Hiram's Pay Day
National Fertilizer Review, November 1929
Free Copies Available
THIS playlet was first presented during the Soils School broadcast February 20
to 25, 1928, over Station WLS, Chicago, and sponsored by The National
Fertilizer Association. It is reprinted here because of the continued demand
from county agents, vocational teachers and farm organizations. The play is a
sequel to the radio play "Hiram's Hired Hands," which was given over the same
station in February, 1927, and which was printed in THE FERTILIZER REVIEW for
April 1927. Although written primarily for use in the Middle West, it may be
easily adapted to other regions.
Requests for the first playlet came from scores of country agents, vocational
workers, Grange lectures, Farm Bureau workers and others who used it for home-
talent presentation. Hundreds of copies were distributed. It was even
translated into Spanish and distributed in Spain.
This playlet, "Hiram's Pay Day," is available in pamphlet form for the use of
county agents, vocational agriculture teachers, farm organizations, community
groups and others interested in putting it on locally. Copies of the first
playlet, "Hiram's Hired Hands" also are available and may be obtained without
cost by writing THE FERTILIZER REVIEW.
Hiram's Pay Day
By H. W. Warner
After a Season of Toil Comes the Day of Settlement for the Four Hired Hands
Employed by Hiram Midwest to Work on his Extensive Farms, But Have They Made
Good on Their Strong Promises?
HIRAM MIDWEST. A well-to-do, middle aged farmer. Inclined to be gruff. Demands
facts and bases his decisions on them.
MRS. MIDWEST. Neat-appearing, active middle-aged woman. Capable of reaching a
decision and making it known to others. Inclined to be impatient.
CALCIUM LIME STONE. Rather rugged type, slow talking and acting.
JOHN GREENLEAF NITROGEN. Large, good-natured fellow, rather awkward.
STRONGBACK POTASH. Very erect and straight. Affects stiff, mechanical manner.
KERNEL HURRY-UP PHOSPHORUS. Rather small, plump character; very business-like.
Has manner of one who gets things done on time.
Hiram Midwest is the operator of the large tract of land known as the "Middle
West," each of his farms being one of the States of that great agricultural
region. Necessarily he employs many helpers to grow and care for his huge
crops of corn and grain, hay and fruit, vegetables and tobacco. Some of his
old reliable hands are Drainage, Cultivation, Legumes and Rotation. More
recently he has given employment to a hard-working fellow named Power.
Realizing last spring that he needed still more help, he advertised for a
hand. Four applicants were interviewed -- Calcium Lime Stone, John Greenleaf
Nitrogen, Strongback Potash and Kernel Hurry-Up Phosphorus. They gave such
good accounts of themselves that Hiram, after Mrs. Midwest had made the
decision, hired them all for a year and put them to work in some of his
fields. This scene takes place after the crops are harvested. It is time to
have a settling with these young fellows who promised to do so much. Unable
personally to follow their work on all his large fields, Hiram Midwest has
instructed his foremen and overseers to "keep an eye" on the new hired hands
and to report back to him after the year's work is done. On the basis of these
reports Hiram will decide whether to pay them off and let them go, or to sign
them up as regulars along with his older hired men.
This playlet tells what took place on "Hiram's Pay Day."
The curtain rises with Hiram Midwest busily engaged with his account books. He
adds a long column of figures, examines it critically aand then hurriedly goes
over it again. Finally, he appears satisfied with it.
HIRAM (to himself): Well, there's the figures and figures don't lie, although
they do say that liars figure. Now, let's take another look at these (business
of checking results). Correct, by gum, even if I did add it myself. I wonder
what the boys will say when I show them the figures in black and white --
lucky they are not in red this year. This is pay day and they'll all be here
to get their wages and find out if they've a job for next year. There's going
to be some squirming when they see my figures and hear the reports from my
MRS. MIDWEST (calling from another room): Hiram! Oh, Hiram! Where in the world
HIRAM: Here in the office, Ma. What can I do for you?
MRS. M (enters from right): I've been looking all over for you. Have you
forgotten that this is pay day for the new men?
HIRAM: No, not quite. I've been working on my books all morning figuring up
how much I owe them and how much they made me.
MRS. M: Do you know, Hiram, you haven't been very cordial with these new men.
You have been very critical of their work, hardly had a good word for them,
and haven't even told them whether you want them to stay on with us as regular
hired hands. Shouldn't you be a little more considerate of them?
HIRAM: I guess maybe I have been a bit slow about taking up with these young
fellers. Maybe so, maybe so. But I've always had a reputation for having
pretty good judgment about hiring men and it has usually paid to play safe
with new and untried men. We don't have to decide such things too quick, Ma.
MRS. M: _Quick_? _Quick_, did you say? Well, as I recall, if there hadn't been
someone to do some quick thinking and quick deciding last spring when these
men applied, you would have let them go without hiring a one of them. Then you
would have been short-handed all year and the crops would have suffered.
HIRAM: I declare, Ma, aren't you getting a bit het up about this?
MRS. M: Well, I think it is high time you were doing the right thing by these
men who stayed with you all through the season, made good crops on fields
where you haven't made a paying crop in years and even helped out on your very
HIRAM: That's right, so far as it goes. But do you reckon those young
braggarts half-way made good on their claims about what they could do? Do you
remember the rig-a-marole of things they said they could do?
MRS. M: Yes, I remember they did appear rather confident, but haven't they
made good on what they promised?
HIRAM: Now, that's the very thing I'm asking you! Have they made good? Now
take that big husky feller, Calcium Lime Stone--"Cal" he said his name was.
What a yarn he told about sweetening up the land for clovers and alfalfa and
beets and onions and goodness knows what else.
MRS. M: From what I saw of his work I think he did all that he said--
HIRAM: And that awkward gawky-looking chap, John Greenleaf Nitrogen, who said
green leaves and stalks and stems grew wherever he worked--sort of followed
him around, I reckon. Said he could make the crops start off early in the
spring. Did he make good?
MRS. M.: He _certainly_ did all that he claimed and more than we had--
HIRAM: I'll never forget that cocky-looking little fellow who sat up so
straight. Said his name was Strongback Potash, but he wanted us to call him
"Starchy." Claimed he kept crops from getting the rickets and knock-knees and
limberneck by putting starch and sugar in the stalks and stems.
MRS. M.: Well, you can't deny that he did just what--
HIRAM: And then that snappy little feller, the "Kernel." said his name was
Kernel Hurry-Up Phosphorus. Didn't he admire himself? Said he could produce
grain and seed of all kinds, get the corn ripe before frost came in the fall,
double the yield of clover and alfalfa, and I don't know what all. Nothing
very bashful about that "Kernel," was there?
MRS. M.: Maybe he was a bit boastful but he did everything he said he would.
Think of the corn he saved from frost and look at the stands of clover he gave
us. For that matter they all did fully as much as they agreed to and you'll
admit it yourself, even if you did hire them against your own best judgment,
which, I must say, was none too good in that case.
HIRAM: Now listen, Ma, I ain't saying they didn't work hard. I guess they did
for the crops are all that they claimed. But I haven't forgot what they cost.
And I haven't forgot either that they guaranteed to make me two dollars for
every dollar they cost for wages and keep. They knew what they were up against
when they made that bargain, and so did I. Hiram Midwest sticks to his word
and he expects the other feller to do the same.
MRS. M: But, Hiram, are you sure they didn't make you two dollars for each one
they cost? Perhaps they did.
HIRAM: Well, here's the figures that tell the story. I'm going to spring 'em
on these ambitious young upstarts this very day. They'll be here in a few
minutes to get their pay and I reckon they'll know it's been pay day when I
show them the hard cold facts. They'll think twice next time before they make
any wild-cat promises about two dollars for one. They're going to find I'm not
the kind that falls for this blue-sky, high-pressure talk. When they say "two
dollars for one" that's what I expect, and I aim to get it.
(Group of male voices outside singing "Alfalfa Hay" to tune Sweet Adeline,
softly at first and gradually louder as they approach the door.)
Alfalfa hay! (Alfalfa hay!)
Alfalfa hay! (Alfalfa hay!)
I feed my cows, (I feed my cows,)
Alfalfa hay! (Alfalfa hay!)
It makes my hens (It makes my hens)
Lay twice a day. (Lay twice a day.)
You're the flower of
HIRAM (as singing is heard): Here they are for their pay. They're singing now,
but I wonder if they will feel like singing when pay day is over.
(Loud rap at door; Mrs. Midwest goes to door and opens it.)
MRS. M.: Good morning boys, come right in.
HIRED HANDS (altogether): Good morning, Mrs. Midwest, I hope you are well
MRS. M.: I'm very well, thank you. Won't you give me your hats and have some
H. HANDS: Thank you, Mrs. Midwest.
(Business of removing hats and being seated. Meanwhile, Hiram is busy with his
books and apparently does not notice the men. He turns rather brusquely,
looking at them over his glasses.)
HIRAM: Well, you're here, eh? Just draw up your chairs a bit closer and let's
get started on this settling up. It won't lake long, but there's no use
dragging it out.
(The Hired Hands are somewhat taken back at Hiram's words and manner but say
HIRAM: All right, who's first? Might as well start with the big fellow, Cal
Lime Stone. What have you done to earn your wages, Mr. Stone?
CAL: I put in a big year's work for you, Mr. Midwest. I sweetened up thousands
of acres of your land.
HIRAM: Where did _that_ make me any profit?
CAL: By making it possible to grow alfalfa, clovers, sugar beets, onions and a
lot of other valuable crops on land where they couldn't be grown before. You
made good money on those crops, too.
HIRAM: Well, I suppose you did the best you could. Now let's have a report
from John Greenleaf Nitrogen. What have you to say?
NITROGEN: Mr. Midwest, I never worked harder in my life than I did this year.
You remember how cold and late the spring was, don't you? Well, wherever I
worked I looked after the young plants and gave them enough to eat until the
ground could help feed them. I kept a lot of corn fields from getting
discouraged with life before they got a start. Corn didn't show a "yellow
streak" where I was.
HIRAM: Anything else?
NITROGEN: Yes, sir. Do you realize how much I helped the fruit crop, the
berries and grapes, the potatoes, sugar beets and all the vegetable and truck
HIRAM: Ye-ee-es. I remember you did make a pretty good showing. Now, what have
you to say for yourself, Strongback Potash--er--excuse me, I mean "Starchy."
POTASH: You remember what I told you I could do when you hired me, Mr.
HIRAM: Partly, but let's hear whether you _did_ it or not.
POTASH: Well, I kept a lot of crops from getting weak-kneed and put starch in
their backbones when they were about to double up and fall over. I don't think
your crops on the muck and peat soils and on the light sandy ones would have
been worth harvesting if I hadn't brought them through. Between myself and
Kernel Phosphorus we just about kept the corn root rot out of the fields where
you put us to work.
HIRAM: Yep, I recall that. Guess I shouldn't complain too much about you,
either. But let's see what the "Kernel," Hurry-Up Phosphorus, did for us.
PHOSPHORUS: After all these other men have done, I suppose you wonder what
there was left for me to do. But I found plenty to keep me busy and there were
hundreds and thousands of fields that needed me that I never got to at all.
Think of the young clover and alfalfa seedings that I pulled through the
critical period and look at the fields of corn I hustled along to make good,
sound, ripe ears in spite of the weather. You can go through your corn cribs
right now and tell where I worked by the dry, well-matured ears of corn. Why,
even where you had hauled a lot of manure I balanced things up and made the
crops much better both in yield and quality.
HIRAM: Let me see now, Kernel, don't you sometimes go by the name of Acid
PHOSPHORUS: I used to until I found that some people thought I would make
their fields acid. But since I do not injure the soil in any way, as those who
have known me longest can say, I changed my name to "Superphosphate" to get
away from the word "acid."
HIRAM: That's interesting, Kernel, and I can't say that I blame you for
getting rid of a nickname that made people suspicious of you. Now, boys, I can
see that you've done well by the crops, and I only wish you had lived up to
the letter of your agreement.
H. HANDS (excitedly, with surprise): Why, didn't we do what we agreed to?
HIRAM: That's the point, exactly. I remember very distinctly that you agreed
to earn two dollars for every one you cost me. And that's what I was depending
on this year. You don't expect me to take you boys on as regular hired hands
if you can't make good on your first year's contract, do you? Above all things
I've got to have help that is dependable, no matter how willing they are.
PHOSPHORUS: Why, surely we made you twice what we cost.
NITROGEN: Yes, on some fields we must have made three times our cost.
POTASH: I wish now we had kept records of all we earned for you.
HIRAM: _Records_, did you say? That's just what I did. I've got records to
show what you earned and, by deducting what you cost, I know just what the net
MRS. M.: (Who had looked on in silence up to this time.) Now, Hiram, don't be
foolish about those records of yours. You aren't going to let four good hired
hands go just because they failed to make a hundred per cent profit on their
cost, are you?
HIRAM: "A bargain's a bargain" and I don't feel like letting down one bit more
with new men than I do with the older hands. They guaranteed me "two for one"
and if they can't deliver the goods they'll have to make room for fellows that
MRS. M.: Now, Hiram, _do listen to reason_.
HIRAM: I'm listening, Ma.
MRS. M: Do you want to go through all the trouble again of finding new men?
HIRAM: Who said anything about finding new men?
MRS. M: That's what you'll have to do if you let these go.
HIRAM: Let them go? Let them go? Who's going to let them go?
MRS. M: Why, I--I--why I thought you were going to fire them for not living up
to their agreement to make you two dollars for every one they cost.
HIRAM: I didn't say I was going to fire 'em, did I?
H. HANDS (altogether): Do you mean we can stay?
HIRAM: Just a minute, boys, just a minute! Let me explain. I guess I've fooled
you all long enough. I hired you fellows with the understanding that you would
be a "two to one" investment. I have kept accounts and know what you have
done. I figured it all up this morning and found that instead of making "two
to one" you have actually made almost three to one, taking the bunch as a
whole and averaging up for all my fields. Here are the figures -- you can see
for yourself. For each hundred dollars I invested in new hired hands I got
back nearly three hundred, instead of two hundred as I expected. So you can
see why you didn't live up to your agreement--you went beyond it, instead of
falling short of it.
MRS. M. (exasperated): Hiram Midwest, you'll get your own breakfast for a
whole week for taking us in like that. Boys, I won't say a thing if you take
him out and stick him in the watering trough, head first. (Laughter.)
HIRAM: Now that we've had our fun, let's get down to business. First, I want
to read you some of the reports I got from my managers and overseers. Here
they are, and this is only part of them. (Hiram produces a large bundle of
letters and begins to look through them.) Can't take time to read many. Well,
I'll pass over some of these hurriedly. Here's one from Fred Petty, that was
published in The Illinois Farmer. It tells how a White County farmer, O. E.
Veatch, uses lime and fertilizer to produce 40-bushel wheat on land that once
produced as low as 3 bushels to the acre. Mr. Veatch has limed his fields and
uses 400 pounds to the acre of 2-16-2 fertilizer for wheat. Mr. Veatch says,
"I have seen returns on this farm which paid a profit of over $100 per ton of
fertilizer." There's another place where you made more than "three to one."
That's a sample of the reports and I want you fellows to know that I expect
just as good reports every year.
PHOSPHORUS: You won't be disappointed, Mr. Midwest. I'm sure I can answer for
the others, too.
HIRAM: All right, boys. Now I'll pay you your wages. Here's your check, Mr.
Lime Stone; and here's yours, Kernel Phosphorus; and one for you Strongback
Potash; and yours, too, John Greenleaf Nitrogen.
ALL: Thanks, Mr. Midwest.
NITROGEN: You've made a mistake, Mr. Midwest, my check is for more than I have
POTASH: So is mine!
LIME STONE: Same here!
PHOSPHORUS: Here too!
HIRAM: Oh! I just put on a little extra as a bonus for your good work last
year. And besides, I want to keep you feeling good for I'm going to make more
use of you and put you to work on a lot more fields that need the very kind of
work you boys do.
H. HANDS (altogether): That's what we want--more work.
MRS. M.: Before you go I wish you boys would sing the rest of that song about
"Alfalfa Hay" that you were singing as you came here.
HIRAM: That's the stuff. Tune up, boys, and let's hear it. That's a fine song.
(Hired Hands sing.)
Alfalfa hay! (Alfalfa hay!)
Alfalfa hay! (Alfalfa hay!)
You grow for me, (You grow for me,)
Both night and day. (Both night and day.)
Plant food -- good seed-- (Plant food -- good seed -- )
And lime you need. (And lime you need.)
You're the flower of
(Hired Hands leave as they finish the song.)
HIRAM (rushing to door): Just a minute, boys. I forgot one thing; be mighty
careful who you tell about me making 200 per cent profit on my hired hands. I
might get picked up for profiteering.
Originally broadcast circa 20 February 1928