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?

The Cast 

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 
are you?

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 
best fields.

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 
   my heart,

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 
profit is.

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 
    my heart,

(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