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