Marlin Deitrich (1908-1987) was my great uncle. During our many visits, he would tell stories of his childhood in the Lykens Valley and of growing up on the Deitrich Farm in Lykens Township, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania. The following is one of those stories:
The Whirlwind in the Hayfield
In July 1923 it was haymaking time on the Deitrich farm. We were up bright and early on Saturday morning, and had about three loads of hay stacked in heaps. We piled it up in such a way so that with one sweep of the hay fork, it could be loaded on the hay wagon as the horses slowly pulled it through the field.
It was a calm, hot and dry day and it was getting toward noon. As we were putting hay in the wagon, we noticed a strange whirlwind across the grain field. It was at least a hundred feet high and about thirty feet across. It was pulling the grain out by the roots and creating a dust funnel. It roared lie a train as it traveled toward our field. We watched from a safe distance and wondered what would happen.
For the funnel to travel into our field, it had to cross a deep rain gully. We watched with dismay as it approached. When it reached the gully, it hesitated for a few seconds and then exploded into a large mushroom shape which broke into several smaller whirlwinds that moved in several directions into our fields tearing our small haystacks apart. Then, as quickly as the wind had started, it stopped. The hay we had stacked was all over the field. There was nothing else to do but to rake it up and stack it in heaps again.
This was one of many experiences that helped me to decide that I didn’t want a career in farming.