Hiram's Hired Hands
Fertilizer Review, April 1927
"Hiram's Hired Hands"
A _Mellowdrama_ in One Act that _Touches_ the Very _Soil_ of the Nation
Hiram Midwest -- A well-to-do, capable farmer of middle age, rather large,
inclined to be gruff, but he is reasonable and willing to hear the facts.
Mrs. Midwest -- A neat, active farm wife who has the capacity to reach a
decision and to impress it upon others.
Calcium Lime Stone -- A rugged character, talks and acts slowly; has a
disposition that sweetens his surroundings.
John Greenleaf Nitrogen -- Large, good-natured fellow, inclined to be awkward
Strongback Potash -- Very straight and erect; holds head and neck erect; moves
and talks briskly and rather mechanically.
Kernel Hurry-up Phosphorus -- Small, rather plump character, very business-
like and having appearance and manner of one who gets things done on time.
Hiram Midwest is the owner and operator of that great farm region known as the
Middle West. His farms comprise the millions of acres in America's bread
basket -- that tremendous tract between the Alleghanies on the East and the
99th meridian on the West and between Canada on the North to Dixie Land on the
South. He has divided his big farm into a number of smaller units which he has
named Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Missouri, Iowa,
Minnesota, The Dakotas, Nebraska and Kansas.
Mr. Midwest is not only the biggest farmer in the United States, but also in
the whole world. As would be expected he requires a great amount of help in
producing his varied and voluminous crops of corn, grain, hay, fruit,
vegetables and tobacco. Some of his old reliable hands are Drainage,
Cultivation, Legumes and Rotation. Long ago he found that one of his best
hired men was Good Seed. More recently he has found it profitable and often
necessary to make more use of another hard-working farm laborer, called Power.
Now, in spite of his already-large crew of hard-working farm hands, he finds
himself face to face with the proposition of employing still more help. And so
he advertises in the paper for "a hand."
Hiram Midwest and Mrs. Midwest sit at a reading table. Hiram carefully scans
the newspaper; Mrs. Midwest reads.
Hiram -- Well, I don't believe they ran my ad for a hired man, after all!
(continues to search, rattling the paper). Yes they did! Sure enough, here it
is! Let's see if they got it right (reads):
WANTED: A hired hand who can cut costs on every ton or
bushel of farm produce. He must be able to get along with the
rest of my men and earn $2 for every dollar he costs. Call Hiram
Midwest, Rural Line No. 5.
Well, that ought to get a "rise," if there's any one that really wants to work
and can earn more than his board and keep.
(Telephone rings sharply.)
Hiram -- Sounds like somebody wants to talk with us.
(Continues to read paper.)
(Telephone rings again and Mrs. Midwest answers.)
Mrs. Midwest -- Hello! (pause) Yes, sir, I'll call him. (Turns to Hiram.)
Somebody wants you, Hiram.
(Hiram goes to phone.)
Hiram -- Hello! Hello! Yes, sir, this is Hiram Midwest. What can I do for you?
How's that? You what? Oh, I get you now. You are answering my ad, eh? Well,
what can you do? How's that? You say you can cut production costs? That's a
pretty big claim, young fellow! What? You say all you want is a chance to
demonstrate? That's fair enough, but I want to find out a little more about
you before I take you on. Better come over and let me have a look at you.
What? There's four of you! Well, I don't believe I need that much help but
come along and I can take my pick of the bunch. Sure! All right, bring 'em
along, I'll be glad to talk with the whole bunch.
(Hangs up receiver.)
Now what do you think of that? Four of them, all at once! Maybe out of the
four I can get one that will fill the bill. I've found that it pays to go slow
when it comes to hiring new help. I like to size 'em up before I sign 'em up.
You've got to know what a new hand can do and what kind of a recommendation he
can bring from other employers. Well, we'll see! It'll be fun to see how the
other three look when I pick the one I intend to hire!
(Loud rap at door.)
Here they are already. (Goes to door and opens it.) Come in! Come in boys,
make yourselves at home and let me have your hats. I'll have to ask you
fellows to introduce yourselves.
Lime -- My name is Calcium Lime Stone, Mr. Midwest, and you can call me "Cal"
or "Lime," just as you wish.
Hiram -- Pleased to meet you, Mr. Lime Stone (shakes hands).
Nitrogen -- And I am John Greenleaf Nitrogen, but they call me "Nitrogen" or
"Ammonia," for short.
Hiram -- Glad to know you, too, Mr. John Greenleaf Nitrogen (shakes hands).
Phosphorus -- I am Kernel Hurry-up Phosphorus, Mr. Midwest, and I go by the
name of "Phosphate."
Hiram -- Shake hands, Kernel, glad to see you (shakes hands).
Potash -- My name is Strongback Potash, but I prefer the nickname "Starchy."
Hiram -- Mighty glad to know you, too, Mr. Potash (shakes hands) I believe
I've heard a little about you boys before. I'm not in the market for more than
one new hand this season, but I want to talk with you all anyway. I'm going to
find out what you can do and then give one of you the job. Here, boys, take
these chairs and be comfortable while we talk (all take chairs).
Hiram -- I reckon we might as well get right down to business, so I'll start
with you, Mr. Stone. What can you do?
Lime -- My main job is to keep the clovers and alfalfa doing well and making
Hiram -- Goodness knows that's a big undertaking and a job that needs to be
done on a lot of my fields. But how do you help the legume crops, as you
Lime -- Well, when the soil gets soured on the world I come along and sweeten
it up and give the crop a drink of lime-water so it won't get weak-kneed and
show a yellow streak. Some crops need lots of lime and that's my middle name.
Hiram -- What crops do you work on best?
Lime -- I specialize on alfalfa, sweet clover, sugar beets, onions, celery,
spinach and the like, but if the land is too sour, red clover and a lot of
other crops find me a real friend in need.
Hiram -- That's a good account of yourself, young man, and I'm pretty much
interested in what you do because I ought to have just that kind of help. Now
let's hear what you have to say for yourself, Mr. Nitrogen. I believe your
full name is John Greenleaf Nitrogen, isn't it?
Nitrogen -- Yes, sir. They call me "Greenleaf" because wherever I work you
always find plenty of green leaves and green stems. In fact, my special line
of work is to feed and build up the green parts of the crop which you must
have before the seed, grain or fruit can be formed.
Hiram -- Well, now that's right interesting. What crops are you best with and
what kind of land needs your help most?
Nitrogen -- Every crop you grow depends on my work, but some crops need me
more than others. Clover and other legumes are great patrons of mine and they
reach right up into the air to put me to work -- sort of by radio, you might
say. I don't work so hard on land that is already rich from growing legumes or
from heavy applications of manure, but on most other land I can make you some
big profits on vegetable and fruit crops, tobacco, and on wheat and corn, as
well. Say, you ought to see corn step on it, even in the early season before
the ground gets warmed up, if I am put to work when the seed is planted. I've
helped many a field of corn get a head start of the season and grow in spite
of the cool weather.
Hiram -- Right well said, Nitrogen, or Ammonia, as they call you. I'd like to
hear more from you but I guess we'll have to move along to that fellow who
sits up so straight. What's your name again?
Potash -- Strongback Potash is my name but I'd rather you called me Starchy.
Hiram -- All right, Starchy, what are you good for besides looking as stiff
and straight as a soldier on dress parade?
Potash -- My job, Mr. Midwest, is to start the crops going straight and keep
them from getting rickets, wobble-joints, limber-neck and knock-knees. You
know how things keep their shape when they are starched. Well, that's just
what I do for the crops. I put starch in the stems and stalks so they will be
able to hold up under the strain, and take their place in the world.
Hiram -- Gosh, do you mean you actually keep crops from getting weak-spined?
Potash -- Exactly so. Now, I don't want any quarrel with my good friend,
Nitrogen, but when he over-works on a field the crop gets rank and may lodge
unless I am on the job to brace things up. I can make you a lot of money on
the muck and peat soils on those farms of yours that you call Ohio, Indiana,
Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa. That's where I shine! I'm a
hard worker on sandy soils too. Maybe you've heard of one of my relatives who
is supposed to be working on some of the best farm land in the country. To
tell you the truth he just barely holds his job, and does the least work he
can to get by. They call him Unavailable Potash, but I call him just plain
lazy for I have to come in and help the loafer out if the job is to be done
Hiram -- I want to apologize Starchy, for making remarks about how straight
you stand. And after hearing you, I don't know but that you talk just as
straight as you stand. Now, we're down to the last one. What is your name
Phosphorus -- Kernel Hurry-up Phosphorus is my full name but you may call me
Phosphate, if you prefer. You might not believe it but I'm really the life of
Hiram -- Do you mean to say you're a wild one?
Phosphorus -- No, not quite that! I mean that without me on the job there
would be no germ formed and it is the germ in the seed that gives it life. I'm
generally known as the one who makes the seed, or the kernel. That's why I am
called Kernel. Your crops need me from the time the seeds sprout until they
are fully mature. I have no favorite crop and work hard on almost every kind
of soil you have on your farm. Just try me on a field you are putting in grain
and clover. I'll more than pay for myself on the grain and make from 200 to
500 per cent profit on the clover crop following. And on corn!! Many a field
I've pulled through ahead of an early frost and made a crop of sound ears
instead of one of soft, chaffy, spongy stuff that you can hardly sell. That's
where I got my name Hurry-up, for I keep pushing things along and finish the
job in hurry-up style. I don't like to appear boastful, but even on land that
has had manure every two or three years I can balance up conditions and make
you some real profits.
Hiram -- I'll take off my hat to you, Kernel! And such a name -- Kernel Hurry-
up Phosphorus. Why, you couldn't get a better name for a hired hand whose job
is to produce seeds, or kernels, and do it in hurry-up fashion. Well, so much
for that! I'm down to the end of the line and the big job is still ahead. What
in the dickens am I going to do? Here I am, wanting a good hand and all of a
sudden four of them show up. And hanged if I don't really need them all! But
no! I won't hire them all, darned if I will! I'll look 'em over again, keep
one, and send the other three along. Now to decide which three I'll have to do
without. I'd give anything if somebody else would do this for me. But here
goes! Now, let's see! This fellow, Lime, sweetens up sour soil for clover and
alfalfa. And Nitrogen is the one that makes the stems and stalks and leaves
and feeds the corn before the ground warms up. And Starchy Potash keep the
crops straight and their heads up and puts the right stuff in the muck and
peat and sandy soils. And last, but not least, is Kernel Hurry-up Phosphorus!
He's the seed-maker who pushes the crops along to get them ripe early. Now,
what can a fellow do? I guess the only thing is to let them all go and get
along without any more help this year.
(At this point Mrs. Midwest, who has been busy working on her household
accounts and reading the magazines but in reality has taken in the whole
conversation, speaks up.)
Mrs. Midwest -- Now, dad, keep calm and use your head. There's just one thing
to do and you ought to know what that is!
Hiram -- Well, I declare I don't! What is it?
Mrs. Midwest -- Now listen to me! You'll admit that Calcium Lime Stone will
make you money on lots of your land, won't you?
Hiram -- Yes, but I only----
Mrs. Midwest -- And you can see where John Greenleaf Nitrogen is badly needed
for some of your crops and soils?
Hiram -- Yes, but I-- !
Mrs. Midwest -- And Starchy Potash will make some of our poorer lands as good
as the best?
Hiram -- I know, but don't you understand?
Mrs. Midwest-- And there's Kernel Hurry-up Phosphorus! Goodness knows, Hiram,
if he can produce corn and grain, and make clover grow, and can get the corn
ripe ahead of frosts, as he claims, you can't get along without him!
Hiram -- What in the world are you thinking of, Ma?
Mrs. Midwest -- Just this! Every one of these boys will make you good hired
hands and every one of them will make you money if you work them where they
can do their best. Why, Hiram Midwest, I'm surprised at you! There's just one
thing to do and that is to hire 'em all and put 'em to work. Here boys, get
into your working clothes and dig in. Hiram, you show 'em where to start!
Hiram -- Well, I'll be hanged. If that aint' just like a woman! Let me
struggle along till I get all excited and het up and don't know what to do.
Then she steps in and settles the whole thing. And I reckon she's right!
Always is! She's been doing the hiring and firing for 40 years and darned if I
ever remember her making a poor deal!
FREE COPIES AVAILABLE (Editor's note-- This playlet was first presented during
the "Midwest Fertilizer School," which was broadcast over WLS, the Sears
Roebuck Station at Chicago, under auspices of the northern division of the
Soil Improvement Committee. It was written by H. W. Warner, editorial
agronomist of the northern division, especially for use in the Middle West,
but by changing the name of Hiram Midwest and his wife the playlet easily can
be adapted to other regions. _Hiram's Hired Hands_ has been printed in a
pocket-size pamphlet, copies of which will be sent upon request to THE
Originally broadcast circa 28 February 1927