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19 Dec 1998
Fred Schurke, his lifetime vocation -- farming
Ruth Burnside Series in Denison Papers - circa 1965

Following the vocation of agriculture all his life, Fred Schurke of Kiron has watched with amazement the rapid strides developed in modern machinery, the push button and cafeteria style of feeding livestock, the manufacture and use of the hundreds of chemicals for the changes in production on the farms, protein stepped up feed for cattle and hogs and the numerous fertilizers now used on farms.

For one thing there is the drastic conversion of plowing procedure, when he started farming he used two horses and walked behind a plow. His total assets when he began farming was a team of horses, a plow, cultivator, a mower, hayrack and a wagon. Now the farmer uses six-cylinder tractor engines that eliminate vibration and cut operation fatigue. For the comfort of the operator these tractors have adjustable seats with back rests. They are also equipped with different speeds to choose from and tele-depth control keeps implements at correct working depths.

He has also witnessed the stepped up methods that have been promoted along many lines in the livestock factor of farming where once it was a usual procedure to have the sows farrow once a year, some farmers now raise several farrowings of the sows. In the poultry, the farmerís wife raised one flock of chickens each year, using setting hens, now baby chicks are purchased and put in lighted heated brooder houses and as soon as they are ready for market they are sold and the brooder house refilled with baby chicks and on it goes throughout the year.

Nor did they have price supports and government aid as they have now, you planted, cultivated and harvested your crops by the trial and error method, hoping the law of supply and demand would take care of the crops harvested. You learned the hard way the various methods and procedures of farming, for the state was not blanketed by radio and television stations promoting agriculture, no pamphlets were available from the agricultural colleges to help and to suggest approved ways of farming, The only source of information for better farming was from the newspapers and periodicals and these were not too plentiful.

Fred Schurke, the son of August Schurke and Marie (Pithan) Schurke was born in Charter Oak township, Crawford county on October 13, 1892. His fatherís birthplace was Schleswig Holstein, Germany. Here he attended school. At the age of 16 he had the urge to leave his native land and come to the United States, so coming alone, he came to Clinton. At Clinton he was employed as a day laborer for a short time before he come to Crawford county. He purchased a farm of 80 acres for $4.00 per acre, located in Stockholm township, each year as he succeeded in his agricultural pursuits he acquired more land until he owned five farms and had a farm for each one of his children. He retired from the farm in 1936 and came to Denison to live.

Marie (Pithan) Schurke, his mother, was born in Charter Oak township, Crawford county. She attended a rural school and remained at home assisting her mother with the house work until she was married.

Mr. Schurke received his education in Stockholm No. 9 rural school as the school house was only one fourth mile from his home and he went home every day for dinner. Because of the proximity of the school house to his home, the teacher boarded with them during the bad weather. His teachers were all of one family, Kate, Agnes, John and Tom Curry. Each spring and fall the Indians camped in the timber east of their farm, he was always afraid of them so was relieved when they moved on.

One program they had stands out in his memory related Mr. Schurke, "The weather was so nice, a platform was built in the timber, complete with a curtain and the last day of school a program and picnic held."

He stayed at home assisting his father with the farm work so he was well versed in the planting, caring for and harvesting the crops and the raising and feeding of livestock which was a great asset to him when he started farming for himself.

On September 17, 1919 he was married to Mary Frahm at the St. Johnís church in Stockholm township, with Rev. Otto Richter, as officiating minister. They have one son, Leonard Schurke, of Deloit and one grandchild.

Their married life began on a farm five and on-fourth miles southeast of Kiron, which he rented from his father, later on he bought the farm and resided there for 38 years. In 1957 they retired and came to Kiron to make their home.

Going to birthday parties, barn dances and neighborhood parties was the main entertainment they had. They always looked forward to the Fourth of July celebrations held at Deloit. They planned on this festivity for a month saving their pennies to spend on that day.

The cattle he fed was all of his raising, the finished cattle were sold either on the Omaha or Chicago market. His price range for cattle was a spread of five and one-half cents a pound to 25 cents. About 70 hogs were raised each year. He received as low as three and one-half cents per pound and said "one year I received $100 a piece for a load of sows."

Their farm was located in a spot that consistently suffered hail storms. It was considered a hail district and they were hailed out eight times, nearly a complete loss of crop for very little was left. Then too, in 1936 and 1937 their corn crop was nil for they didnít pick an ear of corn. The pasture was burnt up and they run out of water so had to dig the well deeper and drill a new well.

Before the advent of the tractor he used mules as well as horses for his farming and this entailed the usual amount of run-aways. One runaway involved a seeder. When the horses took off they mowed down 40 rods of fence, another time a team of mules ran away with the cultivator.

One time a tornado hit their farm which demolished the chicken house, uprooted trees and broke out the windows in the house. Another time a tornado just missed them but hit an adjacent farm, flattening all the buildings.

He keeps in touch with the farm situation, he still goes out to the farm and assists his son with the work.

Fishing and gardening are his chief hobbies. He likes to catch fish but doesnít care for them. His enjoyment is landing the fish. He goes fishing at Black Hawk lake and the Williamís pond east of town. He still raises a garden and they have enough for table use and for canning.

Still a farmer at heart, he keeps a close eye on the markets by listening to market reports on the radio and following the newspaper reports. His ardent interest in his vocation proves you can take a man away from farming, but you canít take farming away from the man.


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