Editor: Jim Metzger
JIM METZGERSeptember 1, 1994
This story is dedicated to the Lady that has
influenced my life since I first met her in 1925.
VERNA PIELSTICK METZGER
She has traveled the route with me, thru the difficult
years of depression and to many lands. She gave up a
profession of her own, to raise a family of four. She has
kept diaries and other records that have made this story
possible. She has always said, "You can do it."
This is a record of events in my life, that were
written over a period of 6 years, 1988 to 1994. It began
with a writing class sponsored by the Santa Rosa Junior
College. When the college dropped the course, the class
persuaded Rebacca Latimer, a published author, to be our
instructor. Her suggestions, and interest in Turkey have
been major contributions to this story.
An attempt has been made to keep events in sequence,
but some events and places that were part of my early life,
have also been apart of later years. The early dates have
been taken from school records from 1914 to 1924.
Records that Verna kept, and those from the period
while on the ranch, covers 1928 thru 1932. Project reports
and travel orders while with the CCC camp and Soil Conservation
Service are for the period from 1934 to 1944.
Farm Management and Insurance records, while living in
Gering Nebraska and Longmont Colorado, are from 1945 to 1955.
Our assignment overseas from 1955 to 1967 was with the
Agency For International Development, (USAID). Verna's
letters to the family, the scrap books she kept and our
passports, supply the dates for this period.
The years from 1967 to 1976, spent at Scottsbluff,
Nebraska, were semi-retirement. I renewed my Insurance and
real estate licenses and worked part time.
In 1976 we moved to Sonoma, California. I passed
California examinations for licenses I had in Nebraska
and Colorado, but spent most of my time as a volunteer
with the Chamber of Commerce and community projects.
An assignment in Cali, Colombia, with the International
Executive Service Corp. (I E S C) was among the volunteer
Our return trip to Turkey in 1982, gave us an opportunity
to renew friendships with my two "Counterparts", Naki Uner and
Atif Atilla, and Verna met two of her former students, who were
teaching at the school where she taught.
Included also, among the writings, are glimpses of my
thoughts on life in general, and the philosophy by which I
|My Parents||1||Government To Private||48|
|Country School||4||Howard Finch||50|
|One Room School||6||Turkey 1955||51|
|Odessa||9||First Day In Izmir||53|
|Eggs||11||What Is An Advisor||55|
|Red Shirt||12||Small Equipment||56|
|No Cash||12||English To Turkish||59|
|Trans. To School||13||Hotels in Turkey||60|
|High School||15||Izmir Hotel||62|
|Deep Snow||16||Turkey To Jordan||63|
|Pumps & Windmills||17||Amerikan Kiz Koleji||63|
|Early Winter||18||East Ghor Canal||64|
|Filling Ice House||19||The Volkswagon Bug||65|
|Harvest time||22||Jordan To Nebraska||69|
|Fort Robinson||25||I E S C||72|
|Trains||26||Man On White Horse||73|
|Model T Ford||29||Nebr. to Cal||74|
|Wedding Day||33||Turkey 1982||78|
|Barbed Wire||36||Changed Odors||80|
|Where Does It Come||38||Reunion||81|
|Putting Up Hay||40||Know What You Want||83|
|Hay Sweep||41||It Works||84|
|Saddle Horses||42||It Works Again||85|
|Livestock Sales||43||Flood Control||86|
|Leaving The Ranch||44||Vintage House||87|
|CCC Camp Days||45||Finale||88|
GUSTAV FRIEDRICH METZGER
On November 19, 1872, Gottlob & Louise Metzger of
Herrenberg, Germany, announced the birth of a son. They named
him Gustav Friedrich Metzger. This son was the third child
in the family of 7 girls and 3 boys. In 1880 the family
emigrated to the United States. The third son went by the
name of Fritz for much of his life. Fritz was also known by
his neighbors and friends as Fred G. Metzger, Fred Metzger
became my father, and was to set an example of honesty, thrift
and integrity that I have tried to live up to.
The Metzger family settled in Eastern Nebraska at
Tecumseh. They were farmers, and Fred, being the oldest son,
was given responsibility at a very early age. He worked more
than he went to school when he was young, and did not go
beyond the fourth grade, but he was a good student and read
a great deal, seldom a day would pass that he didn't read
from the Bible. He took several magazines dealing with
agriculture, animal breeding, and horse training. He was
usually up to date on events in his community and the
I never really felt close to my father. He was a
sensitive person, but showed very little emotion. I saw him
cry only once, and that was when he received the news of his
father's death on July 20, 1913. We all went to the
funeral, which meant a train ride across Nebraska.
Lawrence, my brother, was four years old and I was six. I
remember the house where my grandparents lived, and I can
still see the two sleek black horses hitched to the black
hearse that took the body to the cemetery.
I remember Dad as being very strict. I suppose that
he spanked me at some time, but I do not remember receiving a
spanking. I do remember, that he would slap my hand at the
dinner table, if I reached for something, he would just say,
"Someone will pass it to you." I never heard him speak an
unkind word to my mother. I have heard him say that his wife
would not have to work in the field, and then have to do her
house work. That meant nothing to me at the time, but I now
realize that he came from a society where field work was
expected of women.
Dad was an impressive person, standing 6 feet tall, and
weighing 225 lbs; in recent years he led with his belt
buckle when he walked down the street. He remained on the
ranch until he was past 70, and missed very few days of
I do not remember Dad going to a doctor, his health
seemed always to be good. He died at the age of 88, from
Fred Metzger was a conservative person when it came to
finances. He kept a perfect set of books, and was treasurer
for the school. I suppose he could be called a workaholic,
it was not uncommon for him to say on Monday morning at the
breakfast table, "This is Monday, tomorrow is Tuesday, the
next day is Wednesday, the week is half gone and nothing
done yet." I grew up with the feeling that I always must be
doing something productive, and I suppose that this is why
I am also a workaholic.
Fred's father was an officer in the German Army, under
the Kaiser. He came to America because he didn't want his
own sons to have to serve in the army. He was an
alcoholic, and Dad would have to go to the bar, late at
night, and bring him home drunk. It made such an impression
on him that he swore never to take a drink, and as far as I
know, he never did, nor did he smoke.
When I was very young, he promised me a gold watch when
I reached the age of 21, if I did not drink or smoke. I
received the gold watch, as did my two brothers. In later
years we all slipped a little, I like a glass of wine or
beer once in a while, and both my brothers smoked at one
BESSIE GRACE PLATT
Bessie Grace Platt was born March 15, 1986 [sic], on a farm
north east of Crab Orchard, Nebraska. She was the middle
daughter in a family of five girls. James and Sarah Platt,
her parents, lived on the farm until the family was grown,
and then moved into Crab Orchard, where Jim Platt ran a
a grocery store. My early memory of my grandparents,
were visits to Crab Orchard at Christmas time when I was
not more than 5 or 6 years old.
My mother was a quiet, patient lady. Life must have
been difficult for her, she came from a family that was very
close. She married at the age of 19 and two years later
moved to a homestead in Western Nebraska, a wind swept, flat
plains country, very unlike the area in Eastern Nebraska
where she grew up. The closest neighbor was more than a
mile away, and not even in sight, and since I was born only
a month after they arrived, it would have been difficult for
her to visit anyone.
She told stories of helping the dog kill a rattle-
snake, and of chasing a coyote from the yard with a broom.
I once heard her say that homesickness was a real sickness
for her. I always felt closer to my Mother than I did to my
Father. I could always talk to her when I had problems. I
like to think that I inherited her ability as a peacemaker
and a sympathetic listener. I will always remember a
statement she made to me, when I was critical of some one.
"Just remember that the faults you see in others, may be
FRED AND BESSIE METZGER
Fred and Bessie were married in Johnson, County,
Nebraska, Aug. 12, 1905. They came to Crawford in March
of 1907. Fred had his homestead permit, but found a place
to buy, that was about 5 miles north west of Crawford. A
family by the name of Wolff had taken this property as a
homestead, but relinquished his rights to the Metzgers.
The 640 acres had a log barn, a frame house, and three
small sheds. There are pictures in the family, showing this
property without a single tree. As a boy I remember that
snow could sift thru the cracks, and windows, and cover my
bed when ever there was a blizzard. There was no indoor
plumbing; an outdoor toilet, 50 yards from the house served
in all kinds of weather. Water had to be carried from the
well which was close to the house, and the windmill kept the
tanks filled with water for the livestock.
As a small boy I never felt that we were poor, or that
there was anything unusual about our existence, but as I
look back, I can see that this was a very difficult time
for Fred and Bessie. Dad did not become a naturalized
citizen until several years after World War I. He came to
the United States with his family when he was 8 years old.
He delayed in becoming a U.S.citizen [sic], and it caused him
embarrassment with his neighbors, who considered him a
He always did his work on the farm extremely well, it
was his life. When he planted corn, it had to be in
straight rows. He was an economist the world will never
hear of; he never bought anything he could not pay for with
cash. When his neighbors lost their farms during the
depression, he would say, "They are trying to get big too
My mother went by the name of "Mumsie" for years. We
called her Mama, and I disliked that so much that I was the
first to call her "Mumsie", and Dad went along with it, and
from that time she was no longer "Mama".
Living conditions were difficult for Mumsie, she had to
pump and carry all the water that was needed for cooking and
washing. Food could be kept cool only in a cave, but it was
hard to keep things from spoiling. She was afraid to let
Lawrence and me get very far from the house when we were
small, for fear of snakes.
Dad raised horses, and sold many matched teams for farm
work. I have a series of books that are dated in the early
1900's that give instructions for training horses. I
learned to read these books at a very early age, and by the
time I was 8, Dad would let me drive a team in the field if
he was close by. I drove my first 4 horse team when I was
12 years old.
When Dad bought the second car, which was another Model
T Ford, the folks made a trip to Crab Orchard. I was 14
years old, and they left me to take care of the ranch. They
were gone three weeks, which seemed endless to me. Dad had
converted the old car to a pickup, by cutting the back seat
off and building a truck bed. I used the pickup to haul
feed and supplies on the ranch, and to Crawford, to pickup
groceries and mail.
Married August 12, 1905
LAWRENCE & ERNEST
I was born April 1, 1907, and on October 25, 1908
Lawrence came into this world, and we were close enough in
age for us to have many common experiences. Ernest was born
November 27, 1912, more than five years later, and although
he went to the same one room grade school and the same high
school, our activities and interests seldom were the same.
We lived a mile and three quarters from school, and
occasionally Dad would take us if it were too cold or
stormy to walk, but most of the time we walked. It was
common for a child, when six years of age to begin school,
but our parents delayed my start until Lawrence and I could
go together. Our first day of school was in September
1914, and I was then past seven but Lawrence hadn't yet
reached his sixth birthday.
School seemed to be difficult for Lawrence, I remember
his being exhausted when we reached home at night. After
our chores were done, and supper over, we had an hour of
home work to do, but he had a difficult time staying
awake long enough to finish his work. Lawrence graduated
from High School, and graduated from Colorado University at
Fort Collins, as a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, (DVM).
It was not until he became a Veterinarian, that his illness
was diagnosed, and he did it himself. He had suffered with
Undulant Fever from early childhood. Lawrence had a very
successful practice in Northern Colorado, for over 40 years,
he was active on the Colorado Sate Board of Examiners, for
many years. Lawrence and Eileen were married in 1938 and
lived in Boulder. We saw them often when we lived in
Longmont from 1945 to 1955.
I feel some times as if I must be a member of another
generation from that of Ernie. He was five and one-half
years younger than I, but other than having the same
parents, our interests and activities were seldom the same.
I graduated from high school in 1924, Lawrence in 1927 and
Ernie in 1931. In 1927 I entered the University of
Nebraska, and Verna and I were married in 1928. With the
exceptions of short visits, I never returned to Crawford.
Ernie later graduated from Nebraska Wesleyan, attended
seminary, and became a Navy Chaplain. He served 30 years
and retired with the rank of Captain. He and Melva were
married in 1940. Verna and I visited them when his
assignments were in the United States, and we keep in touch
regularly thru the Metzger Robin letter and by telephone,
but the closest we were to them overseas was when we flew
over Germany in 1955 on our way to Turkey.
The transportation that Lawrence and I used when we
went to High School was much the same, but not until after
Dad bought his second car, and made a pickup out of the
first one, was an automobile used for transportation to
school. Ernie rode horseback also, but by that time milk
was being delivered regularly to the ice cream factory, and
delivery had to be made early in the morning when Ernie went
The three Metzger boys, taken in 1914. This was
Lawrence's and my first store made suit. Mumsie made most
of our clothes before this time. Ernie eventually inherited
them. I never ask him how he felt about this.
This team of matched grays was typical of the horses
Dad raised. It was the first team I ever drove. The lad
in the picture is Ernie. Dad started his sons at an early
age. We were driving teams in the field as young as eight,
and he always worked along beside us with another team.
My introduction to formal education was in a one room
country school. It was 1.75 miles from home and there were
very few days that my brother and I didn't walk this
distance. Occasionally on stormy days Dad would hitch
old Charley to the buggy, and take us.
I remember one day in September when the temperature
was above 90 degrees F, and one winter day when it was 40
below zero. I was 7 years old and my brother 6, so this was
in 1914. The only early record I have is a souvenir from my
first teacher, Cora Sowers, dated 1914.
The 1.75 miles to the school was the longest mile
and three quarters I ever saw. Lawrence and I tried every
device, and every method possible to break the monotony of
this walk. We would take the shortest route as often as
possible by crawling over fences and walking thru fields.
This method was frowned upon by the neighbors, because we
broke down their fences and sometimes damaged young crops.
Mumsie did not like it, because it meant torn clothes
that she had to mend.
We devised methods of travel that helped time pass.
If we could ride a stick horse, it seemed to us to shorten
the distance. The most useful to us was a machine that we
make ourselves. This machine consisted of a small wheel
about 12 inches in diameter, we would put a small 3 inch
board on each side of the wheel, put a half inch bolt thru
the boards and the wheel. The bolt would serve as an axle.
The boards were fastened together at the top, about six
feet from the wheel, so this served as a wheelbarrow.
The use of the wheel kept our minds occupied, and time
seemed to pass more rapidly. To make it useful we would put
a nail in the board about half way from the handle to the
wheel. This was a machine to carry our lunch pails. When the
ground was smooth it worked fine, but when the ground was
frozen, where the cattle had walked in the mud, it was a
disaster. Mumsie made sandwiches, some with jam or jelly,
or perhaps we would have a small jar of stewed fruit, and
when we arrived at school it was hard to tell just what we had
for lunch. It wasn't soup, but it looked like it.
It was some time before Mumsie found out what happened.
There was dried jelly and fruit stuck to the pail, and when
she packed our lunch the next day she would have to give
the pail a good cleaning.
As far as I know, the one room school house is a thing
of the past. Our one room school, was Valley Star School,
District No. 28. Dawes County, Nebraska. The one room was
about 30 feet wide and 60 feet long, and contained the
material that the teacher needed to teach the first eight
We were a motley bunch of youngsters, we ranged in ages
from 6 to 14 years. The 14 year old girl, Maude Dahlheimer,
considered herself a mature lady. The little 6 years old
lad that didn't make it to the privy in time, and went all
day with wet pants, considered him self an outcast. I
often wonder how we appeared to the County Superintendent,
who visited us twice a year to inspect our work. I am sure
that the teacher knew when she was to coming, because we
would get instructions to put on our best manners. We often
worked very hard on some project in order to have it
completed in time for inspection.
I can still see the two rows of seats, that extended
from the platform where the teacher sat, to the back of the
room. There was the potbelly stove that was located in
the center of the room, the pail of water with the one
dipper that every one used. There was a line of clothes hook
that stretched across the back of the room, with a name
above every one of them, and there was the blackboard in the
front of the room with a crack down the middle.
The teacher rang the bell at 9:00 o'clock, and we would
be considered tardy if we were not in our seat within five
minutes. If I was late getting in my seat, I could miss the
first recess, and be required to clean the black board,
and empty the waste paper baskets.
I remember being tardy only once, and it was very
embarrassing, I was the laughing stock of all my friends,
Mumsie had sewed some buttons on my pants and I couldn't
keep them buttoned. I thought if I got there a little late
that no one would notice.
My memories of country school have always been good.
My problems with grammar and spelling have followed me all
my life, but I don't think it was the teachers fault.
The girl I married was an English teacher, and I am still
going to her for help in spelling or grammar.
Cora Sowers was Lawrence's and my first teacher. I
remember her as a very soft spoken person, who taught me
the multiplication tables.
Valley Star School
District No. 28
Dawes County, Nebraska
CORA L. SOWERS, Teacher
- Bert Lewis
- James Metzger
- Lawrence Metzger
- Jennings Raben
- Frank Dahlheimer
- Julia Hunter
- Florence Leonard
- Catherine Raben
- Eeva Dahlheimer
- Maude Dahlheimer
- P. L. Raben, Dir.
- T. J. Hunter, Mod.
- F. Metzger, Treasurer
VALLEY STAR SCHOOL: District No. 28, Dawes County
Nebraska. The addition of the cloak room on the front, was
made in later years. The overshoes and winter coats as well
as the coal scuttle could be kept out of the school room.
The water pail and drinking cup, (used by all) was kept her
until it became so cold that the the [sic] water would freeze.
The school room where two pupils could sit at a desk.
I never had to share a desk, but some of the smaller
students did. In the winter time it was too hot to sit by
the stove and too cold to sit at the back of the room.
THE ONE ROOM SCHOOL
There were two of us in my class for the years that I
was in country school, Catherine Raben and myself. When we
were called on to recite our lessons, the teacher would call
us to the front of the room, and we would sit on chairs
facing her as she sat at her desk. If I was poorly prepared,
or had forgotten some of that day's assignment, I felt as if I
were being called before a judge for some traffic violation.
Normally, the teacher's questions began with our
assignment that day, but it could be on something we should
have remembered from the day before. Some times she would ask
for illustrations on the black board. Arithmetic, English
and geography were often assignments that called for black-
board work. I liked mathematics and geography but English
and grammar gave me a headache, and it remains one of my
problems as I write the story of my life.
The early grades were not hard for me, but I found the
eighth grade more difficult. I have decided that the
students in the lower grades had the advantage of hearing
the higher grades recite their lessons. It was a help for
those who followed, but by the time I got to the eighth
grade, I was on my own.
One of the highlights of my time in the country school
were the two recess periods, we had 15 minutes in morning
about 10 o'clock and another in the afternoon at 2:30. We
usually played outside if the weather permitted, snow on
the ground meant we could play fox and geese, or snow
ball. The snowball fights often ended in some of the small
children getting hit hard enough to call for intervention
from the teacher. We played baseball in the spring when it
was warm, and this included both girls and boys.
The school house was a cold place in the winter. We
were always dressed well, long johns and heavy undershirts.
The stove in the middle of the room was usually fired with
wood or coal that we would carry in from a shed close by.
The most difficult time to stay in school was when spring
came. It was hard to stay inside and study when the birds
were singing and flowers blooming.
To get to school during the winter could be a problem
if the snow was deep, and to get caught at school in a
blizzard was a worry for parents. There was little warning
if there was a blizzard on the way. The weather could be
nice when left home in the morning and be a raging storm by
the time school was out.
We had good roads and fences to follow when it was
stormy, there were many stories in homesteading days when
children got lost in blizzards. There was only one time
that the storm came so quickly that we were picked up at the
school. The only warning we had, that a blizzard was on
the way, came over the wires from the Burlington R.R. A
call would be sent out over the country lines that we could
expect a storm to reach us soon.
The nine months of school were over on the last day of
May. We would often have a picnic, and the parents would
celebrate with us. This last day could be a big affair,
parents and relatives would arrive at the school at about
ten o'clock. They would arrive by wagon, buggy, or horseback
and some would walk. We had only a small hitch rack for
horses, but there would be teams tied to wagons and fence
posts that were close by.
When it came time to start the activities, everyone
would go into the school house. The teacher would speak for
a few minutes, she would proudly tell of the accomplishments
of her students during the past year. There would be high
praise for the students who had excelled in their grades
for the year. I don't remember receiving any awards, except
If it were nice weather we would then gather outside
and share our lunches. If it were bad weather we would push
the desks back against the wall and set up some plank tables
where we spread our lunches. If it was warm weather there
was always someone who brought a freezer of home made ice
cream, and there was always lots of cakes and cookies.
The last day of school that I remember best, was on the
31st day of May 1917. It was the only time I remember
seeing snow in May. It had snowed enough, that Dad took the
sleigh, saying "I never have gone sleigh riding in May,
this will be the time." When we came home most of the snow
was gone and we rode at the side to keep the sleigh runners
on grass, we called our sleigh a grass schooner.
It hasn't rained for a month. The temperature ranges
from 65 degrees in the morning to 105 in the afternoon. It
seems that every day about 2:00 O'clock the wind blows from
the south, and it feels as if it were blowing over a hot stove.
Everything is dry, and the grain fields that are not yet
harvested are so ripe that a heavy wind shatters some of
the grain on the ground. The only time it can be cut is
in the early morning, or we lose half the crop.
Dad is cutting grain on the east eighty, and starts
cutting early in the morning about sunup. I will take a
fresh four-horse team to him about 9:00 O'clock so that he
does not have to rest the team. I feel that I am grown up
at age 10, because I can go to the barn, get the collar that
fits each horse and lead them to the field. Dad will then
remove the harness from the team he is working and put it on
the fresh team that I bring. The harness will fit the team
I have brought, but each horse has to have a collar that is
specially fit, in order not to damage the animal.
It is the middle of August, 1917, at 10.00 O'clock
in the morning, I have returned with the team that Dad used
earlier. I take them to the water tank, then to the barn
and feed them. It seems to me that the day is hotter than
usual. By 11:00 O'clock the wind begins to blow and Dad
comes home early, he says he is losing too much grain
because it is so dry.
When I was a boy, dinner came at noon, and then a nap.
We had just finished dinner and the telephone began to
ring. It wasn't the regular long and short combination that
calls some one to the phone, it was a series of short quick
rings that lasted for only a few seconds. This was an
emergency call and every one would get to the phone as fast
Dad went to the phone, without saying a word to any one
on the line, he quickly banged the receiver down, turned and
said. " A fire on Dawes Forbes' place. The fire has jumped
the fire guard." That means only one thing, the fire is
heading for our place.
Dad grabbed his hat and gloves, and turned to me and
motioned for me to come with him. We went to the barn, took
the four horses he had been using, hitched one team to the
wagon. I took the other team, rode one and led the other
We loaded two barrels on the wagon, drove to the water tank,
and filled the barrels with water. We then took a walking
plow, a roll of sacks and started for the fire. When we
left the house, we could see a little smoke in the south
west, it didn't look to be much of a fire, but when we came
to the top of the hill we could see that we were in trouble.
The fire was definitely headed for our house.
It had been fully an hour since the heavily loaded
freight train, headed for Sheridan, Wyoming, had passed by.
I could only imagine what had happened. The Fireman was
stoking a big fire to keep up a head of steam. The huffing
and puffing locomotive had belched hot cinders with the
smoke. It had started five fires within the mile. The
fire guards had stopped all but one of them. That one had
jumped the guards and was headed for our buildings.
We were not the first to get to the fire, two
neighbors had been there ahead of us. Harold Shipman and
John Dodd were plowing another fire guard several hundred
yards ahead of the fire. They had successfully shut off the
part that was headed for our house. We were probably
safe, but Harold's wheat field had not fared so well, thirty
acres of shocked grain were already lost.
The grass and stubble was short, this meant that we
could get close enough to the fire without getting caught
with the team and wagon. I drove as closely as I could to
the fire line and neighbors,who [sic] had come by horse back and
buggy, were able to take the gunny sacks, soak them in water
from the barrels and hit the fire with the wet sacks. It is
amazing how well this could control a fire.
I was under orders from Dad to stay on the wagon, and
keep a good distance from the fire. He hitched his team to
a plow and joined the others in plowing more fire guards.
I drove as close to the fire as I dared, while the men
flung the soaked sacks to snuff our the fire. In order not
to get caught with the flames, they worked in from the side
and directed the fire to an area where the men and teams
were plowing the guards, turning the prairie land into
brown strips of freshly turned soil.
With grass that is no more than four to six inches
tall, the fire line looked like a red fringe to a large,
black rug that was being unrolled. The fire is swept
along by the wind as fast as a horse could walk. It was
only four or five miles per hour, but if you owned hay
stacks, grain fields or farm buildings in its path, that
seemed much too fast. One neighbor lost a wheat field that
had the grain in the shock. Another lost a stack of hay.
We escaped with only burned grazing land.
Several miles from this fire there was another. Little
damage was done because one of the neighbors, Walter Heath,
was able to stop it from spreading by plowing a guard around
the burned area. Walter didn't come home when the fire was
out. They found him sitting up against the wagon wheel.
The team came home and were standing by the barn, still
hitched to the plow. Walter had died of a heart attack.
It would appear that once a prairie fire was put out
that it would be safe for the fighters to go home, but this
was not the case. Some one had to stay on the job, perhaps
for several days. Hot weather in Western Nebraska would breed
small twisters or whirl winds. Some times dust and ash would
get caught in one of these twisters, and be lifted a 100 feet
in the air. At the same time unburned weeds or cow chips
would get caught in the up draft and be rolled along the
ground and start another fire. Cow chips could hold fire
for several days.
I was fascinated by the burned areas, I would walk
over the area to see what took place. Only a few birds ever
lost their lives. Most of the meadow lark nests would be
empty. Snakes often didn't find a place to hide, and would
die. Some times a turtle would be found dead, but most
often they escaped the heat. Baby rabbits could be found
with singed bodies killed by fire or smoke.
The wooden fence posts would often be burned off at
ground level and would need to be replaced. If rain fell in
the fall the area would green pasture again. If there
was no rain it remained a black carpet all winter, if not
covered by snow.
I never hear of fires being started by trains any
more. Lightening will sometimes start one, but the
prairie fire in the ranch country of Nebraska, Wyoming
and Colorado is still to be feared.
William M. Forbes, our teacher in 1917-1918, was our
authority on Russia. The seed corn project created a lot of
interest in the community. It was my first introduction to
the world that existed outside the boundaries of Dawes,
Valley Star School
DISTRICT NO. 28
December 25, 1917
William M. Forbes,
- P. L. Raben Director
- F. G. Metzger Treasurer
- T. G. Hunter Moderator
- Edwin Ostermeyer
- Alma Ostermeyer
- Alfred Ostermeyer
- William Ostermeyer
- Ralph Ostermeyer
- Martha Ostermeyer
- Maude Dahlheimer
- Catherine Raben
- Jennings Raben
- Elmer Raben
- James Metzger
- Lawrence Metzger
ARA FOR JDC ODESSA, I will always remember ARA FOR JDC,
(AMERICAN RELIEF ASSOCIATION FOR JEWISH DISTRIBUTION
COMMITTEE). For 75 years this has been in my mind. The
Russian Revolution of the 1990's brings memories of the
Russian Revolution of 1917. The one in 1917 was important
to me because I played a part in a project that was designed
to help the food shortage. The total deaths from starvation
was never known, some estimates placed it at a hundred
Alan Moorehead's book; THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION describes
in detail the plight of the Russian people during 1916 and
1917. "The winter of 1916-1917 was particularly severe--at
one stage no less than 1200 locomotives burst their frozen
pipes--making it impossible for adequate food distribution.
In Odessa, people had to wait two days in line to get a
little cooking oil. In Petrograd and Moscow bread lines
formed through out the freezing night."
By the time the fighting had ended, all the seed grains
had been eaten, and there was no seed available for planting
the 1918 crop.
In 1917 my father received a request for seed corn,
from the American Relief Association for Jewish Distribution
Committee. Russia needed seed corn that came from a land
with climate similar to that of the Ukraine. Western
Nebraska: Elevation 4000 feet above sea level: annual
rainfall of 20-24 inches, and lying between the 40th. and
50th. parallel, with a 90 to 100-day growing season, met
As Dad picked the corn, ear by ear, and threw them
in the wagon, he carefully selected the best ears and threw
them in the front of the load. When he unloaded, he put the
selected ears in a separate bin. He gathered his own seed
corn in this manner, but this year it would include 200
bushels of ear corn that would be shipped to Odessa [sic] Russia.
By December all the corn was harvested, and special
instructions were given for shipment. The American Relief
Association would pay for the corn, the price would be
double that received for livestock feed. I think the price
paid was $.50 per bushel.
Each ear of corn was to be carefully wrapped in paper
to protect if from salty air while in shipment. We used many
Montgomery Ward catalogues and newspapers. It was then
packed in burlap bags, each bag was sewed shut and marked
ARA FOR JDC ODESSA. I was given the task of lettering each
bag, I stretched the bags out on the floor, and placed a
stencil over each bag, and carefully filled in each letter
with black paint. There were 100 bags, each holding two
bushels of ear corn.
We prepared the corn for shipment in December. It was
very cold so we did the work in the house. Mumsie cleared
the kitchen table and we set up sawhorses with planks as
work benches. This became a family project for my parents,
my younger brother and myself. I was 10 year old, I felt
VERY IMPORTANT and I made sure the bags were lettered
properly.(ARA FOR JDC, ODESSA),
The project was the talk of the neighborhood. Our
teacher, William Forbes, lost no time in getting a world map
on the wall of our one room school house. He showed us where
Russia was located on the globe, he read from the encyclopedia
and told us about the people, the country and the Czar.
The Russian Revolution of the 1990's is different but
there are many similarities. Will there be food shortages?
Will people starve as they did in 1917? Will there be a
civil war? What will the new government be?
As events unfold in the 1990s we will see them
happen, they will come to us in the living rooms. We will
have many opinions from people who know a great deal about
the country and its people.
In 1917 we had no radio, no television, our information
came to us from the local paper that we received weekly. We
always had the Nebraska Farmer, an agricultural paper that
was concerned with local agricultural matters in the state
and nation but little was ever said about the world.
The little one room school house, in 1917 boasted of
fourteen students, grades one thru eight. The 21 year old
year old teacher with his maps, the globe and the monthly
Current Events paper was our source of information. HE was
The task of obtaining adequate food for each day is not
a problem for most of us, we go to the super market and
everything we need for a balanced diet is on the shelf.
Today refrigeration, transportation and well organized
distribution has made it possible, not only to get the
necessary food for survival, but to have special foods at
all seasons of the year.
How different it was 80 years ago. There was no
refrigeration, many perishable crops could be moved only a
short distance from where they were raised. The majority of
people had to provide all their own food and a little extra
for those who lived close enough to get it before it
To grow the food and process it, required much time,
and many skills. I learned many of these skills from my
parents. On the ranch, we raised our own meat, vegetables,
eggs and milk. We slaughtered and processed the meat. We
grew the crops that could be dried, canned, or stored in
caves. We bought only a few necessities, such as salt, sugar,
kerosene for lights, and wood or coal for cooking. We raised
wheat and had it ground into flour at the river mill, only a
few miles from home.
My father was an expert at butchering hogs and in
preserving the meat. He not only did it for his family, but
he often supervised the project for the neighbors. The
killing of a hog was a painless process for the animal, it
would be stunned with a heavy hammer, and with great skill, a
knife would sever an artery at a point where it forked,
between the jaw and the front legs. The blood was saved as
food for the chickens.
To clean and dress a hog required several operations.
Water was heated in a 55 gallon barrel; when it reached
the proper temperature, it would be lowered into the barrel
and held long enough in the hot water until the hair could
be scraped off. This was done with a scraper or large knife.
The carcass is then hung with head down and offal removed.
The liver and heart were quickly cooled, this would be the
meat we would have for supper. The carcass is allowed to
cool over night. It will then be cut into hams, sides for
bacon, and other cuts.
With no refrigeration the next operations must be
completed in a hurry. The hams are rubbed with saltpeter
(Potassium Nitrate), put in a smoke chamber, (smoke house),
for several days or even weeks. A wood fire, or ear corn,
would create enough smoke to produce a delicious cut of ham
When the remainder of the meat was cut, there would be
tenderloin, the back loin which is now served as pork chops
Often because of lack of refrigeration, much of the meat
was roasted and put in glass jars and sealed. Wonderful
roast pork could be preserved for the rest of the year.
The feet were well cleaned and pickled. The head became
head cheese. The remainder was ground, and made into link
sausage by cleaning the offal and stuffing it with ground
meat, and smoked with the hams and shoulders.
When Verna and I were living on the ranch in the 1930s
we butchered a beef more often than hogs. Verna would
preserve much of the beef by roasting and canning in glass
jars, which made the best roast beef I have ever eaten.
The farm flock of laying hens supplied the family with
meat and eggs. Eggs were traded at the local grocery store
for many items used in the kitchen. Mumsie was able to buy
materials for making clothes for us.
"HELP! HELP! I can't get out!" I tried to go forward,
I tried to go backward, nothing seemed to work. I was
caught between the floor joists under the barn, and the hard
ground. My 5 year old brother Lawrence, was the only person
who knew where I was. I yelled at the top of my voice but
got no answer. I was scared. How was I ever going to get
out of this mess.
I suppose it was no longer than 10 minutes, but it
seemed like 10 days. I tried to crawl out of my clothes, but
I couldn't unhook my suspenders. I was crying and yelling,
and I finally got an answer from Lawrence. I didn't know
where he was, but he was soon pulling on my pant leg. He
unhooked my pants from a nail in the floor joist and gave me
enough freedom to wriggle backward and free myself.
Spring on the ranch brings calves, pigs, lambs,
kittens, colts and chickens. As for the chickens, the eggs
came first. My brother and I were hunting eggs. Mumsie was
the proud owner of a flock of prize Buff Orpingtons that
furnished her with eggs enough for the family table and a
surplus with which she purchased most of the groceries
that we needed.
The selection of the breeding stock was an important
process in maintaining a productive laying flock. Eggs were
collected for several weeks and then placed in an
incubator. In three weeks another laying flock was on the
The chickens were allowed to run free at the ranch, and 1
eggs were not always laic in the proper nests in the chicken
house. In the spring, a brooding hen had her own idea as to
what was needed to raise young chicks, she would hide
her eggs under the feed bunks in the barn or even under
buildings. Lawrence and I could earn a little money if we
found eggs in hidden nests. We would be paid a penny an egg
for all we could collect.
Trying to find eggs is what got me in trouble. I was
under the barn and spotted a nest in the far corner. I
tried to crawl thru the same opening that the hen had been
using, but I didn't make it. Lawrence was a little smaller
than I and did get thru and found six eggs. We divided the
Years later I looked under that old barn. That hole
as [sic] still there, but I didn't see any eggs.
I have heard that there is a lot of business conducted
in the United States by using the barter system. You can
trade commodities with out showing any record of a cash
transaction. I am told that millions of dollars are lost in
taxes, and that the IRS frowns on this type of business.
Business transactions, where no cash was used, were
common when I was a boy. It was not the intent to avoid
taxes, it was because there was no cash. Business conducted
by the barter system, could be for services or commodities.
My mother always planned to raise chickens for meat and
eggs, enough to supply our own food, and we always seemed to
have eggs to take to the grocery store and trade for other
produce. Eggs from the flock of laying hens, and cream and
butter from the cows we milked, were bartered for groceries
at Frank Lewis' grocery store. The list of things needed was
prepared by Mumsie, there was usually, salt, sugar, pepper,
baking powder and other items needed in cooking.
The eggs and butter were carried in a large basket,
which would then be used for groceries. The process of
obtaining the groceries always interested me. I would watch
Dad count the eggs, then watch Frank get each item from the
shelves as Dad read the list Mumsie had prepared. Some
times a shipment of oranges had been received and Dad would
select one for Mumsie, Lawrence, himself and me. Some times
Frank would give me a piece of chocolate candy. I was just
tall enough to stand on my toes and look over the counter,
and reach the candy.
When the groceries were in the basket, Dad would take a
small pencil from his pocket, scribble on a piece of paper,
Frank would do the same, Dad would say, "I owe you $1.50,"
Frank would then say, "I will put it on the books until
next time." I never did see any money change hands.
I think that my brother Lawrence is the only person who
will remember this next story. Dad, on one of his trips to
town, had a nice team of well matched grays, he was alone,
and carrying a large basket of eggs on his arm. As he
crossed the R.R. tracks a switch engine hit him. The engine
ran over his team and made kindling wood of his wagon. The
team had to be destroyed, they were so badly mangled. Dad
came out without a scratch. His clothes were completely
covered with egg yolks. He called Mumsie as quickly as
he could get to a phone so that she would know that he was
not hurt. He wanted to get the news to her before it got
to the party line.
It was not always easy to communicate with our
neighbors before 1914, we had a telephone before that date,
but some of the neighbors did not. One of them was a
bachelor who lived in a sod house that was only a little more
than a mile from where we lived. I never heard him called
anything but "Squeaky Johnson." Squeaky got his name from
his high pitched voice. He always made me feel as if he
were yelling at me. He was a good neighbor, and could always
be depended upon to help us when we needed him.
One of my mother's complaints, was, when some one
wanted to get in touch with Squeaky, they would call her.
It was not uncommon for her to stop her work, and walk more
than a mile to get the message to him. When I became old
enough, I must have been 5 or 6, she would write out the
message on a piece of paper and I would deliver it.
The little sod house where Squeaky lived was not one of
my favorite spots. During the summer he kept a large bull
snake around to keep the mice and rats from invading the sod
house. The bull snake was a welcome visitor; it also kept
the rattlesnakes away. I hated to go near when the snake
One July morning, Mumsie received a message to deliver.
She was making shirts for my brother Lawrence and me. She
had completed a bright red one for Lawrence, and I was to get
the next one. She didn't want to stop her work, so she asked
me to deliver the message, and to take Lawrence with me. I
was busy pounding nails in a box, trying to make a house for
our dog. I was unhappy and didn't want to take Lawrence
with me, he was not able to go as fast as I wanted to go, so
I went off and left him. As soon as I had delivered the
message I hurried home to get back to my work.
We had taken a short cut thru a wheat field, the wheat
was as high as my head, and it wasn't long before I lost sight
of Lawrence. I was mad, and didn't care that I had lost him.
As soon as I returned, I got back to my task of
building the dog house. Noon arrived, Dad came from the
field, and Mumsie called us to dinner. The first comment
from Dad was, "Where is Lawrence?" I said I didn't know. The
next question was directed to me. "James, didn't he go with
you to deliver the message to Squeaky?" It had been three
hours since I got back home. I didn't know where he was.
I would have been better off had I known. I was
scared, if Lawrence is lost I am in real trouble. Dad
leaped from the dining room table, went to the barn, saddle
his horse, mounted and pulled me up behind the saddle, and
told me to show the way we had gone. For an hour we crossed
and recrossed that wheat field. Suddenly, Dad stopped his
horse, right in front of us was a sobbing little 4 year boy
wearing a bright red shirt. Dad reached down and pulled him
up into the saddle with him. Not a word was spoken until
we reached the house. As we sat down to dinner, Lawrence,
between sobs, said, "Didn't you see my RED SHIRT"?
I never was punished for running off and leaving my
brother. I think my parents knew that I was badly scared.
Dad just said, "Don't run off and leave any one again." It
is painful to this day, for me to leave someone if I think
they may be lost, or have no way to get home.
If this picture were in color the shirts would be red.
I am sure that when Lawrence outgrew his he would get
mine, so he would wear a red shirt for a long time. The
same would be true of the overalls. These overalls were
special, they had two buttons for each suspender. When I
got caught under the barn I couldn't get one of the buttons
TRANSPORTATION TO SCHOOL
In May of 1920 I passed the county examinations that
permitted me to enter high school. In September I enrolled
in the high school in Crawford, Nebraska. It was about 4.5
miles from the ranch to the school. I rode a horse for the
4 years, and only on rare occasions would I be permitted to
use the car.
My father raised horses, and much of his income came
from selling teams of horses for farm work. He occasionally
would sell one that would be used on a single buggy or as a
saddle horse. Some times the horse would be partly trained,
and it was my task to do some of that early training.
I remember the name of every horse I rode. Many of
these horses were only half broke, and did not want to be
ridden. This meant some rough rides for me. The first
horse was Bob, a flea bitten sorrel, Bob always wanted to turn
and go home when he got to the bridge, As a small boy I used
to go as far as the bridge and then turn around.
There was Lucy, Betty, Smokey, Baldy, Dick. I remember
three of these horses better that the others, because they
occasionally left me sitting on the ground and I would have
to walk home.
Lucy hated automobiles and trains. In 1920 there were
only a few automobiles on the road, and when one of these
contraptions came along with flapping side curtains, she
would have a fit. She would turn in spite of anything I
did, and start for home. Usually the driver would stop,
turn off the engine, and let me pass. I would still have
to get as far from the car as possible.
There were two railroads in Crawford, and the tracks
crossed at the point I entered the city limits. The
engineers would take delight in blowing the whistle. Lucy
would jump and start to run. One time she just stuck her
head between her front legs and bucked me off, and I had
to walk all the way home.
Baldy hated dogs, and in the fall during fair time, the
Indians from the Rose Bud reservation, would camp along the
road where I crossed the river. The dogs around the camp
seemed to take delight in snapping at Baldy's heels. She
would kick at them, and occasionally hit one and send him
head over heels into the borrow pit at the side of the road.
The fair usually lasted 8 or 10 days, as time passed, the
number of dogs that bark at my horse, became fewer, and
the lines of dried meat got longer.
Smokey was a small, ugly horse, a dirty smokey [sic] color,
with a dark stripe down his back. My father would never
have had it on the ranch under normal conditions, but he had
hired an Indian from the reservation to help him harvest the
fall crops, and he had loaned him some money, that he couldn't
repay, and so gave Dad the horse. Smokey had a bad habit
of running away. I broke chin straps and bridle reins trying
to hold him, he would run for home and go right into the barn
if the door was open. Eventually I found a way to stop him,
I took a long shank curb bit, with a wire jaw strap, and
put an end to his running.
I rode to school in all kinds of weather, hot, cold,
snow or rain, but with proper clothes I could keep warm and
dry, Handling a horse in very cold weather could be
difficult, if it were below zero, 40 below is the coldest I
remember, great care had to be taken to get the frost out
of the bit. A bit with frost in it can take the skin off
a horse's tongue. The frost can be removed by putting
the bit in water or blowing on it, the moisture from the
breath was enough to take the frost out.
It was several years before I was permitted to drive
the car, and then it had to be for special occasions in my
senior year. The saddle horse was my transportation.
This was the first horse I owned. Dad gave me the
gift when I was 8 years old, I named her "GERTIE". I looked
forward to the day when I could train her. One day an
evangelist came to the door and was explaining to Mumsie
that the world was sure to come to an end in about ten
years. My first thought was that I would have time to
train my horse.
Are you being eaten by bugs, lice, fleas, mice or rats?
Call the pest exterminator. He will bring his chemicals and
electrically powered machines and clean things up for you.
As late as 1932 we had no electrical equipment and very
few chemicals that could be of help. We had to invent
our own method of getting rid of the pests. If we
couldn't get rid of them, we just lived with them.
It seemed to me, when I was a boy, that my folks were
always fighting some kind of pest. Flies, bedbugs, fleas,
mice, mites, these were always a concern in the house. Lice
ticks, fleas, worms, were year around problems with cattle,
horses, hogs, chickens, cats and dogs. Grasshoppers, potato
bugs, and worms were eating up our garden and other crops
the minute we turned our backs.
The ordinary house fly, on the ranch where there were
cattle and horses, was the most common pest. We built fly
traps that caught them by the thousands. The traps were
made of ordinary window screen rolled into a cylinder with
cone shaped entrance at the bottom. Fly bait of food would
attract the flies, when they flew away, they would hit the
cone shaped part of the trap and crawl into a hole that the
could never find to get out of. Then there was sticky fly
paper of various kinds. The ribbon of sticky paper that
hung from the ceiling, or the large flat piece of paper wit
glue that was an attraction for flies and bugs.
Bedbugs, ticks or fleas were not common if care was
taken to keep things clean. The problem could arise at
harvest time when extra help was hired. Mumsie made sure
that some of the clothing would be left outside, but that
didn't always work. When there was evidence that some of
these pests might be present, she would close up the house
and put a pan of sulphur [sic] on the floor and light a match
to it. The fumes would kill every living thing in the
house. When the sulphur [sic] burned out, she would open up the
house, and air it out. When winter came, mice could always
find a way into the house.
The worms and bugs always seemed to get to the garden
before we did. The tobacco worms on the tomato vines, or
the potato bug on the potatoes. The chemical that we used
was called PARIS GREEN, a bright green powder, made by
mixing sodium arsenic with copper sulfate and acetic acid.
We would put a small amount of the mixture with water in a
pail, and walk down the potato row and sprinkle the mixture
on the vines. If we did not use the poison, we took a small
can with some kerosene in it and picked the bugs and worms
off the vine and threw them into the kerosene.
The farm animals were always needing care. Lice were
common in winter, when there were long winter coats of hair
on the horses and cattle. To keep the lice under control we
would wrap a post in the corral with rags soaked in kerosene
or motor oil. The cattle, horses and hogs took care of them
selves by rubbing against the oily rags. Occasionally we
would mix kerosene and oil and rub it on the animal.
Lice and mites on chickens were treated by painting roosts
and nests with a creosote mixture and put wood ashes in
the dusting pans.
Mice in grain bins was always a problem. We had cats
around that helped control the mice. One of our neighbor
kept a bull snake during the summer months. Cats that had
kittens in winter could keep them alive. In summer I
suspected the bull snake was getting them.
We kept a few cats around the barns, if we fed them
a little milk when we milked the cows, they never seemed to
need any other food, so we were seldom bothered with mice in
our feed bins.
The sod house was hard to keep free of pests. Bugs and
flies always found their way thru the windows and doors.
Mice were always a problem. "Squeaky Johnson's" sod house
looked much like this one. He kept a cat during the winter
that would take care of the mice, and in the summer time
his pet bull snake was very effective.
My high school years were not the happiest years of my
life. From a one room country school, where we seldom had
more than 10 or 12 students, to a high school that had 140
students with four or five teachers was to be a difficult
adjustment for a 13 year old country kid. Most of my high
school class mates had been together thru the first eight
grades, and had many friends. There were only two of us
from my school. It appeared to me that all were dressed
better than I, and my self esteem was about as low as it
could get. I thought I was the country hick. It was to be
many years before I could rid myself of that feeling.
Every morning before I left home I had to care for the
horses and cattle. As soon as I was finished with my chores
I would grab my books, hurry to the barn, saddle my horse
and ride the four and one half miles to the barn where I
kept my horse. I would make a run for school before the
bell rang at 9:00 o'clock, At 3:30 p.m. I would reverse the
process, and hope to get home before it became dark.
My mother would have supper ready as soon as we were
thru with our chores. The regular diet would be meat,
potatoes and gravy, with homemade bread, which we washed
down with lots of cold milk. The family always ate together
and Dad usually wanted to know what we had learned that day.
Home work would take an hour or two. I studied at the
dining room table, by the light of a kerosene light. It was
a great help when we were able to get a gasoline light that
hung from the wall and lighted the entire room.
Bed time came at 8:00 o'clock, and we were up the next
morning at 5:30. I expected to do this five days a week,
and Saturday meant extra work to haul enough feed to last
for the following week.
I looked thru my records and found the transcript of
grades that were sent to the University of Nebraska when I
matriculated in the fall of 1927. The 32 credits required
to graduate included English, Latin, chemistry, physics and
mathematics. The electives included manual training, and
typing. English and Latin were difficult for me. I took
Latin the second time, and then just got passing grades. I
liked manual training, Dad had taught me to use wood working
tools, and I could make the other students look like
amateurs. This was the only time that I really felt equal
to my peers. I graduated with an average grade of 80.
I liked manual training the best, but the typing class
was to prove the most valuable course in High School.
I can only imagine what my college work would have been
with out a typewriter, I established several USDA flood
control projects while with the CCC camp and Soil
Conservation Service. I often made preliminary surveys
with out clerical help. There were reports while on
assignment in foreign countries, where clerical help was
not available. A shortage of technical staff and language
problems made it necessary to write my own reports.
I have to confess, that even I had a hard time reading
my hand writing when it got cold. My typewriter made it
possible for others to read what I wrote. My spelling has
improved, when I wrote by hand I might be able to make A
look like an E or an F, and if it were type written it had
better be correct.
I worked all summer in 1924 to save $60.00, and bought
a Remington portable typewriter. In 1928 I married an
English and typing teacher, who taught the same typing class
that I had taken 4 years earlier. You can understand why
I was especially careful when I wrote love letters to her.
Verna is still of special help when I do this writing.
How can I look up a word in the dictionary, or even get my
computer to spell, if I can't even get the first two letters
right? I have just ask her how to spell curriculum, I can't
find it under CA or CO. she says, "look under CU."
Participation in extra curricular activities while in
High School was difficult for me. It was necessary for me to
work mornings and evenings at home. I did get my parents to
let me play foot ball my senior year, but this was not very
successful, the Crawford team won the western Nebraska
championship in 1923, the year that I played, but I was not
experienced and played on the second team most of the time.
I took the hard hits from the backfield of the first team.
I had one experience that I will probably never forget.
Working in the manual training class was a friend that liked
caramel candy, one day he gave me a piece, I liked it so well
that I gave him a nickel to get me some, he would give it to
me at the next manual training class. He never did come back
to class, and I lost a nickel. I don't know whether it was
because I lost the nickel, or that I didn't get the caramel
candy that made me remember it all these years.
I gradated in June 1924, I did have an opportunity to
show some of my skills, the seniors put on a play the week
of graduation. A request was made for members of the class
to provide some entertainment between acts. I volunteered to
play my banjo and harmonica. This was a novelty act that
was new to the audience, and I got a good hand. This act
brought me a lot of attention. I guess I needed this to
satisfy my ego.
It was April 1922, and the day dawned bright and clear.
It was like many other April mornings in Western Nebraska. It
had been warmer than usual for April and much of the ground
preparation for planting, was finished. This year Dad is
seeding alfalfa with the oat crop. The oats will be
harvested in August and the alfalfa would continue to grow
and be a crop for several years to come.
The planting was done with an 8 foot grain drill pulled
by four horses. The alfalfa seed was placed in a small
hopper, along side the big hopper that held the oats. and
will be seeded at the same time. All went well the first
day in the field. The second day began with another bright
morning, but by noon the sky was gray and cloudy. By the
middle of the after noon it began to snow. With in an hour
there was so much snow on the ground that I had to quit.
I unhitched the team and went home. By nightfall there was
six inches of snow. There was no wind and everything was
covered with a white blanket.
The next morning it was still snowing. The grain drill
that I had been using was so well covered that all I could
see above the snow, was the seat, and the top of the hopper.
There was still no wind, this was not like Western Nebraska.
There was nothing we could do in the field, but now we had a
new problem. Dad was a horse breeder and foals were
arriving. We had to spend all day getting them into dry
quarters. It was necessary to scoop enough snow to get the
herd to feed and water. There was now 3 feet of soft white
snow on the ground, and still snowing.
Monday morning arrived, the third day of the snow. An
emergency telephone call, a series of rings, announced that
there would be no school today. I was feeling good about
everything, because this would be a vacation. It wasn't
long before the phone rang again, this time it was two longs
and two shorts, that was our ring. Dad got up from the
breakfast table to answer. He talked for some time, and from
the tone of his voice I knew that something was not good.
I heard him say, "I can send him over, but I am not sure that
he can get there." HIM meant me, and I didn't want to go
Dad came back to the table and sat down. I was afraid
to start the conversation, so I said nothing. Finally, what
seemed ages to me, he said, "Dawes Forbes is sick and in
bed. He can't get his cattle to feed or water and he wants
you to help him for a few days." I didn't want to go any
where, above all things, I didn't want to go to work for
Dawes Forbes. I got along with him, but he always called
me KID, and I didn't like to be called KID.
It was now the third day of the storm. The sun was
beginning to show thru the clouds. There had been no wind,
and the snow was now 4 feet deep, it was beautiful to see,
a white sea of snow, but almost impossible to go any place.
Dad said, "You had better try to go." I grudgingly went to
the barn to get my saddle horse, Baldy, the horse that I had
been riding to school, and headed for the Dawes Forbes'
ranch. It was only three miles, but I think the longest
three miles I have ever traveled.
Dad suggested that I not go around by the road, and
take a pair of wire cutters with me and cut the fence. Baldy
wasn't pleased with what I was doing, but with some urging
she waded out into the snow. I would follow the fence line
as far as I could. There was no other guide line, and even
then it was hard to see. There had been no wind, only
the tops of the posts appeared above the snow. The white
caps made them look like a line of little soldiers standing
quietly at attention.
It took me nearly two hours to reach my destination.
Baldy couldn't carry me and wade thru the snow. I put the
lariat over the saddle horn, and drove her ahead of me.
What I saw when I got there was very discouraging.
There were both cattle and horses to feed and water. Some
of the cows were calving, and two of them were having
trouble, which was a problem that took a lot of time.
Two days of hard work; The wind did not blow, and
the sun melted the snow, so in a short time we could move
around. When it became time to go home, Dawes Forbes
thanked me, gave me two dollars, and said, "KID, you did a
PUMPS AND WINDMILLS
The homesteader with a good well on his place, had
another problem to solve, the water had to be raised from
the bottom of the well to ground level. It was always
possible for a person to attach a 3 or 4 gallon pail to a
rope, and let it down in the well, and when the pail hit the
water, give the rope a quick jerk and the pail would flip
over and fill with water, then pull the rope hand over hand
until the pail reached the surface. One person would have
to work all day to water 100 head of cattle.
I have seen many types of inventions that made it easier
to get the water out, than just dropping a bucket in the
water and then hand over hand draw it to the surface. The
first improvement was a single pulley mounted above the
well. This made it possible to get the water to the surface
with out leaning over the well.
The next improvement was a windlass. An A type frame
was set over the well, a long rod placed thru the A frame.
This rod was placed thru a small drum around which the rope
could be wound. A crank on the rod was turned by hand and
would lift the bucket of water. This was a great improvement
over the pulley, but required a lot of time and labor.
The next improvement was the long-handled pump. The
design of the pump was much like those in use today. It was
a cylinder, a piece of pipe, 2 or 3 inches in diameter,
18 inches long, with a plunger in side the cylinder. A rod
then connected it to the pump handle, as you lifted and
lowered the handle you would lift and lower the plunger
inside the cylinder. Three flutter valves were used in the
cylinder, one on each end of the cylinder and one on the
plunger. The valve in the bottom of the cylinder held the
water while it was being forced out thru the top valve.
When the stroke was completed, a cylinder full of water
would be pushed up thru the pipe and out of the pump. A
small (weep) hole was drilled in the pipe, just far enough
from the top of the ground to permit water to drain back
after pumping. This would prevent the pump from freezing in
very cold weather.
The pump could always be worked by hand, but some one
figured that the wind wheel could do the work for them. The
windmill was not new, it had been used for a long time. Man
were home made on the order of a wind-vane, the best ones
were made commercially. We had a SAMPSON on the homestead
in western Nebraska, but there were several other makes. [sic] the
Fairbury, the Aero and others.
The windmill required a lot of attention. The gears
needed to be lubricated, and this would be done by climbing
the tower on which the wheel was mounted, 30 or 50 feet
high. It seemed to me that the wind was always blowing when
I climbed the tower, so I tied the wheel to prevent being
knocked off by a sudden gust of wind. I would cover all the
moving parts with oil and grease, then release the wheel and
hope that I could get out of the way before a gust of wind
would catch the wheel and knock me off the tower.
I have heard of men getting their hands caught in the
gears if there was a sudden burst of wind. We had a friend,
when we were on the ranch in Nebraska, who had fallen from a
20 foot tower, Johnnie Nicholas from Mason City. He fell from
the tower when the wheel turned suddenly, knocking him off,
and he was hospitalized for a long time with a broken
pelvis, arms and ribs.
In recent years many of the windmills in the western
plains were replaced with electric motors. There is often
more cost, but the electricity made it worth while. If
the wind doesn't blow, you can still pump water. A float
switch can be used that will turn the motor off when the
tanks are full. A savings in worn out pumps that were
always in motion if the wind was blowing, made the expense
These windmills were on the Watson ranch north of
Scottsbluff, Nebraska. This type of windmill was used on
ranches in Nebraska. Usually there would be only one
windmill and a stock tank in a location. They would be
placed in a number of positions throughout the range land so
that livestock did not have to go far to water.
Winter on the Western Plains, for the homesteaders,
was a dreaded time. If snow and cold came in September, it
could be especially hard. The growing season, in Western
Nebraska, could be as short at 90 days. Hay for the horses
and cattle would have been harvested, but grain crops
could still be in the field. Garden crops, such as carrots
potatoes and cabbage, could be caught in an early freeze and
be a catastrophe. These crops meant basic food for the
family. The meat that was most often available was beef
or pork, butchered on the farm. Farm families lived very
well if crops matured early enough to be harvested.
I remember only one year when we got caught with an
early freeze. I think that I was 12 years old, the year
would have been 1919. The family was at the breakfast table,
when the telephone rang with a series of short rings. This
was a call from central that there was an announcement for
all on the line. Dad went to the phone, he listened for a
couple of minutes, then he hung up the receiver and came
back to the table. "There is a snow and heavy wind coming
our way, it is as far east as Sheridan, Wyoming, and will be
here by night." His words meant only one thing, we had
better get ready for a blizzard.
How could this be? This is only September, the sun was
shining and not a cloud in the sky, it gave signs of being a
warm day. Lawrence and I were just ready to go to school,
the storm was a long way from us, and we should have plenty
of time to get home before it got as far as Crawford,
It didn't take long for plans to be changed, I was not
to go to school. Dad consulted Mumsie for a few minutes,
then turned to me and said, "Do you think you could take
Blossom and Dick and go to town and get some coal? Frank
Lewis will help you load, you should get along very well if
you take the river road into town." My first reaction was that
of elation; sure I could do it, on second thought it didn't
seem to be so good. I remembered that Dad had a problem
getting Dick to cross the bridge, the wagon was almost
upset one time on a trip to town, when Dick refused to step
on the loose planks. When he did step on the planks, he gave
a leap that nearly threw us from the wagon.
Dad helped me hitch the team to the wagon and gave
final instructions for crossing the bridge and the railroad
tracks. His last words were, "You may let the team trot
going into town, but walk them when you come home, or you
will lose some of the coal."
The trip into town was uneventful, Dick didn't
jump when the train went by, and he crossed the bridge with
out as much as a second look. Frank Lewis was on hand to
help me fill the wagon. We didn't even weigh the load, Frank
said that if the lower box was filled it would be a half
ton. He was anxious for me to get started home, before
the storm reached us. Frank asked me to go to the store with
him, he gave me a sandwich and sent me on my way.
It was one o'clock when I started home. The sky looked
gray, the sun was disappearing, and in the sky looked very
dark in the north. I imagined a lot of problems. What
if the wagon broke down under the 1000 lbs of weight? What
if the team got scared and ran away? What if? What if?
Getting the team to go home was no problem, they always
wanted to go home. My problem was to hold them down so they
wouldn't go too fast. The first mile went very well, then I
felt a snow flake hit my face. I was getting anxious, but
there was nothing to do but keep going. It was only four more
miles, and another hour, but it seemed an eternity to me.
I got off the wagon and walked beside the team when I
got cold. The driving snow melted on my face, the lines
became very wet, that made little difference, because the
team followed the road. I was very glad to head the team
into the drive way and get the coal under cover.
While I was gone, things were happening at home. Dad
and Mumsie finished digging the potatoes and had them in
the cellar. They had pulled all the cabbage and had it
stored in the barn. The temperature never got below zero,
and the storm was over in a couple of days, but It did give
the homesteaders a scare.
There was no radio, no TV weather man, just a little
country line with its short rings and the voice of the
operator to tell us that we could get a change in weather.
FILLING THE ICE HOUSE
To have an ice cold drink or a dish of ice cream was a
real luxury when I was a boy. Refrigerators were available
in the early 1930's, but at that time we had no electricity.
Units that used gas or oil were available but expensive so
we used an ice box with ice we cut from the pond.
To live on a ranch in Nebraska, required an adjustable
thermostat. The weather was your partner and often not a
silent one. Hot, cold, wet, dry and many combinations of
these governed your life. In order to have the luxury of a
cold drink or a dish of ice cream on a hot summer day,
required some very cold days during the winter. It must be
10 to 20 degrees below zero for a 15 or 20 day period to
freeze the ice on the lake to a depth that would support
teams and equipment. We usually waited until the ice was 7
or 8 inches thick before we would even attempt to put up
Christmas vacation was often the most favorable time to
put up ice, and I had to spend my vacation working. At 6:00
o'clock in the morning, Dad would pound on the bedroom door
and say, "It's time to get up, we are going to put up ice
today." I would throw the covers back and step out of bed,
and when my feet touched that cold floor, I felt as if I had
stepped on a cake of ice. The thermometer had been
hovering very close to the zero mark for several days. Dad
says that it should warm up. There is ice on the water pail
in the kitchen. Mumsie will have breakfast for us when the
chores are finished.
By 7 O'clock it is beginning to get light, and Dad gets
the equipment needed to cut the ice: There will be saws,
ice tongs, stakes and string for marking out the squares to
cut. We will get a wooden plank, to use as a slide for
loading the wagon. I will get the team and hitch them
to the wagon. It is so cold that I have to take the bridles
into the house when I go to breakfast, in order to have the
bits warm enough so that they will not freeze to the horses'
tongues. The horses are cold and don't like to stand for
long, so I hurry as much as possible to get them hitched to
There is a lot of snow on the ground. The wind and
cold have made the snow very hard, and the horses hoofs
squeak as they walk on the snow, as I lead them to the
wagon. I try to start, but the wheels are frozen to the
ground, and it is necessary to turn the team from left to
right and work the front wheels loose. We start off at a
fast walk, with the wheels squealing when the iron tires
turn in the cold snow.
The lake where we cut the ice is only three miles from
the ice house, and we are soon unloading. Dad and our
neighbor, Clint Jones , mark out the blocks that are to be
cut. Then with the saws, we cut out blocks of ice that are
about 30 inches by 20 inches. The blocks will be from 6 to
8 inches thick, depending on how cold it has been, and will
weigh from 75 to 85 lbs.
The wagon will hold a ton or about 24 blocks of ice.
The team can easily pull that much if they don't slip.
We haul the load to the ice house and pack the cut blocks
into one large block that nearly fills the house. We then
fill in around the large block with sawdust, and put lots
of straw or hay on top. This will not be opened until warm
weather comes. When we open the ice we take from one
corner, and then re-cover. We can expect the ice that was
packed in January to last until late July or August.
Usually filling the ice house was not an exciting job.
There was a lot of hard work in cold weather, but we could
always keep warm while working. This wasn't always true for
the horses we used, they had to stand while we filled the
wagon. We normally unhitched the team, but one day there
was a lot of ice close to the wagon and I didn't think it
would take long to load, so I left them hitched. This was
mistake, a dog chased a rabbit in front of the team, and
frightened them, they started to run with the wagon half
full of ice, and they didn't stop until the reached home.
There were blocks of ice strewn along the way. I had to
walk home, but there was no damage to the wagon.
All the cold weather and hard work was forgotten by the
4th of July. Home made ice cream has a way of making you
forget your troubles.
For much of my life, if I wanted water I went to the
faucet, and turned on the right one for cold and the left
for hot. Some one went to a lot of work and expense to make
this possible, but it hasn't always been that way.
When a homesteader filed for a 640 acre tract of land
under the homestead act of 1862, the first thing to be
developed was a water supply. If there was a stream or
spring on the homestead, the problem was solved, but if
a well had to be dug, there were many questions to be
answered. Where do you dig? Was water close to the surface?
What type of soil would be encountered in digging? Would
it be good water and enough of it? All of these questions
had to be answered or your homestead was of little value.
There was a well on the homestead that my father
settled on. He bought a 640 acres farm from a family that
relinquished their rights, so the problem of a water supply
was well known before he took possession of the property.
Digging wells was an art. It was not uncommon before
digging was started, to call in a person who was called a
water witch or divinor [sic]. This person with a forked willow
stick, held in both hands in front of him, walk along a site
where he hoped to find water, when the stick turned down,
in his hand, he would just say, "Dig here", and often he
When a site was located, the next step was to dig a
hole, four feet square, just large enough for a man to work
with a short-handled spade. It was usually easy digging for
the first 5 or 6 feet, because the dirt could be thrown
out of the hole, but when the hole became deeper, it was
necessary to fill a bucket and a helper could pull it out by
tieing [sic] a rope to the bucket, attached to a windlass.
When the hole was deep enough to be a danger from earth
caving in on the digger, a solid wooden frame, four feet
square would be made and lowered in the hole. The frame
would go down as the digger went deeper.
I have seen dug wells that were as deep as 80 feet.
It was dark down in the hole, and the deeper you dug, the
darker it becomes. The deepest well I was in was only 40 fee
deep. If the digger was lucky he would hit water at 30
feet, but he would dig in the mud and water until the water
came in fast enough to fill the bucket. There is no greater
disappointment than to dig for days and find no water.
There have been many sad experiences with dug wells.
Diggers have been buried alive because not enough care was
taken to prevent earth from caving in on the digger.
Children and animals have fallen in wells that were not
covered or fenced.
Mari Sandoz, the daughter of a prominent homesteader
in Western Nebraska, tells a story of her father, known as
OLD JULES, who dug a well on his homestead near Hay Springs.
Nebraska, he hired two young neighbors to help him. The
young fellows would operate the windlass and take the dirt
out of the well. Water was found at 60 feet, and when
OLD JULES was finished they pulled him out in the bucket.
The boys thought they would have some fun with the old man s
they would lift him almost to the surface and let him drop.
The rope broke and let him fall to the bottom of the well.
His foot was badly broken, and the frightened boys were
so scared they pulled him out of the well and went off and
left him to find his way home. It was three weeks later
that soldiers from Fort Robinson found him in his home with
a badly infected foot, and took him to the hospital. The
doctor who treated him, was the now famous Dr. Walter Reed.
We had two dug wells on our homestead. There was one
that was not used and it was covered with planks and then
fenced. Dad had a fine Shire stallion that weighed about
2000 lbs. The horse was reaching thru the fence to get the
green grass in side the enclosure, the fence broke, and he
stepped on the planks and fell in the 40 foot well. He was
no doubt killed at once when he hit bottom. We filled in
the well, but Dad lost a registered Shire stallion worth at
There are many stories told of homesteaders who tried
for a year or more to get water and finally gave up, and left
The rattlesnake has been the topic of much conversation
by homesteaders in Western Nebraska. I have never been
bitten by one, only because I was out of reach when it made
the strike. I have thought that all living creatures on
this earth had a purpose, but I have never figured out what
the purpose of the rattlesnake was. Snakes are useful in
keeping rodents under control, but why does it have to carry
a load of poison?
I have been told that the rattlesnake lives only in the
western hemisphere. It is very well known in the western
states of the United States. My father told me when I was
very young, that if I heard a rattlesnake, just stand
still, don't move until you locate it. There were several
times as a small boy that I took the advice, but it is
difficult to do. It is also often hard to locate the
snake. The gray diamond back rattler is well camouflaged,
and can be hidden in the grass and weeds, especially on
The horses and cattle on the ranch are also afraid of
the rattler. I have had a saddle horse nearly jump out from
under me when he heard the dreaded rattle.
One hot day in August, I was loading bundles of grain
in the rack to take to the threshing machine. The team was
well trained, and as I loaded the shocked grain on the wagon,
they would move up to the next shock, without driving them.
I thrust my pitchfork into the shock of grain and a sudden
buzz stopped me. It reached the ears of the team at the
same time, and in a matter of seconds I had a run away team
that left me standing with my pitchfork in the shock of
grain. Every time I moved my fork there came another
rattle. I finally located the snake, it was in a
depression in the ground where a horse had stepped. It was
5 feet long, and coiled like a gray rope. I got rid of the
snake in a hurry, took my knife and cut off the rattles. My
team was stopped by a friend that was working close by.
Prairie dog holes were a good hiding place, and if a
horse or cow got too close, the snake would strike. This
happened to one of our best work horses. For a month that
poor animal walked around with a head so badly swollen that
its eyes were closed and it nearly starved before it could
eat. We were able to stick a hose down its throat and
give it water. The animal did live, but it took it a long
time to recover.
Rattlesnakes congregate in the fall of the year in
river banks or rocky outcrops. It was an annual affair for
ranchers in Western Nebraska, to go to the rocky banks of
the Niobrara river and kill as many as two or three hundred
at a time. The snakes could be found sunning themselves on
the rocks. Some times they could be dug out in bunches of
rolled up snakes.
We had a neighbor who lived in a sod house, and kept a
bull snake around the house during the summer. He said he
could be sure that the rattlers would not come near, the
bull snake would chase them off. He never had any trouble
with mice and rats while the bull snake was around. He had
a cat, but during the summer there were never small kittens
I guess the snake liked them also.
I know of only one animal on the plains that liked
rattlesnakes. A badger will dig them out of the ground,
and eat them, thick fur on the badger would keep the
poison fangs from doing any damage. The only domesticated
animal that seemed to survive the rattlers bite was a hog.
I have seen a hog kill a snake and eat it.
We had a dog on the ranch that hated snakes, and would
occasionally kill one by grabbing it and shaking it until
it was dead. Dogs have been bitten by rattlesnakes and
have been killed by them.
I have known of two homesteaders who were bitten. They
both recovered, but the cure for a snake bite can be a bit
drastic. If a rattler bit you, take a pocket knife and make
a deep cut over the bite, if possible place a tourniquet
above the wound, then suck the blood and poison out as fast
as you can.
The most drastic attempt to get rid of the poison, that
I have ever heard of, is told by Marie Sandoz of her
father. In her book, OLD JULES, chapter XVII, SNAKE BITE.
Jules reached under a building to pull out a hammer, and a
snake bit him on the back of his hand. He called for Marie
to get his knife, she couldn't find it fast enough to suit
him, so he reached for his shot gun and shot off the back o
his hand. It took more than 6 hours to get to the Doctor,
who told him it was all that saved his life.
At one time I had a pint jar filled with rattles that
the family had collected. Now I have only two small ones
In the early 1900s practically all grain was harvested
with horse-drawn equipment. A lot of physical labor was
required to handle the cut grain. It was cut with a binder,
shocked in the field and when the threshing machine was
available it would be hauled to the machine. The grain was
then put in grain wagons and scooped from the wagon to a bin.
The weather was a very important factor. Usually in
late July and August there was little or no rain and the
operation would not be interrupted. If there was rain,
threshing could be delayed for weeks. When weather
conditions were favorable it would mean 12 to 14 hour
days and sometimes in 100-degree temperature.
By the time I was 10 years old we were using a McCormick
grain blinder that would cut the grain and bind it into
bundles tied with twine. The grain binder was pulled by a
four horse team. If the threshing were done in the field, the
bound bundles would be hauled to the machine in hay wagons.
The threshing machine was powered by a steam engine.
It was common practice for 6 or 8 neighbors living in
the community to cooperate in the threshing operation, and
follow the machine from one farm to another, until all
the grain was threshed.
The men were fed at noon by the women of the house
where the threshing was being done. Great mounds of mashed
potatoes, big kettles of vegetables and 10 to 20 pounds of
meat, would be consumed at one meal. Every house wife
dreaded to see the threshing crew come to their farm.
Verna needs to tell the story, she has helped with it
many times. The cooking was done on a wood or coal range.
Refrigeration, if there was any, was an old ice box. All
the water for cooking and washing had to be hauled from
the well that was often some distance from the house.
My Father was skilled in all the tasks needed to do
this work and was a hard man for me to follow. He was
tireless and no one could ever accuse him of being lazy.
He always did his share of the work.
I began following the threshing crew when I was 15
years old. I would work so hard, and be so tired and hungry
that I would make myself sick eating too much. It was always
a relief to get back to school in September. I swore that
when I got thru school that I would never get involved with
farming and ranching again.
In 1927 I entered the University of Nebraska; of all
colleges, it would be the College of Agriculture. After
graduation from college I spent 10 years with the Soil
Conservation Service, and all of that time was on farms and
ranches in the plains area. I spent another 12 years
operating a Farm and Ranch Management Service.
Modern equipment has made great changes in farming and
ranching in the United States. The harvesting of grain is
done with machines that replaced much of the physical labor
that was once required. When electricity came to the rural
areas, it revolutionized life on the farm and ranch.
Large combines that traveled from one farm to another,
made the handling of grain much easier, and electric elevator
and augers have made it possible to get the grain into
storage, with out touching it with hand equipment.
The photos are taken from the magazine, THE FURROW.
A published by the JOHN DEERE CO. a magazine that Dad
received for years. They show the equipment we used to cut
and thresh wheat, oats, barley, and rye. The grain
binder was a great invention, it cut and bound the
grain so it could be handled with little loss. It was pulled
by four horses. The wooden reel pushed the standing grain
back over a cutting bar, and onto a moving canvas platform.
Two elevator canvas belts took it to packers that pressed it
into a bundle, and a circular needle, threaded with binder
twine circled the bundle and threaded a device that tied a
knot. The bundle was then dropped into a basket that would
carry several bundles, and dumped in a windrow where they
would be set up in shocks. Dad hired extra help, sometimes
Indians from the reservation, until his sons were big enough
Four loads of bundles that will go to the threshing machine as soon as it has been set.
Combines did not widely replace tractor-drawn binders until the 1940s. Tractors replaced steam engines, but threshing still took many men and horses.
In 1910, there were perhaps fewer than 1,000 tractors on U.S.
farms. Five years later the count was 25,000, and by 1919 U.S.
farmers owned 158,000 tractors.
Still, the impact of tractors on the agriculture of 1920 was
minor. A survey that year counted tractors on only 6 percent
of farms in six Corn Belt states.
The tractor age did not truly begin until the 1920s, when
manufacturers started introducing 2- and 3-plow
general-purpose tractors. Only then did tractor power become
practical for the typical farmer with a quarter section of land.
My early experience was with a steam engine for power. The John Deere tractor being used here to
power the thresher is the same one used to work in the field the rest of the season.
Our threshing crew in 1927. I am standing, on the
wagon seat. This is the team and wagon that is shown in
the picture below.
Hauling grain from the threshing machine. This is the
first team of horses I owned. When I settled the
partnership with Dad, in Sept. 1927, and went to College,
he gave me $150.00 for team and harness.
This is a typical team and wagon used to husk corn
in the 1920s and 1930s. One ear at a time, thrown against
the BANG BOARDS. A good day's accomplishment would be one
wagon filled in the morning and another in the afternoon.
For more than a month, Dad has gone to the corn field
early in the morning. When it got light enough to see
where he had worked the day before, he turns the team into
the ripe corn field so the wagon straddles the last row that
he had husked. He gets out of the wagon, the teams walks
slowly down the field, and he will husk the two rows next to
Dad takes an ear of corn in his left hand, with a hook
on his right hand, he quickly removes the husks from the ear
and throws it in the wagon. He does not look up, the ear
hits the bang boards that are built high on the far side and
the ear drops easily into the wagon. As regular as the tick
of a clock, one ear follows another, they hit the bang board
and becomes apart of the load. He will get two loads
today, each will have 40 or 50 bushels of ear corn.
It is 5:00 O'clock in the morning, and it is dark
and cold. I don't want to get up, but Dad says that if we
work this week end we can finish husking corn.
This is a holiday week end, and I will take a team of
horses and a wagon and follow him to the field. I will also
take one ear at a time, wrench the leaves from it and throw it
into the wagon. Dad takes the lead and pulls into the field
ahead of me. I work as fast as I can but he gradually pulls
ahead and leaves me far behind.
Noon arrives, and it is time to go to lunch. My wagon
is only about two thirds filled, his is so full he has to
place another board on top to keep the corn from falling
out. He calls to me as he get on his wagon. "How are you
doing Son?" I merely groan, get up on my load and follow
him to the corn crib.
My back aches, my hands are sore, I can hardly
straighten up. The wind had blown some of the cornstalks
down, and I feel as if I have been crawling on my hands and
knees most of the time. I am certain that Dad is having a
good time, watching me struggle. He is 35 years older than
I, but he can out class me in this operation. I never
was able to keep up with him. Some times he would let me
start ahead of him. The first time he let me start ahead,
I thought he wanted to take it a little easier. When we
came to the end of the field, he said he would like to go
ahead this time, so I pulled my team over and let him pass.
It wasn't long until I found out why he wanted to go ahead.
While he was waiting on me to husk my two rows, he reached
over and took a third row. Now he had only one row to husk,
and soon left me far behind.
An annual corn husking contest was held every year in
the early 1900's. The last one I was to observe was in
1932, at York Nebraska, Verna and the family were living
in York and I would come from Lincoln on week ends, This
contest was to be the last, for the year. The Nebraska
Champion Cornhusker, would be crowned at the end of the
In the fall of 1932 I wanted to earn a little extra
money for school. A farmer had an ad in the local paper
for a corn husker, so I called for more information. He was
paying 2 cents a bushel, and he would furnish the team and
wagon. This sounded O. K. to me, so the next morning,
I went to his farm. I harnessed the team, hitched them
to the wagon and went to work. I had my lunch with me
and took only a few minutes to eat. By nightfall I had
filled one wagon and half of another. By the time I had
unloaded the last load I was a wreck, my hands were sore,
my back ached and I could hardly stand up straight.
I had worn out a pair of husking mittens that had cost me
25 cents, and I had a blister on my right hand under
The farmer seemed to be pleased, he complemented me on
my ability to handle his team, He was pleased that I was
able to scoop the corn to the top of the bin. I had
harvested 75 bushels. He paid me the $1.50 I had earned,
and said he would be glad for me to come back next week.
I had netted $1.25 for my day's work, and I needed money
badly, but I never went back, I thought there must be a
better way to make a little money.
Times are different now. a farmer pulls into his corn
field with a $50,000 machine that takes four rows, it
removes the husks, shells the corn and will fill 7 or 8
wagons in a day, but in the last few years many of them
have gone broke, just as we did in the 1930's.
I have never husked an ear of corn since 1932, and I
did find an easier way to earn a little money. I think I
know why Nebraska is called the CORN HUSKER STATE, but why
do they call the football team the CORN HUSKERS? I suspect
sometimes when they get thru playing a game, they are as
sore as I was when I husked corn in 1932.
Don Cunningham writes IN NEBRASKA LAND MAGAZINE,
"For four turbulent years, Red Cloud Agency, a miscellaneous
collection of store houses, corrals, work shops, residence
and other structures surrounded by a rough pine stockade,
stood on a low hill near White River, two miles west of the
present town of Crawford Nebraska. The Red Cloud Agency
became Fort Robinson, and the American flag was raised for
the first time in Feb. 1876."
Fort Robinson was only about 6 miles from the ranch
were I was born. At intervals from 1916 to 1976, before
Verna and I came to Sonoma, Fort Robinson was a place
frequently visited. When I was as young as 4 or 5, I recall
going thru Fort Robinson on the train to visit my Uncle
Henry who was living on a homestead close to Andrews, a
small town at the head of White River.
My most significant trip to the Fort was in 1917 during
World War I. My father raised horses, and there was a big
demand by the army for horses to ship to Europe, and he sold
18 or 20 to the U.S. Government. These horses were trained
at the Fort and then shipped to England and France. I was
only 10 years old and Dad gave me a well trained horse to
ride, and when we took them to the Fort, I rode ahead,
leading one and he followed behind on his horse. I was so
small that he had to shorten the stirrups and help me on.
If I was alone I had to lead the horse up to a tree stump
or a rock in order to mount.
The families around Crawford often went to the Fort to
celebrate the 4th of July. There were polo matches, horse
races and jumping. It was a popular hiking spot for young
people living in Crawford, and Verna and I spent a good many
Sunday afternoons in 1925 and 1926, with our friends, hiking
in the hills around Fort Robinson.
From 1939 to 1945 we were again living in Western
Nebraska. and made trips to the Fort. It was still
being used as a remount station, and at one time had
17,000 horses. It became a prisoner of war camp during
World War II, and a training camp for the K9 corp. Dogs
were trained and and [sic] used with the guards at the POW camps.
In 1955 the State of Nebraska acquired the 22,000 acres
for an experiment station for cattle breeding, and later
made it a State Park. When we returned from our overseas
assignment in 1967 we lived in Scottsbluff, and made frequent
trips to the Fort. The former housing for the military
personnel had been converted to accommodations for tourists
and we would go there for a week-end vacation.
It was in March 1907 that my father came to Crawford.
from Eastern Nebraska to the homestead, at Crawford. He
took all of his possessions in a railroad car, a team of
horses, a wagon, a plow, two hogs and a cow. He and his
father-in-law, rode in the same car. It took two days
and one night for the freight train to make the trip.
It was late in the evening when they arrived in
Crawford and they waited until the following morning to
unload. The Tenth Cavalry, a regiment of Blacks was
stationed at the Fort, and the soldiers often came into
Crawford, to celebrate. That night there was a fight at
one of the bars, and two men killed. The next morning my
grandfather promptly got on the next passenger train and
went back home. He told my father that no daughter of his
would ever come to this wild place. I was born on April 1,
1907 in Crawford, so I guess she did come.
The history of the establishment of Fort Robinson needs
to be told. The Red Cloud Agency was where Chief Red Cloud
made his last stand for his people. The U. S Army left
corpses all over Western Nebraska, men, women and children.
What we did to the native Americans is a disgrace, and we
still brag about our conquest of the west.
The Red Cloud Agency, that was to eventually become
Fort Robinson, was named after Chief Red Cloud, who died in
1909, two years after I was born.
In 1940 Verna and I took Dale, Gordon, and a cousin,
Bob Phillips, to see Captain James Cook. The Cook ranch
was about 25 miles from the site of the Red Cloud Agency.
We spent an after noon with Captain Cook, in his home that
was filled with personal affects of Red Cloud. The
Captain had been a good friend of the Chief. When Chief
Red Cloud was forced to live on the reservation, he left
many of his treasures with Captain Cook for safe keeping.
There were many items that Red Cloud valued, such as
feathered head desses [sic], beaded moccasins, buffalo robes
and many other items of clothing.
I came away from our visit with Captain Cook, feeling as
if I too had known this Chief. The treatment they received
from the Whites can only be described as brutal and inhuman.
The transcontinental railroads in the late 1800's,
put the covered wagon, the stage coach, and the pony express
out of business. Travel across the United States and the
transportation of household goods, and building materials,
brought fast development along the main lines. The
development of the shorter railroads that branched off the
main lines, brought many homesteaders to Western Nebraska.
Some of my most vivid memories are related to the
steam locomotive. It was the only mode of travel that
was available, when I was a boy, that could go faster
than a horse. My parents moved all they owned by rail to
their homestead. My father earned extra money with his
teams by working for the railroad. We were able to get
needed supplies by rail, and one of our greatest fears was
to have a prairie fire that would be set by a steam
One of the thrills of my life was my first ride on a
train. At 5:00 O'clock in the morning. Dad calls out to
me, "It is time to get up, get your pants on," We are going
to make a trip to Uncle Henry's today and pick buffalo
berries and choke cherries. My parents had been doing this
every year since they came to Crawford. I was 5 years old,
now, and old enough to go with them. My brother, Lawrence
and I have had to stay with the neighbor while the folks
made the annual trip to pick some of the wild cherries for
jams and jelly for the next winter.
It was a warm September morning, and Dad hitches
Charlie, the dapple gray horse, to the small one-seated
buggy and we drove the 5 miles to Crawford. He puts
Charlie in the livery stable and we board the train for
Andrews, a little town with a post office, a general store,
and the depot for the North Western railroad. Uncle Henry,
Dad's brother, lives only a few miles from here, over very
rough roads. He had taken a homestead at about the same
time my folks moved to Crawford, in 1907.
I remember very little about picking berries. I do
know, that when we finished we were so late that Uncle Henry
had to get his team to a gallop to reach the depot before
the train left for Crawford.
On the 4th. [sic] of July 1913, Mumsie wanted to go with a
church group for a picnic at Glenn, Nebraska. This resort
and picnic area was 12 miles from Cawford [sic] on White River.
The North Western Railroad would often add a passenger car
to a freight train and take it as far as Glenn, a small park
and recreational area, and leave it until the passengers were
ready to return.
Dad had just finished cultivating corn and was in the
mood for a holiday. Mumsie packed a picnic basket, Dad
hitched Charlie to the buggy and we drove to Crawford.
I am now an experienced traveler, and I try to explain
to Lawrence, my LITTLE brother, 4 years old, just what the
process is, I explained in detail that we drive to town as
we always do on Sunday when we go to church. This time we
will go to the depot and get on a train.
When we get to the depot there seems to be a lot of
confusion, buying tickets, arranging the picnic baskets
and getting them on the special car. The trip seems very
short. The telephone poles fly past, we must be going at
least 30 miles an hour. At 5:00 O'clock our special car is
picked up and returned to Crawford. [sic] and we are home before
the sun goes down. Lawrence and I are soon in bed, but the
folks have several hours of work. Feeding the livestock,
milking the cows, all must to be done, even on holidays.
Phyllis Zauner, in her publication, THE TRAIN WHISTLE'S
ECHO, graphically describes the dramatic effect the railroad
had on the development of the UNITED STATES---"It is
difficult to comprehend the compelling fascination and
wonderment that every aspect of railroading possessed for an
entire nation for a century."
The railroad came to Crawford in 1886. It closely
followed the Sidney--Deadwood trail that ran thru our ranch,
a trail dimmed by erosion, but deep tracks made by the
stage coaches could easily be followed when I was a boy. I
took a bad fall when my saddle horse nearly went on his
knees, when he stumbled over the hidden ruts made by the
The trains that ran on this track seemed to me to be
the ultimate in travel. The fact is, in the early 1900's,
if it hadn't been for the trains, we would have traveled no
faster that the Romans did, 2000 years before. We could go
no faster than the horse could run.
My memories are filled with the thrill of hearing the
passenger train, No. 42, with its long wailing whistle,
as it approached the little town of Crawford. Every night
when I crawled into my bed, I would try to stay awake until
the engineer released the whistle cord on the last note.
It will stop only long enough to load the mail and a few
passengers, before it labors over Pine Ridge and settles
down to a dreary night run thru the Sand Hills to Lincoln [sic]
With the good memories, there are bad ones. The
railroads were a blessing for the early homesteaders. My
parents moved their entire belongings in one box car to the
land where they lived for over 40 years. The coal
burning engines brought with them the dreaded grass fires
that put fear into the hearts of every settler. Fire guards
were plowed on both sides of the track to prevent fires fro
burning the grazing land, crops and homes.
I have seen as any as 5 fires started in a single
mile. The plowed fire guards usually stopped them, but if
one jumped the guards, an emergency call would go out over
the party line, and every settler available would come as
fast as he could with plow and team. Guards would be plowed
around hay stacks, homes and barns.
The Chicago, Burlington and Quincy, (CB&Q), known as
the Burlington, ran thru our ranch. My brother and I would,
occasionally walk along the tracks and place a penny on the
rails, and then crawl out of sight under the bridge and wait
for a train to run over it. We couldn't always find it
afterward, but when we did it was just a thin copper wafer.
The wooden bridge, that spanned the drainage way, was a
casualty of fire. After it burned a couple of times, it was
replaced with a large concrete culvert. My father did some
work for the Burlington Railroad, with a four horse team and
fresno, (a large earth scoop), he moved earth over the
concrete culvert, so that the rails could be relayed.
I suppose the reason the memory is so vivid in my mind,
is because I had a part in the project. The earth moving
job was hard on horses, it took a team in good working
condition to walk in the soft earth for more than three or
four hours. This meant that if Dad put in a full day, he
needed more than one team.
The task of changing teams was partly my job. I was
only 9 or 10 years old and I would bring a fresh four-horse
team to him each day. Dad would have the extra team tied
in the barn, and at noon I would go to the barn, and put
the collars on the horses, I would take one horse at a time
and tie it to a post, I would then take the halter rope for
each horse and lead them to where he was working. Four
horses, weighing 1800 pounds each, breathing down my neck
didn't make me feel very comfortable. It only took about
thirty minutes to get to the job. Dad would change the
harness from the team he was using to the ones I brought an
I would take the tired team back to the barn, to water and
We were only about five miles from a center where rail
cars could be unloaded. The closest loading point was Horn,
a siding three miles from the ranch, but it did not have
facilities to load livestock. We went to Crawford, the
closest shipping point. We loaded livestock for shipment to
Omaha or Kansas City. We received coal, lumber, farm
equipment, and other supplies.
The settler that was within 10 or 12 miles of a
shipping point was among the fortunate, he could make a
round trip of 24 miles in a day with a good team of horses,
and a loaded wagon. The longest trip I have made with a
loaded wagon, was to haul wheat to Whitney Nebraska, for
shipment to Omaha. I was 12 years old, there were five of
us with teams and wagons. The wagons would hold 40 bushels
of wheat that weighed 2400 [sic] lbs.
Dad would usually try to buy our supplies of coal, for
cooking and heating, when a carload was shipped into
Crawford. If we unloaded directly from the car, when it
came in, we could get it cheaper than if we took the supply
at the lumber yard. We were able to get our winter supply
for only $4.00 per ton.
The greatest boon to the rancher, was to be able to
ship livestock to the large meat packing centers. Omaha was
the most often used by those who lived in Western Nebraska.
Shipping grass-fed cattle was usually done in October, and
ranchers would cooperate in rounding up the cattle and
driving them to the rail center.
The trip from the ranches to the rail center could be
done in one day. I have ridden in the roundup, with
Jim Calame, Harvey Finley and Dawes Forbes, all neighboring
ranchers. One of us would put a halter on an old cow, and
lead her down the road, and the range cattle would follow.
All would go well until we got close to town, most of the
cattle had never heard a train whistle, nor had they seen a
Model T Ford with flapping side curtains, and it took a good
cowboy, on his best saddle horse to keep a wild eyed steer
from going back home.
Cattle cars had to be ordered ahead of time, in order
to have them on track when needed. Several cars would be
spotted at the stock yards that had loading ramps. It
wasn't hard to chase 40 head of steers up the ramp and close
the door on them, but to move the loaded car with 40,000
lbs. of beef was not always easy. If there was a switch
engine handy, the railroad crew would move the loaded
car, and spot an empty one, but if there was no engine
available, it would be necessary for four or five men, with
long bars, to move the cars in place. A man on top of the
car would set the brakes, when the door was in line with the
ramp. We would try to load in time to get the cars on the
night train to Omaha, so the cattle could be in Omaha and on
the market the following day. The rules of the railroad
required that we unload to feed and water the cattle if the
trip took more than 36 hours.
The railroad allowed one care taker for each carload of
cattle. One person got a free ride for each car. Some
times this was anything but a fun trip, we rode in the
caboose with the train crew. It could be noisy, cold or
hot and dusty. The old potbelly stove often didn't work
well and would nearly smoke us out. This was in the days
before the engineer and brakemen could communicate by radio
or telephone. The brakeman walked the top of the entire
train, rain or shine. The engineer and brakeman
communicated by hand signals. The engineer would use the
whistle to indicate what his next move was going to be,
lanterns were used at night.
To get over Pine Ridge on the Burlington, required an
extra engine as a pusher. It was placed behind the caboose,
and with every puff of the engine, the caboose would creek
and groan. I feared that the caboose would fold up like an
accordion, with me in it.
This is one of the last models of the steam engines.
When they burned oil they were not the hazard that the
earlier ones were that burned coal. Screens were placed
over the smoke stack to prevent hot cinders from escaping
and starting fires along the tracks.
The 1922 Model T Ford Touring Car. Verna and I went
horseback occasionally, but more often than not I went to
see her in this car. We were on a trip to Hot Springs
South Dakota with friends, and had a flat tire. This model
had tires mounted on a rim that could be removed and another
tire replaced. The earlier models had to have tires reoved [sic]
and patched on the spot, before continuing the journey.
This is the 1922 Ford Coupe that we bought in 1929 for
$25.00. The windows could be lowered or lifted with a strap
attached to the bottom of the glass. It was an improvement
over the touring car with side curtains, but it was top
heavy and caught a lot of wind at 30 or 35 miles per hour.
THE MODEL T FORD
The history of Henry Ford and his introduction to the
world of his MODEL T, is a story that could fill a book.
The story I want to tell is that of the Model Ts in my life.
My father bought a model T ford in 1917. He had just
sold 18 or 20 head of horses to the U. S. Government to be
used in the war in Europe. He bought a touring car, I
never knew why it was called a touring car, it had a cloth
top that could be used up or down, and side curtains to keep
our the wind and rain. It was popular before the closed
sedan was manufactured. I recall hearing long discussions
among MODEL T owners, as to the merit of the touring car.
Some said that the sedan was too tightly enclosed and would
never sell, some said it would be too hot, not enough air,
especially for those riding in the back seat.
I courted Verna in a 1922 model that was very much
like the 1917. It was a black car, the only color that Ford
made. Dad had kept the 1917 model, and made a pick up by
cutting the back seat off and putting a box in its place,
and it was still in use in 1930.
The 1922 model cost $450.00. It had a four-cylinder
motor that had to be cranked to start it. It did not have a
gear shift, nor was it automatic. It used what is called a
planetary gear system. There was a hand brake, operated
with the left hand for parking and, when set would allow the
motor to continue to run. The driver had to operate three
foot pedals. The left pedal was the forward gear, when
pushed down it became the low gear, or starting gear, when
released it became the high gear. The right pedal was the
foot brake. The center pedal was the reverse gear. The
pedals tightened bands in the transmission, a similar
principal is used in the modern automatic transmission.
The 1917 and 1922 models did not have a foot feed.
The speed of the motor was regulated by a hand throttle. It
had no battery, no oil pump, no water pump,no [sic] fuel pump.
The ignition and lights were made possible by a series of
magnets attached to the fly wheel and a series of stationary
coils mounted on the motor block. The faster the motor was
running, the better the lights, they became very dim if
the motor slowed, and that was usually when they were needed
The roads we had to travel were roads made by horse
drawn wagons and carriages. Ruts were often 8 to 10 inches
deep, this meant that the clearance on the car had to be as
much as the horse drawn equipment. It was not uncommon to
hit a high center and have to use a shovel to dig out the
center or fill in the ruts.
There was very little on the car that could not be fixed
by a good blacksmith. In fact the first auto mechanic we
had in Crawford, was a young man who worked as a blacksmith
and later changed his sign to a mechanic. I have repaired
many parts of the Model T. The bearings in the motor could
be made by hand. The gears in the differential could be
repaired by any one that could handle a wrench. It was
possible to get the gears in backward, which I have done,
and when I expected to go forward I went backward instead.
It was a problem for my father to drive. When he first
started driving and had an emergency he would yell "WHOA"
expecting to stop. I learned to drive at the age of 10, and
he would often let me drive. No license was required for
either the car or the driver in the early 1900's. I never
had a drivers licence [sic] until after Verna and I were married.
We bought our first car in 1929. It was a 1922 coupe, for
which we paid $25.00, and drove from Lincoln to Crawford,
a distance of 475 miles, with a cost of $8.75 for gasoline.
The only problems we had were flat tires and a broken fan
belt. There were no paved roads, a few miles of gravel, but
mostly just dirt roads.
I have no idea how any tires I have had to patch. If we
went 500 miles with out a flat we were lucky. We patched
them at the side of the road and pumped them up with a hand
pump. In 1926 I drove from Crawford to Cumro, Nebraska where
Verna was spending the summer on the ranch with her folks.
I left Crawford at 3:00 a.m. and arrived at 9:30 p.m., a
distance of 350 miles. I had to go thru the sand hills,
open 11 gates, and back up some of the hills when I was
low on gas, in order to get gas to the motor.
I made this same trip in 1972. The road was paved
and is Nebr. HY No 2. It took me only 8 hours to make the
trip. Just one half the time it took me in 1926. The hills
appear to be smaller, there were no gates to open, no cattle
guards to cross. I did't [sic] have to patch any tires.
Some one has said that one generation stands on the
shoulders of the preceding generation. If this were not
true, my friends and I would have had to invent the wheel
again. I take for granted my comfortable life, it is very
different from that of the cave dweller. The people living
now are the ones that influence my life, and help cut the
patterns from which I weave my tapestry.
The influence of my parents on my life is hard for me to
evaluate. How is it that they were my parents, that I would
be born into a caring family with concern that society would
accept me? By the time I reached maturity, I had adopted
the customs and manners of the society in which I live.
The people that I met by chance, or was it by design,
after I left the protection of my family, is the story I want
to tell. After leaving High School I went into partnership
with my father on the ranch at Crawford, Nebraska. The word
partnership, hardly describes the arrangement, Dad had run
the ranch for as long as I had lived, and he continued to
make most of the decisions, I merely followed.
Many people have touched my life and have influenced my
thoughts and actions. There is, however, one person that
has been my life since I met her in September, 1925. She
was one of the new High School teachers who came to
Crawford, and has been my room mate and traveling
companion for 66 years.
Verna Pielsick came to Crawford to teach English and
commercial studies. We met at a party that was held to
introduce the new teachers to the other young people in the
community, one of the games played was to tie a marsh-mallow
in the middle of a string about four feet long, with a contestant
at each end, chewing the string until they reached the marsh-mallow
Verna and I reach the marsh-mallow at the same time.
We dated most of 1925 and 1926. I, an awkward country
bumpkin, she a college graduate, interested in music; art,
and the coach of the drama team. I could not convince
myself that she could be interested in me. I knew that
there were others interested in her also, but on October 9,
1926, she agreed to marry me. We would not be able to marry
at that time if she were to continue teaching. Married
women were not allowed to teach, as she just might take a
job from a man who was supporting a family.
In Sept. of 1927 Verna returned to Crawford to begin
her third year of teaching. We had our first date and it
appeared to me as if we were going right over the same old
track. I knew that I never would be comfortable until l [sic]
got my college degree. I decided that I must make a change.
I announced, one Sunday at the dinner table that I was going
to Lincoln and to the University of Nebraska. It was a sudden
blow, but my parents seemed to accept it and agreed that my
younger brother, Lawrence, would take my place for the
remainder of the year.
The mental torment the remainder of the day was one of
the tough times in my life. I now could not turn back, but
between 1:30 p.m. and 10:00 p.m., my mind was in a turmoil.
I worked out a settlement with my father on the partnership
and he gave me a check for $500.00. When the crop was
harvested we would complete the settlement. He said nothing
as he wrote the check, but I knew he must feel as frustrated
as I did. I packed my suitcase, and boxed up some clothes
to be sent later. I took my banjo and my beloved typewriter,
and waited for the time when the train would take me to a
new world. The die was cast, I dare not look back, or I
might be tempted to change my mind.
Verna was at the ranch that week end, I was to take
her back to town in the evening. We had very little
conversation the rest of the day. At 9:00 o'clock we loaded
my belongings in the car, Dad and Momsie would take me
to the train, and then take Verna to her apartment.
It took less than an 30 minutes to reach the depot. It
was vacant except for a lone baggage cart. A freight train
was sitting on the side track, it was breathing heavily as
steam escaped the cylinders. It was waiting for No. 42,
the passenger train that would take me to Lincoln.
The agent sold me my ticket, and we waited for only a
few minutes before the lights of No. 42 appeared. The train
rolled to a screeching halt. I told my parents good
buy [sic], with only a peck on the cheek for my mother, and a
handshake from Dad. Verna followed me to the train, we
stood for a few minutes and watched as the baggage was
loaded. ALL ABOARD I kissed Verna, shed a lot of tears,
turned and took the steps into the car and found a seat.
It was dark by the time the train left Crawford. I
had a seat by the window. My spirits were low, I peered out
of the window and watched the lights of Crawford, disappear
I could see the twinkling lights of the scattered ranch
homes slip by. We stopped for a passenger at Belont [sic]; at
Marsland we picked up another. I have no idea how long I
stayed awake, the clatter of wheels, the mournful wail of
the whistle had a hypnotic effect, Five hundred miles to
Lincoln thru the sand hills of Nebraska would start a new
life for me.
RAY F. MAGNUSON
To leave my boyhood home, and matriculate at the
College of Agriculture, was a beginning of a new life. I
was familiar with the College, I had taken a short course in
MOTORS, in the winter of 1925, but I knew that this would be
different, this meant defining a goal for my future. I felt
lost, and the need of help. Whether it be by chance or
design, I will never know, but I was to find a person before
I reached Lincoln, that helped me define my goals.
On July 3rd. 1927, it rained all day and most of the
night. We were just getting started in the grain harvest.
When the sun came up on July 4th. there was not a cloud in
the sky, but the ground was so wet that there was no
possibility that it would dry out enough for us to get into
the field that day. Dad suggested that we take time out and
attend the celebration at the Agricultural experiment
station in Ardmore S. D. Ardmore was only 30 miles from
home, but the roads were so muddy that it took us more than
two hours to drive it.
In 1927 President Coolidge
had his summer White House
in the Black Hills, and the
Coolidges were present at
the celebration. On the
platform, with the
Coolidges was an
entertainer by the name of
Ray Magnuson, who delighted
the President and the
crowd with his banjo
playing and his singing.
I was to see this man Ray Magnuson again, sitting
across the aisle from me on Old 42, the passenger train that
I boarded the night before at Crawford. The traumatic
experience of the previous day left me feeling very much
alone. I needed to talk with some one who might help me get
my mind off my problems. I finally got up courage enough to
cross the aisle and introduce myself. I didn't remember the
man's name, but I knew where I had seen him, and it didn't take
us long to find something to talk about.
Ray had finished his sophomore year at Brookings
S. D. and was on his way to Ames Iowa to get his degree in
Agricultural Economics. He was going to stop off in Lincoln
and investigate the Economics Department in Nebraska.
I suggested to him that if he had no place to stay, I would
be glad to have him stay with me. I had been asked by a fried,
Rev. Sheaff, the Methodist minister at Epworth Methodist
Church, to be sure and look him up when in Lincoln.
Ray never went to Iowa, and he became my room mate at
29th, and Holdrege for the college year of 1927 and 1928.
We both played banjo, we worked out a program of music and
other skits, which helped us pay our school expenses.
Ray's experience with college, his attitude toward
fraternities, politics, religion and life in general had a
great deal of influence on me. We often talked into the wee
hours of the morning.
We tried out for a tour with the Red Path Chautaqua [sic]
circuit, and were accepted. Other opportunities emerged and
we did not sign the contract. Verna and I were married on
April 9, 1928, and Ray had an opportunity to work for the
University of Nebraska extension service. This all seemed
more important than to travel all summer with the Chautaqua [sic].
Ray graduated from the University in 1929, and later
entered the ministry, and served a number of churches in
Nebraska before coming to California in 1955. Verna and
went on the ranch in 1929.
Verna and I were to see Ray and his wife Marie many
times while they were living in Nebraska. When they came to
California, we took the assignment in Turkey. Seldom more
than two years would pass that we would not see them. After
Marie's death, Ray married Florence Samsel, also a friend
from Nebraska days.
On Aug. 9, 1990, we had breakfast with Ray and Florence.
They had tickets on a cruise for the inside passage to
Alaska, and we joined them, so four old folks in their eighties
packed their ailments, their walking sticks, bifocals, binoculars
and hearing aids and headed for Alaska.
Florence's death in 1992, broke up the circle of four
that had spent many hours together. Ray continues to live
in Santa Rosa, and we see him often. The life friendship has
extended over 66 years, and Ray and I can still find much
to talk about.
I never was able to play
the banjo as well as Ray.
He taught me to accompany
some of his most popular
numbers, and we played at
several College functions
The program that we
developed brought us some
extra money for school
Ray Magnuson--Jim Metzger
Ray Magnuson--Jim Metzger
INTRODUCING THE BANJOKERS
In a Variety of
Instrumental Solos and Duets, Sentimental and
Humorous Songs, Clever Impersonations and Imitations
REFRESHING ORIGINAL REFINED
THE WEDDING DAY
It is 10:00 O'clock Easter Sunday evening, Apr.8,1928 [sic].
If we get married tomorrow will you? The question came from
Art Uhl. Two gasps and 20 minutes later, Verna and I
agreed that perhaps it was the thing to do.
For over a year Art Uhl and Jerry Blair had been
planning to marry, and for a year and a half Jim Metzger and
Verna Pielstick had been engaged. Marriage for Jerry and
Verna was out of the question if they wanted to keep their
teaching contracts with the Crawford School System. The
rules in 1928 said that married women could not teach,
these jobs were to be given to men who had families to
support. How could it make a difference when there were no
men in Crawford Nebraska qualified to teach in the Crawford
school system? Could the marriages be kept a secret in a
small town of 1200 people, where every one knew everybody's
Easter Monday, April 9, 1928 arrived, but it started
early, 3:00 a. m. for me. This was a momentous decision,
after all nothing like this had happened to be before, and
I couldn't sleep. I wasn't sure how to deal with the situation
I called Art on the phone and found that he had a short night
also. We had all agreed that the marriage had to be kept
a secret, but how could we be certain? My conversation with
Art was very short, this was a country line and some one
might be listening. I told my parents what we were doing,
and they didn't offer any objection, but were surprised at the
Our first problem was to select a place to get married
Do we drive to Lusk, Wyoming? That was out of state and
only 60 miles from Crawford. Do we go to Hot Springs
South Dakota? That was out of state and about the same
distance? The easiest place to go was our own County Seat,
Chadron. We knew a minister who would marry us, and be
willing to keep it a secret. We were both acquainted with
the County Clerk, and we thought he would be willing to
withhold the announcement from the papers. It would be
risky, but we decided to take the chance.
The morning of April 9, 1928 was bright and clear. We
drove to Chadron in Art's new green Buick. I don't remember
anything we talked about during the hour it took us to get
to the court house, I do remember noticing the rolling hills
with some streaks of snow in the gullies, I had seen this
many times before, but some how this time it was different.
There were many questions in my mind. There was no
doubt that I wanted to marry Verna. I knew that if I didn't
that there were others looking her way. The question was,
can it be kept a secret? Will Verna and Jerry have to cancel
their contracts with the school? How will her family deal
with this? There seemed to be questions and more questions.
Have we acted too hastily? We still have time to change our
minds. We reassured each other that this was really what we
wanted to do. We had known each other for two years, and we
had been engaged for a year and a half; but how can we ever
We arrived at the court house and obtained the proper
license, with the assurance from the county clerk that he did
not have to publish the information. He did say however,
that if someone came to check the records, he could not
withhold them. One more step was necessary, we must find
a minister. Art and I had known the Congregational Minister
in Chadron. Eddy Newland who had been in Crawford several
years, a telephone call and a promise from him to marry us
and keep it a secret, was all we needed.
At High Noon, on Aril 9, 1928, there was a double
wedding; James Metzger and Verna Pielstick witnessed the
marriage of Arthur Uhl to Jerry Blair, the marriage of
James D. Metzger and Verna E, Pielstick was witnessed by
Mr. & Mrs. Arthur Uhl.
Art and I each bought our wives a half dozen roses and
we treated ourselves to a steak dinner, with strawberries
for desert [sic]. We returned to Crawford Mr. and Mrs. Metzger.
Two days later I returned to the University at Lincoln,
Nebraska. Verna remained to complete the school term and
joined me in Lincoln in June.
I am writing this in January 1994. It has been more
than 65 years since Verna and I took that step. I have
never had any regrets, and I have never heard Verna express
any, so I am going to assume that it is still all right with
JIM & VERNA METZGER
Married April 9, 1928
Verna came to Lincoln as soon as her school year was
finished. We were able to rent the Sheaff's home for the
summer. They were going to spend the summer in England.
Verna got a job at the First National Bank, as secretary to
the President, Samuel Waugh. I continued my work at the
Engineering Department in the tractor laboratory. We rented
Sheaff's car for the summer and were able to take trips
with our friends. This usually included Ray Magnuson and
Marie Quick, later Mr. & Mrs. Ray Magnuson, and Glen Feather
and Ruth Heather, later Mr. & Mrs. Glen Feather.
In the summer of 1929 Verna's father became ill, and we
moved to the ranch on the South Loup river, in
Custer, County. Our address for the next 3 years was
Cumro [sic] Nebraska.
This Certifies That James D. Metzger of Crawford, Nebraska and Verna Pielstick of Crawford, Nebraska were United in Marriage at Chadron, Nebraska According to the Ordinance of God, and the laws of the State of Nebraska On the ninth day of April i the year of our Lord 1927. Eddy C Newland, Minister. Witnesses. A H. Uhl. Mrs. A. H. Uhl
There have been two times in my life when I could have
taken a 3-year vacation, gone fishing or sight seeing and
have been better off financially. I would not want to go
thru these experiences again, but there were valuable
lessons learned. The depression of the 1930s was one of
October 1929 to September 1932 was for us the great
depression. We lost all our money and were in debt. It was
to take us 15 years to get these debts paid.
Verna's parents lived on a cattle ranch in Custer
County Nebraska. They were 30 miles south east of Broken
Bow, the mailing address was Cumro, a rural post office,
that no longer appears on the map. Cumro consisted of a
filling station, a general store and the post office. The
ranch was located on the South Loup river six miles from
Verna's father became ill in the summer of 1929, and
was no longer able to do the heavy work. He asked us if we
would take over for awhile. He was willing to keep the
cattle and pay us for operating the unit, or he would sell
all live stock and equipment if we wanted to buy.
On October 1, we signed a contracts to buy the cattle
and ranching equipment. Verna had $1,400 that she had saved
from teaching, and I had $750 that I had expected to pay
tuition for the next two years. It would take $2000 to make
the down payment, so we borrowed $7,500 from the bank and
our parents for the remainder. To-day this seems a small
amount of money, but under to-days values the 150 head of
livestock and haying equipment would be worth $400,000.
Now our address would be Cumro Nebraska.
On Oct. 29th the stock market took its first fall. For
the next three years it continued to fall. We had borrowed
money at the Mason City bank, and by January 1932 they were
getting anxious for more money from us. The president of
the bank was my Uncle, Will Redmond, and I knew that he was
taking a lot of pressure for us to make some payments on the
loan, I knew that he was trying to protect us.
In July of 1932 it happened. A notice, issued by the
Federal Land Bank. "We will no longer make loans on
ranches that are not operated by the owner." The loan was
due October 1932, and this meant that Verna's parents had to
return to the ranch or lose it.
If Verna's parents moved back to the ranch, they would
re-finace [sic] the loans on the cattle and equipment, but that
meant that Verna and I would lose everything we had put
into the project, and more too. Now our $9,500 was worth
only $4,553. We had lost $5,000, which was more than double
our origional [sic] investment.
This was good fortune in disguise, because it forced us
to leave. We had gone broke in 3 years. The depression
lasted for another 8 years, and many of our friends stayed
on, and eventually lost everything, and could not start
again. I was able to return to the University and get my
degree, and start over.
Verna and I had both grown up in the ranching area of
Nebraska. We were both familiar with the life, and we were
having a good time. We had two healthy children, a boy and
a girl. We had all the good food we could eat, beef, eggs,
milk, vegetables, and fruit. We could even have all the
fresh fish we could eat by setting lines in the river. We
enjoyed our neighbors and the community activities, it was
going to be hard to leave.
Now we were four and not two. Dale was born April 19,
1930, and Peggy on April 30, 1932. I thought for the first
time of the bread lines that I had been hearing about on the
radio. I thought of the people on Wall Street who were
jumping out of 20 story buildings. That wouldn't do me any
good, the only windows I could jump out of were only three
feet from the ground.
The depression did pass, we did repay the money we owed
others, Dale and Peggy are both old enough to draw social
security. They have two brothers who are now grandfathers.
We did survive the depression. I can now look back and only
wonder what life would have been for us, if we could have
held on for a few more years, and then be forced to leave.
Just one more day, and I will have examined every fence
post on the ranch. Ten miles of barbed wire will keep 150
head of cattle in the pasture and out of the hay meadows and
The men who trailed cattle from Texas to Montana didn't
have to bother with barbed wire fences, it was those
invading homesteaders that started the problem. My father
was one of those homesteaders. He taught me how to build
fence, to dig post holes and string barbed wire. Good firm
corner posts were necessary in order to have wire tight
enough to discourage cattle and horses from crawling thru
between the wires. "Good fences make good neighbors," was a
statement I often heard, as a boy.
The month of April was a very long month for me. It
was calving time and I had to make regular trips to the
meadow where we kept the cattle all winter. Then I
would hitch the team to a wagon and load it with a dozen
fence posts, and a few rolls of barbed wire. I would wear a
good pair of heavy leather gloves to keep from cutting my
hands, and getting blisters from the posthole digger.
I will have a post hole digger, a wire stretcher, staples,
hammer, wire cutters, and a pair of pliers.
My plans this morning will be to cover my half of the
fence that joins our neighbor on the south. Many of the
posts have been rotted off and I will reset them or replace
them with new ones. The ground is wet from recent rains and
the digging is easier than where I have been working, but by
noon, I am tired, my shoulders ache and I am bored with the
A familiar buzz, gives me a start as I touch a rotting
corner post. I give it a shake, I hear the buzz again,
there is a rattler some where, I can't see him, but I learned
from my father many years before, that I must stand still and
make no move until I can locate the snake. I soon spot it lying
in the sun, close to a Yucca plant. I reach for my shovel
and cut his head off. I remove the rattles and take them
home to add to the jar that is half full from the collection
that I have made thru the years.
It looks as if we are going to have a change in the
weather, so I head for home, and get there just in time.
There is lots of lightening with this storm and I am glad to stay
under cover. When there is lightening it's no time to repair
fence. Our neighbor lost 5 head of cattle that were standing
along the fence, when lightening struck and ran along the wire
and executed all of them.
Cattle seldom hurt themselves on barbed wire, but a
horse is a different matter. A cut from barbed wire is a
blemish that will often ruin the sale of a horse. I have
seen a horse get its foot caught in a barbed wire fence and
nearly cut it off.
When I was a small boy I helped my father repair fence
that was being used for a telephone wire. It was the top
wire of a three wire fence, and insulators were used to prevent
grounding, but it was never satisfactory, live stock could
rub up against it and short the line, and tumble weeds and
tall grass would short it and make a very poor telephone
Barbed wire made a good fence for cattle and horses,
but sheep would crawl under. The bottom wire would look
like a long strand of wool string. The barbs pulled the
wool from their backs as the sheep went under.
Deer and antelope were common in the area where I grew
up. Deer would jump the wire without difficulty, while
Antelope would follow the fence for miles to get around it.
When the highways were put thru Western Nebraska and
Wyoming, antelope were known to stand in a corner and
starve, rather than crawl thru the wires.
This photo was taken by L. A. Huffman, known as the
photographer on Horseback. It depicts the generation ahead
of me, but the stories I have been told by some who drove
cattle from Texas to Montana, fascinated me as a small boy.
The life for the men and women who lived on the plains
of the west, before barbed wire was a rugged existence.
Trailing cattle from Texas, thru the tall blue stem grass
of Kansas, to the short buffalo grass and wheat grass of
Montana and the Dakotas, was a period that has become
history. I came to this world in 1907, after this historic
period. I was, however, privileged to have known some of
these people who lived at that time. Drought, floods, and
blizzards were serious problems for them. The fascinating
stories that I heard as a boy, from some of these men:
Tom Moody, Pete Cooper and Frank O'Rourke and his wife
Jerene, made me appreciate the difficulties they
experienced. Verna and I were to meet Frank and Jerene
again, in 1967 when we returned from Jordan.
Our life on the ranch along the South Loup river in
1929-1932, had many of the same problems that these early
settlers experienced. The ranch house in which we lived
was comfortable with its three rooms, a path and a
Montgomery catalogue. Verna had to get the water from a
well 50 yards from the house. I had to cut wood for the
central heating system, a potbelly stove in the center of
the room. The quarters could seem very confining, when
sitting out a long winter storm.
March 15, 1931, was the third day of a dreaded spring
blizzard. I have not seen the cattle for two days, there was
enough hay to take care of for several days, but this is
calving time and this kind of weather is what kills new born
I leave Verna and our son Dale, who is now nearly a
year old, with a good supply of wood for the fire, and go
to the barn and saddle my horse, I must see the cattle. My
horse, Spike, a three year old gelding, has lots of spirit
and is easy to ride. I have been training him for six months
and he has the makings of a good cow horse, and I can rope
from him with confidence, if I keep the rope from getting
under his tail. When the rope gets under his tail he goes
crazy and I have to ride hard to keep from being thrown.
I glance at the thermometer as I leave the house, it is
15 above zero. It is not as cold as it has been, but with
the wind at 25 miles per hour, it is hard to keep warm. The
short trip to the meadow where the cattle are, is across the
river. The water is low, it comes to the belly on my horse.
If I lift my feet, they will stay dry.
I soon find the cattle, they are bunched together
behind a wind break of trees, but a lone cow is standing
beside a newborn calf that is half hidden in the snow.
It appears to be only a few hours old, but unless it can get
dry and nurse, it won't live long in this kind of weather.
I ride to the calf, and expect to get it on the horse with
me and get it to a warmer place, but when I get off of my
horse, the cow makes a lunge for me, and I quickly get back
in the saddle, and again dismount, but with the same results.
I try to drop a rope over the head of the little critter,
but he won't lift it high enough. I ride off, and wish him
well, because it is dangerous to face that old cow.
I look over the rest of the cattle and find no more
calves, so I ride over to the hay yards to check the fences.
When I get off my horse and drop the reins, he has been
trained to stand when the reins drop. I fix a gate that is
down, and turn just in time to see him start for home. He
crosses the river and heads for the barn.
For a moment I stand in shock. It is four miles around
by the bridge, where I can cross and keep dry. It is less
than 3/4 of a mile to the house if I cross the river.
There are small cakes of ice slowly floating down the river,
it has been cold enough for the river to start freezing again.
It will take me well over an hour to go by was of the
bridge, and less than 20 minutes to cross the river.
I do not hesitate long, it is too cold to waste time, so I
decide to go the short route. I sit down on the bank of
the river, off come my boots with spurs still attached, then
my pants. The shocker comes when the long johns come off,
there is nothing between me and the snowy bank.
The trip across was not as bad as I had expected. I
rolled up my clothes, held them over my head while crossing.
On the other side it was less of a shock, by scraping away
the snow from a tree stump, it did not take long to get
the long johns on. By the time I reach the house I'm
beginning to get warm, but the potbelly stove never looked
so good, and I DID HAVE DRY PANTS.
What happened to the calf that was left in the snow?
The calves were all shipped to Omaha in October. The
heaviest one weighed 500 lbs., but he was a queer looking
creature, his ears were only an inch long, and looked like
small horns; his tail had a length of only 5 inches. The
frozen ends of ears and tail made him appear to be something
other than a cow, but it never stunted his growth.
WHERE DOES IT COME FROM?
What is this thing we call the mind? We say that it
is in our brain, but the brain can still exist and the mind
be gone. Is our physical being an illusion?
The first time I had the idea that I might be missing
something important came from an experience I had in 1930.
Verna and I were living on the ranch, and drought damaged
our corn crop that we needed to feed the livestock that
winter. To salvage the crop meant digging a pit silo, and
cutting the corn to fill it. We had all the equipment we
needed to do this, and in three weeks time we dug the pit
silo and filled it.
The problem was to get the silage from the silos into
the feed wagons. For $150 I could buy a lift that would do
the job, but in 1930 where was I to get $150. I had grown
up on the ranch where we made much of the equipment that we
used, and I had taken Agricultural Engineering in college,
why not do it myself? I got my drafting board and drawing
equipment, and took the measurements I needed to reach the
silage, For two days I cut lift arms, and fit pulleys and
The next day Harry, the hired man, helped me set the
improvised lift over the silo. When feeding time arrived,
we hitched Bob to the singletree and rope that would pull
the load from the silo. Harry went into the silo and filled
the barrel, but when we pulled the load up it wouldn't dump
in the wagon, I had to do it by hand, so I went back to the
drawing board, and made changes. For two weeks we used the
lift, but we might as well have used a ladder and carried
the silage out on our backs. Why can't I make this work?
One night I had a dream, it was so vivid that I wakened
with a start, THERE IT WAS, the lift, right in front of me.
I thought some one said to me "Put two more links in the
chain and set the catch at an angle." I got out of bed,
went to another room, and lit the kerosene lamp and looked at
the clock, it was 3:30 a.m. It was too early to get up, but
I knew that I wouldn't sleep, so I got out my drawing board
and designed the lift as I was instructed, by this
As soon as it was day light I went to the shop and made
the suggested changes. I had to wait until feeding time to
find out if this was the answer.
Harry was as anxious as I was to see if the lift would
work this time, so down in the silo goes Harry, I go to the
barn to get Bob, the horse we always use. Harry fills the
barrel, and calls to me, "Take it away." I hit old Bob on
the rump, and send him off at a fast walk, and just wait.
As the load comes to the top, I stand without taking a
breath, the cross bar hits the chain, trips the catch, and
the full load drops into the wagon.
Where did that message come from? Who told me how to
solve the problem?
We left the ranch in September of 1932, but returned on
several occasions, and that lift was still in operation.
The pit silo was 30 feet deep and 20 feet in diameter.
When the silo was full we could scoop the ensilage into the
wagon, but if it were more than 5 or 6 feet below the
surface we had to use the lift.
The operation was simple: The barrel was attached to a
rope that went thru pulleys a--to--b--to--c. The horse
pulled the load to tke [sic] top. When the barrel reach pulley A,
it would be lifted from the silo and swing from frame 2
into frame 1 and dump the load into the wagon. My problem
was with the hook that caught the barrel when it swung over
to frame 1 to dump it in the wagon.
The depression of the 1930s changed the life of a lot
of people in the United States. Although we lost all the
money we had and were in debt when we had to leave the
ranch, our life during that period was comfortable and
without a feeling of need.
Our closest town and rail center was Sumner, Nebraska.
We did most of our shopping at a small grocery store where
we could trade eggs and cream for groceries, and other item
we needed for every day living. We had a radio that kept us
in touch with the outside world. Omaha, and Kansas City
would give us the daily livestock markets and news. This
was a battery operated system, there was no electricity, so
the battery had to be charged every few weeks. We would
take one into Sumner to be charged and take a charged
battery home with us.
Sumner was our closest point to obtain parts for
equipment we used in the hay field. Many times we were able
to repair equipment in our shop on the ranch, but
occasionally we would break something that needed a new
part. On one hot August day in 1930, we broke a catch on
the hay rake, we needed it badly, but if one of the men in
the field took time to go to Sumner, we would have to stop
the entire stacking crew. When Verna found out what had
happened, she agreed to take Dale, (age 6 months), put him
in his basket and take him in the pickup and go to Sumner.
She drove the 12 miles in 100 degree heat, over dusty roads
and returned, only to find that the dealer had given her the
wrong part. She took time out to take care of Dale, got
back in the pickup and did it all over again.
Sumner was our loading point when we sold cattle and
shipped to Omaha. We usually cooperated with Malcolm or
Don, Verna's brothers who lived close by. We would start
early and drive the cattle the 12 miles, hoping to get them
out that day and have them in Omaha the following day. As
soon as the cattle were loaded, one of us would take the
saddle horses home and the other would make the trip to
Often these trips were monotonous and tiring. I did
make one that was more interesting than most. Sumner was
not on the main line of the Union Pacific, and we would be
switched over at Kearney. I was the only person, other than
the train crew, in the caboose. It was late at night when
we left Kearney, and I was awakened at midnight when we
reached Grand Island. Before we left, a well dressed
gentleman, carrying his suit case, climbed the steps into
the caboose, and sat down across the aisle from me. I could
hardly believe my eyes, this man was Dwight Griswold, the
Governor of Nebraska. What was he doing riding a freight
train? He had attended a conference in Grand Island and
was due in Omaha the next day, and he said it was the fastest
way to get there.
Many changes have been made in the past 75 years, in
getting cattle to market. There is still no substitute for
the saddle horse when it comes to handling cattle, and a
well-trained, intelligent horse is the best friend a rancher
can have. The 18 wheelers, the livestock semi-trailers,
will now come to the ranch, load the cattle and take them
directly to market. Before we left the ranch in 1932
we were able to use the trucks, but we did not have good
facilities for loading, and dirt roads were not always
passable for the heavy loads. The attached sale bill is for
part of a truck load shipped on July 20, 1932. The same 8
head would be worth at least $5,000 to-day.
It has been many years since I have seen a train load
of livestock. The large stock yards in Kansas City,
Chicago, and Omaha no longer exist. They have been replaced
with smaller processing plants that can be reached by
One of the last stories told of the problems involved
in getting cattle to market was in Rushville, Nebraska. A
rancher brought in 200 head of yearlings to be shipped to
Omaha, it was dark when they reached the loading yards. The
city lights were on, the cattle had never seen lights, and
the city had to turn them off long enough to get the cattle
in the yards.
Cattle in the winter feed lot.
PUTTING UP HAY ON THE RANCH
Putting up hay for winter feed was an important part of
ranching in the cattle country. Many hours were spent in
other activities such as treating cattle for lice,
vaccinating, branding, dehorning, castrating, and
occasionally treating for snake bites. There were times
when we had to pull a cow from the quicksand. Good hay was
however, the life blood of the cattle business.
Alfalfa is an excellent feed for a cow, but it takes lots
of irrigation water, which is often not available. The bulk
of hay was from native grasses that grew in the bottom land
along the river. There was always some grass to cut, even in
dry years. In wet years the native grass could grow to a
height of 3 feet, it could be high enough to touch the
stirrups of my saddle when I rode thru the meadow.
The main topic among farmers and ranchers during haying
time, was the weather. A rancher who ran into a rainy spell
during the haying season would be hard to live with. He
would cut the hay, and wait at least a day or two for it to
dry enough to stack. Wet hay will spoil if stacked too early.
A rain after the hay has been cut can cause it to bleach and
lose food value. On the ranch along the South Loup River,
the haying operation would begin about the middle of July,
and it would take four weeks to cut and stack 200 tons.
For several weeks before haying time we would work on
the equipment. The mowers needed a complete overhaul, the
sickle needed new plates or a new bearing in the gear box.
The rake must have some broken teeth replaced. The hay
sweeps must have parts replaced that were broken, a swivel
wheel or broken teeth must be replaced. The stacker needs
anew rope, and some of the pulleys replaced. Harness
for the teams must be repaired. It often took more than a
week just to get all the equipment in order, because
everything must work well if once the weather is favorable.
The day arrives to start the haying operation. We are
going to have to wait until the dew is gone, to prevent the
weeds and dirt from gumming up the sickles. If we start
later the grass will be dryer and we can get it in the stack
The hired man and I, each with a good team, will cut
enough to make one stack of hay. We can expect about a ton
and a half of hay per acre, and we want enough for a 20 ton
stack, so we will have to cut about 14 acres.
In 1931 we started cutting the day after we celebrated
the 4th of July. There was no dew on the grass that morning
and we were in the field by 7:30 with two mowers. The teams
had not been working much and soon tired, but by 5:00 in the
after noon we had finished. The next few days were hot and
dry and by the third day the hay was dry enough to stack.
We need two men for the two hay sweeps and four
horses. The stacker with one man and two horses, the hay is
close to where the stack will be located so we will put two
men on the stack. If we have five men, and six horses, the
stack will be finished in one day.
This year the weather favored us, and in six weeks we
had cut, raked, bunched and stacked over 200 ton of hay.
This will be feed enough to get the 120 cows thru the winter
and with enough to feed milk cows and the work horses. This
year we will put 10 tons in the barn, in order to have
enough hay on hand if we get a blizzard.
When haying was finished, we usually took a holiday,
and went on a picnic by the river. I have never had more of
a satisfied feeling of accomplishment, than that of getting
thru a haying season without rain.
This stack is almost finished. The last sweep load
is being pushed on the stacker. It is a full days work
for 5 men and six horses. The man on the hay rake has
finished raking and bunching the hay that will be stacked
"HARRY, keep your eyes open, I have a snake in this
load", Harry is stacking the hay this morning, because I
want to teach a new horse to work on the hay sweep. I have
just seen a snake crawl under the first shock that I put on
the sweep, and did not see it get out, it is probably a
harmless bull snake, but we do have rattlers on the meadow.
The new horse is doing very well, but it takes some time to
teach a young horse to work on this ingenious machine we
call a "HAY BUCK". I have no idea who invented this queer
looking piece of equipment, it looks like a dust pan
with a short handle, and instead of a solid pan in which
you would sweep dust, it has teeth like a comb. There is a
wheel on each side to carry the load, and a horse hitched on
each side, that can move the machine backward and forward.
The operator has a seat on the handle of the pan, and can
move forward or backward to lift or lower the teeth.
The horses have to work differently than if they are
hitched side by side, to turn to the left the horse on the
left must stop, while the one on the right walks forward. A
turn to the right requires the horse on the right to stand
while the one on the left goes forward.
To load this odd looking piece of equipment with hay,
and haul it to the stacker, so that it can be lifted to the
top of the stack, requires a skilled operator. The operator
will take the sweep to the area where the hay has been raked
and bunched, and one bunch at a time is scooped up by the
sweep. The load is evenly placed by loading first one side
and then the other. Four or five bunches are usually enough
for the team to pull. The operator can ride by sitting
on the handle, close to the load. The load is then placed
on the stacker head, which is the same size as the sweep.
The team pushed the load forward until it is firmly placed on
the stacker, the sweep is then backed out and the load
remains firmly on the stacker head. The horses then back
the sweep away, leaving the load to be lifted to the top of
Great care must be taken when loading the hay on the
stacker. The teeth of the stacker head are the same
distance apart as those of the sweep, and must mesh properly
when loading the hay on the stacker. If the load doesn't
stay on the stacker head when backing out with the sweep,
the operator must sit far back on the handle, lift the teeth
and shove the hay up tight. The operator is continually
talking to the team, and a well trained horse soon
understands: get up, whoa, back, and learns to stand while
the other horse changes the position of the sweep.
An inexperienced operator can make life miserable for
the person on the stack. If the sweep is loaded evenly the
hay will go on the stack in good shape, but if the hay
doesn't fall on the stack evenly, and lands in the wrong
place, it is difficult for the stacker to keep the center
of the stack high enough to shed the rain, and keep the hay
dry. A well loaded sweep can also help the person driving
the stacker team, to place the hay on the stack in the right
Verna and her sister Marvelle were skilled hay sweep
operators, they operated the sweeps for two summers, 1924
and 1925, while their father and brother did the stacking.
Each year they would put up at least 10 stacks that
contained 15 to 20 tons each.
When the last load is on the stack, the man on the
stack rides down on the stacker as it is lowered.
Verna and Marvelle with their sweep teams.
THE SADDLE HORSES
Betsy was the most popular
saddle horse on the ranch.
She was on the ranch when
we took over Oct. 1929 and
she was there when we left
in Sept. 1932. She was the
horse that Verna always
chose to use, [sic]
Betsy and the dog were all
I needed to move the cattle
from the pasture to the
These were both young
horses when we bought
them. Wes helped us on
the ranch the summer of
1930. I thought I had
Spike well trained, but he
ran off and left me to
cross the river with
floating ice. I kept my
pants dry by holding them
over my head.
RIVERVIEW RANCH CUMRO NEBRASKA
October 1,1930 [sic]
|Stock cows (54 head @ $50.00)||$2,700.00|
|Yearling heifers (20 head @ $50.00)||1.000.00 [sic]|
|Calves (64 head @ $30.00)||!,920.00 [sic]||$5,6200.00 [sic]|
|Sows (7 @ $30.00)||210.00|
|Pigs (60 @ $12.00)||720.00||930.00|
| Prairie hay (200 tons @ $5.00)||1,000.00|
| Alfalfa (50 tons @ 10.00)||500.00|
| Corn (70 Acres Est. 30 bu. @ 75¢)||1,575.00|
| Oats 1(200 bu. @ 25¢)||50.00|
| Income from pasture rental||500.00|
| Pickup 1929 Ford||500.00|
| Household furniture||500.00|
| Horses (6 Head)||200.00|
| Laying hens (175)||100.00|
|Unsecured Note (Runs indefinitely)||$4,950.00|
|Unsecured note (Runs indefinitely)||1,000.00|
|Mason City Bank,(Secured 20 heifers)||800.00|
|Unsecured note (payable on demand)||100.00|
Our contract Oct. 1929, when we went on the ranch,
stipulated that the feed for cattle would be included with
the price of the cattle. That was really a generous
gesture on the part of Verna's Father. When he had to
return to the ranch in Sept. 1932, in order to keep the
Federal Land Bank loan, it seemed necessary for us to do as
he and [sic] done. The price of cattle, as shown on the sale bill
for July 20, 1932, tells the story. In some parts of the
United States, farmers were killing small pigs because the [sic]
couldn't afford to feed them.
LEAVING THE RANCH
It was the first week in Sept. 1932 that we left the
ranch. Verna's parents returned from York [sic] Nebr. The Land
Bank will now renew the loan on the ranch for $11,000.
We will move to their home in York. Verna, Dale,
and Peggy can live there, and I can go back to college.
My former job is available for me at the Engineering
Department at 25 cents per hour, in the tractor testing
laboratory. I can get my degree in two years, and the
Metzgers will get a new start. Verna will keep house for
her brothers, Oliver and Weston, and I will return on week
ends, to be with the family.
It is difficult for me to describe my feelings as we
leave the ranch. I knew that we had lost every thing we
owned, and were in debt more than $3000.00, but my real
problem was, that I felt a complete failure. I had never
had an experience like this, I did not always succeed
in what I was doing, but there were usually alternatives,
but there was none this time. I had lost.
We took with us only what we could get in a small 1932
Ford pickup. Verna's parents would leave their furniture
and we would leave ours. When the loan was completed we
could make an exchange.
I can feel again the pain, as we left the ranch
headquarters. It was a bright September morning, The hired
man waved to us as we turned into the road. WHAT IS HE
DOING ON MY HORSE? He knew that I didn't want anyone to
ride that colt until he was better trained! Is he going to
turn the cows and calves into the meadow? He knows that
they should stay on summer pasture for another month!
The sun is shining thru the cottonwood trees, the light
is dancing on a small branch of yellow cottonwood leaves,
that are changing to fall colors. The entire tree will be
a bright yellow in a few more weeks! We cross the bridge
to check the mail box for the last time, and then we turn
and sit for a few minutes to watch the cows and calves as
they drink at the river.
Is it like this to die? Do we have to leave this now?
I start the engine, shift into low gear and climb the hill
past the Shumaker Ranch. We turn right onto the main road
to Kearney, Grand Island, and then to York. An era in our
life, had come to an end. Will we pass this way again? How
will we ever repay the money we owe? I heard this morning
on the radio that the dairymen were pouring milk in the
streets. What is happening? Has the world gone crazy?
I think mine has.
UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA 1932
Life at York in Sept. 1932 was a new start for us.
Verna's brothers did very well running the dairy, they
were both in school and Verna was able to work out a
satisfactory routine with the two youngsters. I felt
free to go back to Lincoln for my junior year at College.
On the 14th I drove to Lincoln and matriculate, for my
junior year. This was familiar territory to me and it
did not take me long to get settled.
My schedule was very rigid. I had worked in the
Ag. Engineering dept. when I was there in 1927-1929.
I could work 4 hours a day and still carry 15 or 16 hours a
semester. I was up at 5:00 o'clock, and open the building
by 8:00. o'clock, then to class and be back at 5:00 o'clock
and lock up. Nebraska was testing every make and model
of farm tractor in use in the state, and I spent hours on
these tractors, from small sizes of garden models, to 70
horse-power caterpillar tractors. This could mean 5 days a
week, and left me free on week ends to go to York, and be
with the family.
By the spring of 1933 the ranch loan was completed,
and we were able to get our furniture at the ranch. Verna's
folks sold the place at York and moved their furniture to the
ranch. We moved to Lincoln, just one block from the campus,
3223 Fair Street, where we were to live until August 1, 1934.
How we were able to get enough money to live on and
still attend school, remains a puzzle to me. Our rent was
$10.00 per month, ham was selling for 10 cents per pound,
and we had a garden. My income was 35 cents per hour, [sic] On
week ends I tried to earn a little extra money by husking
corn at 2 cents a bushel, I couldn't earn enough to make it
worth while, so I did that only once.
I borrowed $100.00 from the Methodist fund, and sold
the pickup for $200.00. We then bought a Durant for $80.00
which furnished transportation for more than a year. On
January 14 1934, Gordon was born, so now we had 2 boys and a
June 1934 was a very hot month in Lincoln. Verna took
the youngsters to Crawford and was spending the summer with
my parents, and I stayed in Lincoln with the Tractor
Testing, and took some college courses during the summer.
My professor was a fat man who weighed 300 pounds, or more,
and it was very hot. The classroom had only one window,
and no air conditioning, I envisioned him melting and
running all over the floor.
The (Civilian Conservation Corp), the CCC Camps were
established in 1933. One of the professors that I met,
Claton W. Watkins, was head of the Nebraska Forestry Dept.
and was in charge of the Nebraska CCC projects. Seldom a
week would pass that I didn't have an opportunity to speak
with him, and I never missed an opportunity to ask him what
the possibility were for a job when I got my degree. He
would often say to me, "There is nothing new today, but keep
asking, it looks as if there will be an opportunity soon."
On July 1, 1934, Watkins called me and said, " Can [sic] you
get me a transcript of your grades, and a history of your
past experience?" Transcript of grades, yes, but past
experiences! I went broke raising cattle, it didn't seem
to me to be a very good history, but it didn't seem to bother
him, because on July 15th he handed me a contract to sign,
a contract for one year, as Flood Control Engineer at a CCC
camp at Fairbury [sic] Nebr.
On Aug. 1, I reported for work at Fairbury. I had never
asked Watkins what the pay would be, and he often remarked
that I was the only person he had ever hired that did not
ask what the pay would be. I don't remember how I felt
about the pay, because I was getting $60.00 a month and I
knew that it would be better than that. The job paid $160 a
month, and I was never paid so well to learn as much as that
first year out of college.
The family joined me in September, and we were able to
live again. We soon started to pay back the money we owed,
but it took us about 15 years to get the debt paid.
The fair grounds at Fairbury were converted into a camp
for 200 CCC enrolles [sic], with barracks, mess hall, recreational
facilities and headquarters for Army and Forest Service.
CCC CAMP DAYS
On Aug. 1, 1934 I went to work for the Forest Service
as Flood Control Engineer. The Civilian Conservation Corp,
known as the CCC Camps, were being set up all over the U.S.
I was assigned to Fairbury Nebr. The camp units were usually
composed of 200 or 225 men, and the U. S. Army had the
responsibility of feeding and housing them. In Nebraska
the U.S. Forest Service was responsible for the work units.
I wanted to be certain that I would be on time my first
day of work, so I left Lincoln the day before and stayed all
night with my Aunt Maude and Uncle Bob Dillon, who were living
in Beatrice. It was only about 25 miles from Beatrice to
Fairbury, and the next morning I got up early and was in
Fairbury by 7:30.
The County Fairgrounds was to be the camp site. The
Army had arrived only a few days earlier and had about 40 men
in camp, who were busy getting the site in shape for a camp
that would accommodate 200 enlisted men, Army personnel and
the Forest Service Staff.
The hog barn was being made into the mess hall. The
cattle barn and chicken house were to be barracks. The
agricultural exhibit hall was to be the recreation center.
The Engineer's office and the Superintendent's office were
two red railroad box cars that had been moved in. I was
assigned one of them, and used one end for living quarters and
the other for my office.
The summer of 1934 was a hot one, day time temperatures
reached 110 to 115 degrees in eastern Nebraska, the summer
was the hottest on record. We had a fan that helped keep
the hot air moving, but the box car had no shade, no air
conditioning, and there were no screens on the doors, and it
cooled off very little at night.
The Forest Service staff in Fairbury consisted of a
Superintendent, an Engineer, and four Foremen. Our assignment
was erosion control on farm land. We built small earth dams,
terraces, brush dams in gullies and planted trees for
windbreaks. Agreements were signed with farmers and an
erosion control plan was developed, describing the type of
work to be done and cropping plan to be followed.
The problems we had in getting started seemed never to
end. We were slow in getting equipment we needed, such as
wheelbarrows, shovels, hand tools of all kinds, and fresnos.
The Rock Island Rail Road Co. loaned us surveying equipment:
a transit, level, rods and stadia boards.
Not until I set up my survey crew, did I realize what
the depression was for some people, who could not get jobs.
I usually had four men on a crew, I had young fellows with
several years of college, and one who had degree in
engineering, but could not get work, so he enrolled as a
private in the CCC camp.
Our survey crews were kept very busy. We were building
small earth dams and terraces with teams that the farmers ha
available. We had to have two farms surveyed each week to
keep the construction crews busy.
Training men for the job, proved to be a difficult
task. Some of the supervisory personnel and most of the
enrolled men had no farm experience. Some had never been
around horses, and had to learn how to drive a team, hold
a plow in the ground, and load a fresno. A man who had
been raised on a farm and knew how to do these things soon
was a sergeant and supervising crews.
An Engineer who had no farm experiences was useless
at the Fairbury camp, he might have the technical training
but know nothing about farm crops and farming problems.
Unless some one was with him in making the surveys, he
would treat an alfalfa field the same as a corn field.
The farmers would be very unhappy, and it wasn't always easy
to calm them down.
It was the responsibility of the army to take care of
the men, but it was difficult some times to separate the
work project from camp projects. We had 200 men transferred
to Fairbury from Arkansas in 1935, and many of these boys ha
never worn shoes. They were issued a pair of shoes that they
were required to wear in camp, but when they got to the
field the shoes would come off. They would follow the teams
and equipment all day in bare feet. By the time November
came and snow was on the ground, some still went barefoot.
There were days when we would have as many as 45 or 50
teams in the field. We built dams and terraces that I saw in
operation fifty years later. The tree planting project for
wind breaks was another thing that proved to be very useful.
I learned more the first year in camp than I did in a
year of college. It is one thing to make surveys and
draft plans in the class room, and another to do it in the
field with help that has never been off the streets of
New York, or from Mississippi where they never saw ice or
Thousands of cubic yards of earth were moved with horses and mules and the fresno, in building dams and terraces.
Four Horse Team with loaded fresno.
Farm ponds and other water conservation structures were built on more than 100 farms in Jefferson County in 1934-1938 [sic]
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
SOIL CONSERVATION SERVICE
ECW Camp SCS-15
May 18, 1936
DUTIES OF SCS PERSONNEL
J. D. Metzger
Forestry Surveys &
Trucks, Tools, Equip.
SUPERINTENDENT OF A CCC CAMP
In March 1935, Ben Osterloh, the camp Superintendent,
was assigned as District Supervisor, and I was promoted to
Camp Superintendent. From a technical standpoint I felt
qualified, but to supervise, 2 engineers, 4 foremen, an
agronomist and a work force of 200 men would be something
I was hardly prepared for some of the headaches that
were to follow. The engineer taking my former position came
from the east coast and had no farm experience. He did not
know the difference between alfalfa, corn, oats or any other
crop, and this created a real problem with the farmers.
There was no choice but to transfer him to another location.
The foremen all had different qualifications. It was
important to assign tasks that would best fit the man.
Bill Whitfield, a draftsman, had little farm experience,
but he did an excellent job of designing structures, and
keeping records. Jess Money was a graduate forester, he
took charge of tree planting. Pop Cramer was the age of my
father, a portly, good humored gentlemen that always seemed
to be able to settle arguments among supervisory personnel
and enrolled men. Pop was a peacemaker.
I suppose that anytime you have a 200-man work force
there will be problems. I remember only one that really
embarrassed me, I was out witted by a truck driver. There
was always a shortage of trucks to transport men to the
field, and we would occasionally assign one driver to
cover several projects. When I didn't find him on one
project I assumed that he was on another. After he
delivered his crew he would disconnect the odometer and
drive 60 miles to Lincoln to see his girl friend. This
accounted for the fact that we were getting such poor
mileage on the one truck. He was soon replaced by
My most frustrating task was not with the work crews,
but with the army. Captain Phillips, the camp commander,
was a pleasure to work with, and if we had differences we
could always work them out. Transportation was a problem
for us, we tried to keep at least 185 men in the field, and
the army had to get lunch to them at noon, and had to use
the same trucks we used on the work projects.
My real problems began when a company of 200 men came
from New York. The commanding officer, Leut. Gidinsky,
brought his entire staff with him. Most of the men had lived
in New York City, and the philosophy of the people in a
small town in Nebraska was not the same as New York.
Verna and I felt very comfortable with the people
in the Fairbury community. I joined the Chamber of Commerce
and Verna was soon a member of the PEO chapter. I had
received invitation from both Kiwanis and Rotary. The
community put on dances and parties for the camp boys, and
on many occasions took them into their homes. When the
New York City boys started to come to the parties, and date
the girls, the attitude of the townspeople changed, many
refused to let their daughters come to the parties.
As Superintendent, I was getting complaints from some
very unhappy people. I had no authority over the men after
they left the work project, but I did feel that I should go
to the commanding officer with the complaints. This didn't
help my standing with Gidinsky, and with much gusto, he
demanded to talk to the accusers. I didn't want to expose my
source of information, but he insisted, and I had no
choice but get him in my car and take him to town. I was
embarrassed and frustrated. I didn't know what to say, so I
said nothing. Before we arrived at the City Hall, Gidinsky
suggested we pull over to the curb and talk it over. From
that time on, the situation did improve.
Lesson learned: If you don't talk too much you might
win your point. Gidinsky didn't like me any better after
that but he did listen to me.
In March 1937 Soil Conservation Service took over the
camps in Nebraska. All personnel in the CCC camps that had
technical training were to be transferred to Soil
Conservation Districts, and given Civil Service
We were moved to the District at Syracuse Nebr. I
worked as a field conservationist in charge of personnel
training for CCC camps, that were working on water
We remained in Syracuse for three years. I was then
assigned the task of establishing water development projects
in Rushville, Chadron and Scotsbluff [sic], mainly flood control and
irrigation. When the Soil Conservation District was
established in Scottsbluff, I was assigned as District
Conservationist. We lived in Gering, which was just across
There was much to be done in soil conservation and
irrigation, but I was tiring of the red tape and
restrictions of government employment, and resigned in
November 1943, and started our own business. We established
MIDWEST FARM SERVICE, a farm management, real estate and
FROM A GOVERNMENT JOB TO PRIVATE ENTERPRISE
There have been several occasions in my life when I
felt as if it were time to move on, but to make a final
decision can be a painful process. The first decision of
this nature, was when I left home to go to college, the
second one was when I decided that it was time to leave the
Government, and resigned my position as Director of the Soil
Conservation District in Scotts Bluff County [sic] Nebraska.
Verna supported me in making this decision, but I knew
that she appreciated a regular monthly check, after the long
period of cash shortage when we left the ranch and I went
back to college. I knew the time was coming when I would
have to make a change, the red tape, the endless delays and
the impractical decisions by my superior, was getting on
my nerves. I knew if I set a date to leave in advance,
that I could work up the nerve to quit when the time came.
On May 1, 1943, I wrote a letter of resignation to the
Nebraska State Office for Soil Conservation Service, and set
the date for November 1, 1943. My replacement arrived in
August, so I took my accumulated annual leave, and turned my
attention to a new field of activity.
During the depression, from 1930 to 1940, many folks
lost their farm and ranches. The Federal Land Bank, and
Life Insurance companies owned properties that had been
foreclosures, I knew that I could manage these properties
but didn't know how to start. The Scotts Bluff County
Engineer had resigned his position and moved to California
and was working in a War Defense Industry. I agreed to take
the job on a part time basis, if I could get my own
business started. For nearly two years I worked as County
Engineer, with a salary of $150.00 per month, and established
the company that is now known as MIDWEST FARM SERVICE.
MIDWEST FARM SERVICE, offered farm management services
on irrigated farms. I had six farms the first year, and
designed and developed an irrigation system, on a ranch in
Banner County. The Air Force built an airport at Scottsbluff
for a bombing training field, and MIDWEST FARM SERVICE,
seeded land, harvested crops, and maintained areas adjacent
to the runways, while bombers were taking off and landing.
I passed my Real Estate and Insurance Brokers examinations
for Nebraska and Colorado, and we bought a 160 acre
irrigated farm that I managed, along with the others.
In 1945 I developed allergies that appeared to come from
grain dusts and pollens. The Equitable Life Assurance
Society, one of the companies I represented in Nebraska,
was establishing a home loan service in Longmont [sic] Colorado,
and I was offered the position.
The Rocky Mountains area had always held an attraction
for me, and since I had a brother living in Boulder whom
we often visited; perhaps this might be a good move.
Verna's brother Weston, was a Vocational Agriculture
teacher in Grant, Nebraska. He worked as a field inspector
for a canning factory in Western Nebraska, during the
summer when he was not teaching, and he agreed to take the
farm management business if we moved to Colorado, and on the
first of June I went to Longmont, and the family followed in
I will always have a sense of guilt for having pushed
to make this move. We had spent most of our married life
moving every few years, and we were well established in
Gering. Dale, Peggy and Gordon were enjoying their school,
and had many friends, Ken had not yet started school. Verna
was President of her PEO Chapter, and we were both taking
part in church and community activities. Verna never
complained, but I knew it hurt. Both Peggy and Dale left some
very close friends.
Longmont became our home town, and the ten years was a
happy time for all of us. Dale, Peggy and Gordon graduated
from High School, Ken went thru grade school and two years of
High School, all participated in school activities, football,
basketball, track, band and others. It was their home town
when they went to college. Verna helped organize another PEO
Chapter and became it's President. We lived on an acreage and
produced a lot of our own food. We had a cow, chickens,
garden and rabbits. We sold the farm in Nebraska and
bought another in Colorado. The business did well, but
I did take time out to help start the Safflower business,
which failed and lost $35,000 for the Metzgers.
To go broke during the big depression of the 1930's was
bad enough, but I had to do it again. The next depression
was what I call the Safflower depression. World War II
ended in 1945 and brought a sudden halt to the manufacture
of war equipment, and a change in agriculture in the western
plains area of the United States. Thousands of acres had
been devoted to wheat production. When the war came to a
close, many farmers were looking for a crop that could
replace wheat, of which there was a surplus.
A personal friend of mine from Uni. of Nebraska,
Dr. Leo Christensen, had done a great deal of research on
oil seed crops that could be grown in the High Plains area.
Safflower was one of those seed crops. It appeared that it
was a good crop for land not planted to wheat. The oil was
a good cooking oil, and it could also be used for paints an
varnishes. It looked as if there would be a ready market
for the oil, and the by-product after processing, was good
With a lot of enthusiasm, four of us formed a general
corporation in Longmont, Colorado. We called this company,
WESTERN SOLVENTS; the organizers, Robert Bowers, a business
man in Longmont, Al Lane, County Agricultural agent, Dr.
Christensen, Uni. of Nebr. director of research, and
Jim Metzger, Farm management, real estate and insurance
We raised $100,000 and set out to promote the growing
of safflower and to construct the Oil Processing plant.
The plant was finished in Aug. of 1950 and we were able to
harvest and process several hundred tons of Safflower seed.
In 1950 we produced enough oil to sell to a few paint
companies, and cooking oil for some local restaurants.
Everything seemed to be going according to schedule, but by
that time we needed another $50,000. We received this
support from local bankers, but they insisted that we have
some local farmers and a banker on the board of directors.
The next year the acreage planted increased, and we had
nearly three thousand acres in safflower production. The
processing plant operated well and we were producing oil by
the car load. Cook Paint and Varnish Co. of Kansas City
agreed to take a car load of oil every six months, for two
years and then they wanted a car load a month there after.
By 1952 it appeared that we were assured of having a market
for all the oil. Cook Paint and Varnish agreed to take it
all. and we now had the capacity to produce a tank car every
We were now needing another $50,000, and we were able
to raise it locally. By this time the Metzgers had $35,000
in the project and more than half of that was borrowed from
friends and banks, with unsecured notes.
We were now receiving attention from some large
companies. We were corresponding with Archer Daniels and
Midland, Kellog was interested, and a company from El Centro
California. Rolston Purina were interested in the high
protein meal which was a by-product that was used as feed
The Korean war started in 1952, and the demand for
wheat was increasing. Wheat was now worth $4.00 a bushel so
it was no longer profitable to raise Safflower. Suddenly
our supply of raw material was gone, and Western Solvents had
no product to process. We finally had to admit that we
could no longer operate, so we sold the plant to a local
feed company in Longmont and went out of business.
This was the second time in my life that I would have
been better off to have taken a vacation for three years. We
lost $5,000 in the depression of 1929, and $35,000 in
the Safflower business. The education was expensive, but we
did get the $5,000 and the $35,000 paid back. For years we
paid interest on interest, in order to keep the notes up to
Every time I go into a Super Market I shed a few tears.
Safflower oil, and Saffola are available in every store,
everyone is buying some of it to-day. All the Metzgers
have is 10,000 shares of Western Solvents stock certificates
that would make good wall paper.
WE MEET HOWARD FINCH
I often wonder if it is by accident, or design that we
meet someone that changes our lives. I can understand
how people we live with, influence our lives, but to meet
some one for a short period of time, as ships passing in
the night, that change life completely, seems to be nothing
less than a miracle.
We were living in Longmont [sic] Colo. in March 1955. For
more than a year I had been the Lay Leader for the Methodist
Church in North Eastern Colo. On March 2, Verna and I were
to attend a District Conference in Denver, and I was to meet
the person that would be my assistant for the coming year.
Dr. Howard Finch, the Director of the Agricultural
Extension Service for Uni. of Colorado.
Dr. and Mrs. Finch had just completed a 2 year tour in
Turkey, Howard had been Agricultural Advisor for the Food
and Agricultural Organization, (FOA) under the Marshal Plan,
the assistance program established in foreign countries
following World War II.
I was not only interested in meeting Howard for the
first time, but I wanted to know more of his experiences
while in Turkey. Much of our time was spent talking about
problems that Turkey had in Agricultural Development. My
interest was in Irrigation and flood control projects.
After the conference Howard and I resumed our
discussion of Turkey. As we were preparing to leave, Howard
said to me, "Would you and Verna be interested in going to
Turkey for two years?" The idea was intriguing and we said
that perhaps we would be. His next statement was, " You
might as well pack your duds." I thought it was a joke, I
had worked for the Government for 10 years and left, because
it was more often than not, "Hurry up and wait", that was
one thing that prompted me to leave the Government Service.
Life after March 1955 would change completely for us.
Two day after meeting Howard, I received a copy of a letter
he had written to the Ministry of Agriculture in Turkey, a
copy of a another letter that he wrote to the Director of
the U.S. Agency in Turkey. Three weeks later I received a
phone call from Washington, wanting to know if we could be
ready to go to Izmir, Turkey, by June 1. I informed them that
it would be impossible to make arrangements for someone to
take over the business at that early date, but we could be
ready by the middle of August.
The days from March 15, to Aug. 16 were hectic. I
learned in the meantime that FOA in Turkey was very anxious
to fill a vacancy at Izmir. The person who had filled the
position, died in Feb. of 1955. I was to replace him as
Irrigation Advisor to the Turkish Government in Western
Turkey, where two large dams were under construction. The
assignment was to assist in teaching modern irrigation
practices on farms that would receive water from the dams.
The problems that Verna and I had to solve before we
could leave, is the subject for another story. We had three
young people in college, and a junior in High School.
Arrangements had to be made to keep the business running,
and we would have to rent the house. We had an opportunity
to sell the farm, and we wanted to make the sale, but there
had to be some type of settlement with the tenant.
Official papers confirming the assignment arrived in
July, and on August 16 the truck backed up to the door of
our house to load our household goods. I can still see
Verna sitting in the yard, with a clip board and three
lists, this goes to Turkey with us on the plane, this
goes by ship, and this will go to storage.
Aug. 16, and all systems are "go". We had taken all
vaccinations, our passports are in order and our tickets
have been issued. Dale, Peggy and Gordon will take us to
Denver to our plane. The plane leaves Stapelton [sic] Airport at
noon, we arrive in Washington at 7:00 p.m.
TRIP TO TURKEY 1955
The flight to Washington left Denver at noon, via
Chicago, where the temperature was 100 and humidity 95.
It was the first ride on an airplane for Verna and Ken.
Dale, Peggy and Gordon returned to Longmont, but within a
week they would be going their separate ways. Dale went
to Antioch College, Peggy to Ohio and Gordon returned to
Nebraska Wesleyan University.
We arrive in Washington in the rain and wind, the end
of a hurricane, we had a very rough ride. We spent the
first night in the President Hotel, where Verna got a bad
burn in the bath tub, when the hot water faucet wouldn't
turn off. We rented an apartment from a friend of Peggy's
who was going on a vacation, and were able to keep it for
the two weeks were in Washington, D. C.
The next two weeks were spent at orientation courses,
that were required of all personnel going overseas. My
assignment was IRRIGATION ADVISOR to the Turkish Government
(FDA), Foreign Operations Administration. It later became
The Agency for International Development, and we were to be
stationed in Izmir.
We left the U.S. on Sept. 3, 1955, with a stopover in
Copenhagen. We then flew to Istanbul on Sept. 5th. A driver
from the American Consulate met us at the airport. He was a
Greek by the name of Leo, a very friendly and intelligent
man who talked a lot on our way into town. When we got
close to the city he became very quiet. There were crowds
of people milling around in the streets and carrying clubs
and signs. Obviously, something was wrong, and Leo was not
telling us anything.
The slow trip into Istanbul soon came to a halt at the
Galata Bridge. The police refused to let us cross the bridge
and Leo left us, to find some one who would escort us to the
American Consulate, while three of us were left sitting in
the station wagon with the Turks milling around the car and
looking in the windows as if we were monkeys in a cage.
It was at least a half hour before Leo returned, and
when he did, he asked for my passport, he said he could get
help if he could prove that we were Americans. We had been
instructions in Washington, to hang on to those special
passports, but he finally convinced me that he could get
police help, so I turned my passport over to him. We
reached the Consulate after driving thru streets that were
strewn with refrigerators, typewriters, and many other item
that were hard for the Turks to get.
It was some time before we knew what the fuss was all
about. The Greeks had damaged a statute of Ataturk in
Greece and the Turks were showing their anger. This was the
famous Istanbul riots of September 5, 1955.
We reached the Consulate at about 10:30 p.m., and saw
the American flag draped over the gate of the compound,
and I never was so glad to see some sign of America. We didn't
leave the Consulate until 2:00 a.m. when the all clear
signal was given, and we were taken to our hotel. This was
our first trip out of the United States and we thought that
perhaps we should have stayed home.
The next morning we could see the mess that had been
left in the streets. There were armed soldiers and army
tanks in every street around the hotel. I will never forget
the sound of broken glass being swept up in the streets the
next morning. Many of the Greek shops were looted and the
goods strewn all over the sidewalk.
We stayed in Istanbul only the one night. The next
evening we rode the ferry across the Bosphorus and took the
train to Ankara. It was a comfortable night ride on the
Orient Express. I wakened early and looking out the window
and watched the sun rise over the dry, over-grazed, pasture
of Central Turkey, a sight I would see often during the next
The train came to a halt in the Ankara station at 8:30.
We were met by the Mission Director, Mr. Hedges and the
American Engineer who was to be my supervisor, Mr. Forsburg.
The person to step forward first was Naki Uner. Naki was to
be my Turkish counterpart for the next five years. The
story of our travels, the work we did, the people we met,
proved to be one of the most rewarding times of our lives.
The welcoming party at Ankara soon had us located in a
hotel. The University of Nebraska was establishing a
University in eastern Turkey at Erzrum, and had personnel
teaching in the University in Ankara, and some of them were
staying in the same hotel. The Nebraska team was having a
meeting the first evening we were there and they invited us
to attend. I felt as if I were attending a University of
Nebraska reunion. Dr. Homer Goodding, my agronomy professor
Harry Gould, head of Extension Service, Jack Steel, from
the Ag. Engineering Department, Dr. Crow, Animal Husbandry
and Dr. Weldon from the Soils Laboratory, all had been part
of my life at some time during my college days.
The week spent in Ankara was devoted to planning field
operation for the Agean [sic] Area, which included all of western
Turkey. Adam Karamilis, the director of the Soil and
Water Conservation Division, (TOPRAK SU), Carl Forsburg, the
the chief engineer for FOA and Naki and I mapped out the area
where we would be working. The two experiment stations, at
Mememan and Aydin were located in the irrigated area, and would
be the locations were we would be holding classes and
On Sept. 14 we left Ankara for Izmir. We traveled in
two cars. one of these cars was to be made available for
Naki and myself. Our driver was Ihsan çhandas. Ihsan Bey
spoke good English and was to be the guardian of the
Metzgers for the five years we were living in Turkey. The
trip to Izmir took us two days over dusty roads in a
temperature of 95 degrees. The first night was spent at
Karagaba Hara, a State Farm. At 5:00 o'clock the next
afternoon we had our first view of Izmir as we came
over the mountain above the city. The sun shining on Izmir
Bay reflected on the old Roman Castle on the hill. This was
a very old city. This was the city that was known as Smyrna,
in Bible times. We drove into the old city thru vineyards
that could have been in Sonoma County.
We were three tired Americans when we arrived in Izmir.
Our reservations were in the Izmir Palas, a very good hotel
by Turkish standards. It was situated on Izmir bay, and the
sun, low in the west, reflecting on the bay, and looked like
a blue shimmering mirror. We sat by the window and watched
the sun change from a bright light to a big red ball that
slowly sank into the Agean [sic] sea.
The arriving merchant ships, as they slipped up to the
dock below us, soon became only dark shadows. The darkness
brought twinkling lights across the bay, that soon drew the
outline of Karashaka, a town on the north shore. Verna, Ken
and I went to the dining room and ordered our meal from the
Turkish menu, from a waiter that spoke perfect English.
The day had been long and tiring so we went to bed
early, listening to the mournful sound of Turkish music fro
the building next door. We could hear the shrill whistle
from a ferry arriving from the town across the bay that was
unloaded its passengers. It loaded others and then returned
The clatter of horses hoofs, and the rattle of carriages
soon became quiet and we dropped off to sleep. Tomorrow we
will waken in a new city, in a new land, with new friends.
What will the new life mean for us? Will we regret leaving
the family and our home in Longmont?
The ARABA, the horse drawn carriages were as numerous as
the taxi cabs, and were much less expensive. It was slower
and safer. The drivers usually didn't speak English and it
took a lot of sign language until we learned a little
FIRST DAY IN IZMIR
Our first day in Izmir was devoted to finding a place
to live. I was the only member of FOA staff that was not
located in Ankara, and the U.S. Consulate in Izmir was to
be my official station. We would receive our mail thru the
Consulate, and the State Department would also be of
assistance in helping us locate an apartment. Before
leaving Washington we had met Donald Eddy and his family
who were on their way to Izmir. He was assigned as the
U.S. Consul. The Eddy family were stationed in Izmir the
five years we were there, and we became good friends.
Our driver, Ishan Candas picked us up at 8:30 a.m.,
and we went first to the Girls School that was under the
sponsorship of the Congregational mission, hoping they might
be of assistance in locating an apartment, close to the
school. We had friends in Longmont who were acquainted with
the directors of the school, and suggested that we should
make contact with the Blakes who ran the school. The trip
to the school that morning turned out to be a very important
contact for us.
The American Kiz College: (The American Girls School)
was under the Congregational Church Board. The Turkey
Mission operated 2 Hospitals, 4 Schools and 2 Clinics.
Jack and Linda Blake were full time missionaries, and had
lived in Turkey more that 20 years. There were both
Turkish and American teachers. Our contact with the school
staff and visiting personnel from U. S. colleges was to
greatly enrich our 5 year tour in Turkey. Verna was to
become a member of the staff for over 4 years, teaching
We located an apartment just three blocks from the
school. Our air freight, which was one of Verna's packing
lists, arrived in good time and it took us only a few days
to get settled enough, that I felt like going to work with
Naki, and meet the Directors of the Experiment Stations and
the Province Governors.
We must first visit the Mayor of Izmir, and the
Governor of the Izmir Province. This took several hours,
where we drank tea and coffee, at every stop. We met 2
experiment station directors and 3 governors of provinces.
After five days of endless cups of coffee and tea, I thought
it must be time to go to work, but it was to be another 2
weeks with more coffee and tea, before I had the nerve to ask
Naki when we would begin our work on the plans that we made in
ISHAN CANDAS, a loyal and caring person, proud of his
uniform and his automobile. He always had his eyes on the
road when he was driving, staring thru the steering wheel
His method of driving in mud and snow never seemed to
worry him, but it did me. He never looked at the
speedometer, when he came to a long stretch of straight
road, he would reach speeds of 80 miles an hour, if I
Naki and I inspected every Agricultural Experiment
Station, from Mount Aarat [sic], on the Iran--Russian boarder [sic] in
eastern Turkey, from the Black Sea on the north to the
Syrian boarder [sic] on the south. Ishan did the driving.
Ishan Bey was my sounding board. He would inform me of
things that were happening that he thought I should know.
He always saw to it that I followed proper protocol when
visiting dignitaries. He was embarrassed if I didn't ride
in the back seat when in town.
If there is one person that might be called a HERO in
our Turkish story, it would be ISHAN CANDAS, my companion
and my official driver for the five years in Turkey. He was
a small man, only 5'6" tall, and weighed about 150 lbs. He
wore his chauffeur's uniform as proudly as an Army General.
For many years he had been the chauffeur for the
Governor of the Izmir Province, and was now working for the
Ishan watched over us as a hen would watch over her
brood of young chicks. He helped us find an apartment, took
us to the markets, helped us get anything on the markets
that we might need, and tactfully made suggestions to me on
proper protocol, when we visited experiment station
directors, and governors of the various provinces. He knew
them all and his English saved the day for me.
I have known better drivers than Ishan Bey, he was so
short that he couldn't see over the top of the steering
wheel, he looked thru it. He never looked farther ahead
than 50 feet and he would scare me to death two or three
times every day. He would nearly hit an ox team and cart,
or a flock of sheep, before coming to a halt. I wanted to
get a cushion to get him higher in the seat, but it was an
insult to him that I would make such a suggestion.
For me to hold my position was important to him. I
rode in the back seat, and he always opened the door for me.
When we were on long trips, he would be comfortable if I
rode in front, but when in the city, I rode in the back
seat. We were a curiosity in some of the small villages,
and the youngsters would like to look the car over, but they
had better not touch it, Ishan would holler "YELLA" (get out
of here) and they would scatter like rabbits.
Ishan's ability to speak English, his knowledge of the
area, an ability to help a foreigner adapt to Turkish life,
made it possible for me to operate in the community with out
Naki. I can explain best with a few stories.
When our furniture arrived in Izmir by ship, it had to
clear customs. I was told by the consulate, what papers I
had to have, and how to go about getting it from the dock to
out apartment. Armed with the proper credentials I went to
the Dock, Ishan knew just where to go, and with his help, I
began my negotiation, with the customs officers, but nothing
moved the furniture. When night came I was still not able
to get the furniture released.
The next morning Ishan said to me, "If you will give me
ten lira I think I can get it. I gave him the lira, about
one dollar in U.S. currency. He suggested that I stay at
the apartment, while he went to the dock. In about an hour,
the truck load of furniture arrived.
The Government offices opened at 9:30 in the morning.
In the summer time, this seemed very late to me. I had been
working with a farmer at the experiment station, that went
by the name of ONE ARM AHMET. He had lost his arm in an
accident, and in this way his friends identified him from
another AHMET at the station. I persuaded Ishan Bey to take
me to the village where one-armed Ahmet lived. He spoke no
English and I very little Turkish, but we both talked horse
language. He was open to new ideas and I helped him with hi
planting. He had been hiring 25 women to make rows for him
to plant cotton. I suggested that he put another type of
blade on his plow and with his oxen he did more in two hour
than the women could do in a day. This method saved him
money and he was always glad to see me come.
Ishan would pick me up at the apartment at six o'clock
in the morning and we would go to Ahmet's village, and be
back by 9:00 o'clock when the offices opened.
One morning when Ishan stopped for me, I got in the
back seat of the car, but suddenly remembered that I didn't
have my camera. I asked him to wait a few minutes while I
went to the apartment to get it, but when I returned, he was
gone. I could only wait until he returned. It was more
than a hour before he knocked on the door, and with many
apologizes said, " I heard the door slam and thought you
were in the car: I thought you were being very quiet". He
missed me only when he reached the village.
Ishan died in 1982, just a few weeks before our visit
to Turkey. We did get to the village to see one-armed
Ahmet, but Ishan didn't take us.
WHAT IS AN ADVISOR?
What is an Advisor? This was a confusing term to me.
How do I get my ideas across to someone with out appearing
to be superior, or patronizing? My classification and job
description contained statements like this: "He must not
become easily discouraged,---must work patiently and
tenaciously toward bringing about the practical adoption of
ideas. He must have imagination, initiative and be a
If I were to propose what I thought had to be done, it
would mean a completely different approach to irrigation, in
Turkey. I didn't want to appear as the smart American that
had all the answers, but after spending 3 weeks in the
country, I was certain that the direction they were now
taking in preparing land for irrigation, was headed for
My observation during the time we had been drinking
tea and coffee and riding around the country, had taken me
back 40 years. It appeared to me that Turkey was trying
to modernize its agricultural practices by using equipment
that wasn't designed to fit the small farms in the area. I
saw many tractors that were sitting idle for lack of some
part that was worn out or broken. There were disc-plows that
were 16 feet long, that were used on wheat farms of 400 or
500 acres in Kansas and Texas. How could they ever be used
in an area where the average-sized farm was 10 to 20
hectars [sic].(20 to 50 acres)?
Turkey had received money to purchase tractors, much
of it from America. A lot of modern equipment was in Turkey,
but very little attempt had been made to repair and service
any of it, so much of it was sitting around and not being
used. I would ask questions as to why it was not being used,
and the answer usually was; "It is broken and there are no
After a little questioning as to what the policy had
been in buying these tractors, I found that they wanted to
try as many as possible in order to know which ones were
best for Turkey. It was total chaos, no tractor company
felt the need to set up service departments. I found over
50 makes and models, and most of them could not even use
the same tires, let along any other parts.
An example of poor planning can be illustrated with one
example, a 60 horsepower tractor with earth-moving equipment
used hydraulic lifts, and when the operator unhooked the
tractor from the carryall, he forgot to disconnect the
hydraulic hose. When he pulled away it tore the hose apart.
The only parts available were 5000 miles from Turkey, so
this machine sat in the corner for six months before
It now appeared to me that the aid we were giving
from the United States was geared to methods used in the
States, and it had little value on the small farms in
Western Turkey. To farm it the American way was out of
question, big tractors and equipment to fit were not
Every farmer had a team of horses or oxen, and was
skilled in handling small farm equipment. This equipment
could be bought at home and repaired in local shops. The
skill of the Turkish blacksmith and the people who made the
plows, cultivators and wagons were as good as any I have
worked with. I felt that Turkey could do a better job in
farming with improvement in the equipment they had, and
could make, than with the equipment that was being imported
from other countries. All imported equipment required oil
and gas, and Turkey had none, and it all required scarce
YOU CAN DO IT BETTER WITH WHAT YOU HAVE, AND CAN MAKE
THAN YOU CAN WITH IMPORTED EQUIPMENT. This became my theme
song for the next five years.
The idea of using animal power and homemade equipment
was not shared by many Turks in high places. They wanted to
do as we did in America, by using modern equipment. Many
machine manufacturers in America were of the same opinion,
so it took some time to convince the Governments that we
should give the small, homemade equipment a try. We could
make the equipment in the blacksmith shops, and use the
farmers' teams of horses or oxen. It appeared now that I was
going to have to call to mind, many of the things I had done
as a boy. We could be making the earth-moving equipment, we
could hitch four horses to a fresno, three would do for the
ditcher. How could I now be an advisor, if I directed
the entire operation? My Counterpart, Naki had no idea how
to harness a horse, or hold a plow in the ground.
What would I be now, THE BOSS, THE DICTATOR, or could
I NOW be called an Advisor?
CONSTRUCTION OF SMALL EQUIPMENT
There was little doubt in my mind by the time we had
visited the experiment stations and many of the farming
areas in the Ege Region, that improvement in irrigation
practices could be accomplished, only by getting the
Turkish farmer involved, and making equipment that he knew
how to use. We needed the local equipment dealers, and the
manufactures from the communities where we were working.
I was still confused as what the duties of an Advisor
should be. Naki had seen only irrigation equipment that was
made in the United States. Would I still be an Advisor if I
introduced an entirely new plan that no one in Turkey had
ever seen? I felt sure that the farmers would understand,
but very few of the Station Directors and Ministry personnel
had farm experience, or knew how to irrigate. I discouraged
anymore imports of American equipment. The farms were too
small and it was impractical to use the large equipment that
was available from the United States.
With assistance from the University of Nebraska group,
I obtained bulletins and drawings of equipment we used when
I was a boy on the farm. The Agricultural Engineering
Extension agent sent me all the material they had. They
cleaned out the Engineering Department files of animal drawn
equipment. The file included multiple hitches for farm
animals, small earth moving equipment such as fresno, plows,
ditchers and floats.
With the help of Jack Steele, Carl Forsburg, and Naki,
we were able to convince the Ministry of Agriculture in
Ankara that it was worth the cost of making some of this
equipment. The Ministry set up a budget that would cover
the cost of construction. The next four months was a very
busy time, we used local blacksmiths, and solicited the
help of several equipment companies that made farm
machinery. By March 15, 1956 we had enough equipment
available to put on demonstrations and take enough pictures
to prepare bulletins and other teaching material for
Teaching men to handle the equipment, training horses
and oxen for multiple hitches took a lot of time.
Translating English to Turkish, was enough to drive Naki and
me crazy. To find words in English to convey an idea in
Turkish is a story in itself.
The classroom and field demonstration material was
ready by May of 1956. For the next month we held classes in
the morning and worked in the field in the afternoon. We
used teams that were owned by the Experiment Station and
farmers that lived close by. One of my problems in handling
the teams for the demonstrations, was that I had to learn
Turkish commands, the horses didn't understand my English.
When we completed the training courses, each student was
supplied with enough equipment to start his own projects.
My concern was that the students, who had taken the
classes would have problems with the farmers, they had no
farm experience, and to show the farmers the new methods
of hitching their teams, might not be accepted. I had
gone as far as I could, the Turks would have to take it
Naki suggested to me that he had a friend who might be
able to do the training necessary to include the farmers.
In Bornova, a small village close to Izmir, there was a
viticulture research station. The field foreman was a man
by the name of Atif Atilla. He did not have a degree, and
was shunned when promotions were made. Atif not only spoke
English, he spoke farmer Turkish, had a farm of his own,
and the farmers had confidence in him, and best of all he
knew how to handle the teams and equipment. With
some negotiations between the two experiment station
directors, Atif was loaned to us for an indefinite period.
It was a pleasure to work with Atif, he taught me the
language I needed to drive the teams, he knew how to hold
a plow in the ground, put a harness on a horse, and he knew
how to read the instructions on the surveyors' stakes.
For four and a half years, Atif, Naki and I covered the
entire Ege Region where we set up equipment and held
training courses. We made trips to Southern Turkey to the
experiment station at Tarsus, we used small equipment to
terrace the hills for new tree planting, as well as building
new irrigation systems.
To get the equipment into the hands of the farmers
seemed very slow to a pushy American, but Naki and Atif
seemed to be pleased, and informed me often that we were
getting along very well for Turkey. I did learn to relax a
little and stop occasionally to drink coffee or chi (tea).
In September of 1956 Turkey hosted an irrigation
seminar for 7 middle east countries. Iran, Egypt, India,
Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon and Greece. The small equipment for
improving irrigation practices was the main attraction.
On May 1, 1960 Verna and I were transferred to Jordan.
I would have liked to stayed for another tour, because there
was much more to be accomplished with the small equipment,
but there was tension between, (TOPRAK SU), the Soil and
Water Conservation Division of the Ministry of Agriculture
and the experiment station directors. I suspected that Naki
was not telling me the full story. My theme song:
"You can do it better with what you have and can make, than
to import a lot of American machinery." did not set well
with the machinery companies in the United States. One of the
tractor companies made me a visit, and wanted to know what I
was doing as a government employee, interfering with private
I was continually pushing for better animal breeding
and care. The Ministry of Agriculture and some Americans
were trying to be more modern. I felt it was too big a step
for the small Turkish farmer, to buy equipment that had to
be imported, including oil and gas. I thought that the
fastest growth could come with improvement in what they
already could support.
Atif Atilla was transferred to TOPRAK SU in 1956. He
was always on the job, he knew what to do, and how to do
it, and could show others. He is responsible for making the
small equipment project a success. (See TURKEY REVISITED,
by John Kolars, Professor in the department of Near East
Studies at University of Michigan.) TURKEY 1982
Naki was an excellent teacher, he could hold the
attention of the class for an hour at a time. He would
have students at the blackboard with formulas on water flow
and calculating cubic meters of earth to be moved in land
leveling or ditching.
A field demonstration on water distribution.
The walking plow was a
very important piece
of equipment in the
construction of an
We usually called in
a local farmer to
help. It was hard to
to find some one at
the station who could
give us much help.
The ditcher with
three horses was the
easiest method to get
the ditch constructed.
The farmers found this
equipment easy to handle.
TRANSLATING ENGLISH TO TURKISH
To set spiles in the side of the ditch, remove the dirt at
the end of the furrow and place the spiles low enough so that
when all are set they will be at an elevation that will allow
water to flow evenly.
Spiles Discharge the Same Amount of Water Into all the Furrows.
It took many hours to prepare the bulletins in both
English and Turkish. The instructions and pictures needed
to be the same on each page. This was one of the easy
TRANSLATING ENGLISH TO TURKISH
Working in a foreign country changed much of my
thinking. Not until I was confronted with the language
differences did I realize what the problems can be in
transferring an idea to another person, who not only speaks
another language but has been a part of a different
culture. I could speak only English, to communicate with
the Turks I had to have someone who knew both, English and
Turkish. Naki was fluent in both, but some words in
English were not in the Turkish language. To explain to
Naki a new idea in English was not difficult, but when he
tried to express the idea in Turkish, it proved to be a
problem that often was not easily solved.
The Turkish language was not easy for me. Since most
of those I worked with knew English, there was little
incentive for me to learn Turkish. In 1923 Ataturk was
successful in getting the Turks to change from the Arabic
script to Latin letters, they continued to speak Turkish
but when they wrote they used the Latin letters. If a
foreigner learned the pronunciation it was possible to
read a paper in Turkish and be understood by the Turks. I
gave several speeches in Turkish. I would write my speech
in English and Naki would translate, and write it in Turkish.
I often got a good hand from the Turks, but I could only
guess that Naki had written in Turkish what I meant to say.
The Turks could have made arrangements to hang me and I would
have given my consent.
Naki and Ishan Bey were very tolerant with me when I
tried to express something in Turkish. I occasionally would
be embarrassed when I make a statement or gave an answer,
and find that it wasn't even related to the subject
being discussed. I got along quite well on subjects of
irrigation or farm equipment, but sometimes there would be a
conversation on a subject that didn't even give me a clue
as to what was being said. One day Naki and Ishan were
discussing something very disturbing to Naki. I asked Ishan
later what was upsetting Naki. His answer was, "Naki
wants to marry a girl that his mother does not approve of,
and in Turkey the mother's concent [sic] is important." My
knowledge of Turkish did not include matters of matrimony.
On another occasion, when we drove into a village we heard a
very loud discussion from a couple at the entrance of
the coffee house. I asked Naki what the fuss was about, and
he said, "The wife is insisting that her husband marry
another woman so she doesn't have to do all the work."
To make multiple hitches for several animals, required
words such as, singletree, double tree, and eveners. I
needed a clevis to attach the teams to the equipment, but
there seemed to be no word for this in Turkish, so I had to
draw the article the best I could, until Naki understood
what was needed, and he could then explain it to the
blacksmith who made the clevis.
The making of equipment was not difficult, after we
drew the plans and were able to translate them into Turkish
To get the equipment to operate in the field was a another
problem, only the farmers were able to handle the teams, an
they did not speak English, so I could not give them
instructions. We solved some of our problems by making
bulletins with pictures and instructions in Turkish.
Making the bulletins was a problem all its own, I
would write instructions under a picture in English, Naki
would translate and write in Turkish, and many times it
didn't fit the page. One example will illustrate what the
Before constructing a ditch, it was necessary to use
the plow. I had written MAKE TWO ROUNDS WITH THE PLOW.
This was simple language to any American farmer, but to the
Turkish farmer it meant nothing. When Naki wrote his
explanation, it was so long that it didn't fit the page.
I asked him what was wrong, he said that the Turkish farmer
didn't know what a "round" with the plow meant. He had
written. ONCE GO, ONCE COME,ONCE [sic] GO [sic] ONCE COME, which was
exactly what I meant. We did get the bulletins finished,
and in good time to use in our irrigation classes.
Another example of what translations can do, is best
illustrated in a technical paper that was prepared by an
Iraqi engineer for our irrigation seminar. The paper was
to be translated from Arabic to English, and the only
person we had available to do the translating was a school
teacher, who knew both English and Arabic, but had no
technical knowledge of irrigation engineering. The word
WATER GOAT appeared several times in the translation, and it
meant nothing in irrigation engineering. What the author
intended to say was,"HYDRAULIC [sic] RAM".
Why did all this have such an impact on me? As a boy I
accepted as the truth, what I read in the history books,
without questioning where it came from, or how many times i
had been translated. It now became clear to me that an
author might have intended to say something entirely
different than what I thought was said when I read what
had been written.
Is what was written in Greek, Aramaic, Hebrew, Arabic
2000 years ago and translated into English, present the
thought and ideas that were intended? I can no longer read
ancient history or even something written yesterday, without
asking myself, IS THAT REALLY WHAT THE AUTHOR MEANT TO SAY?
HOTELS IN TURKEY
To travel in Turkey to-day, on a well planned tour with
air conditioned busses and modern hotels, is to see ancient
history in style. To travel in the interior of Turkey in
the 1950s was an experience, spelled with a capital E.
Naki and I had to make many trips out of Izmir, to the
experiment stations at Aydin and Tarsus, and to farms in
these regions. We would often be gone for a week or more at
a time. Two large dams were under construction, one in the
Gedez valley and one in the Menderes. Water was being
supplied for irrigation to small villages in the interior.
We cooperated with the Soil and Water Conservation Agency
(Toprak Su), a division of the Ministry of Agriculture. We
would occasionally stay in private homes, and the hostess
could never seem to be satisfied that she had done enough
for us, we were treated like VIPs. Much of the time, we
stayed in OTEL PALAS, the village palace.
The Otel Palas usually was located in the center of the
village, and only a small sign on the door would indicate
that there were rooms for rent. The entrance looked the
same as other doors from the street. Our first trip from
Izmir, took us to a small village in Aydin Province. We
arrived early in the afternoon, and Ishan took our luggage
to the hotel, and made reservations for us. Naki and I went
to the Station and when we went to the hotel, I was not
prepared for what was in store for me.
There were only 6 or 7 street lights, all were so
covered with dust that Naki said, " We may have to light a
match to find the hotel." When we came to the door of the
hotel, I discovered that we were not the only guests. A camel
caravan had arrived from the mountain meadows, bringing
large bales of hay to the railroad station. After
unloading, the drivers parked their camels at the entrance
to the hotel. There were Camels lying all over the street.
One was right in front of the door. Naki gave it a kick, and
with a loud bellow, it leisurely unfolded its joints, got up
and moved over, allowing us enough room to get in the door.
The squeaky hinges on the door announced our arrival.
and, the hotel manager called out, "Hos Geldonis", (Welcome),
He pulled a light cord with a 40 watt light bulb, hanging
from the ceiling at the far end of the hall. He pointed to
a closed door and indicated that I could have that room.
I pushed the door open, there was no lock, and found another
cord and pulled it and got another dim light. This must be my
room, it contained my luggage. I was to learn later that
there were only two single rooms, and Naki and I were given
them as honored guests. The one other room had 8 beds and
they were occupied by the camel drivers.
I asked Naki where I could find the bath room, he pointed
down the hall where there was another dim light and above
the door was a dirty white sign, W.C. I slowly opened
the door into a small room that was about 4 feet by 5.
A small can of water was sitting on the floor in one corner.
In the center of the room was an odd looking depression in
the floor, perhaps two and one half feet square. Two
large flat foot-shaped slabs of marble, with a hole between
them, that went some where, there was no toilet paper, and
no wash basin, or towels.
The day had been a long one, and I was tired. I
undressed and tumbled into bed, a wooden frame with ropes
laced across the frame for springs. The cotton mattress was
hard, there were heavy woolen blankets, and the pillows were
stuffed with cotton that felt as if made of wood. I slept well
and wakened about 6 o'clock. The next morning a small
dark faced lad, about 12 years old, tapped on the door,
opened it a small crack, and said " Goodidin Effendem" and
with a smile, set a basin of warm water on the stand by the
bed. I shaved and dressed, went outside where Naki was
waiting. We went to a nearby coffee house and had our
breakfast, a glass of scalding hot milk, a half-loaf of
freshly baked bread, and a large bunch of sweet white grapes,
Ishan was waiting for us with the 1952 Ford station wagon.
We spent the next day with Toprak Su (The Soil and Water
Conservation division of the Ministry of Agriculture.)
Our next hotel was not a lot better than the first.
This time the bed was a little softer and the pillow not so
hard. I was tired and it didn't take me long to get into
bed. The bed seemed to be hot so I threw back the covers,
but that didn't cool me off very much, the bed was still
hot. By this time I knew that something was not right, so
I got up, and turned on the lights in time to see a lot of
bedbugs scurry to get out of the light.
The following week Verna and I went to Istanbul for a
vacation, and we stayed at the International Hotel, recently
built, It was very comfortable and well managed, modern
hotel, that attracted a great many tourists.
From Verna's diary, April 20, 1957. "We took over all
12 beds. The only hotel--dinner in a local restaurant,--no
bed bugs, kerosene lamps, TAP WATER from a 5-gallon petrol
can." I might add that the toilet was at the far end of the
If you require a first class hotel when you travel in
Turkey, you will miss a lot of wonderful sites in an ancient
land. It was our fortune to be able to travel with members
of the Faculty of the American Girls School. Verna usually
went with them on these trips to the interior of Turkey, and
I took time off, if possible, and went with them.
The Turkish Government permitted us to own a car while in
Turkey. If we made a trip with the school faculty, our car
and the school bus could accommodate as many as 14 people.
The Blakes made perfect guides, they knew the language well,
and were excellent historians.
The trip in April 1957 was to Demre, known in Byzantine
times as Myra, the home of St. Nicholas. Yes, good old
St. Nick, (Santa Claus ) to us. Santa Claus came from
Turkey, not the north pole, in case you are interested.
Most of our roads thru Aydin, Denizli and Isparta were
gravel. We made half the trip the first day to a little
town called Elmali (Apple in Turkish). Rooms were not easy
to find, there were 13 of us and we were assigned to three
different hotels. Verna, Ken and I in one and the Blakes
in one close by. Our hotel had no shades on the windows,
a small light bulb hung from a cord in the middle of the
ceiling, there was water and a toilet at the far end of the
Our night passed with out incident, but the Blakes were
awakened by a knock on the door in the middle of the night.
A male voice called out in Turkish. "Is there a basket under
your bed?" Jack looked under the bed and assured him that
there was a basket, and that he would hand it to him. The
visitor then informed Jack that perhaps he had better get it
himself, because his snakes were in it. A circus had been in
town the day before, the snake charmer had slept in that room
and left them under the bed.
The next day took us to the town of Finike. There
being no road west along the shore of the Mediterranean, we
had to take a small boat to Demre, but rough water was too
much for several of our people, and they had no interest in
the lunch we had brought with us.
We arrived at Santa Claus's home town. Let me quote
from the book. ANCIENT CIVILIZATIONS AND RUINS OF TURKEY, by
Ekrem Akukrgal. "The village of Demre contains the famous
church of St. Nicholas. It consists of a Byzantine
structure with three apses and a Basilica restored in the
11th century A.D.--A sarcophagus, believed to be the tomb of
St. Nicholas, is early Christian in date."
It was getting late when we left Demre. The wind had
gone down and the boat ride back to Finike was much
smoother. I quote from Verna's diary again "Back to Finike
over a calm, beautiful Mediterranean, no hotel rooms in
Finike, so we go on to the tiny village of Turencova--and
took over all 12 beds in a rooming house that might be
called a hotel."
The 12 beds were in three rooms; one room had three
beds, another two, the others beds were in one room. The
single girls took the room with the seven beds, the Blakes
and the Metzgers the other rooms. Things went well for us
in the two rooms, but the girls had problems to work out.
When Jack made the arrangements with the manager, he was not
told that there was another guest who had claim on one of the
beds in the room the girls were to use. The manager had
assured the other guest, when he gave up his bed, that he
could sleep in the closet of that same room.
I do not know what really took place, except that,
as the girls were getting ready for bed, in walked the
guest who calmly unrolled his blankets and prepared for
a good nights sleep in the closet. I could hear a lot
of excited voices, it seemed that every one was trying to
talk at once. Jack explained to the manager that it was
not part of the bargain for the other guest to sleep in the
same room, and we never found out where he slept.
The next day we visited the ancient Aspendos theater,
and the restored stadium at Perga that seated 27,000 people
2000 [sic] years ago.
We left for home the next morning in the rain, and
arrived in Izmir at 11.00 p.m.
Turkey had some first class hotels [sic]
The hotel at Izmir was one of them.
AMERIKAN KIZ KOLEJI
I must close the Turkey story with more about Verna's
experience with the AMERIKAN KIZ KOLEJI. My job always kept
me busy and for Verna to be able to find something she liked
to do was a special bonus. The school staff became our
family and the school our home.
The American Girls School, a prestigious school, of
such standing that Turkish parents would pull all the
strings they could to enroll their girls. There would be
500 applicants each year for 100 openings. They were
chosen by lot. In 1956 the school needed an English
teacher and it didn't take Linda Blake, the principal,
long to get Verna's teaching credentials approved by the
Verna's class of Turkish girls who would stand when she entered the class room.
TURKEY TO JORDAN
The Turkey assignment came to an end April 28, 1960.
Turkey had quickly become part of our lives, the Turkish
farmer was accepting the small equipment, and I felt that
I should stay longer; my job was not yet finished. My
two counterparts, Naki and Atif, were like brothers to me.
Both were pushing hard to get the idea accepted in Turkey,
that the farmer could do better with what he could make
than what a foreign country might supply. It became
obvious that high Turkish government officials thought
that Turkey needed to be more modern. Perhaps it was
time for me to move on.
The hardest part of leaving Izmir, was to leave the
fellowship of the Staff at the school where Verna taught.
The Makes and the young teachers became our family. We had
taken many trips into Greek, Roman, and Hittite history, we
were in Asia Minor. The Turks had treated us like royalty,
and we had many Turkish friends.
At 8:00 o'clock the morning of April 28, we left the
school with the Turkish ceremony of pouring water on the
front wheel of the car, indicating that we would be
returning. We spent one night with the Browns at Gazicuntab.
where the Mission supported a Hospital. The following day
we crossed into Syria. We stayed the first night in Aleppo
the next in Damancus [sic], and on May 1st, we crossed the boarder [sic]
We were a little apprehensive, we had enjoyed the
climate in Izmir, and on May 1, when we left Damascus, the
temperature was about 90 degrees F. It was extremely dry,
and women were in the fields pulling up clumps of barley, in
order to salvage a little grain. When we crossed the
border into Jordan, the temperature was over 100, and by the
time we arrived in Amman, we were convinced that we were
going to be living in a very hot country.
We reported to the American Embassy as soon as we
arrived, and the Ambassador arranged for several from the
Agricultural group to welcome us and take us to our living
quarters. Everybody assured us that this weather was
unusual, and that we seldom would experience anything like
this. Our quarters were nice and cool, and perhaps they were
right when they said that the weather was unusual. We lived
in Jordan 7 years and it was only 5 or 6 times that we ever
experienced such weather as the day we arrived. Amman,
Jordan has one of the finest climates; elevation of
4000 [sic] feet above sea level, and dry. It seldom froze in the
winter and it was unusual for it to reach 85 or 90 on the
hottest days in summer, and the summer nights were always
King Hussein, personally, kept in touch with American
personnel working on projects in Jordan. We were invited
occasionally to social functions as well as official
dedications. I didn't always attend if I could gracefully
decline. Security guards checked everything, and we could
wait for hours just for the King to arrive.
King Hussein piloted
his own helicopter.
In 1965 we completed
the first section of
the East Ghor Canal.
The King arrives for
the dedication, and
is met by the project
All the land east of the
Jordan River was purchased
by the Government. It was
not possible to design an
efficient water distribution
system with the original
ownership. The new farm
units were then distributed
to the original owners.
The King is handing the deed
to the first farmer to receive
the newly irrigated farm.
EAST GHOR CANAL
One of the most difficult tasks I have ever been
assigned, was to design an irrigation project in the metric
system. Any irrigation engineer, trained in America, is
handicapped when working in other countries. I don't know
why we in America have been so slow in adopting the metric
system, not only is it simpler than the British System, it
creates problems in world trade. Most countries use the
metric system [sic]
The countries that I have worked in, used the metric
system. Turkey, Jordan, Nepal, Colombia. To design an
irrigation project requires extensive surveys, this involves
calculations that require measurements in distance,
elevation, volume, rates of flow, pressure and temperature.
The Jordan Government, with the assistance of the
U.S. Marshal Plan, later USAID (U S Agency for International
Development) built an irrigation system in the Jordan
Valley, between the Dead Sea and the Sea of Galilee.
This was all east of the Jordan river and was known as
the EAST GHOR CANAL. From 1960 to 1967, I was assigned as
irrigation Advisor to the Jordanian Government on this
Most of the people of Jordan are Muslims. At the
death of the land owner, the property is divided equally
between the heirs, and this division was made with the idea
that the heirs would receive land of equal value, which
often meant that the good land was the low land at the
bottom of eroded hills, the poor land at the top.
I have seen farms 200 feet wide. and a quarter of a mile
long running up and down hill. A parcel of land of
this shape did not make an easy field to irrigate. The
Jordan Government bought all the land in the Jordan Valley
and when the project was completed, it was redistributed
into units that could be irrigated.
To best illustrate my confusion in surveying for these
projects, I will describe the process I had to follow just
to survey a simple irrigation ditch. My irrigation hand
books were those I had used in the United States, and the
design must be made in the metric system. Not only did we
have to design in the metric system: we were below sea level
and all bench marks would have minus signs. We were below
sea-level and we were using sea elevations as we do in the U.S.
This means that any decrease in elevation number would be a
higher point than a lower number. A reading of -200 meters
was below a reading of -199. All readings in the Jordan
valley were below sea level.
In order for me to make the necessary calculations, I
had to use my hand books. I had to convert the metric bench
mark readings to feet and inches. Instead of -200 meters I
would have -659' 5". A -199 meters would be - 656' 2".
This was before the days of hand calculators, I used a
slide rule and pencil and paper. If I wanted to irrigate
a 10-acre field and apply 1 acre-foot of water. I apply
1233.62 Cubic meters of water to 4.047 hectars [sic].
The metric system uses the decimal point and is easy to
calculate. One hundred centimeters is a meter. One hundred
meters, a kilometer. For us it takes 12 inches to make a
foot, 36 inches to make yard, 5280 feet in a mile or 146.66
Fortunately I did not make any serious mistakes in
design. I tried to run water up hill once or twice, because
I forgot to put the minus sign before my figures, The
Jordanian engineers would often have a good laugh. My
Jordanian counterparts, all of them young enough to be my sons,
had PhD's from American Universities and knew the metric
system. The only help I could give them came from my
practical experience of 30 years. These boys were all
Palestinian, and my experience with them was very rewarding
for me, they were well educated, and capable people.
I have never forgiven the U.S. government for its
position on the Arab-Israel issue, local politics have made
our foreign policy decisions, and some of the blood spilled in
the Middle East is on our hands.
THE VOLKSWAGON BUG
The 12 years of my life, from the age of 5 until the
age of 17, when I graduated from High School, was for me the
age of the saddle horse. The little Volkswagon Bug was the
equivalent of the saddle horse for Verna and me from 1955 to
1967, while we lived in Turkey and Jordan. We owned one
for 18 years after we returned from over seas. Verna and
her red VW Bug were inseparable. I wanted to trade it
in on a new car, but nothing doing, I had to trade the one
I was driving. She was willing to ride in the new car, but
to sell her Red VW Bug was out. It took an old man with a
big Buick, who ran a stop sigh, to put it out of business.
The front of the Bug looked like an accordion after he hit
The VW was made in Germany before World War II. It was
called the peoples wagon, "Folksvagon". After the war, the
stock could have been bought for almost nothing. Some
U.S. soldiers bought stock to help the factory get started
and made millions on their investment. I have seen the VW
Bug in at least a dozen countries.
In August of 1962, Verna and I purchased a green VW
Bug at the factory in Wolfsburg Germany. We ordered it when
we were in Jordan, and on our return trip to Jordan we
picked it up at the factory, in Wolfsburg, and drove thru
Germany, Italy, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Syria and Lebanon.
We have owned 6 VW Bugs. When we came to the US on home
leave we would pick up the Bug in New Jersey, and drive to
Colorado and Nebraska to see family and friends, and then sell
it when we returned to duty.
The VW Bug could go any place any other passenger car
could go, and many places where they couldn't. We drove
through the narrow winding streets of the old City of
Jerusalem, we could enter the St. Stephens gate which was
normally used for donkeys and horses. We climbed the hill
to the castle at Karak [sic] Jordan, we crossed the desert to
Palmyra in Syria. We navigated the streets of Damascus,
Paris and Beirut, and many other cities and villages in
the Middle East. We rented one in Marseille, France and
drove thru France to Paris.
One of the most scenic routes we have ever driven, was
along the Mediterranean coast in southern Turkey. A friend
of mine once said of this road, [sic]"It is so crooked and has so
many sharp turns that you can see your own headlights in your
rear view mirror." The sight of the blue sea and small
wooded islands is a sight I shall always remember.
To live long enough in a country and become acquainted
with the people, learn enough of the language to get around,
is truly a privilege. Many places in Jordan, Turkey, Syria,
and Lebanon, never see tourists, and we were able to drive to
some of the less traveled areas. We could find comfortable
places to stay in most of these countries. Hotels often
were poorly heated, and lighted, but we would take extra
light bulbs, and a small heater. The beds were some times
a little hard.
When we took a trip and stayed over night we would
pack the VW as you might pack a suit case. The little
Aladdin heater furnished heat. We could take utensils and
even cook our meals. I would pull the pin from the hinge
that held the top of the heater to the heating unit and we
could put it in the trunk, just behind the gas tank. We
always took one or two light bulbs and two soft pillows, and
a couple of extra blanket often came in handy.
I know of no passenger car that is being made today
that could negotiate the roads we traveled. High centers
were always with us if we followed an Ox Cart. An air
cooled motor that never over heated in the desert. After a
trip in the desert I could simply turn the water hose on the
motor and wash the dust off for the next trip. The good old
VW Bug still is traveling the roads in many countries in the
world. Even the US with its love for big cars, will
condescend to let it occupy a parking space.
The VW Bug was a useful automobile for us overseas.
Narrow streets, crooked and rough roads, were always with
"You may go now, the party is over." These few words
in English by a Syrian soldier were music to our ears. For
an hour, four Americans had been sitting in a little
Volkswagon Bug, waiting for some one to give the signal
that all was clear.
On Nov. 11, 1961, Verna and I, accompanied by the
Embassy nurse, LuAnn Ziebarth and Beverly Persse, the
secretary from the Embassy, left Amman, Jordan for a trip t
the old Syrian city of Palmyra, known in Bible times as
Tadmore. Tadmore was once a prosperous city on the trade
route from Persia to Damascus, when camels were used to
cross the desert.
The heavy rains had washed out some of the main
traveled highway and we were required to take the old road
to Homs. The old road took us thru the village of El Mnin,
a village of clean white-washed buildings with blue painted
frames around all the windows and doors.
It was obvious when we entered the village that some-
thing was very wrong, people from every part of the
village were running toward a large bus sitting in the
middle of the village. They all seemed to be carrying
shovels or sticks, and some were picking up rocks and
throwing them at a bus that was in the middle of the road.
We were four scared Americans. We had been in a
riot in Istanbul when we arrived in Turkey, and We knew
that we had no business being where we were. This was a
riot and we didn't know what we should do. The sticks and
rocks were breaking all the windows in the bus, and we were
within fifty feet of the bus, I tried to turn around, but
there were so many people around us that this was
We didn't have to wait long, a 200 Lb. well dressed
policeman pulled the car door open next to Verna and tried
to get in beside her. He didn't fit very well, but he hung
onto the door and hollered "Yella" in Arabic, I knew that
he meant get out of here, NOW. He was a scared policeman
and his lack of composure didn't help my state of mind.
With much hollering, he was able to get the people out
of our way, and we drove past the bus, and a house where
people were trying to get to, by crawling over the fence.
When we got past the crowd, he motioned for us to drive up
side road that was very steep and rocky.
On each side of the road were soldiers, nervously
fingering their rifles. The policeman slid out of the car
when he let go of the car door, and motioned us to drive
up a little further, where we were stopped by three
young soldiers with rifles. They seemed good natured and
smiled at us once in a while, but this did not help much,
we wanted to get our of there. They motioned us to stay
where we were.
After an hour or more, one of the young men came over
to the car and said, in good English, "The party is over
you may go now." With smiles and waving their hands, we made
our way back to the village. As we approached the bus with
broken windows, and dented sides, we saw a little old man
cleaning up the glass and debris. Not another person was in
sight. We could not read the papers or understand the radio,
so we never knew what happened in that little village.
It was a great relief to be on the road again, but our
troubles were not over. By 3:30 that afternoon we were able
to leave the old road and get back on the highway. The heavy
rains, however, had damaged the good roads as well and
we were driving in water up to the axle. A sudden jolt and a
noise that sounded like a gun brought us to a sudden stop.
The car seemed to be sitting down in the street. I got out to
take a look and could see that the right rear wheel was dragging
on the fender, we had broken a torsion bar, we could still move
if we went very slowly.
We were getting close to Homs, so we decided to continue
I the best we could and hope to get help. We found a garage,
the owner spoke some English, and with what Arabic I knew we
were able to communicate. The mechanic looked at the
J problem, and agreed with me as to what the trouble was. A
new part was required.
The mechanic took out his watch and let me know that
he might still get a call to Aleppo in time for them to send
a new part to him by morning. He took the torsion bar out,
got the serial number and put in a telephone call. They had
the part, and it would be in on the truck the next morning.
The following morning, while Verna and the girls did some
sightseeing around Homs, I went to the garage and waited.
By eight o'clock the truck arrived, and sure enough the
part was there. By 10:00 o'clock the mechanic crawled out
from under the car, and with a greasy grin, held up his hand
with the universal sign, thumb touching two fingers, and said
in English. "It be O. K.", and it was. I have talked
with other V.W. mechanics and all have said that it was an
I will never cease to be amazed at the speed and efficiency
of that mechanic. What was so unusual was that we were in
Syria, 3000 [sic] miles from the VW factory in Germany, and that
the mechanic could make one phone call, get the part and
with less than 2 hours work, have the car on the road again
at a cost of $25.00. I doubt that it could be done that
fast in Sonoma, California.
We completed our trip and the visit to the old ancient
town of Tadmore. The Palmyra story is one of an Oasis in
the desert that had entertained visitors from many lands, a
far away as China.
TADMORE, now known as Palmyra, was built by Solomon on
the trade route to the far east. From the Old Testament:
Second Chronicles, Chapter 8, verse 4. "And he built
Tadmore in the wilderness, and all store cities, and all
store cities which he built in Hamath."
Many camel caravans, loaded with spices, silks and
china passed thru this arch, the gateway to the old city
Where ever we went in Nepal, there were would be a
group of villagers ready to chase the livestock from the
landing strip, and welcome us as long time friends.
Always happpy [sic] people, the villagers seemed to be
enjoying life. Some remote places had never been reached
escept [sic] by walking or mule trains that brought in salt. Sore
had never seen a wheel until the airplane arrived.
In April 1966, Verna and I were making plans to take a
trip to Turkey. We had been living in Amman, Jordan for
six years, and anticipated that our tour might soon end.
We wanted to get back to Izmir and see some of our Turkish
friends before leaving the Middle East.
The Agri. Division of USAID received a request from
Nepal to make a study of their irrigation projects. I was
the only Irrigation Specialist on the team and was asked to
make the study. I felt honored to be selected, but I knew
from previous experience, that this type of assignment is a
lot of hard work. The country asking for the help, arranges
the schedule to make the best use of the specialist's time.
The days are usually long and hard, filled with field trips
Verna and I were disappointed that we had to cancel our
vacation, but I really wanted to take the assignment, and I
wanted Verna to go with me. She had gone with me on previous
assignments, but it could be a lonesome trip if she had to
spend days alone, while I was in the field. She wasn't so
certain that she wanted to make the trip, but we had friends
working in Nepal that we had known in Jordan, and I convinced
her that she would have enough company to keep her busy.
On April 14, 1966, we left Amman by air. The first stop
was Beirut, but we had to stay there for 2 days, because the
British Air Line flight to New Delhi was delayed in London by
a blizzard. When we did get to New Delhi, it was too late
for our flight to Katmandu, so we were delayed another day.
When we did arrive, it was as I had expected, the schedules
were well made, and I was taken to the field the next
morning. The mode of transportation to each project was
very different from that I normally used.
"That is Mt. Everest, so we are in the right place, I
have lost radio contact with Katmandu, but every thing looks
good, we will set down here." These words from the pilot
were not much comfort to me, I couldn't see anything that
looked like an airport, but he lowered the landing gear, and
circled a grass air strip several times, while a half dozen
small boys ran the cows and goats from the grassy strip.
The pilot set the plane down, facing into the wind, reversed
the propeller and gunned his motor. Our safety belts bit
into our shoulders, and we come to a quick stop within a few
hundred yards from where the landing gear first touched
We are flying in a Swedish plane, with a 300 horse
power motor. It carries the pilot and three passengers,
and is designed for short runways. They call it the (STOL),
Short Take Off and Landing. The mission had helicopters that
were used for some flights, but only for special jobs, and
rescue work. I only hoped that if we were stranded we could
be rescued, because it would take us 7 days to walk out, we
had taken less than an hour to fly in.
As the days became weeks, the trips to the far ends of
Nepal became easier on me, but I never did feel comfortable
with the method of transportation. Every takeoff and
landing gave me the feeling of WHAT IF. What if we didn't
hit the landing strip? Would they get the livestock off in
time? What if we couldn't get back in the air again? When
we got ready to leave, the pilot would taxi to the end of
the landing strip, set his brakes, speed the engine until
the plane shook as if it had a chill. He would suddenly
release the brakes, give the engine full throttle and we
would shoot out like a cannon ball. Some times we were on
top of a mountain, and as we came to the end of the runway,
with a thousand foot drop, the plane would drop a few hundred
feet, and then suddenly begin to climb, and we would soar
upward like a bird.
The areas we studied were as different as the people.
The natives were Tibetans in the north, where it was cold
and windy much of the time, and all were wearing heavy
clothing. The land was hilly and bare, much of the wood had
been cut for fuel and the hills were badly eroded. In the
South, the Teri, the weather was hot and humid, the land
was flat, and most of the people were from India. The
area was mosquito-ridden, and after 10 or 15 years of
spraying, a strain of mosquitoes had developed that was
resistant to any insecticides.
One of the most memorable trips, was from Katmandu to
the Teri, in the south. Verna went with me, and we rode in
a Jeep, over a road that had been built from New Delhi to
Katmandu, only a few years earlier. There were many sharp
turns down the mountain, the curves resembled tear drops,
you could not see the turn under the one you were on. We
were 8 hours going, and it was a 45 minute flight home in
I left Nepal with a feeling of sadness. How could this
country ever support the people? The trees and other
vegetation were gone, erosion had eaten away all the top soil
and washed it into rivers that were now flooding Bangladesh,
and northern India. With the continual increase in
population, the people are doomed to a life of misery. There
can never be anything but starvation, until the hills have
some type of erosion control.
JORDAN TO NEBRASKA
January, 1967, ended our third term assignment in Jordan,
but we did not leave until April 21st. My final report on
the East Ghor Canal project was due in February but I had
developed a blood clot in my leg and was hospitalized for
My next assignment was to be with Soil Conservation
Service at Salinas, California. State assignments were made
after overseas personnel had served out of the States for
at least 10 years. The assignment was approved by both the
Agency for International Development and the Soil Conservation
Service. I received my authorization on April 14th, and
expected to report for duty in Salinas in early June.
Before we left Washington I was handed a change of orders.
I was assigned to the Jordan Desk in Washington, D.C.. The
reason given! (I never did find out who did it), "This old
man is 60, and will be of little use to us again, overseas".
Our travel orders were for home leave to Denver, Colo.
We had purchased a VW Bug in New York and were going to
drive thru to California. Neither Verna nor I wanted to live
in Washington, D.C. and after much discussion, we decided
that now was the time to retire, so I took the remainder of
annual leave I had accumulated and sent Washington a notice
of intent to retire as of Sept. 30, 1967.
Where to retire became a topic of much discussion, we
had enjoyed our 10 years in Longmont. Dale and Peggy were
both living in California, and we liked the area around
Sonoma, but there were other things to consider.
Dad died in 1960 and Mumsie was living in her home
in Crawford, and was in failing health. Ernie was
still in the Navy, and Lawrence was very busy with his
veterinary practice in Boulder CO., I was free to help, so
the final decision was to retire in Scottsbluff.
We made numerous trips from Crawford to Scottsbluff.
By September we bought a house and enough furniture to move
into our own home. Because of the Arab-Israeli war in June
1967, our furniture didn't arrive until April of 1968.
We were back in familiar territory in Scottsbluff, we
had lived in Gering from 1940 to 1945. Verna's brother
Weston, owned MIDWEST FARM SERVICE, the company I had
started in 1942, so we saw them often. It was an
interesting experience for me to be back in Nebraska, and
have an opportunity to be close to The West Nebraska
Experiment Station. Several of my classmates from the
University of Nebraska were working there, and I was able to
participate in some of their functions. I renewed my
license with Lincoln National Life Insurance Company,
passed my Securities examinations and worked part time.
Verna became active again in the PEO Chapter where she
had been president in 1945, and again in 1970. I served on
the Board of Trustees of West Nebraska General Hospital from
1969-1976. We were active in the Methodist Church, we
belonged to a bridge club, with friends of ours in 1940-45.
We joined a discussion group that tackled many subjects
on religion, politics, and government, on which we had
a variety of opinions.
Mumsie had cataracts removed and lived with us for
several months. She returned to her home in Crawford, but
in 1970 had a stroke and moved into a retirement home in
Scottsbluff. She died in May of 1973, and her home was
purchased by one of her neighbors. We closed her bank
account that was opened in 1907.
Wagons and cars along Crawford's Second Street about the early 1920's. (photo courtesy of Harold Gibbons, Crawford).
The closing of Mumsie's bank account was closing a
chapter in history that dated back to the homestead days of
my parents. It was also closing a chapter in my life. As I
stood looking down the street, from the bank window, where
had stood with my father many years before, I could see the
rows of hitching racks, where the steaming, sweaty, horses
stood on a hot Saturday afternoon in 1914, and in the
1920's when they were replaced by the model T Ford with its
flapping side curtains. I can see the snow piled high in
the streets after a blizzard, when the only way to go any
place was with a saddle horse.
All of these pictures were taken from the same position.
"Tubby" Howe's drug store on the left. The new building
shown on the right, was the new post office, built in the
early 1930's, The [sic] bank was later moved to a building
down the street, next to the KENNEDY building, [sic]
Man Prepares for Walk
In Well-Traveled Shoes
By DIANE EICHER
For the Star-Herald
Shoes that have
walked on four continents will get some
additional mileage Sunday when Jim
Metzger joins the CROP Walk for
But Metzger isn't sure the shoes will
be able to finish the 14-mile course —
the soles are a bit tattered.
"Ill [sic] walk as far as the shoes will let
me," he said. Nearly 20 years old, the
tan-colored boots have been resoled
three times, and Metzger said if he'd
realized earlier that this walk was
approaching. he would have had them
resoled once again.
Before his retirement Metzger was an
irrigation advisor with the Agency for
International Development to the
Turkish and Jordanian governments,
and was involved in special assignments
which took him to Nepal, India and
Japan. The shoes covered a lot of
terrain in these countries during 1955-
1967, he said.
"THERE WERE a good many times I
walked from the Sea of Galilee to the
Dead Sea in these shoes," he said.
Last year Metzger went to Colombia,
South America to redesign irrigation
systems on two plantations there, as a
volunteer with the International
Executive Service Corps. Once again,
the shoes accompanied him.
Sunday the shoes will lead him in a
walk for an organization Metzger feels
is worthwhile — CROP, the community
hunger appeal of Church World Service.
He helped lay out some irrigation
systems provided by CROP monies, and
became acquainted with many of the
persons involved in CROP, he said.
THE CROP walk at Scottsbluff begins
at the First United Presbyterian Church
and follows a route that will lead
walkers out of the city on Highway 29,
over Mitchell Pass, past the Scotts Bluff
national monument, through Gering and
Terrytown and back to the starting
point. Metzger said he thinks walking on
concrete surfaces such as those
he'llencounter Sunday is more difficult
(at least on the shoes) than some of the
areas he covered while in the foreign
Metzger says he never planned to give
his shoes such a colorful history — "It
"They're comfortable and I did a lot
of walking in them," he commented,
and now the shoes have a special
And when this Sunday's walk is over, said
Metzger as he showed the worn shoe-
bottoms, he plans to have the boots
resoled, possibly in preparation for
some more walking adventures.
AFTER WALKING on four continents, Jim Metzger's shoes will
again get a workout Sunday when he dons them for the Scottsbluff-
Gering Walk for Hunger to raise money for CROP. Star-Herald
Photo by Tim Winters.
If your shoes could talk, what story would they tell?
I once heard an ambassador's wife say, after two hours at a
stand up cocktail party, "I have my sit down shoes and my
stand up dress." How many times have you wanted to kick off
your shoes and go bare foot?
I have no idea how many pairs of shoes I have had in my
life. My brothers always complained that as I out grew
my shoes, they always had to wear them; the result was they
never had new shoes. This could be true because, I can only
imagine what a task it was for my parents to keep three
growing boys in shoes. I had my Sunday shoes that I wore
once a week, went to church, and occasionally when I went
to some other dress-up affair. The shoes that I wore every
day to school, and to work on the farm, were the ones that
really took the beating.
I never liked to wear boots for riding, but regular
work shoes, with strings and hooks, would get caught in the
stirrup or ropes and were not safe when handling horses
or cattle. Low-top shoes were always getting dirt in
them, so for many years I wore a shoe that was a cross
between a riding boot and a low top shoe. It was easy to
get in and out of the saddle, and tight enough around the
ankle to keep the dirt out.
I had a pair of shoes that I wore thru heat and cold
for over 12 years. They were 10½ D. walking boots that
laced to the top and came just above my ankles. I bought
them from Sears in July of 1955. They were in the air
freight that accompanied us to Turkey, and I wore them ever
step I took in the field in Turkey, Jordan, Nepal, India,
Colombia SA. and Japan. They were not water proof, they have
been soaked with water, and have been covered with mud from
four continents. They have walked along the Jordan river
from the sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea.
As the years and kilometers passed, the shoes changed
in appearance. The soft brown leather became stiff and
cracked. The soles wore out and three times were replaced,
first with leather,the [sic] next two times, with a special
material that was used in the Middle East to repair
automobile tires. Each time a bit of length and width were
sacrificed to hold the new soles. By 1967 it was obvious
that I would have to say goodbye to the beloved shoes, but
when we came home I just put them on the shelf, and had no
reason to wear them.
In 1975 the churches in Scotsbluff [sic], Nebraska, organized a
14 mile walk for CROP, the community hunger appeal of Church
World Service. It seemed fitting and proper that the shoes
that had served so well all over the world, should be called
into service for this worthy project. On Sept. 21, I took
them down from the shelf and put them on, but it didn't feel
right. Twenty years had passed since the day I purchased the
shoes in 1955, I was 20 years older and the shoes were 20
years older, and although we had 12 years of close
companionship, we did not grow old together. We were no
longer compatible. I wore them for the first mile but they
were not the same, so I changed to another pair for the
remaining 13 miles.
I brought the shoes with me to California, but what do
I do with a pair of shoes I can no longer wear, and that
are so badly cracked that they are of no value to anyone?
I put them on the shelf for several years and then with a
short farewell, sent them to their final resting place, the
Sonoma City dump.
I E S C
Of all the organizations in the United States that
promote good will and cooperation between nations, it is the
INTERNATIONAL EXECUTIVE SERVICE CORPS. (IESC). The IESC was
organized more than 30 years ago. Its purpose was to make
available U. S. experienced personnel to foreign countries
that wanted help in a variety of fields, Agriculture,
Education, Medicine, Industry, Banking and others.
There was no salary for the U.S. personnel. The
company or client paid the costs of travel and per-deim
for the volunteer and spouse. Often the tour of duty was
for 30 or 60 days. The United States Government, thru the
Agency for International Development, occasionally would
cooperate with the program if it involved a project that
was of national interest. Rotary International coordinated
some of its projects with IESC. A recent news letter from
IESC, Sept 1991 reported over 12C volunteers in 39
Thru the encouragement of a friend, Harvey Brewbaker, I
placed an application with IESC. I received only an
acknowledgement from the New York office that they had
received the application and that it would be placed on
In November of 1974 I got my first call from New York.
"JIM: JIM: where are you?" Verna was calling from in the
house. "You have a telephone call from New York." I crawled
from under the house where I had been cleaning a drain, and
make a run for the telephone. I watch Verna cringe as I
cross the dining room floor with my muddy shoes. "Hello",
the answer comes in a strong authoritative voice.
"Mr. Metzger, this is Fred Woodworth, I am the recruiter for
the International Executive Service Corp. (IESC). We have
a client in Cali, Colombia, S.A. who is asking for an
Irrigation Specialist to design and help construct an
irrigation system on two plantations. If you are interested
give me a call tomorrow."
The request came as a surprise, Verna and I talked it
over and decided that it might be a great experience and so
we called Fred Woodworth and asked for more information. In a
few days we received a letter. The request was from
CITROS DEL VALLE LTD. a family-owned corporation that had
an orange and banana plantation.
Negotiations thru the main office seemed never to end.
My qualifications didn't seem to suit the client. The
client's response didn't answer the questions I was asking.
Later both the client and I were to have a good laugh over
the reasons for the delay. Senior Humberto Tenerio, the
client, owner of the plantation, had a bad experience with
personnel who had been working for USAID. He complained
that they just rode around in the car and made suggestions,
but wouldn't get out in the field.
I had some experience with projects of this type and
I was concerned that my contacts would be with some laborer,
or gang foreman and I wanted to be certain that the owner would
be out in the field with me. I had been in situations on
special assignments, where I had only laborers to go to the
field with me, I wanted the boss. I didn't want to run a
Differences were finally settled and Verna and I, with
all our shots and passports and visas, left home the last
week of Jan. 1975. We wanted to see more of South America
before reporting to our client in Cali, Colombia, and for
the next week, we went sight seeing in Equador [sic], Colombia,
THE MAN ON THE WHITE HORSE.
THE MAN ON THE WHITE HORSE
The day began at 4:00 a.m. Our flight from Scottsbluff
to Denver was on a small 10 passenger plane. Our luggage
was so bulky that I had to sit with some of it on my lap,
and it was a relief to get on a larger plane to Miami.
From Miami to Bogata [sic] was not much better than the
flight from Scottsbluff. The luggage was all checked in,
but our seat assignment placed us beside a man that weighed
at least 250 pounds, he spilled over into one of the seats
that we had been assigned. Augustine Sanchez, a congenial,
talkative man who spoke good English.
Augustin couldn't do enough for us, he got us thru
customs in a hurry, he seemed to know every officer in the
terminal. He insisted that we go to his home and meet his
family, the result was that we were late getting to our
hotel, and we lost our reservation, and we had to sleep on
cots in the office.
We wanted to do a little sight seeing before we went to
the assignment in Cali, so we left some of the luggage in
Bogata and made a trip to Quito, Ecuador. Quito is on the
equator so we had our pictures taken, holding hands, Verna
standing in the southern hemisphere and I, standing in the
We had reservations to Machu Picchu, but Verna became
ill with an amoeba bug and was not able to make the trip, so
she spent the next three days in bed in Cuzco, while I made
the trip to Machu Picchu.
Verna was very ill when we returned to Bogota [sic]. We
located a doctor at once but he didn't do her much good. I
wanted to call the client in Cali, and cancel our
appointment, but it was easier to fly the 180 miles to Cali
than it was to get back to the U.S. The IESC office in
Bogota [sic] called the client in Cali and informed him that we
would try to complete the assignment.
When we reached Cali, we were met by our client
Senor Humberto Tenoria, and his wife Lucia. Senor Humberto
was a graduate Engineer from Texas A & M, and spoke very
good English, and we were welcomed as if we were long lost
Humberto ask permission to take Verna to his doctor,
who was a specialist in tropical diseases, so Lucia took
her directly to the hospital in her car. The Doctor ran a
few tests and in three days she was out of the hospital,
weak and thin, but on the road to recovery.
Senor Humberto loaded the luggage in his pickup and took
me directly to the Continental Hotel, where we were to be
staying, for the month we were in Cali.
Senor Humberto looked very familiar, I had a sense of
having seen this man before. Shortly after I had the call
from IESC, Verna and I were watching a TV documentary, on
South America. Cali, Colombia, was one of the locations
where the filming was done, and one of the scenes was an
interview with a man who owned a large plantation. He was
mounted on a white horse and riding thru an orange grove.
I suddenly realized, that the man sitting beside me was
the man I had seen on the white horse, when I watched the
TV documentary. For 4 weeks I was to ride beside this man. I
was to have my own horse, and we would be carrying maps and
instruments, designing a new irrigation system for his
orange groves and rice fields.
Our conversation on the ride into Cali was to answer
many questions that both of us had been asking. Humberto had
been reluctant to accept my assistance. He had an unhappy
experience with some U.S Government personnel who had been
working with USAID. He said they would seldom get out in
the field, they would just ride around and talk. My
concern had been that I would have to work with a laborer or
some one who would not be able to understand what I was
trying to do. I was insisting on working with the owner or
a responsible person in the field.
Senor Huberto's first question to me was, "Can you ride a
horse?" My answer was, "I could ride a horse as early as I
could write my name." It was good that I could ride a horse,
because it was the only way to get to the irrigated fields.
The first three hours on the plantation was spent in the
saddle. I hadn't ridden a horse for 10 years, and when I
dismounted, I staggered like a drunken sailor.
One of the interesting aspects of the assignmet [sic], was
that we were housed in the Continental Hotel with 7 other
IESC volunteers. All were working on diffenent [sic] projects.
Dairy, Leather goods, House construction, clothing mfg.,
Grocery marketing, and ball point pen mfg. Each of us
had our own counterpart, and mine was THE MAN ON THE WHITE
NEBRASKA TO CALIFORNIA
In December of 1975, Verna and I made a trip to see Ken
and family in Cape Girardeau [sic] Missouri. Ken was teaching at
the University. We spent Christmas with them and then drove
west to Arizona to see my brother Ernie and family, in Mesa
and Verna's sister, Marvelle, in Sun City. It was now
January and when we were ready to return to Scottsbluff,
there was a blizzard in the Rocky Mountain Area, and we
were afraid to drive thru the mountains.
While we were living in Jordan, we became acquainted
with Romain and Bertha Swedenburg. Romain was minister at
the Community church in Beirut and we had often driven from
Amman Jordan to visit. They had returned to the US and
were now serving a church in Fresno California. We knew
that it would be some time before we could go home thru the
mountains, so we decided to visit the Swedenburgs.
The best route home from Fresno [sic] CA. was north on 99 and
then I-80. If we went that route we would be within a couple
hours from Sonoma. How could we come that close without
stopping to see Dale and Peggy?
Every time we were in Sonoma, we had looked at houses,
thinking that some day we would live here. Peggy suggested
that we take a look at the Mobile Homes at Pueblo Serena.
The day before we were to start for home, we went to Pueblo
Serena, the manger showed us the only two coaches that were
for sale. We had never lived in a mobile home, and I wasn't
interested. We made an appointment to return the next day,
but canceled it the next morning. As we drove thru Sonoma
on our way home, Verna said, "It will be at least another
year before we get back here, perhaps we should have looked
again." This comment sparked a lot of conversation for the
remainder of the day. When we reach Elko Nevada, we had
decided to make an offer on one of the coaches, so we made
phone call to the manager of the park.
We were home for only one day, and received a telephone
call, telling us that we had purchased the coach. Now we ha
to do something. We listed our house in Scottsbluff, and
sold it quickly. We called a mover and loaded everything on
the truck, and arrived in Sonoma, May 1, 1976. We were now
Peggy and Russ met us at 29 Mazatlan Drive, as we drove
up at exactly at 12:00 noon. They presented us with flowers
and a bottle of Sonoma wine. Our house hold goods arrived
a few hours before we did, and were all unloaded. We began
the unpacking process within an hour. Russ informed us that
if we would get our boxes unloaded he would be glad to get
them out of the way the next day.
Our community activities soon occupied our time.
We joined the Congregational Church, Verna served as
secretary to the Board of Trustees and I became Treasurer.
Verna soon made her contact with PEO and in 1979-1980 was
President. She became a member of AAUW, joined Women's
club, delivered meals on wheels, and became a member of the
Hospital Auxiliary. I joined the Chamber of Commerce and,
for 10 years worked on the Membership Committee. I passed
examinations for Life Insurance, Variable Annuities, and
Real Estate, joined Rotary and was a member of the board
of directors for 6 years. In 1978, received an appointment
from Sonoma County Supervisors on the Ground Weather Advisory
Committee, and later the Flood Control Advisory Committee. The
community gave its support to the Senior Service Center, and
we helped with that. My volunteer activities were soon
taking all my time, and the Insurance and Real Estate
licenses, became inactive.
We moved from our mobile home in Oct. 1991 to a two
bedroom apartment. We can get our meals and have other
help when needed. Sonoma has treated us like royalty.
We have lived here in Sonoma 18 years, longer than any
29 Mazatlan Drive. Fifteen years in one house, [sic] We
live less than a mile from our former home and occasionally
join our friends for special social events.
"Hey, what are you doing Kid: [sic]"? With a start I turned
and saw Old Joe standing in the door way. What was I doing
at 5 years of age, standing at Old Joe's bunk bed? I was
blowing on his harmonica, and it tasted like something I had
never tasted before. Old Joe chewed tobacco and his
harmonica got the benefit of the portion that didn't stick
to his mustache when he tried to hit the spittoon.
For many summers my Father hired a man that I knew as
as Old Joe. He must have been a drifter that would appear
at haying time when Dad needed more help in the hay field.
When the day's work was ended, we would sit out on the porch
in the cool of the evening and listen to Old Joe play his
harmonica. To me it sounded as if he had moved the organ
from the church. He played, Amazing Grace, or Onward
Christian Soldiers. He played music that I had never heard
before, Darling Nellie Gray, Down by the Old Mill Stream,
When Johnie comes Marching Home.
I wanted a Harmonica and knew that if Santa knew how
badly I wanted one, he would bring me one for Christmas, but
Dad beat Santa to it, he bought me one for my 6th birthday,
and on that day, my music career began. Dad could play a
harmonica and he taught me how to breath in and out so that
I got a note with each breath. I soon found out that with
enough huffing and puffing I could get a noise that sounded
as if it might be a tune.
We had a neighbor, Clint Jones, who often helped
during the haying season. Clint would bring his banjo with
him and then we really had music, Old Joe would play his
harmonica and Clint would accompany him with his banjo. I
wanted Clint's banjo, and he sold it to me for $5.00. I
paid him from my allowance which was fifty Cents a month.
Now I had a harmonica and a banjo. Old Joe and Clint were
soon gone, but night after night I would try to make
the Harmonica sound as if Old Joe was playing and at the
same try to get the right cord on the banjo.
Victory was mine on the evening of May 14, 1924. I made
my first appearance between acts of the High School Senior
play. I heard my first audience clap, stomp their feet and,
as I left the stage, call for more, but I had no more, I
could play only two pieces. The banjo and harmonica did well,
they followed me thru college. I later purchased a guitar
from Clint Jones and was able to use either the guitar or
banjo with the Harmonica.
College brought a new dimension to my experience as an
entertainer, I met a man who was to remain a friend for
life, Ray Magnuson from South Dakota. I saw Ray for the
first time on July 4, 1927, at Ardmore South Dakota. Ray
entertained a 4th of July crowd, when President Coolidge was
present. The President was using the Black Hills for his
summer White House.
When Ray and I were rooming together in 1927, at the
University of Nebraska, we paid some of our college
expenses with our Banjos, guitar and harmonica. Most of our
entertainment was in and around Lincoln, but we did go out of
town on special occasions. Some of our trips did not make-
us much money. It cost more to get to the town and back home
than we made [sic]
In Feb., 1928, we had an engagement at Stromsburg Nebr.
The radio had announced that there was a blizzard on the
way, but since it was still as far as Lusk, Wyoming, in the
morning, we thought that we could make the trip before the
storm would reach eastern Nebraska. The blizzard reached
Stromsburg about the same time we did and our audience
consisted of less than a dozen people. I think they felt
sorry for us, they gave us $5.00 and it took all of it
to pay our friend who had loaned us the car. We had to ask
him to wait a few days until we got enough money to fill the
Ray and I tried out for the Red Path Chautaqua [sic] circuit
and were offered a contract for the summer of 1928. Easter
vacation changed our plans, Verna and I were married and Ray
had an offer from the University of Nebraska for a summer
job, so the contract was never was signed.
For 40 years, the banjo, guitar and harmonica lay
quiet, I would occasionally play for a Christmas party, or
for a family gathering, Silent Night, or Happy Birthday was
all I seemed to remember.
In 1976 we came to Sonoma. Dan Ruggles, the music man
of Sonoma, some times pushed me to play for a program he was
sponsoring. Ray Magnuson was living in Santa Rosa, and
occasionally we would get together for old times sake, but
most of the time the harmonica, banjo and guitar were quiet.
I have had the fun of playing with a dance band and a blue
grass group, and I have played harmonica solos with the
pipe organ. It takes more practice than I seem to be
willing to put in.
Dan Ruggles, I need you to give me a boost. I want to
hear again the singing, the clapping of hands and stomping
of feet from the kids on the front row. I want to walk off
stage and hear them shout, [sic]"MORE MORE."
The countries of the world are fast becoming one. What
happens in China can be seen in the USA as it occurs. We
have so many common problems that we can no longer ignore
our neighbors. We have arrived at a point where we must sit
down together and solve problems of air and water pollution,
energy, food production, population growth and others. We
are living on a planet that has limited resources.
There are many organizations and businesses that are
now operating internationally, and it is time for all of us
to be aware of the problems that must be solved if we are to
save life on this planet.
Rotary International was organized in 1911, and is now
in over 170 countries, and has been active in many fields
such as, Education, Health, and Business. I have been
a member since October 1945, when I joined the Longmnt [sic]
Club, and in 1955, when we went overseas, they were willing
to keep me on as a regular member.
We were instructed when we left the United States, that
we were not to become involved in religious or political
activities in a foreign country. No one said that I
couldn't go to Rotary in a foreign land. In 1955 there were
about 4000 [sic] clubs in more than 50 countries, I knew that some
of these countries would have Rotary Clubs, and that I might
be able to attend, and I was pleased that I could retain my
Armed with the international directory of Rotary Clubs, I
looked for one at every stop we made. Our flight to Turkey
in Sept. 1955 had a rest stop in Copenhagen. We took a
ferry to Malmo, Sweden on Sept. 4th., where I attended my
first Rotary Club outside the United States.
By the time we returned to the United States in 1967, I
had attended 34 clubs in 24 countries, Sweden, Norway,
Germany, England, Belgium, Holland, France, Italy, Turkey,
Greece, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Kenya, India, Nepal, Japan,
Hong Kong, Canada, Austria, Jordan, Israel. In 1975 when
we went to Colombia, SA, I attended 2 more clubs. This
made a total of 36 clubs in 25 countries, on 4 continents,
and I left a Longmont banner at every club, and received
one in return. These banners will be found on the wall
of the Rotary meeting room in Longmont, Colorado.
The contact with Rotarians from these countries was an
experience I will always cherish. At every opportunity
possible, I would remove my bureaucratic hat and put on my
professional hat and attend Rotary. I often was able to
get personal opinions and some times very frank statements
and attitudes that other countries had of the United States
and of the American people.
Verna and I attended the Rotary International
Convention in Lucerne, Switzerland, in May of 1957. I helped
start the Izmir Turkey Club in 1960, this was the third club
to be formed in Turkey. I attended, again in Izmir in May
of 1982 when Verna and I were there on a visit.
If leaving my wife sitting in a car, or in a hotel room
for hours, while I hunted up a Rotary meeting, can be called
wife abuse, I am guilty. I would go out of my way, or
change my travel schedule, to make a meeting, and Verna
would sit and wait for me.
On one trip home on leave, we drove thru France. We
stopped one night in Fontainbleau [sic], the Rotary club was meeting
in the same hotel where we were staying. This was the first
meeting of the season and it was Ladies' night, so Verna
attended with me, and if it hadn't been for her knowledge
of French I would have had a difficult time making our
At the dinner there was much toasting and many
greetings. We were treated well but few could speak
English. There were many toasts and the wine bottles lined
up the full length of the table. The main meal was finally
served. Verna was tired and asked to be excused, and I stayed
for a while and presented the banner from the Longmont
Rotary club. When I left the meeting, I went back to our
room, I didn't want to disturb Verna, so I left the light
off. I took my tooth brush from my case and a tube, I thought
was tooth paste, but it turned out to be Mentholatum.
I could taste this tooth brush every time it was wet,
and I soon got a new one. Verna still accuses me of getting
too much wine.
I attended the Amman, Jordan, club many times during our
stay in Jordan. Every time I appeared at the meeting, the
Club President would say, "We have an American guest
today; the meeting will be conducted in English." I soon
became aware of the fact that the majority of the members
were refugees from Palestine, these were Doctors, Teachers
and Business men that had been in Palestine while under the
British, so they all spoke good English.
In 1959 I attended a Rotary meeting in Beirut, Lebanon.
I sat next to a banker who said to me, "If America does not
change its idea on this Israel-Arab problem, there will be a
lot of trouble." I now understand what he was saying.
We make our foreign policy decisions from local
pressure groups. The local pressures are too much for
our politicians, and we will pay for their mistakes for a
long time to come. Israel cannot exist with out our
support, and some day we will not be able to afford it.
and some day we will find that we can no longer continue our
Rotary has had a continuous growth since it was
founded in 1911 by Paul Harris, a Chicago business man,
who felt that it would be a good idea for business men
to meet on a regular basis to discuss their problems and
meet for good fellowship. Rotary started with 4 men. In 1914
there were 4000 [sic] clubs. In 1957, 9288 [sic] clubs with 439,000
members. In October of 1990 the were 25,163 clubs in 172
countries with a membership of 1,107,950.
There have been many international projects; Hospitals,
Schools, Clinics. The major project of 1989-90 was called
polio-plus, and with the cooperation of the World Health
Organization,the [sic] Agency For International Development, and
over 225,000 clubs, a program was launched to eradicate
polio in the world. To-date [sic] they have raised over
$500,000,000, and more than 530,000,000 children have
received the vaccinations.
Since the Berlin wall has come down, all eastern block
countries have started clubs again, including Russia.
Recently women have joined the clubs in the United States,
and a few other countries. Sonoma had its first woman
President in 1992, Grace Salt, a very active member
Dr. Atif Atilla, known as
Atif Bey, was the man that
knew how to use the small
equipment, and directed
field operations in the
4 1950's. Atif Bey, tells
the success story of small
equipment in 1982 to
TURKEY REVISTED, [sic]
Mustfa and his station
wagon. He was our guide
and protector, and made
our return trip to Turkey
in 1982 a memorable trip
for me and "MY LADY"
March 1, 1982, 6:30 a.m. Verna to Jim, "How would you
like to make a trip to Turkey? Half awake, I mumbled, "It
sounds O.K., but let me wake up before I answer [sic]" I have
been working on several projects, and one of them has a time
limit. We are having a membership drive for the Chamber of
Commerce, but that should be finished in a couple of weeks.
Our passports are in order and we do not need visas, so
perhaps we could go in two or three weeks.
Surprise trips have been proposed by Verna before and
have turned out to be some of our most interesting
experiences. The trip to Mesa Verde in 1951, with all the
family, the one to Africa in 1966 from Amman, Jordan, and the
one to Mexico with Russ and Peggy, the fastest decision
we ever made, in eight hours after the trip was proposed
at breakfast, we were on a flight to Mexico City. Perhaps
it is time for another surprise trip, this time to Turkey.
At 6:00 o'clock the morning of March 23rd, we were on
our way to Izmir, Turkey, where we lived for 5 years, from
1955 to 1960. I had served as Irrigation Advisor to the
Turkish Government, and Verna taught English in a Turkish
Girls school, under the Congregational Church Mission. These
five years had been a very rewarding experience for both of
us, and we were anxious to see Turkey again.
We took TWA Flight 754 from S.F.to [sic] Boston, where we
spent a few days with Jack and Linda Blake. Verna met two
of her former pupils she had taught while in Turkey, both
were teaching in Wellesley College, Sumru Erkut, a top
student had her PhD. and was flying to San Francisco
to present a paper at an astronomy conference.
When we were ready to leave Boston, the airport was
fogged in, our flight had to leave from N. Y., and it wasn't
until midnight that we could get a flight to New York, and
then to Frankfurt and Istanbul, so it took us nearly 24 hours
to get from Boston to Istanbul.
We were met in Istanbul by Mel Wittier, a friend from
previous days in Turkey. We spent two days in Istanbul with
both Turkish and American friends, and were able to see our
former landlady from Izmir, Nemica Aysoy, now retired and
living in Istanbul.
I had an international drivers license, and since we
had driven in Turkey before, we thought it would be our best
method of getting around, but renting a car proved to be
more difficult and expensive than I had thought. We soon
found that we could hire a driver and his car for much less.
I guess I can say that "we lucked out", because, I asked a
Turk just outside our hotel in Izmir, if he could direct us
to a travel agency, he spoke good English and asked us where
we would like to go. He told us he had lived in Western Turkey
all his life, that he was a retired Air Force officer and
occasionally escorted visitors to ancient sites. He said his
name was Mustafa, and that he had references if we wished to
contact them. The deal was sealed when we found that he was
a friend of Naki Uner, my Turkish counterpart in 1955 to 1960.
Mustafa made our trip to Turkey the experience we had
hoped for, we rode with him for 10 days, in his clean, well
maintained, station wagon. Mustafa took good care of us, he
would not let us go into a restaurant, rent a room or by
anything without his inspection and approval as to safety,
quality and price. He was more than a chauffeur, he was our
guardian and guide.
We had not been out of Izmir one day until Mustafa
asked me what he should call Verna. He asked if it was
all right for him to call her "MY LADY", I informed him
that it would be perfectly proper, and that I thought she
might like that, and from there on Verna was "MY LADY". He
would help her in and out of the car, and spared no effort
to help her climb around old ruins, and get to any place she
wanted to go.
For five years I had traveled the west coast of Turkey.
I thought I had seen all the ruins and old city sites.
Mustafa had spent several years working with EXREM AKURGAL,
an archeologist who spent his life studying Ancient
Civilizations and lost cities of Turkey. Verna and I were
taken to sites I had never heard of.
For three days we visited people and places around
Izmir. We stayed at the school where Verna taught, and she
was able to see two more of her students who were now
teaching in the school. I was able to see Naki Uner, the
Engineer that help design the small equipment, Atif Atilla,
the man who made it work, and my farmer friend, that Ishan
and I would visit early in the morning, "One-Arm Ahmet" [sic]
[At this point a reproduction of the following article is included in the original document: Kolars, John. "Turkey Revisted." The Christian Science Monitor, (Nov. 22, 1982): 23]
COMMUNICATIONS & TRANSPORTATION
April 15,1982, [sic] and Verna and I are on the last lap
of a three-week trip to Turkey, A three minute telephone
call to Sonoma, from Frankfurt Germany, informs our daughter
we will be leaving in one hour. The plane will leave at
10:30 a.m. Frankfort time, and arrive in San Francisco at
11:30 a.m. San Francisco time, the same day. We fly at an
elevation of 30,000 feet and a speed of 500 miles per hour,
and cross a time zone every hour. We will travel almost as
fast as the sun, by taking the flight close to the Arctic
Circle. The sun appears to stand still as it shines in the
window for the entire trip.
This would have been a miracle the day I helped my father
string new telephone wire into the ranch house in Western
Nebraska on a warm June day in 1916. We had a phone before
that date but the barbed wire on the top of the fence posts
made a very poor connection, and it was difficult for us to
talk to the neighbors that were on the same line. Our call
to the phone was two long and two short rings. Some times,
neighbors would carry on a three, or four-way conversation, a
common social occasion. With the new wire we could now
reach a central operator in Moyer's drug store in Crawford.
This made it possible to contact other party lines and make
long distance calls.
Our transportation in 1916 was as different from that of
1982 as was our communications. The morning we finished
stringing the new wire, Dad hitched Charley, a dappled gray,
high-spirited horse to the small buggy that was used for fast
travel, and go to the post office and pick up or weekly mail.
There was normally room for two adults in the one seat, but if
my brother who was then 8 years old, would sit close to me,
we took the space of one adult and Dad would let us ride
with him to go to the post office and pick up the weekly mail.
Will the next 80 years bring the change in communication
and transportation that the last 80 have brought? The dialed cal
from Frankfurt to Sonoma took no longer than it did to make
the two long rings and the two short ones. The clarity of voice
surpassed the old country line. The hour that it took to
cover the 5 miles to the post office with Old Charley and the
buggy was the same length as the hour it took us in flight to
cover the 500-mile time zone.
In 1994 we are talking about the super communication
highway, and space travel is already here.
THE CHANGING ORORS OF TIME
It is a hot day in June 1984, I have come from Sonoma to
attend my 60th Crawford High School reunion. I park in the
shade of cotton wood tree, at the north end of Main Street.
I suddenly realize this is the location of the Todd Livery Barn
where Dad use to leave Charley, when we boarded the train for
There is a time clock in my mind, it has no hands, the
face is blurred, and I cannot hear it ticking, but it has
recorded the passage of time. If I were to close my eyes
and walk down Main Street, my nose would tell me that this
is not 1914. On a hot June day in 1914 there was a long
hitching rack where 12 or more teams of horses were tied.
The flies swarm over the hot horse manure, the ground is wet
with urine. The sweaty horses were switching their tails and
stomping their feet to fight off the flies. There are horses
that are beginning to dry off, with long streaks of salt
from the drying sweat that is running down their legs. The
dry white streaks look like white cotton ribbons.
There is only one word that can describe the odor, and
that is PUNGENT. The dictionary describes it as " Producing
a sharp sensation of smell and taste, sharp and piercing to
Seventy years have passed, it is now 1984 and the
little town of Crawford has a population of 1200 [sic], the
same as in 1914. The street that was lined with hitching
racks is now hard surfaced and there is a large drain
that takes the surface runoff to White River which is
only a quarter of a mile away. The street is now clean,
there are no flies, there is only a little dust where once
was horse manure.
An 18 wheeler is parked where the hitching racks were,
that accommodated 15 teams of horses in 1914, but there
is a different odor. The 18 wheeler is loaded with diesel
fuel, and the idling motor is belching out smoke that is stifling,
oppressive and suffocating. The driver is down on his knees with a
wrench to tighten a valve that is leaking diesel fuel. This valve
must have been leaking before, because there is a small stream
of fuel that is running into the drain.
Strange isn't it, the pungent odor of the string of
horses, tied to the hitching rack, is no longer with us. The
horses are dead, their bodies have returned to dust. The
manure was scooped up and spread out on the land to make it
richer and more productive. What of the diesel fuel that ran
into the drain, and then into the river? Where does the
carbon monoxide go that is coming from the idling motor?
The pollution of the air and water in Crawford seems of
little significance, but I just left San Francisco yesterday
in a smog that has the same odor as the diesel truck on the
streets of Crawford. In San Francisco there was a warning
that all people with breathing problems should stay inside.
It may not be necessary to have a sense of smell to
live, but it may be that some of the things we are doing in
creating odors, is contributing to extinction of life on this
planet. Will we lose the ozone layer, poison our environment,
the air we breath, and the water we drink?
The hitching racks on Main Street in the early 1900s.
The dust and flies always found their way into the open
The Todd Livery Barn, where Dad would leave Charley
when we went to Uncle Henry's. Where teams could be left
for days and be certain they would be well cared for.
Salesmen would rent teams as we now rent cars. Dr. Richards
kept his horse and buggy here. He was present when my two
brothers and I came into this world. Those were really
"My how you have changed." If I heard it once I heard
it a dozen times. In fact, many had changed so much, they
didn't recognize ME.
The week of July 8 to 15 1991 was the week of family
reunion, for both Verna and me. On Monday the 8th we flew
from San Francisco to Denver, and rented a car to begin
our week of reunions. First my family and then Verna's.
To match time tables, for car, bus and plane can be
compared to solving a cross word puzzle, one misplaced
letter and you may have to start over. We had only one
possible miss and that occurred when we boarded United Air,
flight 520 for Denver. Just ahead of us, at the check in
counter, was a family from Pakistan. They were checking
their luggage thru to Lahore and we had to wait in line.
We were able to check in just as they opened the gate
Boulder, the first stop was to visit my brother
Lawrence. There were three boys in my family, and my other
brother, Ernest, from Mesa, Arizona, who was vacationing in
Vail [sic] Colo. arranged to be in Boulder at the right time.
What do three brothers, all old men in their eighties,
with different views on politics and religion, talk about?
First they exchange views on their most recent ailments.
They then reach agreement on how bad every thing is. They
talk about things they used to do and can no longer do.
They brag about the accomplishments of their grand children
and their great grand children. When the reunion is over
they wish each other well, get in their cars and drive off.
What do 77 people, ages 9 months to 90 years do when
they first meet at a family reunion? They shake hands and
say: "I am Marvelle's, I am Verna's, I am Weston's, "but that
refers only to the oldest generation present. There is
another and another, until you reach the great grandchildren.
July 12, 1991, was the first day of the PIELSTICK
FAMILY REUNION, at Black Forest Inn, Colorado Springs. They
arrived from all corners of the United States. Twelve
states are represented. NE. VI. WA. TX. CO. MI. FL. OR. MO.
KA. CA. ILL.
The first evening was devoted to introductions and
identification of family tribes. I, an In-law and I suspect
at times considered an Out-law, was attached to the oldest
and the retired generation. I believed it to be my right to
observe and evaluate those present, in order that I might
know after 63 years, just what I had become a part of.
As the life stories unfolded I began to take notice.
Ten were in the educational field, Four PhD's, Three
heads of departments in Universities, one a project
director in a Medical research Lab, three RNs, one of them
a head nurse in a hospital; two in the educational field,
were directors of private schools, one in Florida and the
other in Oregon; an Environmental Engineer for the city of
Denver, a CPA with a firm of accountants in Portland,
Oregon. There were Successful business men from Colorado,
Oregon, Texas and Nebraska. Most of the parents were active
in community projects, City Council, School Boards, Scouts,
Churches. Thirty percent of those now working were in some
form of Social Services. Among those retired were teachers
One evening was spent singing. The pianist was a
professor of music in a University. You name it, he played
The reunion came to an end after lunch on the third day.
How do you say good bye? With lots of tears and hugs, and
a vow to stay in touch.
The ethical values and principles of FRANK & NETTIE
PIELSTICK had made their mark on future generations. I
considered that I had done quite well when I married into
Verna's family [sic]
Married April, 8, 1897
One of the most difficult tasks I have undertaken, is
to put in words, my belief, or creed. The changes that have
taken place in my thinking during the years, has caused me
to wonder if mankind will ever know what really is a truth
that does not change with the passage of time.
I was born a Caucasian, of parents who were of the
Protestant faith. I was taught that there existed a supreme
being that we called GOD, and if I would be good and did
every thing I should, that I would go to heaven when I
died. I was led to believe that this is the REAL TRUTH and
that if I believed in the Bible and understood that it was
the word of God I would be saved, what ever that meant.
More than 87 years have passed since I was first
exposed to the realm in which I now live. I know that my
physical existence became possible thru the union of my
parents, I also have learned that in time my physical being
will no longer exist, and that I will disappear and become
part of the earth. What is the real me? Where did I come
from? Who am I? What is the purpose in my being here?
Where do I go from here?
Ever since mankind has been able to ask these questions
he has attempted to explain them in the vernacular of the
times. The civilizations of the world have done it thru
religious writings, The Torah, the Bible, and the Koran,
in the part of the world in which I have lived. Peoples in
other parts of the world have done it thru other religious
beliefs, Buddhism, Hinduism and others. From Genesis to the
creation myths of ancient tribes, mankind has been seeking
answers to the same questions.
I was 45 years of age before I was able to rid myself
of a feeling of guilt, if I questioned the authenticity of
the Bible as being the word of God. How this became the
word of God was never clear to me, and by the time I reached
the age of 60 I had lived 12 years with peoples of other
faiths. I had been in 28 countries on 4 continents and had
been around the world. People from all parts of the world
were trying to find answers to the same questions I had been
asking. Others seemed to think that their beliefs were the
REAL TRUTH and that it should not be questioned.
I now believe that mankind may never find the answer to
some of these questions. It seems that if we do find an
answer, it only creates other questions, whether we are
flying in space or splicing genes and creating new life.
Thru the years I have developed some ideas that seem to
work for me. I no longer feel that I have to accept
everything written in a book, as the truth. A book written
by an Israeli on the 1967 war in Palestine would tell a
different story that one written by an Arab.
I believe that there is a super intelligence that
exists. It is something that our minds can not comprehend.
I believe that our minds are a part of this intelligence.
I believe that we can accomplish much thru thought. I
believe that thoughts are things. I believe that we can
actually create conditions and things thru the mind.
Christianity has taught that by communicating with this
higher power that we call GOD, and having faith in this
power, that we can create the situation we ask for.
I believe that a positive attitude creates a good life
and that a negative attitude will create the opposite. I
believe that thru thought control we can have better health
and improve relationships with others.
Life thru the years has dealt me many good hands, I have
not always played them well but by trying to follow rules of
positive thinking, everything seemed to work out very
well. The last hand dealt me, and at age 87 it could be the
last, is a NO TRUMP hand with many Kings and Queens.
For 66 years I have lived with a Lady I find
interesting and pleasant to be with. We don't talk much some
times but maybe that isn't important. She usually knows what
I am thinking and I can usually tell what she is thinking.
We have a family of 4 children, 8 grandchildren and 7 great
grandchildren. All are in good health and our relationship
could not be better.
I often have the feeling that I have traveled this
route before; perhaps I will travel it again. Reincarnation
is not a new idea; in fact it is a very old one. Ancient
writings, including the Bible, make reference to this
possibility. Can it be that since I haven't found an answer
to my questions this time around that I might return and try
IF YOU KNOW WHAT YOU WANT YOU CAN HAVE IT.
If you KNOW WHAT YOU WANT YOU CAN HAVE IT; Can this
really be true? Can I have what I want by merely wanting
In 1952 my daughter, Peggy came home from college and
placed a book on my desk and said: "Dad, read this with an
open mind." The book; YOU WILL SURVIVE AFTER DEATH,: by
Sherwood Eddy. This book started me on a search that
changed my life.
I believe that the conscious mind can direct the
subconscious mind, and that the subconscious mind will do
what it is directed to do.
Three rules are set forth in a small booklet, entitled,
IT WORKS, by RHJ.
1. Write down the things you want most.
Read the list: morning, noon, and night.
2. Think of what you want as often as possible,
and BELIEVE that you have it.
3. Do not talk to any one about your plan, except
The GREAT POWER within you, which will unfold
to your objective mind the method of
Can it be this simple? If I tell my subconscious mind
to do something for me, does it have the power to do it? In
the next few years I was to have several experiences that
convinced me that it was possible.
In the spring of 1954, Verna and I attended a reception
at the University of Denver for the opening of a new
dormitory, where Peggy was to be living during her senior year.
The father of one of her roommates had just returned from an
assignment in Japan with McArthur's occupation forces. I
had an opportunity to visit with him about his experiences,
and was impressed and envious. Why couldn't I have an
experience like that?
For days this was on my mind. I knew that this was an
experience I would like to have, but how can I get it? I
had just finished reading the booklet: IT WORKS, and I
decided that this is the time to try it. What do 1 have to
do to start the process?
I knew from previous experience with the Government,
that to apply for federal employment, required a completed
form 57, so I went to the Denver post office for the form,
filled it out and mailed it to the Foreign Operations
Administration. (FDA) in Washington D.C. 18th of June 1954.
In a few days I received a letter from FOA, informing me
that they had no positions open in my field, but they would
place my application on file.
For months I direct my thoughts to what I wanted.
Nothing seemed to happen, but the little book said,
"You don't have to be concerned as to HOW, it is going to
happen, just BELIEVE that it will."
On March 2, 1955, We attended a luncheon in Denver.
I had been appointed Lay Leader of the Methodist Church
in Northern Colorado, my assistant was to be Howard Finch,
Director of the Agricultural Extension Service, in Colorado
at Fort Collins, he had just returned from a two year tour
in Turkey. He ask us if we would consider taking a two year
assignment in Turkey. Our answer was yes.
On March 4th. We received a copy of a letter that
Howard Finch had sent to FOA mission in Turkey.
March 23rd , A letter from the FOA mission in
Turkey. "I understand that you may be interested in an
assignment in Turkey. Please contact the Agricultural
Division of FOA in Washington, D.C., for further
April 2, Letter from the Chief of Food and
Agricultural Division FOA in Washington D.O. with a Form 57
and a request to complete the form as soon as possible.
I wired Washington the same day, informing them that they
had Form 57 on file, dated June 18, 1954.
May 18. Letter from Office of Personnel FOA; "We need
additional information. We can not meet your salary
request, but your quarters allowance for you and your family
will be $3,000.00. We hope to hear from you soon."
May 25th. Received a letter with job classification
and description of duties. How can this be? This is just
what I have been doing for the last 20 years.
June 7, Received notice confirming assignment as
Irrigation Advisor to the Turkish Government. "Can you report
by the first week in July?"
I asked for 60 days to get affairs in order, and on July 20
wired Washington that we could be ready by Aug. 15th. The
rest is history, we went for two years but when we came home
to stay it had been 12 years.
Did the plan WORK, or did it just happen? I will never
IT HAS WORKED; WHY NOT TRY AGAIN?
When we left Longont [sic] to go to Turkey, we had a
chance to sell the farm. We had lost money on the
Safflower project and this looked like an opportunity to
pay some of our debts before we left the United States.
For several years we had been partners with Herman
and his family. We owned the farm, and Herman farmed it.
It was a 50-50 arrangement, all farm equipment and
livestock were owned jointly. If we sold the farm, we
would need to dissolve the partnership, and this would leave
Herman without the means to rent another farm.
Verna and I spent some agonizing moments in trying to
come to a decision. The value of the equipment was about
$25,000, and that seemed like a lot of money to us. We
finally decided that we could get along with out selling,
and that we would take a $12,500 note for our share, [sic]
When we were on home leave I would renew the note with
Herman. In 1962, I went again to renew the note, but it was
obvious by this time that he might never be able to pay it.
Could my subconscious mind find the answer? I
thought it had worked once, why not try again. When we
returned to Jordan I wrote on a small piece of paper,
THIS MATTER WILL BE SETTLED TO THE SATISFACTION OF EVERYONE,
and placed it inside the top drawer of my desk so that I
would see it every time I opened the drawer.
In 1964 we were home again, I did not want to see
Herman, I was sure he couldn't pay the note and so I waited
until the last day before returning to Jordan. When I went
to see him, his first statement was: "If you can give me
$2000, I can settle the note". Give him $2000! He already
owed us $12,500 and that was with out the 6% interest for
7 years. Why should I give him any more money?
This is the story: Herman's father died and left him
a contract of sale, on a small farm adjoining the city of
Fort Collins, Colo. He had not been able to pay taxes and
other expenses and was about to lose the property. Two
Thousand dollars would place him in position to turn the
contract over to us. It didn't take me long to get to the
bank and get the $2000.00, but since our plane to Jordan was
leaving in 24 hours, I turned it over to our attorney.
In 6 years we received the $12.500 plus all interest.
THE MATTER WAS SETTLED TO THE SATISFACTION OF EVERYONE.
Does it work? I can't tell you for sure, but I believe it
IT WORKED AGAIN
It had been a long time since I felt that I wanted
something that I didn't already have, but when we moved into
West Lake on Nov. 1, 1991 we still owned the home at
29 Mazatlan Drive, I really wanted to sell it and get it
off my mind. I decided to follow as closely as possible the
instructions that were given in the little book: IT WORKS.
After we had prepared the coach for sale, with new
carpet, painted walls, clean floors, etc. Peggy listed it
for sale. I began at once to follow the rules as closely as
I could. I knew what I wanted, so it was not hard to be
specific. I WANTED TO SELL THE COACH. and I wanted some one
to buy it who could enjoy living there as much as we had.
In January people were looking; a couple living in
Temelec put in a bid, but it was contingent upon the sale of
their home. We offered to take a mortgage on their property
and wait until their property sold. They were willing to
sign a note but would not let us take a mortgage on their
property. They came back to look at the place several times
but nothing became of it.
In April, Max Beer from Los Angeles put down a payment
of $1,000.00. A price of $46,250 was agreed upon, and papers
were signed on May 5th., Max was to move in on June 1st., but
on May 28th he had a heart attack, and the Doctor told him
not to move at this time. Mail was already arriving, and
for several weeks we were returning his mail. Max asked
if $500 would be satisfactory to with draw his offer, and
we accepted and listed the property again.
On Aug. 18th, Moon Valley was holding open house for
coaches that they had for sale, and we put out a sign at our
coach, hoping to attract buyers. Gordon had made a contact
with a friend of his, suggesting that it would be a good
place for him to live. The result: Bob and Lois Best bought
29 Mazatlan Drive and moved in September 1, 1992. They have
been well pleased with their new home, and we have become
I will never know, whether the property sold because I
consciously made an effort to instruct my subconscious
mind, or perhaps it would have sold without effort on my
part. The interesting point is that there were over 20
coaches for sale in Moon Valley, and 7 in Pueblo Serena.
It is now three years later, and there are many coaches
that were for sale at that time and are still unsold.
I believe IT WORKS, but perhaps I will never know.
THOUGHTS BEFORE RETIREMENT
My first thoughts concerning my own retirement, dates
back to the day my parents left the ranch, where they had
lived for over 45 years. Dad and Mumsie came to Western
Nebraska in 1907, they came expecting to take a homestead
but instead, bought what was called a relinquishment, that
is they bought the rights of another homesteader. There
were several advantages, a good well, a frame house and
two barns. A family by the name of Wolff, lived on the
place, and years later I met and became a friend of one of
the sons, Fred Wolff, who was born in the log house that was
on the place.
My folks made the decision to leave the ranch in 1943,
when they moved to a home in Crawford. Dad was 75 years of
age when he retired, because he could no longer do the heavy
work, but he remained active until his death at the age of 88.
Several of Dad's friends had left their farms and
ranches, and moved to town, but died within a few years.
I have heard him say of them, "They died because they
didn't have anything to keep them busy." This statement
made me think, he was right, most of them didn't have
anything to do, they had no other interests, other than
their work on the ranch, and that was over.
Dad kept himself busy with a small garden for a while,
but boredom soon set in and it wasn't long until he got in
his car, and drove out in the country to call on some of his
neighbors. Occasionally one of the neighbors would ask him to
bring something from town, such as salt or some feed for their
cattle. It wasn't long before he had the idea that perhaps
he might make a little money and still visit with his friends
He was soon selling livestock feed, salt and mineral and
equipment that could be used in livestock care.
At the age of 86 the insurance company would no longer
renew his auto insurance, and he had to quit driving, it
nearly broke his heart. I remember my mother saying that the
insurance agent asked her to tell Dad that he would not be
able to drive any more, and she politely replied, "You tell
For several years, Dad was top salesman for the company he
represented. He was proud of the honors that he received,
but when he lost his drivers license, he lost his spirit.
I knew then, that when I reached the age of retirement, I
must have something to keep me busy.
From 1934 to 1944, I worked for USDA, I had been an Engineer
and Superintendent of a CCO camp, I had been manager of water
development projects, but the red tape and inability of the
Government to change its ways, was more than I could take, so
I resigned and started my own farm management service, and
so MIDWEST FARM SERVICES was born. The business soon involved
real estate and insurance, and opened up a whole new field of
learning for me, knowledge that was going to be of value in
In 1955 we accepted the assignment with the State
Department, and spent 12 years overseas. In 1967 we
returned to the states. Verna's brother Wes, now owned
MIDWEST FARM SERVICE. I renewed my licenses for life
insurance, and variable annuities. My interest in the Estate
Planning field, in business organizations and the stock
market became a part time business.
We came to Sonoma May 1, 1976. I took all California
examinations, for insurance and real estate licenses, but
again this was a part time business. The fact that I was
carrying a rate book and seeing people, kept me from being
bored and added to our retirement income.
I had volunteer activities that eventually took all
of my time. For 10 years I worked with the Sonoma Chamber of
Commerce. I was active on three boards, the Congregational
Church, Vintage House,, [sic] and on Monday afternoon for 4 hours,
I held office hours at Vintage House to help people who
wanted information on Living Trusts, wills, and investments.
In 1982 I bought a computer and set up my own stock
portfolio, and kept up with the stock market thru Dow Jones
Retrieval Service. I kept books on the computer for the
Church, and learned to operate a word processor. The word
processor opened up a new world to me, and has given me the
tools to write a series of short stories of my life.
I am now 87, I have retired about 3 times. I find
plenty to keep me busy with my writing, the stock market
and volunteer work.
Solution to flooding
proposed by engineer
Metzger appointed to Zone 3A board
By ARI SOGLIN
Serves on flood committee
I-T Staff Writer
Jim Metzger took his first splash in the field of flood control 52 years ago.
That was when, fresh out of the University of Nebraska, he became an engineer with the U.S. Forest Service in the Cornhusker state.
He later worked in Colorado, Turkey, Amman Jordan, Japan, India and south America.
While Metzger, 79, now officially is retired in Sonoma, he has not turned away from flooding. And his interest rose with the rain water last winter.
"We need to start flood control in the hills," he said at a Sonoma City Council meeting a month after the flooding. "We should delay the flow, rather than hasten it."
A SONOMA VALLEY vineyard uses the flood control method Jim Metzger espouses. forming on the con-
tour so water flows downhill more slowly. Metzger says more Volley farming should be done this way.
Jim and Verna Metzger honored by Vintage House
In honor of their recent 60th
wedding anniversary last
month, the family and friends
of Jim and Verna Metzger have
made a $10,000 donation to the
Vintage House Building Fund.
The generous gift brings with
it the reward of having one of
the new rooms at the proposed
new senior center named in
honor of the Metzgers, with a
bronze plaque designating it as
the "Metzger Room."
The Vintage House Building
Fund Campaign Board and
board of directors of Vintage
House voted several months
ago to offer the naming of
rooms to recognize gifts of
$10,000 or more.
Such recognition has already
been bestowed on J. R. (Bob)
Stone, Myrtle Bowie and Helen
THERE ARE a limited num-
ber of rooms remaining which
may still be named in honor of
someone under this special gift
Peggy Baer, daughter of the
Metzgers, made the $10,000 do-
nation announcement at the
Wednesday morning meeting of
the Vintage House Building
Fund Board, presenting a cer-
tificate of recognition to her fa-
ther before the applauding
Jim and Verna Metzger
Recently celebrated 60th wedding anniversary
Jim Metzger Succeeds Nell Lane
Next Honorary Alcalde is selected
James D. Metzger, a resident and community leader here since 1976, was selected by the City Council as Sonoma's Honorary Alcalde for 1987 during an executive session at the Oct. 14 council meeting.
Mayor Jerold Tuller said the vote for Metzger was unanimous.
"Jim is an outstanding addition to the impressive list of dedicated Sonomans who have been honored as Alcaldes for exemplary community service," the mayor said.
To receive the ALCALDE nomination, from the City of Sonoma, was the highest honor I have ever received. Sonoma has more dedicated volunteers than any place Verna and I have ever lived, and many have given years of service. A very close friend and confidante, Florence Evans, asked to submit my name for consideration. I am convinced, had she not done this, I would not have received the nomination. My relationship with the community has continued to be enhanced by this appointment, and I will always be grateful to Florence Evans.
Metzger new Sonoma Alcalde
By ARI SOGLIN
I-T Staff Writer
Crawford, Neb. has changed little since Jim Metzger grew up on a ranch there.
The 79-year-old Sonoman says about 1,200 people lived in the town after the turn of the century. And the population now is about the same.
Metzger, too, has had constants in his life, such as his work in agricultural engineering and his 58-year marriage to Verna.
But unlike Crawford, Neb., Jim Metzger has come and gone a long way.
A Midwesterner who grew up helping his German immigrant father on his horse ranch, Metzger today is being recognized at a luncheon as the city of Sonoma's Honorary Alcalde for 1987.
Between the horse ranch and Sonoma honor, Metzger has defied the stereotype of monotony that often is attached to the engineering field.
His work has taken him to Turkey and Amman, Jordan for extended tenures, and he has had special assignments in India, Nepal, Japan and Colombia.
But before studying agriculture at the University of Nebraska, Metzger took a shot at ranching. Jim and Verna rented a 2,000-acre Nebraska ranch and purchased cattle and equipment Oct. 1, 1929.
THE STOCK market crashed 28 days later, the Great Depression was on and the Metzgers lost their investment.
"I was lucky I went broke in three years," Metzger says. "Some of my friends with more money lasted longer but still went broke."
After receiving an agriculture degree in 1934, he spent the next 20 years doing irrigation and flood control engineering in Nebraska and Colorado.
He began what has become a voluminous passport in 1955 when the U.S. government offered him a position as irrigation advisor in Turkey.
Despite the cultural differences, Metzger felt at home in the Middle East.
"It was amazing how much of rural Turkey fit my background," he says, referring a childhood that was homework by kerosene light, a wood stove for heating and riding a horse five miles to school.
"I got along better in rural Turkey than some of my Turkish counterparts who grew up in cities," he says.
THE RURAL atmosphere
Turn to A9
Continued from A1
of Sonoma was what attracted him when he first visited friends and family here in 1957.
"I love the small-town atmosphere," he said. "You know the people you're working with. I don't know of any better place to live."
After Turkey, Metzger's next assignment was in Amman Jordan from 1960 to 1967.
While not working, Metzger attended the Rotary International Club there, which acknowledged his presence by conducting its meetings in English. His travels took him to 35 Rotary clubs in 28 countries, he said.
A Rotarian for 41 years, retirement in Sonoma in 1976 has given Metzger the opportunity to become involved with a myriad of additional groups: the Sonoma Valley Chamber of Commerce, Vintage House Senior Center, Sonoma Congregational Church, Home Care Connections and Branch 41 SIRS.
He also was appointed in 1978 by then-1st District county Supervisor Brian Kahn to serve on a Ground Water Advisory Committee, and this year Supervisor Janet Nicholas appointed him to the Sonoma Valley Zone 3A Flood Control Advisory Committee.
ALONG WITH those activities, Metzger keeps busy with four children, eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
"I'm a workaholic," Metzger says. "I can't sit around the home; I have to have something to do."
As Sonoma's 12th Honorary Alcalde, he'll have even more to do, representing the city with the alcalde cane during various ceremonies and celebrations.
Traditionally used as the staff of office in the early days of California, the cane was used to settle property line disputes.
The post of alcalde has its roots in the Spanish colonial tradition, and historically the alcalde served as the final authority in the pueblo.
Once California achieved its statehood, the position was dissolved. Sonoma was without an alcalde until the City Council revived the post in 1976 as an honorary position.
TO THE FAMILY:
My story must end and this seems the proper place.
There are some things I will do differently next time. I
will spend more time with you. I will go to more school band
concerts, track meets, football games, and more picnics.
Verna and I have had the good fortune to see you grow up with
your friends and your families. This has been a pleasant
time with you, perhaps we can do it again in another place.
Verna and some of the little friends that followed her home from distant lands.
PEGGY KEN DALE GORDON
It has been great to share this journey with you.
Periodical: Box: 1
Archives and Special Collections, University of Nebraska–Lincoln Libraries