A Time to Remember: Ted and Ida Opp
Schumacher, Cindy. "A Time to Remember: Ted and Ida Opp." Northwest Blade, 8 March 2012, 13.
When I found out that I was going to be interviewing Ted and Ida Opp for “A Time to Remember,” I was excited about the opportunity to meet them. I first saw Ted in Aberdeen when I was 18 years old, and I remember him distinctly. I asked someone who he was and was told that he was a well-respected cattleman who raised registered Hereford and was one of the best in the business. What intrigued me the most was his unusual rust-colored cowboy hat which, over the years, has become part of his persona. I began the interview with how this hat came about.
On a trip to Cheyenne, WY, to purchase breeding stock, Ted and Ida went into a store where he found a suit he liked. His salesman showed him a hat that looked perfect with the suit, so he bought it. He became very fond of the hat; and over the years, he sent it back to the shop to have it cleaned. One time, while having dinner at the Flame in Aberdeen, Ted put the hat on the hat rack. During dinner, Ted got an uneasy feeling about leaving the hat out in coatroom and decided to bring it to his table. Just at that time, two teenage boys were walking out the door, and one had Ted’s hat on. Ted said “that’s my hat.” They claimed they were just trying it on. He never put it on a hat rack again. He still has the hat, and you may still see him wearing it when he goes out.
Ted grew up 15 miles NE of Eureka with four sisters and two brothers. Ida grew up five miles east with one brother. They knew each other when they were children. They didn’t go to town very often, and Ted remembers his father buying enough flour and sugar in the fall to last the winter. Everything else was raised and processed at home, including the butchering. When they went to town with a sled in the winter, Ted’s father put a rock in the stove to heat it. Then he would wrap it in a blanket and put it in the sled to keep them warm.
Growing up, there was no electricity. They also recalled that in those days, news was old by the time it got to them on the farm. In 1928, Ida’s folks built a new house with indoor plumbing, running water, and a wind charger. The motor was in the basement in case there wasn’t enough wind to keep the battery charged. Ted and Ida’s son, David, currently lives in that same house.
When Ted was four years old, his mother took him and his sisters to see their grandfather. Ted’s grandfather tried to take his hand, but Ted was afraid. He died shortly after that. His six sons carried the casket to the church for the funeral and then to the cemetery. The ladies rode in two-seated buggies, and the children ran along the side. People always tried to have beautiful horses pulling the buggies for funerals, and he recalled that there were two beautiful black and white spotted horses.
Ted remembers the flu epidemic. When he was six years old, he went with his dad to visit his aunt and uncle who had the flu. They both died, and Ted’s dad had to do the chores for them. The doctors came to people’s farms and homes to treat them in those days.
When Ted was 14, his dad hired him out to three neighbors. His wage was 50 cents a day. In 1933, Ted’s dad was hailed out, so Ted and five other boys went to work for other farmers in North Dakota, and his wage at that time was $2.00 a day. It was very hard work, and they worked very long days, sunrise to sunset. He remembers riding in a car with a rumble seat with the other fellows who were hiring out. After finishing one farmer’s harvest, they would go to another farm to do custom threshing. He added that they would also help neighbors when they were putting up a barn or a building. Everyone helped out, and no one got paid. That is just what you did for your friends and neighbors.
As a young man, Ted loved to hunt jackrabbits receiving around 30 or 40 cents per rabbit. At that time, they were good to eat before they got diseases. He used to walk on one side of the road, and his horse walked the other side. The rabbits weren’t scared of the horse, so he was able to shoot a lot of them. He also liked to shoot tin cans off of fence posts as he rode by on his horse. He used to be a good shot but had to give it up when he lost his eye because he couldn’t focus on things like that anymore.
Ida remembers Christmas gatherings at her grandparent’s home (Schott). Everyone who was able came - children, grandchildren, everyone. She has a picture of about 35 people who came for noodle soup and chicken dinner. She wonders how they all fit into their small home. There were no gifts exchanged, unless there were maybe one or two little ones. It was a day to be together and visit. The important adults would eat first, then they would clear the table off with someone doing dishes, and someone resetting the table for the next crew to eat, because they had to eat in shifts. Ted and Ida have carried on that tradition of having family dinners, especially for holidays.
As children, Ted and Ida ran into each other at different occasions in town, such as a circus or community event. When they were a little older while at a dance, Ted asked Ida to dance and later if he could escort her home. He often rode a horse to her house to visit her. Ted recalled that once he asked Ida if she wanted to go to a dance with him and a friend. Ida didn’t want to go, so Ted decided to stay behind with her. Ted’s friend had too much to drink and forgot to come back to pick him up after the dance was over, so he had to stay in Ida’s brother’s room with him. Ida’s dad joked that he needed a new hired man. They were married about two years later.
Ted and Ida both recalled the “Dirty 30’s.” You could write your names in the dirt on the windowsill, and it came in any little crack in the house. You could see dust clouds coming across in the air, and the sky was so gray that you couldn’t see the sun. Nothing grew in the fields, and there were dust banks along fence lines two feet high. There were a couple years with absolutely no crops. The top soil completely blew away. People would just wait and hope that the next day would be better. In about 1935 or 1936, things did get better.
Ted and Ida currently live on the Hieb homestead, Ida’s family farm, which they took over after Ida’s father became ill. Their first car was a 1936 Ford Model A. In 1940, they bought a new John Deere tractor and a two-bottom plow for $1,265.00. They had milk cows and chickens that supported them. They took cream to town to sell, and the milk was used to feed the pigs. If the chickens laid a lot of eggs, you had eggs to sell. For a trip to town, they would put just enough gas in the car for the trip; they never filled it up, because they didn’t have enough money. At Christmas, everyone got one gift. That was all you had money for. Ted and Ida would buy something for the home as their gift for each other, and it was always something they needed.
In 1934, Ted lost his eye in a farm accident. His brothers-in-law and some neighbors tried to help him and tried to convince him to stop farming, but he never let anyone do his work for him. In order to convince them he could still see with his other eye, there were about six guys standing in the farm yard. He asked if they could see a bird sitting on the silo. Then he asked if they could see something else. No one but Ted could see that the bird was blind in one eye. They never tried to talk him into quitting farming again. He said, “It all depends on you, where there’s a will there’s a way.” Ted wore a patch on his eye and eventually got a plastic eye (which was made in Germany). However, he became allergic to it; when they removed it, the allergy cleared up.
They feel they had an ordinary life, earning a living and raising their children. They have four children, Ruth (deceased), James, Teddy, and David, six grandchildren, eight great-grandchildren, and one great-great grandchild. They gathered with friends and relatives often, more to visit than for meals.
Ida and Ted were 4-H leaders for many years. They exhibited their purebred Hereford stock at the state fair and the SD Cream of the Crop Show, winning many awards. Ted was also honored by the SD Hereford Association for his contribution to the industry. He was a board member of Selective Service Board for 20 years. They both belonged to the Eastern Star, and he was Grand Master of the Masons. There was a chapter in Eureka and the temple is now the ETC Building. Ida was selected as Woman of the Year in 1983 by the Eureka Jaycees. Ida was inducted to the South Dakota Bowling Hall of Fame for meritorious service to the sport of bowling in 1995. She loves bowling and was Eureka’s Bowling Association secretary/treasurer for 29 years. They have also been active in the Reformed Church and the community.
Ted and Ida enjoyed traveling. Some of their favorite destinations were Hawaii (especially Pearl Harbor and the pineapple plantations) and Florida (especially the Kennedy Space Center).
Ida remarked that she can’t believe the technology of today, cell phones, computers, televisions, and electronics. It is so amazing what they can do with everything that it leaves her speechless. She wishes she had had the opportunity to learn how to use all of this technology. Ted agrees, amazed at the advancements in the cattle and farming industry also, especially the equipment.
They both said it’s been a good life. Ted’s closing statement is that he is thankful that they still have each other (they will be married 79 years this coming October). He is looking forward to turning 100 this June 14th, seeing the Quasquicentennial in July, and seeing a new president elected in November. I have no doubt he will. Thanks, Ted and Ida, for sharing a part of your lives with us. You are true pioneers who persevered, despite all obstacles.
Reprinted with permission from The Northwest Blade.