long time.

I am puzzled by a comment made in the article “Living Off the Land,” which appeared in the May/June issue. There is a reference to making butter using sour cream.

I spent the first 75 of my 81 years in Norfolk, Virginia, with strong ties to the rural areas of northeastern North Carolina and Virginia, where many of my relatives and friends made butter. They always used the freshest cream possible, usually within a few hours after it left the cow.

I see that the writer lives in Arkansas. Is the use of sour cream for butter making the way it’s done in this part of the country?

Jo Winslow
via email

There was a time when making cultured butter with mildly soured cream was common practice. The cream was collected for several days and held at room temperature until it turned, and then it was chilled and churned. Cultured butter with its complex flavor is no longer popular in most of the United States, but it is still preferred in Europe. – Editors

Useful Firewood Tip

I have a wood-splitting tip for you and your readers: If you split wood by hand, save yourself half the work by using a ratchet strap. On flat ground, place upright five or six bolts of wood to be split, as close together as possible. Place a ratchet strap around the blocks of wood about three-quarters of the way up and get it as tight as possible. You can then split the blocks of wood without having to place the wood upright again and again. As you split, you may have to retighten the strap a time or two. Have fun!

Ken Perry
Auburn, Kansas 

Immersion Heaters

I read with interest the article on surplus immersion heaters (“Surplus Immersion Heaters for the Farm,” July/August issue). With 20-plus years associated with the Army, I can agree that they work great.

I would encourage anyone purchasing one to read the manual shown in the picture (Page 17), and use some fuel other than gasoline. When I was around field kitchens, gasoline was the fuel of choice because it was also used for the field stoves. On more than one occasion, I am aware of sections of the stovepipe being launched or mess personnel getting their eyebrows singed when lighting an immersion heater that used gasoline.

I’m a new subscriber, and really enjoy your magazine.

Russ Goldsmith
Summit Hill, Pennsylvania

Thanks for the kind words, Russ, and for a useful tip that raised our brows! – Editors 

Share your thoughts

Grit welcomes letters from our readers. If you would like to comment on an article or share your opinions, send a letter (with photographs, if available) to Grit, Mail Call, 1503 S.W. 42nd St., Topeka, KS 66609, or email us at