The Esty Farm - North Avenue, Mendon, Massachusetts

    The photos, taken in the 1950s, are from the collection of Warren Goodnow.

    Richard Bodreau, now living in Oregon, sent the following memory of a tragedy at the farm:

    My very first job was at Esty Dairy Farm on North Avenue in Mendon. When I was a kid, it was
    difficult to find summer work. My good friends, Dickie and Bobby Callery and I decided to
    visit some of the farms in Mendon to look for work. We finally found an opportunity at the
    Esty Dairy Farm. It turned out that they had a big load of hay that needed to be baled and
    stored in the barn loft for the cows to eat in the winter months. They needed some help to
    get it done.

    The owner, who’s name was Mr. Birmingham, was a very friendly and animated sort of
    fellow. He showed us all around and explained how the cows were milked and how things
    were run on the farm. To this day I still remember when he first introduced himself; He said,
    “My name is Birmingham, like the jail in the Birmingham Jail song.” As I recall this was in
    July 1964 or maybe 1965.

    We were so excited to have found a summer job. Dickie would drive the old flatbed truck,
    and follow Herb, Mr. Birmingham’s farm hand on his old Ford tractor that pulled the baling
    machine. Bobby and I would load the hay onto the back of the truck after it was baled. Our
    wage was only seventy five cents per hour, but that seemed like a windfall to us.  

    Well, during our first week on the job, we were working very hard, but having a blast
    following and picking up Herb’s trail of bales. Then something really terrible happened.
    When Herb would reach the end of the field, he would have to reverse his direction and
    head back up the hill to bale the next row of hay. We were following along about two or three
    rows behind him, so there were times when we were heading down the hill while Herb was
    heading up. As we reached the end of the field, Dickie reversed direction to follow Herb’s
    bale trail back up the hill. As we turned, we saw the unmanned tractor with the front wheels
    stuck up on top of the stone wall. The back wheels were smoking as they spun in place.
    Upon further investigation, we found Herb on the ground, badly hurt. We were not sure what
    had happened. We all ran up to the farmhouse to get him some help. Herb was then
    rushed to Milford Hospital, but he did not survive the accident.

    At the hospital, Mr. Birmingham went into shock when he was told that Herb had died. As it
    went, old Mr. Birmingham had a heart attack, and died on the same day. We later found out
    that Herb was his old friend and had worked for him for many years. I remember reading in
    the paper that Herb’s tractor was too light for the baling machine, and when he cut the
    corner too sharp to reverse direction, the front wheels of the tractor lifted up off the ground
    and dumped Herb into the path of the baling machine arm. This was a traumatic time in my
    childhood, and I had nightmares for weeks. Richard Bodreau, March 2011.

                             Agriculture in Mendon, 1865                         Mendon Menu