NEW SPRINGFIELD, Ohio – The barn is gone. The fence wire was unstapled long ago and posts pulled from their roots.
When the fence went, so did the cows.
Eventually, the family left, too.
But the groves of evergreens Joe Chuey planted on that farm where his sons, Carl and Jim, got their hands dirty and molded their minds, still stand, now 50 feet tall.
They’re just trees, but the brothers agree: To them, they’re as gorgeous as gold.
* * *
Newlyweds Joe and Marcella Chuey moved to a flatland farm near North Jackson in 1941 when he was transferred from his job at Youngstown Welding and Engineering.
The farm was owned by the welding family, the Watsons. They needed Joe’s knowledge there, in the dirt and under the sun, if it was to be something of envy.
A tattered bank barn stood several hundred yards off the road and one horse, named Danny, lived inside. There was nothing more, an elderly Marcella recalls, not even a house.
Marcella washed her family’s clothes in the creek nearby. Leftover welding supplies were pieced together to build a house.
The rest would come on its own, they said. Joe would really make this something, everyone agreed.
The boys helped where they could, riding on the back of an auction-bought baler to tie each bale or driving the truck in creeper gear between windrows while older men – those older than them, at ages 6 and 10 – threw hay on the wagons.
This place was eventually called Hereford Lane, and with the help of a $250,000 bull named Domino, came to own one of the premier registered Hereford herds in northeastern Ohio.
* * *
It may have been a poor childhood for the Chueys, but it wasn’t dull.
Youngstown Welding was a major supplier for Navy equipment during World War II, so admirals and generals and Hyman Rickover, father of the nuclear submarine, came to visit, spending weekends in the farm’s cottage as guests of the welding company and the Chuey family.
The boys showed their guests around the farm and flushed pheasants from the corn fields so the officers could hunt.
If nothing else, the Chueys were bound by a sense of family, work and teamwork. They were admittedly dirt poor, but always had each other and the farm, the brothers say.
Joe Chuey worked the 400-acre farm until his knees forced him to give it up in 1984. He told the Watsons he couldn’t do it anymore. They admitted they could never replace Joe Chuey, and sold the cows, the calves, the farm.
* * *
As young adults in the ’70s, Carl went off to academia and Jim worked as a Navy-certified welder for Youngstown Welding and Engineering. He built nuclear submarine parts in a factory while Carl was in the classroom learning and teaching about botany.
The duo moved to the North Lima area in the mid-1970s, buying bare ground with barns. It was almost like the 1940s again: The land was there, a home was built, a farm was started.
Carl, by now a professor of biology at Youngstown State University, bought more property near New Springfield in eastern Mahoning County in 1980. The family bought its current farm, between New Springfield and Petersburg, in the spring of 1985.
There’s no doubt about the brothers’ support: In this family, it’s one for all and all for one.
Carl teaches so Jim can farm, and Jim farms so Carl can teach.
* * *
Today, nothing is like it used to be for the Chueys. There’s no extravagance, but they’re not living in the Depression-style farming they grew up in, they say.
The brothers have put their heads and hands together to get and keep 200 acres and a fleet of tractors and machinery all less than five years old. It was something their father never had.
The main farm, with the Springfield Township historical home where 87-year-old Marcella lives, is completely reconditioned.
The bank barn here stood precariously on three jacks while tornados ravaged farms a few miles to the south in 1985. Shortly after, it got a new foundation and a floor, new siding and a silo and a pair of corn cribs.
Nothing could destroy the brothers’ will to farm.
* * *
The brothers are known for their quirkiness, for leaving rows of trees – ones that used to hold up fences – between parcels even when two fields are merged into one.
Their properties have trees everywhere, in the middles of fields and in self-proclaimed ‘weird’ places. There’s an old apple orchard in the middle of one field. It stays because the deer and turkeys like to eat there, the brothers say.
Marcella’s favorite tree, an old and damaged weeping willow, stands guard beside her sidewalk, facing a planting of unique and non-native trees Carl’s put into the front yard.
Youngstown State University students come here for studies and to see the trees, their leaves and fruits.
Carl’s knowledge of botany comes in handy on the farm, and the farm comes in handy for his experiments and growth plots.
* * *
The brothers labor on the land, something they say they feel compelled to do from watching and toiling alongside their late father.
He’d be proud to know his sons received the 2004 Mahoning Soil and Water Conservation District’s Cooperator of the Year award for their work. They’re stewards of the land.
They’re dealing with sandy soils, so they’ve put in sediment catch basins and ponds on the farms. Each pond is named after a family member.
Carl’s son, Matthew, is in charge of mowing the farm –