Hague Native Performs on Four Instruments
Wald, Katie. "Hague Native Performs on Four Instruments." Emmons County Record, 2005.
Art Hieb was born
on the family farm
seven miles northeast
Arthur Hieb, born at Hague, N.D., spent the first 15 years of his
life on a farm about seven miles northeast of Hague when the family
moved to Idaho. Here, the Hieb family did farming until 13 years
ago when Art started spending more of his time in the machine shop.
Misfortune as a young lad led him to get the accordion out of the
closet for therapy. Events gradually led to Hieb’s forming
a one-man band, thus playing four instruments at a time - the accordion,
drums, piano and harmonica.
Naturally neighbors of ours in the Hague area remember the Hieb
Indeed, the Hieb family has not forgotten the Hague community and
long-time friends. They returned for a reunion in the 1980s where
played his squeeze box for old-time memories and a fun time.
I had a wonderful visit via telephone recently and, yes, Art still
spoke German fluently, even though he has been gone from his roots
so many years.
My sincere thanks to Darin Fenger and his parents, Wilbert and
Fenger of Gettysburg, S.D., for sharing this interesting story on
life of Arthur Hieb and the family.
The story is printed with the permission of the Yuma Sun.
By Darin Fenger
Yuma Sun, Yuma, Arizona
Art Hieb loves it when folks get downright winded from simply watching
him make music.
Call it sympathy exhaustion, all from seeing 77-year-old Hieb pound,
pedal and puff his way through a performance of his four-instrument
band all powered by him.
"This one guy, after he watched me was just heaving for breath,"
said, laughing. "He said, 'Watching you play all that
just took my
breath away.' I told him 'I’m sorry. I didn’t
mean to put you to work.'"
Hieb not only squeezes out great polka tunes on his accordion, he
plays the piano, drums and harmonica all at the same time.
Hieb got the idea for his one-man musical ensemble after seeing
accordion players at polka festivals add one or two more music makers
to their gigs.
Well, Hieb figured he could do them one or two better.
He plays the accordion normally and a special holder keeps the
harmonica right at mouth level. He beats the drum via a pedal with
left foot, while the right foot works a series of four pedals attached
to the piano.
That latter contraption is something that has made Hieb particularly
"I made it myself in the back yard," he said.
Each pedal is attached to long pieces of metal, which force artificial
fingers down upon the piano keys. To vary the sound, each pedal
different keys, each playing two low notes and three high notes.
It just tickles him, too, when people’s faces light up as
"Oh, it makes me feel good. But I just don’t think there’s
can hear polka music and not tap their foot. There’s just
about the accordion that I love," he said.
Hieb probably wouldn’t be playing the accordion, either,
if it wasn’t
for that time he fell off the tractor. As a kid growing up in North
Dakota, he had been working on a tall piece of machinery when the
wrench slipped and he fell, seriously hurting his shoulder.
Well, the doctor said he needed lots of therapy. Hieb got an idea
he met a woman at a polka festival who took up the accordion to
herself after a stroke.
"I had had an accordion sitting in my closet for I don’t
know how many
years. Well, I went home, got it out and started playing. It wasn’t
long before I could play for two or three hours."
It also didn’t hurt that accordion music is in the people’s
"Yeah, I’m from the Dakotas. Everyone loves it back
there," he said.
In fact, out of the 11 kids in his family, five sisters and another
brother all played the squeeze box.
Plus, there’s the fact Hieb’s boyhood farm was near
home of none other than the famed musician and band leader Lawrence
The Hieb family moved to Idaho when he was just 15. Two years later
joined the Navy and was soon serving aboard an ammunition ship in
midst of World War II’s Pacific Theater. Hieb shared that
war isn’t a
scary experience even though it actually is simply because you
can’t let the fear control your mind.
"When you’re in there you have to make up your mind
that if something
blows and you’re gone, then you’re just gone. You can’t
stand there and
be afraid that someone might come and shoot you. As a matter of
you get so immune to it all that everything just becomes an everyday
chore to you," he said.
Hieb came close to being gone more than once, too. One of his biggest
stories was how a Japanese suicide pilot slammed his plane right
an aircraft carrier anchored next to Hieb’s ship.
"I was just standing there, watching it happen. It killed
more than 100
people that day," he said.
Hieb married at age 25 in 1951. He and his wife, Dorothy, went
raise three sons. As a family, they loved to play together and work
"In summer when there was a lot of work to do, we were just
glad to go
home, eat supper and get to bed," he said.
After owning a machine shop for a while, Hieb retired from farming
years ago. After all that time constantly worrying about the gamble
weather and crop prices, Hieb said he was ready for the change.
"It was a relief," he said.
He and his wife started coming down to Yuma right away. They built
house here, but still return to Idaho each summer.
"We built this house by ourselves, too. We put the structure
then she would be up there putting on shingles and I would be doing
something else. I built all the farm houses we lived in," he
For fun these days, Hieb enjoys dancing, going for morning walks
his wife and putzing around with his welder. He’s made numerous
decorations, as well as his home’s wrought-iron fencing. The
also enjoyed checking out polka festivals and competitions around
Just shortly after retirement, he joined a sister and sister-in-law
putting a little band together. They played parties, dances and
They even landed gigs ranging from Elko, Nev., to Wyoming.
In Yuma Hieb hasn’t performed a whole lot, mostly because
want to get tied down with a lot of commitments. Then there’s
that his instruments and sound equipment are pretty bulky for him
his wife to lug around.
"I came here to retire. And sometimes at this age, it’s
just nice to
relax," he said.
Hieb mostly loves to play whenever friends come over to the house
when his neighborhood in the Foothills puts a block party together.
just pulls his stuff out onto the sidewalk and plays away.
Hieb has a great sense of humor, too, especially when his fans get
"One lady asked me once 'What goes through your head
playing all those instruments? What are you thinking about?'
told her Brooke Shields!"
Reprinted with permission of the Emmons County Record.