Chapter 11: Our Early Years of Marriage

Our Early Years of Marriage
First Family Farms

I had applied to rent a fifteen-acre farm south of Reedley. However, I was seventh in line, and there wasn't much hope of me getting it, because others had their own equipment. I didn't have any equipment to work the farm. But when we came home to my parents' after our honeymoon trip, they said there was a telephone call for me to come and see Mr. Eyman, the attorney in Reedley, about the farm. I went there and was delighted to hear him tell me, "John, you have been selected to have the farm if you want it." Of course we wanted it. So the lease was signed. This gave us a nice home, a two-story house to live in and a farm to work, with enough time to work for other farmers to make a living.
Kathryn, as I mentioned, was very thrifty. She had saved enough money to buy all the essential furniture that we needed, which she had bought new just before the wedding. We felt then, and now, that in all of this, God was leading us. We praise His Name.
After two years of renting, even though our crops were not great, we bought a twenty-four acre farm for $4,800, with $600 down. We still continued to rent the other farm and lived there for one more year. The house at the first farm was much better than the one that we had bought. The latter was a strong, durable rock structure, with eighteen-inch-thick walls, but the inside was very run-down and needed remodeling before we could live in it.
We bought an old tractor and some other equipment. Nevertheless, the land was not in good shape, and, consequently, another poor crop resulted from that first year of labor. Also, the price for the grapes was low.

We sold them for $10 a ton.

We had bought the land from the constable in Reedley, whose term of office was nearly up. Since he needed to run for re-election, he came over that summer and asked for some money in advance of our payment coming due. We had paid $600 down, with a promise of $400 after the crop was sold. But he came earlier and asked if perhaps I could give him a couple hundred because he needed it for his campaign expenses.
Well, I was able to do so, but I told him it looked to me as if we might just want to give the farm back to him. The crop had been so small that it didn't bring in enough to be worth the price. I told him that was how we felt, but we were not decided for certain on it.
 Finally, I asked him what he would give me in return for making an early payment. Would he split it in half and take $200 for the $400 note? He said no, people never take that much from him. But he returned later to say that he would take $300 for the $400 note. So we kept the farm. We still have it today.

During the last year of renting, we remodeled our house, doing most of the work ourselves. Kathryn worked right alongside me throughout the project; she was
a very good helper. We tore everything out of the inside and made the whole interior new. We even did our own electrical rewiring, not knowing much about it except a few basic principles, but we learned more as we went. I made kitchen cabinets out of boxes and wood that I reclaimed from a double ceiling in the garage.
Our Firstborn

Our oldest son, James, was born in December of 1940, just as we were finishing with the first phase of our remodeling job. After about two years, we had a cabinet man come in and make kitchen cabinets, additional windows in the rock wall, etc. I was also able to trade work with Harry Kliewer, a plasterer. I hauled his raisins to town on my truck, and he plastered our whole house inside.
A Thousand Hens A-laying

Then came the War years. The prices of farm products went up and conditions changed; farming became more profitable. We also raised chickens. We had a thousand laying hens, and also raised fryers for the market.
When the draft came, I was among the first group to register in 1940, just before the beginning of World War II. Even though I was one of the first to register, my number was not drawn right away, and when it was, they had set up a system of deferment. People who were married were not drafted on the first call up. In future calls, they took married men, but not fathers. We had our son by that time. So I was a father and deferred on that account. When, at still future calls, they took fathers of one or two children, they deferred men with essential occupations. Ours was considered an essential occupation, because we were producing raisins and eggs, high priority food items. So it was that I was never called for military service.

A Restless Spirit
During this whole time though, I often felt rather uneasy to be working on the farm when many people needed to hear the Gospel and, seemingly, there was no one to tell them. Everyone was busy doing something else, just as I was.
I thought particularly of migrant people. The migrant people in California had come from western Oklahoma, Kansas, Arkansas, Missouri, and the panhandle of Texas. They came out West because a lack of rain and severe dust storms had blown most of their topsoil away. Thus, the area they came from was called the "Dust Bowl". Now they had come to the "Promised Land of California" hoping to earn a living. They usually lived in little settlements just outside of towns. There were several of them in the Fresno area.
They worked as farm laborers, even though many had been farmers back in their native states. They seldom mixed with the rest of society, and so I felt that they needed to hear the Gospel. Then there were black people, even more excluded from society; they needed to hear the gospel, too.
Of course in our church we prayed for the workers regularly, as Christ commanded us to do. For me, though, it always seemed to hit home and say, "What about you? Why don't you share the Good News with them?" Yet I felt that I couldn't. I didn't have the education, and I didn't feel like I possessed the ability. Many times when I was alone in the feed barn or in the orchard, I prayed that God would raise up workers for these people, and many times I felt that I should be doing it.
Both boys were born by this time: Jim on December 3, 1940, and Paul on January 17, 1944. After that I said, "Lord, it looks like we may be able to support them in getting an education, so let them be ministers and missionaries for You." But I didn't find peace, even after that. It seemed to me like the Lord was saying, "Why do you volunteer someone else for what you are not willing to do?"
I answered, "Yes, I am willing, but I can't."  I thought I was very honest about that.
Shortly after my conversion, I had been asked to teach a class of Junior Boys (7-9 year old). I was to teach Bible stories. We used a Bible storybook in German as a text. The superintendent was not aware that I did not know the stories myself, or else he probably would not have asked me to teach. So I studied those stories during the week and then taught them on Sunday.
The chairman of the Board of Deacons even told me that I should count on the church electing me to serve as a deacon someday soon, and encouraged me to agree.
Called at Noon

I was working out in the field all by myself. The harvest was over, and I was gleaning grapes. I was thinking of Scripture and the lack of fruitfulness of my life, even though I was teaching a Sunday school class and helping with other things in the church. That day as I was gleaning grapes, I was meditating on Scripture recorded in Matthew, Chapter 20.
There the Lord Jesus tells a story about a farmer who went out to hire workers. He went early in the morning to the marketplace and hired people to come and work in his vineyard. Then he went out about nine o'clock to hire some more workers at the market and asked them to come work for the rest of the day. About noon, he went again, and, finally, even at five o'clock. All at once, this struck home for me. I wondered, what does "noon" mean? What did he hire them for? For working in his vineyard!
I was working in my vineyard. Could it be that God calls people at different times in life? And I said, "Lord, it's not past ‘noon' yet, is it?"
It was just before my 32nd birthday. "If it is not too late for me," I said, "if this constitutes a call to ministry, I certainly want to obey." After spending some time in prayer, I went into the house and told Kathryn about it.
I asked her if she was with me, and she said, "Certainly, I am with you." But then she added, "I thought our farming was going well, and that before too long we might be able to support a missionary of our own." I had thought the same thing, even though we hadn't discussed it. "But," I said, "if God wants us, then our money is not enough. We must be obedient."

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