Lloyd Johnson

053 1961 Lloyd johnson stud farmLloyd Johnson

Lloyd was a long time neighbor and contemporary of my dad (Paul Chandler). They bought their farms within months of each other 1933-34. He came right after we did – his farm a mile north on NE corner of Butte and West 2nd Ave. As many farmers did back then, having almost zero assets, and in hard times, they combined forces with neighbors, collaborating at every chance. They shared work, shared jobs they got working for others.

To get from dad’s farm to Emmett bench to do sheep things would take over 30 minutes today by car. But my dad, and Lloyd, could trot and run their saddle horse there cross country and river and beat us!  When I talked to Lloyd on the phone back in 1994 it had been 50 years since I talked with him – but it was like yesterday – instant communication – like with family.

Paul and Lloyd rode their horses up the river and across to work for Andy and Dave Little (ten – fifteen miles as crow flies) – so much of experience listed here was side by side work for these folks. This forms a strong bond. Lloyd’s kids were a couple of years older than I was – we rode the bus together.                                                                                                                                                   

Over the years, Lloyd – who had a stud service for artificial dairy insemination — did most of that for us. Paul and Lloyd took many vet courses offered to farmers in Portland in the winter time. We had no vets available, so had to learn to do our own. Paul and Lloyd would collaborate when our animals got sick.

Many times I combined and baled Lloyd’s hay and grain. The following interview was via phone. We talked as old friends and neighbors – the responses below were the result of the conversation flow. I told him what I was doing and would ask if he knew X, and his responses would then provoke more reminisces back and forth. The problem, of course, is like hearing one end of a phone conversation – you miss my side questions or comments. Of course our history included the neighborhood around us 1933-1994 so recalled other neighbors, their kids, their farms, etc., Catching up a life time. Merely mentioning a neighbor’s name is like opening an entire book (between friends). One instantly is up to date to a point – so it is merely an addition.

As old neighbors, all of the area was so familiar that just a name or property would bring memories, presumed knowledge, and, of course, vastly condensed answers because neither need be informed about the topics.

We “wintered” our dry stock and horses on Brocus and/or the Coconno farms (note that is how the locals always refer to these properties — just plain “Brokus” and “the Coconno”) – which were thin river bottom alkali land only useable – at that time – for pasture. Much of it was swampy (eventually it would be “tiled” with drainage pipes to river.) All the water for them came from being on the tail end of drain ditches that collected all drainage from the 4-5 miles above them. This was considerable advantage as waste water is silt laden, so the silt benefited the thin river bottom land it was used upon. Lloyd’s farm abutted the Kennedys’ land along the river, and had its own alkali and swampy areas.

Paul and Lloyd got involved in raising mint (alfalfa type plant that has the oil used for spearmint and peppermint flavoring). It is an oil in a plant that looks like alfalfa that has to be heated in a “still” which evaporates the oil, and then cools it, separating it from water and other impurities. It is stored and sold in 55 gal drums. Others, also in this mint venture, were Mike King (who had the still and was about a mile east of Lloyd and Paul, and others. Mike King, Eula Simpson, and others were Kennedy clan or related, and many in this mint group were part of the “river” clans bound by close knit families from early 1900s.)  These families banded together — sort of a quasi co op to support each other in the endeavor.  King put up the land and building for the “still” and Lloyd ran it.

This interview shows the evolution of this area farms, and explained how it came about. Fine Foods, a food industry and canning enterprise, first rented, then bought out farmer after farmer on the best land around lower Payette Valley. This was helped, you might even call it “bribed” or “seduced” by hiring the farmers whose land was rented. They had a good paying job, weren’t really worked all that hard as “field agents” who drove around in company supplied pickups and merely “advised” farmers or others who were farming, growing mostly sweet corn. After a few years of doing this, then they did not want to go back to farming. So they rented and then sold out to Fine Foods.  And still another farmer, a pillar of his community is gone forever.  Fine Foods will never do for the community what its farmers had done.

Today, if you look at the tax rolls, you will find that Fine Foods owns many farms outright. But also, they are renting lots and lots of land from farmers’ widows. Fine Foods will end up owning those as well.  All the profit from this sort of endeavor then flows away from the community, and the community goes south.  As Fine Foods continues their campaign there will be less and less independents who are simply being out-competed by an industry giant with an insidious acquisition habit.

The Fine Foods distributing center on Butte is less than quarter mile from Lloyd’s farm on Bill Glassen’s old farm, a neighbor’s land – actually kitty corner across the intersection from Lloyd. Bill Glasson died in late 50s. His widow, Lillian, rented her farm to Fine Foods. Then they bought the 20 acres abutting the railroad, and built the distribution center.

Farmers like Lloyd have raised their children, saw them all leave and go far away. Instead of farm kids growing up and taking over the farm when dad got old or died, they all left the community. Farms have changed to an entirely different type of enterprise. That means adapting to a much bigger financial model and even different crops. And, insuperable problems in buying farms for farm kids. These farmers now are old, retired, and see no reason to remain on the land – their children all gone. As their widows age and die off, the estates will all sell to Fine Foods. At present, there are no real challengers in sight. One of my old contemporaries – a year older, Duane Van Leuven, who grew up a mile from me, bought up many farms 40s-50s-60s – became a very sizable farmer. Duane has now gone like all the rest, and the very same way.

Remainder is Lloyd Johnson interview 9/19/94;

He is now 83, Fine Foods has rented his farm, he used to have 120 acres, now 80

He has aerial photo of farm, above.

He is not related to CW Johnson (Charlie on Birding Island)

Has 3 grandkids in Denver: Jonas youngest, Cal, Antica

Son, Alvin still close – is on old Tom Dotson place just below them, 40 acres.

In youth (1920s) he was herding 30 head of wild mares and stallion for Andy Little (Big Willow and dry hills above Emmett Bench – and up Van Dueson road north of Emmett.) Andy Little: Dave was son, Brother Old Walt, and young Walt. (the Walts are on south side of Emmett Valley).

He bound grain with pair of mules and pair of horses 300 acres for Andy.

058 1928 a116 zola paul1.91M(Paul and Zola Chandler shortly before moving to NP)

Lloyd, and my dad (Paul Chandler) worked for Andy/Dave on and off for 2-3 yrs. That was on upper Emmett bench in lambing sheds. They fresnoed snow out lambing area (February brought lots of snow back then). Slip bucket out manure. Used to fresno out manure, manure froze in trough in barn. He and dad would ride their saddle ponies cross country, cross the river any number of places, and up the road to the bench.  Take 30-40 minutes at fast trot.  In February, weather was always a mess, cold, sleet or rain. Very slippery.  Both had good easy riding horses. 

The horses learned the way, and could see in the dark better than they could.  Sometimes they probably “smelled” their way!  Lambing job would last maybe six weeks.  Paul got the bum lambs to take home to raise. Thought it was great idea, but his wife, June, didn’t want to nursemaid a bunch of sheep.  Paul must have gotten 50 of them, just for the taking!

The 1904 newspaper says the Littles wintered 50,000 sheep on the bench on alfalfa fields.  By the mid 30s, with many more and better farms that might have been double that. By mid March those sheep must be on the trail as they would surely have eaten all the hay stored for them.

When Lloyd set up his own farm he had 12-15 — at most 30 milk cows. At that time (30s-40s) wasn’t a 50 cow herd in area, now nothing less than 50 cows in any dairy.

Lloyd and his wife, June,  picked 300 boxes of apples (per day), she did 200 and he did 100. Women picked the bottom easy to reach, while men had to use tall ladders to get difficult to reach fruit at top and middle of tree. Lloyd had picked apples with Paul in order to get the “cash money” to make his farm mortgage payments, just as we did.

Talking about his neighbors: they divided Brokus (Big property below him) had big place. Lloyd got rid of dairy stock ~1970 (including his insemination business–dairying in New Plymouth had run its course.)

His first car — Ford 1927-28 had to stop on way to McCall put on set of brake bands, had gone to Council, then down and over through Ola – it run away, had foot on all 3 pedals (Model T). (This road he is talking about is up the Little Weiser River route over the mountain to Long Valley/Cascade area)

Lloyd’s house dates from before electricity and indoor plumbing. Had old growth poplars that got way too big, over shaded the house, made it gloomy.  Paul retrofitted Lloyd’s electric wiring when we got electricity.

Nelson Sheet metal in Payette made him a bathtub for his house in 1927 (you used to see these tubs in westerns).

He called his old place “Johnson Swamp,” mostly tullies, frogs, and mosquitoes. (Bottom 40 off the edge of the bench). He couldn’t drain the land before they put in a cement ditch on the Coconno place (next door). (Land situated like this gets the ground water seeping down from the entire bench. Many springs and artesian wells all along this band up and down the river.)

He helped junk that Montour town. When the dam came in, the town would be flooded, so was necessary to move it. Lloyd got one of those houses, really good timber, but didn’t have lumber stamp, couldn’t buy or use if no stamp.  Lumber could not be resold because it was built of bootleg lumber – not gov’t stamp. Sheep herders took the house and put it where they could use it.

Got poles up on Dry Buck, hauled down on road from Dry Buck on wagons, could get permits (forest service stamps – these were used for “booms” on hay derricks — would take to Ray Tuttle in New Plymouth to put on all the hardware).

He worked processing mint at Kings (Mike). Lloyd ran “mint still” down at Kings

With Paul Chandler, it was his first time raising mint. Paul talked him into it. (Dad also talked a whole group into it — and they made more money than the rest of their farming put together!)

He bought nitrogen tanks in 1969 in Salt Lake City (for liquid fertilizer), took Paul with him, got 6 tanks to inject liquid nitrogen via field fertilizer spreaders. After mint petered out, Joe Schmidt sold one of those old tanks to steak house to make western furnace out of it.

He saw Art in barber shop a month ago, just fishes now.

Art still has lots of mint land, got 300 acres of mint, lots of machinery

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