Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Abba Owen in the Upper Pasture

For her August 16 diary entry, Ypsilanti teen diarist Abba Owen says that she and her grandmother took a walk to the "upper pasture" to watch Abba's father's hired workers thrash the mid-August oat crop.

Thursday Aug 16th: To-day has been very warm, at noon the thermometer stood 92' in the shade. This afternoon Grandma and I walked up to the upper pasture to see them thrash oats. They thrashed a stack of oats for Papa, he got about 150 bu. of oats off of three acres of land.

As you know Tubal Cain Owen's landholdings once covered about half of the modern-day EMU campus. Where was the upper pasture?

Since the Owen House was near Forest Ave. and College Place, it seems logical that the "upper pasture" was some distance from the house and possibly to the north. I'm guessing it was the northern section of the large central section or the separate western section.

The northern section of the large central section today comprises the parking lots off of Huron River Drive, the lake with its fountain, and maybe the Bowen Field House/Olds rec IM. The separate western section today comprises the Hill/Hoyt/Pittman apartment high-rises, the bee-yootiful Student Center, the onetime "Sleepy Hollow" area just south of the Center, and the parking structure. Hm. They rode a buggy back, suggesting it was this farther area. Yeah, I'd guess the separate western section.

Dusty D is on campus about twice a week. Next time I go, I'll stop on the bridge by the Student Center, look out over Sleepy Hollow, narrow my eyes, and try to picture the golden oat-fields in the August sun.

Here's a video of men thrashing oats one one of those giant old, pre-OSHA machines. I've also seen threshers used with/with built-in straw balers. Despite the machinery, it's still a hard day of work in the August sun. Abba and her brothers didn't have to worry about helping; their dad was rich.


cmadler said...

Isn't it possible that rather than "upper pasture" referring to distance from the house, it referred to actual elevation? (Because she says they walked up to the upper pasture.) In that case, I think it would be the section where Sherzer Hall now stands? (I'm guessing that spot because the water tower was supposedly built at the highest spot in the city, and that is very near the water tower.)

Dusty D said...

Absolutely it is; I should have qualified my "north" remark since I was guessing. You point out an important clue in her use of "up."

Dead right on that one. I bike over to Halle frequently. Forest Ave. rises steadily from the river, and that last bit on campus (formerly Forest Ave., now a walking boulevard leading right towards Sherzer Hall) is a killer. I get winded every time.

I missed that entirely (and now feel embarrassed to have missed that, but I don't mind since I learned of another and very plausible location for the "upper pasture.")

Hmm, on second thought, Sherzer is quite close to the onetime home site at College Place and Forest (roughly). Would it be worth the trouble to get the buggy, get the harness, harness the horse(s), and drive a few hundred yards?

That's assuming Abba's Dad drove from home to the upper pasture.

Maybe Abba's Dad stopped by with the buggy at the pasture from another spot he drove to earlier that day.

I do hope some future mentions of the "upper pasture" will nail its location. I know, it's a tiny point...but I hunger to know these things. Every tidbit helps IMO.

Dusty D said...

Hey, once I get a lot more schooled in the Owen family, this might make a cool historical tour. Go to various sites on the EMU campus that are mentioned in the diary, quick mini-talk, read (better yet, have participant read) relevant excerpt from diary. With map and handouts! Always gotta be handouts. Love making handouts.

No, this is even better: give each participant only one section of the tour--that is their section to teach the others, cued by me. Give them complete thing at the end to keep. Yeah, and I could make it like a...(reverts to old teacher mode, starts planning....)

cmadler said...

I read the bit about the horse and buggy to mean that her father was already there with the horse and buggy and so they rode back with him. If it were just them, it certainly wouldn't be worthwhile to get the horse and buggy, they would walk, but they wouldn't walk and carry 150 bushels of oats!