Jim Adamson's Legacy
Bill MacFarlane - Bill@pheasant.com
My dad contracted polio in 1946 and though he recovered enough to be able to manage the business end of the farm – he was a paraplegic the rest of his life and could not accomplish the physical aspects of running a pheasant farm. My mom’s younger brother Jim Adamson and Jim’s wife Dot came to work for my dad in 1946. My dad ran the office and Jim and Dot managed the farm and the hatchery for the next 35 years.
Jim grew up in western Pennsylvania and then went on to serve in the U.S. Navy. He then moved to Wisconsin to work for my dad. I have lots of memories of my uncle Jim and my aunt Dot as I grew up living directly across the street from them and saw them virtually every day from the time I was a little boy until I went to college when I was 18.
Jim knew how to do things. Jim’s dad was an electrician and Jim could wire just about anything. Jim taught me all about electricity when I was young. Jim was an innovator – he came up with all kinds of new ways and methods to be more efficient in raising pheasants.
If you will read Dave Lennox’s article in this newsletter – you will read about the labor intensive methods used to raise birds here in the 1960’s. From outside runs on the brooder houses requiring the pheasants to be driven back in daily to the beak trimming, wing trimming, wing stubbing and brailing – it was a lot of work. Jim started eliminating the use of brails, and instead oversaw the construction of many acres of covered pens here – where the birds were placed at 6 weeks of age.
Jim experimented with the use of lights to extend the number of hours of daylight on our pheasant breeder flocks. I can remember as a young boy a 20+ acre field of breeding pheasants lit up like a baseball diamond at night, by strings of huge 1500 watt incandescent bulbs. Because of the progressive use of lights, our farm produced lots of chicks in April and created a market for early hatched chicks. I can remember it snowing when the bulbs were on and Jim rushing to turn off the lights, because as the snowflakes hit the bulbs many of the bulbs were breaking.
Dot’s main job was working in the hatchery. Dot washed and set (put the eggs into trays) the majority of the eggs that came to our hatchery. Dot also oversaw the sexing of the chicks (separating the hens from the cocks) as our farm developed a market for sexed cocks and a market for sexed hens. Jim and Dot lived immediately next to the hatchery – and between March and July – you would be far more likely to find Dot if you went and looked in the hatchery first.
I grew up having a good relationship with my dad, and not taking anything away from that – Jim was a second father to me. Jim taught me how to work. Every morning at 6:40 am Jim came out of his house and got into the pickup parked outside and drove the one mile south to the farm. When I was a boy I knew I had to be in the back of that pickup truck before 6:40 am or I would miss my ride. Once we got to the farm, Jim always had a plan of who was to do what job. Everything was organized and laid out. It wasn’t like I was afraid of Jim, but I deeply did not want to disappoint him.
Every building and brooder house either had a name or a number. Brooder houses were called quonset houses, or small houses, middle houses, or straw houses, or hex houses – we even had a few school houses. There was the cracker room (where the corn cracking machine resided) or the shop or the middle room (because it was in the middle between the shop and the cracker room).
I grew up with things being organized – what day to set the eggs into the incubator, what day was the hatch, when to move birds to the pens etc. etc. It was all laid out, when to plant, when to harvest, everything was planned. Jim kept track of it all.
Jim did so many different things – I’ll try to relate as many as I can here. He farmed, raising corn and soybeans – and he planted those crops and we had a combine to harvest the grain. He dried the corn in big bins with stirring machines. We had a soybean roasting machine and Jim ran that and then used a hammer mill to grind all of our feed. Jim baled the straw from the soybean crop to use for bedding for our chicks. Jim ran a small processing plant here on the farm where he ran a crew that killed and eviscerated pheasants to be sold as dressed pheasants. Jim delivered pheasant chicks and adult pheasants to our customers. Jim was our farm’s electrician, plumber and mechanic. He plowed the snow and mowed the grass. Jim oversaw all the day to day aspects of the farm.
Jim and Dot had four daughters (Donna, Linda, Vicki and Pat) who grew up working on the farm. Unfortunately in the past few years both Jim and Dot have passed away. I can’t say nearly enough about how vitally important Jim and Dot were to laying the foundation to get our farm to where it is today.