Baxter Black: The Historic Star Valley Beanfield War
I guess it never would have happened if Raymond hadn’t sold his cows. The Star Valley Beanfield War, I mean.
Cy talked him into planting a bean field. They both had time on their hands. The two of them would do the work. Cy put up twenty acres and Raymond furnished the machinery. The field was in a small plot of private property surrounded by the Tonto National Forest. I should point out that both men were three score and ten…each.
May 10 they broke ground. That spring Arizona had above normal moisture and the beans came on like gangbusters! Raymond left for a week and on his return Cy was in a tizzy! The elk had invaded the beanfield!
That night Raymond stood guard. He and Pat, his wife of nearly fifty years, sat in their pickup with their dogs in the back. Any approaching elk would get barked, hi-beamed and hoorahed away! Within three days they were comfortably grazing within ten feet of the pickup where the bored dogs dozed through the night and the shouts were ignored.
Cy was havin’ better luck durin’ the day. But the beans were taking a beating. As the weeks wore on these three beanfield moguls tried various methods to keep the marauding elk out of the field. They tried propane noise makers, bonfires, highway dept. flashers, FM radio and rattling feed sacks and tin plates tied in the manzanita brush! All to no avail.
They stood guard night and day for six weeks fighting a losing battle. When the beans were ready, they cut ‘em with Raymond’s hand made rig behind the tractor. Each morning at daylight the three of them would rake the beans in a pile and pitchfork them into the pickup. There they’d fork ‘em into Raymond’s rebuilt combine, an Allis Chambers model 60 with John Deere wheels and a plywood box.
Any piles left in the field were scattered by the elk like leaves in the fall. But the bean farmers bowed their backs and carried on. They finally finished the harvest. Back at the ranch they cleaned and ‘winded’ them with an electric fan and wound up with 800 pounds of beans. Considering the expected twenty ton harvest, I guess you could say the elk won the Star Valley Beanfield War.
But in the eyes of Raymond, Pat and Cy, they themselves won the war. They walked through the Great Depression and the second World War without a net. They survived and left the world a better place.
We’re runnin’ outta these folks. They have earned our admiration and respect. I hope some of their heart and backbone is hereditary.
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