mule

320 Acres, a Mule, a Farmall Cub… and a little dynamite.

By Dennis L. Raney

World War II had just ended and our noble veterans were returning home, finally. My Navy veteran grandfather, Jefferson L. Raney, wanted to settle down in the area where he was raised; Mt. Sherman, Arkansas or as many people back in the day, used to refer to it as Raney Mountain. It is located in northwest Arkansas, just south of Jasper. Great grand parents, Harvey and Alice Raney, homesteaded and raised a family of thirteen children in a beautiful hand build two story home on the side of the old rugged mountain.

For $1.00 per acre, Jefferson purchased 320 acres of prime mountain top. The stipulation of homesteading was that you must live and develop the land for five years and it’s yours 100%. Since it was total wilderness (trees and rocks), he would spend half of the year working in Kansas City (mainly for the railroads) and the other half living and working on the homestead; that satisfied the requirement for maintaining a residence on the property.

The first thing he built was two small one room cabins and a barn. Sadly, the cabins burned down many years later in a lightning strike; but by that time, they were used mainly for storage. Although, my brother and I did spend many a night sleeping in one of them when we would have family visits in the 1950’s. It was both cool and creepy since we had to walk a long dark path to the cabin each night at bedtime with dimly lit flashlight.

Once he established his cabins, the next chore was to start clearing a large 40 acre field for hay. This would provide grass for a few milk cows. The excess milk and cream could be sold or traded along with the butter from churning the cream. He would keep a few chickens for eggs, several goats for milk and their excellent brush eating abilities, and as many hogs as he could maintain for meat and later to sell at the auction.

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