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The Future Is Bright

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tSpecial Correspondence.] York, Neb., Sept. 17.- Just twenty years ago I cauie into this part of the state of Nebraska in a covered wagon. A few days ago 1 came again, on a f ree pass, and I find the country so interesting that I think l'll teil you something about it. Twenty years ago the prairie here had a house about every five miles. It was as bleak and bare a prairie as you could picture in your mind's eye. Not a tree, nor even a shrub, was in sight as far as the visión could reach - nothing but a stretch of level country, on the surface of which a thick erop of grass grew. They were a pretty poor lot of people who caine here then and later to inaka homes for theinselves. If they had been well to do they would not have left the east to come out to the "Great can Desert" to coax a livelihood out of the virgin soil. They were the people who had not been able to get a good foothold in the east. Many of them were soldiers in the Federal ariny, who had been distanced in the race f or wealtb while at the front fighting the battles of their country. Here they found a rich soil, a healthful climate and nothing else. At first they lived in sod houses, with roofs of branches and firm turf and floors of clay, or in "dugouts," burrowed out of the sides of little canyons. The soil, you see, was everything. Not only was it the only source of revenue, present or prospective, but it grew their building material in the shape of a closely knit turf, and the hard clay subsoil served as a floor tor their dwellings. With lumber at sixty dollars a thousand and brick and stone and other rnateriala at higher pnces, he was a cornparatively rich man who could build even the sinullest and most modest of frame honses. Coal was twenty dollars a ton, clothiug and all the necessaries of life as dear as high freights and mercantile greed could make them, and the markets far, far away. Iu telling you that these men have won their fight here I am telling you nothing that you do not already know; but you may be interested in the details of this modern conquest, in which the desert has literally been made to blossom as the rose. First, the prairie was turned over by the plow. This was a simple though Iaboriou3 operation. Three horses and a heavy plow, with a knife to cut thethick turf, could "break" two acres a day. The first year a scant erop of sod corn was raised, good only for feed. But the second year a full erop grew. Not much care is taken in returning to the soil that which it gives, nor in conserving the fertility of the land by change of crops or conversión of tilled fields into pastures. Year after year this magnificent soil of what was once known as the "Grreat American Desert," has met every demand made upon it. It has more than fulfilled every expeetation. Nor has there ever been a complete failure of crops in this section. In twenty years there have been four short crops, due once to grasshoppers, and on other occasions to droughts and early frosts. Notwithstanding their distance from market, these people have prospered. I Buppose they growl as much about hard times as any other farmers, and with abóut as much cause. Not many of them are rich, and some are still in debt, hard pushed, discontented. Debt is the curse of this as it is of auy other country. "What is the matter with so many of yonr farmers here?" 1 asked a successf ui business man, who had himself made xaouey at farming. "Why are they still poor and pushed?" "It is easy enough to explain," he replied. "They carne out here from the older and richer farming country of the east. Here they became, many of them for the first time in their Uves, farmers on their own account. Human nature is pretty much the same the world over, and as soon as these men began to f eel the pride of proprietonhip they wantod buggies to drive to town in, riding plows and riding cultivator, good horses and cows and all sorts of modern but expensive farming inachinery. To get all these things they were compelled to run in debt, to discount the future. They were not ready to deny themselves at first, and having once entered upoa a policy of this kind they find it impossible to stop. They are always pressed for money, and the result is that just as soon as they harvest a erop they must rush it otï to market to keep the sheriff from the door. Were they able to hold their product a few months they could get much better prices for it. The farmer who remains poor in this country is the farmer wnogoes in debt and keeps his nose on the grindstone. Everything he buys he must buy at the highest prices, because he buys on time, and pays interest besides; everything he sells he must Bell at the lowest prices, because he must sell immediately." "Then you think money can be made at farcúng in this country?" "I know it can. I have made it myself. Ten or twelve years ago I had a farm of 160 acres. I tilled it myself- my wife and I. Our first year we lived in a sodhouse, and our Uring expenses were fifty-three dollars. My nearest neighbor had just as good a farm as mine, but he went in debt for a frame house. He rode to church and town in a top buggy bought on time. He plowed and cultivated on riding plows. That man looked down on me because I plodded along in the old way with the old fashioned machinery and implements. When he and his wife drove to church in their nice buggy, passing my wife and me in our old wagon, he scarcely deigned to speak to us. When the crops were harvested he had to rush his off to market to meet his notes and his interest. I held mine till winter and got 40 per cent. more thau he did. Next year it was the same, and when his buggy and his riding plows and things were about worn out, though not paid for, I bought new ones for one-third less than he had paid for, because I bought for cash. To make a long story short, he is still struggling under a load of debt, with mortgages hanging over him. The mortgage on his farm I own, and he pays me 10 per cent, a year interest on it. "Are interest rates high out here?" "Yes, bnt the fault is the borrower's and not the lender's. Men of doubtful solvency - men who have always been discounting the future, and who had but a narrow margin between payment and bankruptcy - have had to pay as high as 2 per cent, a month for money. There is no business in the world that can stand such a rate of interest. Certainly farming can't stand it. Hundreds and thousands of men in this county have for years been paying that rate on chattel mortgages and from 12 to 15 per cent a year on real estáte security. These are the men who growl, who say the farmer is oppressed; that farming can't be made to pay." "Is the future brighter?" "For the farming community as a whole it certainly is. The agricultural interests of the west are just emerging from the period of debt. Farmers who plunged into debt ten or twelve years ago, expecting to work out in two or three years, are now recovering, but better late than never. Interest rates are coming down, and it is no longer possible to get the ruinous rates of 2 per cent. and 1 per cent, a month paid a few years ago. Many farmers are now able to hold all or a part of their crops for better prices. We are now selling corn at forty cents which we grew iu 1889 and cribbed rather than sell then at flfteen or sixteen cents. This year the west has magnificent crops and a prospect of good prices. If corn matures as it promises, we shall have the greatest yield of the last twenty years, and the short crops abroad ought to give us such an era of prosperity as we never had before. This red letter year of 1891 should lift thousands upon thousands of western farmers out of the clutches of the usurers and into that state of inde pendence in which they can hereafter buy the cheapest for cash and sell the highest, because they can sell when they want to, no when they must." Certainly this fertile section of the "Great American Desert" has been made to blossom as the rose. VThere twenty years ago was a bare, bleak prairie, with here and there a sodhouse or a "dugout," now are pretty farmsteads by the thousand. The liouses are of frame, painted, surrounded by lawns, flowers and fiuits. Every farm has an acre or more of tirnber, cottonwoods and elms, planted by the settlers fiftoen or twenty years ago. I stood yesterday under the shade of a magnificent elm, its trunk a foot'thick, which I planted in the year 1872. Nearly all of this country is under cultivation. In a farm of 100 acres 140 in the average will be under plow. One man, with a helper tttid two teams, will cultívate these 140 acres, raisiug in a year like this three or four thousand dollars worth of wheat, corn, oats and barley. At the state fair in Lincoln, the capital of the state, a few days ago, I saw 8omething which I must teil Jerry Rusk about when I return to Washington. While on his western trip with President Harrison the secretary of agriculture told a Nebraska audience that in California he had seen corustalks thirty feet high, with a bushei of ears on each stalk. "But here in Nebraska," said the jovial Becretary , gi vinfj his imagination full play in a desire to pleaso his hearers, "I expect to hear of your raising corn as big as trees, every stalk filled with shelled corn." The farmers of Nebraska have taken Mr. Rusk at his word and at the state fair have fulülled his prophecy by erecting a little grove of artificial cornstalks, froin the hollow of which they draw shelled corn through spouts. In addition to this they have a derrick lifting a brobdignagian ear of corn from the top of a gixteen story stalk, and several other pretty conceits which I am sure Uncle Jerry will be glad to hear about.


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