The venerable D. Magner, having decided the arrangement of his Farm and Stock Book and Complete Instructor, places penultimately the law without lawyers section before an appendix. His book has run the gamut from soil to bugs, from trees to horses, from diseases to remedies. It is time that he conclude with knowledge for all men, farmer and city-slicker alike.
As usual in this series, the literature page contains links to scans of Magner’s full text (in PDF format), as well as links to the previous discussions. He who eschews the conniving attorney will welcome this free advice.
“Many lives also have been lost through careless methods of doing business, and not having the proper receipts to show for it; consequently bad blood, and feuds, and not unfrequently [sic] murders ensued,” Magner begins on page 829. The picture is grim, but the cure is given. The following pages are so rife with inspirational drawings and sketches that the art must be included in any discussion of the work; for the sake of order, this will be done at the end of this review.
He mentions contracts (829-830), and then he offers this on page 831:
One of the earliest fables the child is told, is the story of two cats that referred a cheese case to a monkey learned in the law, and whose chose in action gradually went into the digestive system of the court.
Magner doesn’t explain further, but we all remember how that situation turned out. The story is mainly meant to show that only the lawyer wins when two people duke it out in court. Arbitration (letting a neutral person settle the dispute) is far better than litigation, in the writer’s opinion (833). And avoid swindlers (or diddlers) at all cost; examples of common swindling notes are given on 836 and 837.
The next few pages are full of good advice:
- The “How Far the Farm Extends” section is interesting. It turns out that no matter how many acres someone says is being sold, if they describe the land by using geographical markers, the markers are the final say (839). So someone selling his land could say, “It goes from that tree to that rock, and it’s about 600 feet wide,” when really there are only 420 feet between that tree and that rock.
- If you’re hired by a farmer to work for a year, and you quit at 11 months, the farmer doesn’t owe you anything…unless you’re under 21, in which case you can leave whenever you want and still get paid (840). A good farmer records all aspects of the hired man’s work (841).
- Half of the road belongs to the farmer, and if you park your wagon on it the farmer can move it wherever he wants after attempting to notify you (841).
- The farmer’s land does not stop at the fence. “No person’s children have a legal right to pick up apples under your trees, although the trees stand wholly outside the fence,” Magner says on page 842. More details on fruit tree border disputes are given later.
- Fences are mainly meant to keep the farmer’s animals in, not others out; the farmer is liable for what his animals do if they stray off (842). Oddly, the sage contradicts this nearly immediately when he says that if a farmer neglects his half of the fence, allowing other cows in to eat his crops, he cannot complain because he was neglectful (842). The situation gets more complicated if the cows go past the immediate neighbor’s land, however, and eat the crops of a third farmer – then the first farmer is, indeed, liable (842). Just keep your fences up.
- The farmer is responsible for what his loose animals do, even if he does not know they are loose (842-843). The farmer is also accountable for injury caused by his animals to trespassers on his own land, unless the farmer has a posted warning sign (843). Similarly…
…If a boy, while robbing an orchard, is tossed by a vicious bull into the boughs of the apple-tree overhead, the owner is as much liable in law to pay for the boy’s torn trousers as if he had received the same salutation when coming up the path in broad daylight (843).
- Horses, somehow, avoid most of the above rules. If a horse gets loose accidentally, but not carelessly, and damages something, it is not the farmer’s fault (843).
There are some good dog situations outlined on page 844; the farmer can kill a neighbor’s loose dog or cat if he thinks his own animals are in jeopardy. Conversely, he cannot kill his neighbor’s hens while they are scratching up his melons and cucumbers – a farmer in Connecticut tried this and had to pay (844).
Finally, fruit on overhanging trees. Fruit hanging onto the farmer’s land from a tree on his neighbor’s land is not fair game; the fruit over the line is still the property of the owner of the tree. If a neighbor attempts to stop a farmer from picking the fruit from the farmer’s tree which hangs over onto the neighbor’s land, “he is liable for an assault and battery” (845). Line-trees must be split evenly (845).
From 846-852 is a kind of useful mathematics section to segue into the appendix – how to calculate the price of pork per pound (847), the number of trees per acre (848), calculate interest (851-852), etc. Useful are the included breeder’s tables, and the indicated gestation times. It takes a duck 28 days to gestate/incubate, whereas a bitch takes 9 weeks to give birth (850).
Wrapping It Up
This was originally planned as the final entry in the series, but the girth of the information in these pages was underestimated. The appendix and index will be published next time in a true farewell to the Magner’s discussion.