with August (AM) and Tillie Miller (TM)
Interviewer Larry J. Sprunk (LS)
Buelah, North Dakota Mercer County
1 October 1975
Transcription by Hope Wald and Linda Haag
LS: This is Larry Sprunk and the following is an interview that I had with August and Tillie Miller of Buelah, North Dakota. The interview was held in the Miller Hall in Buelah, North Dakota. The interview was held in the Miller Hall in Buelah Wednesday October 1, 1975 and it began at approximately 9:30 in the morning. The interview is complete on this cassette.
LS: When did your family come to North Dakota, August?
AM: In 1889.
LS: Same year that North Dakota became a state.
AM: Well, I don’t know why it became a state that year or not, but I know that’s when they come over from the old country.
AM: They come from Russia.
LS: Why did they come over, August? Did they have friends that had come over before?
AM: Well, no, they just come over here, a bunch of them kind of old timers you know. They were in the war there with Russia; with I don’t know what outfit. But I know they were in war there. My dad was in service for 7 years. Then a bunch, they didn’t like Russia and they left Russia, a whole community. They call it a Kronental area up north here because they originate out Kronental from Russia. That’s how they come over here, see.
LS: So the whole community moved over?
AM: Yes, the whole community that was up there. Their like the Wedricks, Mores, Millers, there was about twelve, thirteen families, they migrated to the United States in one year.
TM: Mainly they moved over when they had boys, because they didn’t want, they wanted to go to a free country, so their boys weren’t involved in the war right away.
AM: Yeah, that was one subject about it, yeah, yeah. That’s the year when they come over.
LS: How many were there in your family then?
AM: When they come over?
AM: Well, I tell you there was very few. They had just died. They lost two sons over in the old country, you see.
LS: Your parents?
AM: My parents. My oldest sister, she was born over there and I think that’s the only one that come along that I remember you know. They probably had some more there, but I don’t know.
TM: No, just that one.
AM: But I know the two oldest boys here, they died over there, and they were small kids. My other sister, yeah, she was born in the United States, the older sister. She wasn’t born over there because she was born in 1893 or 94. She was born and raised here, the rest of them, too.
LS: Did any grandparents come over, August?
AM: Yes, they came over in 18.....; they came over later, see. The reason I know that, see I have twin sisters older than I. One of their boys come along over, grandparent’s son, and he was sort of young yet too. He always told me how he had fun with the twin sisters when he come over. They stayed with my folks in the old sod house up there till they settled down.
LS: Had your family, August, gone from Germany to Russia and then...?
AM: No, No. They were raised in Russia, both of them.
LS: But you’re of German Ancestry?
TM & AM: Yeah!
AM: Yes, that’s right. But those were some, like my Grandpa, he was raised in Germany. Then he went into Russia and he had to get the hell out of there during the night. He would have got killed. He was cussing the Czar. Then he had to skip the country and if they’d of got a hold of him they would have killed him.
LS: That was in the 90’s?
AM: Yes, that was in the 90’s. When this happened, then he skipped the country over there and he come over here and the family come afterwards. But they would come over here.
LS: Do you know, August, where that community was from a bigger city in Russia? Was it around Odessa, or was it around Bessarabia?
AM: Well, Bessarabia, that’s where my grandpa was in. He was in Bessarabia, but I don’t know what kind of country it was. I was too young yet when they come cover and I didn’t pay much attention to it.
TM: Well that (?).
AM: Well, that was where my mother was raised in, but he originated out of Odessa, or Bessarabia.
LS: What was your dad’s name?
LS: And you mother’s maiden name was?
LS: And her first name was?
LS: There’s an Auto Casper from over at Belfield. That wouldn’t be any relation?
AM: No, no, that’s Auto Casper running an insurance company here. That’s a cousin of mine.
LS: Where was this Thurmball is it?
LS: Where did they settle in North Dakota?
AM: Up here what they call the Kromthel. They named it Kromthel area, about the Buelah area; that’s about 16, 17 miles northeast. They call that the Kromthel and it’s about 15 miles northwest of Hague. Not too far from the lake up there.
LS: Where were you from Krem, then? Were you further east of Krem?
AM: No, we were northwest of Krem, about 8 miles northwest of Krem.
LS: Was that close to the Missouri river before the dam went in?
AM: Yeah, we were only about 3 ½ miles away from the water from the Missouri River. Now we can wee the water, that’s less than a mile and a half, because it expands.
LS: What did your family and the other people that came from that part of Russia, did they like this country right away, or?
AM: Well, they did because it was a free country. While there was free ranch and everything at that time there was nobody settled and some happened to settle on the dividing section with the house and stuff, nothing divided or anything. That’s where they homesteaded. I still got the old homestead that my dad homesteaded.
LS: How many families do you think there were in that community?
AM: You mean that come over here at one time?
AM: Well, I can tell you right away because there were three Weedricks, and the Morst, and then two Miller brothers, I think that was it. There was a Moore up in that Kromthel area but they come afterwards. There was a Bauer that came afterwards, Seiferts, two Seiferts. They come over afterwards. These seven or eight, whatever it amounted to, they come at one time.
LS: In ’89 with your folks?
AM: In ’89 with my folks.
LS: They were the first ones?
AM: They were the first ones in that area.
LS: Then later your grandparents came over?
AM: Yeah, they come over later, but they settled two miles north of our place when my grandpa couldn’t homestead. That was in the past, that homesteading job when he comes over here. I don’t know how come he couldn’t homestead.
LS: Was the homestead land all gone?
AM: Well, it must have been because I don’t think that he had a homestead. Or maybe he did have a homestead where he settled down. That I don’t know for sure. He come and at the end of the ‘90’s there. Folks come in the later ‘80’s and they come in the later ‘90’s more afterwards.
LS: What are their nationalities who homesteaded up in that area? Is that pretty solid German or is there Scandinavians?
AM: Well, it’s pretty solid German. There were a few Norwegian people up in that area, and a few English people around the river bottom. They didn’t last long, you now the German Russian people where the ones that build up the country, they were the working people.
LS: Do you think that some of those other people that came into homestead, August, might have just come in to prove up and then sell it and go back to where they came from?
AM: Well, some of them did but we had a few Norwegian people you know, they stuck it out. They’re dead now, but they stuck it out. They homesteaded and they stayed. But then some English people and they come in and they homesteaded and lived awhile and then they went to the biggest cities and pulled out of here. So some of them lost it and couldn’t keep it up. That I remember yet, but most of them that come in there, the older guys, and even the ones that come after my folks. There are places up there that have sod houses on there. But they’re caved in, but you can see the landmark with it, where they had settled down.
LS: Is that what most of them built was sod houses?
AM: Sod houses, yes. Like my folks they had no well machines, but they dug by hand as much as they could. Then they didn’t get any water, and first they we’re dumb enough to build the house first and then they left the whole works and moved a little farther. They dugged down and got a few feet of water in there. Then they settled there and pretty soon they run out water. My folks built three places of sod houses. Yes, still they didn’t get no water. We always had trouble with water on the place that I lived on, until I got on there and I got a well machine in there, and 151 feet there and I got all kinds of water.
LS: So they just weren’t able to go deep enough?
AM: The trouble was with them, and it was easy to figure out the...,
TM: They didn’t have the machine.
AM: They didn’t have the machine and they didn’t have the money. They had to squeeze to pennies wherever they could. I tell you a good one that fits in there pretty good. My dad, when they would come over from the old country and they had it cleared down for a trading post to New Salem with wagon and horses. All the money he had was enough for one sack of flour, and he knew they were all out of flour, when he came home they were in a (?), within a week they had to go again. So he paid the guy, he knew the guy down there, and he paid for one sack of flour. When he was ready to go home he said if you are going to write that check there and throw that sack of flour on, see. He stole the sack of flour, my dad, instead of one, he threw on two of them so anyone who comes home they come in board, and one was empty, and he still had a sack of flour. He never could get in contact with that man. Till the first old settler’s picnic come up in Krem, North Dakota. He met that guy, Old Black, what’s his name, out in New Salem and then he come over there and he give him $25 and he told him that he stole a sack of flour at that time, and he wasn’t going to take it. But he give it to me and he brought home brew and that whole damn outfit got so dam drunk. I can still remember he sits in the back seat and we drove with a team of horses to celebrate the old settler’s picnic. He sit in the back seat and the old lady had to hang onto him that he stayed on the bus. That guy never spent that money, but he got the whole bunch drunk with it. He thanked me for being honest like that. That’s what happened there. They had rough going there. You know I often thought would you or I, with the little money they had, immigrate thousands and thousands of miles away where you don’t even know where you’re getting into? When they come here on the bare prairie, and then all them prairie fires going through and they burned them out slick and clean a lot of times. How many of us would have stayed?
LS: Yeah, I wondered about that too.
AM: I tell you this is something to think about, and then you take the younger generation now and you talk to them about this stuff, and some of them kids, well some take interest but some o them say why the hell don’t you go back to horse and buggy days? Well, where would them be if we wouldn’t have horse and buggy days, see? That’s one thing I can’t figure out with the younger generation. You never think they lived when they come out into this world. The world owes them a lesson.
LS: A lot of them don’t even believe that it was ever that tough.
Am: No, they don’t believe, they think it fun! Yeah! It’s terrible you know when you get in contact with some of them. Some are all right.
LS: Was water a pretty common problem, did the other?
AM: Well, that wasn’t the common problem. You know, but they never done like we do now. Like the experience now of digging up vein, dig a water puddle hole for your stock out in the prairie, getting a digger in there. Well, they couldn’t afford it, see. So they went, well my uncle died by digging a well by hand. He would come out of that well; he went down about 18, 19 ft. He went home for dinner and in the afternoon he went out and went in and that was it. He choked.
LS: He hit some gas?
AM: I guess, ya, gas in that hole, see. And he got killed that way. Seventy years ago, seventy one, I wasn’t even born when this happened. There youngest child, his wife carried, when he got killed in the well. She’s about 6 months older than I, so she’s going to be seventy-one, and that’s seventy years since this happened.
LS: You said that water wasn’t a problem for everybody but sounds like it was a problem for most of them.
AM: Well, sure, they don’t know how to go about it. But at the same time, you know, I don’t know who ever was on the land, that we were on. Afterwards my dad got in contact with them and he said he had a little hole up there on that quarter land where we lived on now. It’s not the homestead, it’s the other quarter. He said he could bring a thousand head of cattle there and he would never fetch it down. We tried to locate the dam thing, you couldn’t see nothing; grass grew over it, couldn’t get it there. I dug a well out there, it’s a good well; have no problem with water. I built a dam and I pretty well taken care of with water. They couldn’t do like we, you know, if we wanted to make something or we went and done it, see. They were scarce of money; they only had so much money that was the biggest problem for them.
LS: You said that they build sod houses. Now are these the sod houses where they would plow up the sod and lay it?
AM: No, no.
LS: Did they make bricks or...?
AM: They made bricks and also had a hoe, plowed it up. They mixed straw in with it and they had a couple of horses, bent that up and mixed it. They took it out and build them with rocks and that mud, just like concrete and rocks. They build them up. For the roof went down the river and got some trees chopped down for the rafters, and lay trees across. Then they plowed up sod and they laid that across on top to cover it up. Then they smeared it with dirt so it was slick and the water run off. I remember them. We had a house, barn, and a granary sod houses, that I remember that in the old homestead.
LS: But that was really kind of stone houses weren’t they with...?
AM: Well, no, was mostly mud. It was rocks mixed into, some of it, some of them made them blocks, square blocks about that wide and about that long. Huh?
TM: They used clay.
AM: It was not clay. It was the black stuff.
TM: Yes, it was that.
AM: Anyway, they made them blocks and they lay them just like you lay cement blocks and then they smeared them over.
LS: Would you have to smear them every year to...?
AM: Well, not exactly. I think that depends on the rain. If it rained more, they would have to smear them oftener, if it didn’t rain so much, they didn’t smear them.
TM: Do you know how to fix the floors?
TM: They mix the warm cow manure and sand, and mix that up real good, and smear the whole floor.
AM: That was as slick as a wooden floor.
TM: I even had to help at my grandma’s; she still had a summer kitchen. We fixed the floor once a year that way and that way she sprinkled it with a little bit of water and we could sweep it.
LS: Would you have to pack it?
TM: It was made just like you would mix cement. You’d smear the whole floor by hand. It got hard and it was real nice.
AM: Then they had a board there with a handle on, my folks had. They had a board and they had a handle on when they had so much on there they put the board across to smoothen it.
TM: Maybe grandma smoothen it; I don’t know. I had to help her.
AM: Yeah! I remember when my folks had it like that.
TM: That was a nice floor.
TM: And it was hard too. It got real hard. They had to...
AM: There is still a sod house up north here (?).
LS: Is that right?
AM: That’s right. It’s about 14 miles out of town, 15.
LS: How old is it? Was it built in those earlier years...?
AM: You bet your life. There is some sod buildings where people use. And I know there’s one about eight miles out of town. He tore his sod house down and built a wooden house on there. That isn’t so very old house that he built.
AM: He scraped that away and put a new one right on the old place.
TM: Course than later they start building log houses.
AM: Yup! I tell you they did some hard work there, but they let it go. Then, I don’t know.
LS: Where did they get their fuel from? Did they dig coal or would they go down to the Missouri bottom,
AM: No, no. It’s better in some spots then in some. Like in Buelah mine they had coal shipped out here north of town. They had to mix it with a better quality because where they shipped, they complained about it, see. It’s the same way up in the hills; some veins are 3 feet thick. When they are uncovered, they were solid coal. The others, there was about a foot or two that were on the slack side. That didn’t burn so good. That solid, what you call nigerate, boy! You get some of them that was good coal. Zap up here has good coal.
LS: Now, if the coal has water in it, does it make it better coal?
AM: Well, I say it makes it a more harder coal, but there is some dry coal, you know, that is solid, nigerates all the way down. You have a hell of a time taking chunk of it off the pick. It doesn’t make a difference if it’s water or not. It’s a better coal, a long lasting coal when you burn it, and more heat.
LS: What were some of the early mines around here north of Beulah and Hazen? Were those mostly small farmer mines or were there some bigger ones?
AM: Well, there was a guy living here in town, he had a mine 6, 7 miles out of town. He had one opened up underground mine, right here in town. He had land out there and he opened one out there. Those were solid coal in the underground mine, there. Then people come there, got coal, but had to help load and go underneath and help load. There was not safety, at time you know; no body got hurt. Now they have the safety inspectors coming out here, every once in awhile they crush one up.
LS: What was this fellow’s name, August, that ran this?
AM: That was George Smith from town here.
LS: He had one mine right in town and...?
AM: He had one here. He started here and he quit; right up here where the new church sits. There was a cave in going down.
LS: Oh! Is that right!
AM: Yeah! There was a nursing home right up on the hill.
LS: Right at the edge of town.
AM: Why sure! Well it’s in city limits. They build houses in there now. Some morning you might get up and someone might be sitting in the Wulla! And there was a Kessler mine out here; was right at the end of the waste banks here. The old man opened one underground; we got some coal out of there. His boys worked underground then too; loading coal for people. Then up north there in those creeks towards the river, a lot of guys went down there and uncovered them; dug them out.
TM: In there own fields.
AM: In their own land.
LS: This Smith mine that was out in the country, where you said he had a 25 or 26...
AM: 24 foot vein.
LS: You said that was an underground mine. How deep did they have to go?
AM: Well, not too deep. I think it was around 80 feet. 60 feet, what ever it is in there. The guy that owes the land, he lives here in town. He become a preacher.
LS: Was that cut into a side of a hill then or...?
LS: Was it a shaft?
AM: It was a hill and then they built a shaft down to the coal. They left some on top about 6 or 8 feet; left some underneath. They didn’t take the whole works. They dug out about 12 feet. The rest of it stayed. They were darn good coal. If you got coal from that mine, it was good coal.
LS: How much would coal cost from that mine?
AM: You mean at that time?
LS: At that time, 1915 or 20?
AM: And the 30’s there when I got coal out of there, I think they were $1.00, $1.25 a ton. Now towards last they sold them for $2.00, $2.50. Look what they pay now, $6.00 a ton. Terrible! We live right in town to cope. You can’t get them.
LS: You can’t get coal now?
AM: Well, you can, but they load one day a week up here in Zap.
AM: Now this Glen, now what is his name down in Stanton, who operates that mine down there? They can get stokered there every day. In the Beulah mine they can only load 6 tons. They don’t have any crusher for them new stokers. They ain’t got the crusher so they can crush them out there in that new triple that they built. They put this one up here and they don’t load here anymore. They use to load coal here.
LS: Now that Smith plant that we were talking about, did he have guys working in there everyday or...
AM: No, he himself, and then when people come there, sometimes he had a man helping him, see. He didn’t have no miners in there like most of the miners had. He worked himself. Then he got help from the guys who come there to get coal. They were glad to help load and get out of there. He pulled them out of there in small cars, ton cars with a wedge, see.
TM: Well, those days everyone helped out.
AM: Well, you had to work if you wanted to get places. Now days they have that safety inspections; they won’t even let you get close to it. They are afraid. If something happens they’re liable. But at that time everybody, somebody got hurt they were on their own.
LS: This Smith would leave about 12 feet on top then for a roof?
AM: Well not, I don’t think it was 12 feet because he took about 12 feet out and I say the most he had on top was 6 feet. Then he had some at the bottom, see, and he got down deeper, he stroke water. He had trouble with water. He had a well built and a windmill put on there. And that windmill pumped water steady to hold it down so it stayed level with coup.
LS: So you wouldn’t have to work in water in the mud.
AM: Yah! That’s right, that cockeyed water out of coal
that comes in pretty fast.
LS: Yah! But in the early years when your folks and these other people from Russia were coming in, they didn’t have that kind of organized mind then.
AM: No, I was born in 1905. I wouldn’t know where they got the coal from. I couldn’t tell you that. I can’t answer this. I was born in 5; my oldest sister probably could because she was born in the ‘90’s, the beginning of the ‘90’s. She could probably
TM: They passed cattle manure for fuel.
AM: They start that up for the cook stove.
TM: They stacked it up for...
AM: Mesh. In summer time when it was dried in the pasture, I remember my mother walked around and picked it up and put it in gunny sacks and stored it in the granary for rainy days.
LS: I suppose that would make good starter to get the coal going.
AM: Oh! Yah! That makes a lot of heat too; burn real fast. They had all kinds of stuff there. I wouldn’t know how they done with coal or what they done with coal where they got it from then.
LS: You said you came from a family of fourteen, August? Where were you in the family?
AM: Towards the end.
LS: Oh, towards the end.
AM: I had a sister and a brother, no two sisters and a brother that were younger than I.
LS: The rest were all older.
AM: The rest were all older. One brother drowned. He was 11 years old when he drowned. And my youngest brother that I got to know, I didn’t get to know any of my other brothers or sisters, except the one who is still living, the oldest one. She is 80 years old now. Then I got two other sisters that I got to know. One sister is younger than I. They youngest brother he died, he was about 9 years old when he died. At that time they had Diphtheria and that wiped them out, there was no doctors. When my youngest brother died we had a doctor. He come out there and vaccinated my sisters. I was so dam scared; I won’t let him near myself. He asked my parents if they were the right parents to me to take that vaccination. My dad said if he wants to die, let him die. It didn’t bother me.
LS: When your brothers and sister were born, August was there a doctor there then, or did they have a midwife.
AM: Midwife. That’s all they had. All the way through my Grandma, after she came over, she was the midwife for all of us. They had no doctors.
LS: What was her name?
AM: Christina Sabe was her maiden name. She was married to; grandpa’s name was Jacob Casper.
LS: Christina Casper, Mrs. Jacob Casper.
LS: Did she help other ladies in the community with...?
AM: Oh! Yah got it all around.
TM: My mother was a midwife, too.
TM: And she kept track until it was 200 babies that she had received and then she quit counting.
AM: You know that kind of surprised me. When we were raised and born up in that area, there was no doctors, just midwives. After we got older and got to know these things and got married, the first dam thing you know, before we got PT and she had to run to the doctor about six, seven times until the baby come. Yea, yea, yea, yea, I don’t know what for.
TM: Maybe sometimes it would have been good for some of the others too.
AM: Well, I don’t know.
TM: Oh, yes.
LM: Did your family come from South Russia too?
LS: Are you from that area that August...?
TM: No. They were from Fleecetauge.
LS: Where did they settle in Mercer County then or did they...?
TM: Well, my grandpa and grandma they were settled in Nebraska. Then they came to south of Beulah here.
AM: But then they settled in South Dakota.
TM: Oh, ya. First they were in Nebraska, went to South Dakota and then they come to North Dakota.
LS: South of Buelah?
TM: My dad homesteaded in south of South Dakota.
LS: When did they come over from Russia, do you know? Is that about in the ’80’s, too or was...?
TM: I have, I should have dug that out, I was going to dig that out and get it lined up. My mother was 10 years old when they came over and my dad was 17. So, his folks came earlier than my folks did and my grandpa.
LS: Was that a German area south of Buelah, too?
TM: Yes, all German.
AM: Yes, there was some Swedes in there.
TM: As far as Irish was concerned, they were not really to close.
AM: No, we had some Irish up there in the river bottom. We had a lot of fun when we went to school.
AM: Oh! We had fist fights.
LS: Is that right?
AM: They promise to come to school and they and the kids heard it from the parents. You dam Russian get out of my way. Then the fists would fly. Then we were swinging.
TM: Nobody wanted to be called a Russian because our folks were German Russian.
TM: They had moved over
AM: Yeah, them English people had that in their mind and that’s the first thing they said.
TM: Now when we have are German Russian Day up here, I don’t know if you’ve been up here already.
LS: No, no.
TM: When we have these speakers here, they feel proud of what you are because the German Russian people are really the people that build up the United States. Because they were hard working people and nothing was too hard for them. And he says even if they call you Russian, he says just don’t feel bad about it, be proud of what you are.
LS: But when you’re a kid, that doesn’t mean anything.
TM: No. We didn’t have that problem.
AM: We shot them up and hell, we were tough, we had a tough bunch. You know all these guys that immigrant that grew up; the young generation altogether, there were some husky guys in there. There were some in that Irish bunch too that were pretty tough too.
TM: You might as well just call them, they were fighters, too.
AM: You dam right we were!
TM: We didn’t have that (?).
AM: I remember I didn’t back away either, but I didn’t look for trouble in my life. But when anybody said that I ain’t backing away from nobody, I have to give them a try out.
AM: And it happened there was a guy living here in town, and he was sort of a smart-alec and a dumb bastard, anyway he tried to pick on most everybody. They had a great big guy here, bartender, and the guy come out; we were threshing out there. He had dinner with us and he mentioned that this little fellow he whipped the hell out of that big seasoned guy. I said you must be kidding. And he says, don’t underestimate him, he’s tough. Well, that’s the guy I’d like to tangle with. I says if you go and bring him out here, I’ll go a round or two with him. He says, no, no, we wouldn’t do that, but don’t underestimate him. Sure enough they had a barn dance up north. Here that guy come over there, smarted off, and he got in trouble with another guy. I was going to stop him in spite of the show. It was a barn dance. He backed away and threw his coat off, and says I’ll whip the hell out of both you guys. I pushed the other guy through the fence, as I was waiting for that a long time, and I want to work on that guy. He come in wide open and I let go. I caught him under the chin and you can believe it or not, there still alive, guys around here, I had him off the floor, about 4 ft., and he dived about 20 ft., till he hit the hole where you craw...
LS: The barn?
AM: and he went down head first. And boy my hand was puffed
up just like a balloon. The next morning, my folks were still
alive, and they were out there. Somebody told the old man.
Anyway, I had breakfast and I was going to go out work and
he says listen, you sit down here once, I have to talk to
you. My old man was two inches taller than I. He was in the
service for 7 years. He was no slouch either. But anyway,
he made me sit down and says, you know, you don’t even
know how strong you are and what you can do. He says, what
would you have done if that guy would have broke his neck
the way he went down that hole. He scared me so hard, do you
think I could fight after that. God! Every time I was ready
to let go, I pulled back. I couldn’t do it anymore.
And that was nothing for me.
When I moved to town, I was caught. I was a Deputy Sheriff, see. I was caught down there in that old sheep shed, barn dance. Anyway, they had a party down there and the kid was there. The kid was about 19, 20 years old then. That was invitational, see. The kids drank beer with the rest of them. They told him to get out and he wouldn’t go. They come over and said you have to take that kid out. He’s not invited and we don’t want him here. I went up there and I told him; set you beer down, you got to go. He set his beer down and walked with me to the door, and after he got out of the door, he says “how come the other kids are in there drinking beer and I can’t.” I said that’s none of my business. They must be invited. He says, “you god dam liar.” Boy, I hit him with a bare hand and he went against a building and he was corn shit! Boy that burned me up!
LS: What kind of social life would the families up there have? You know when you were a boy growing up.
AM: We had more fun than they have now. We got together on the Sundays, and we played ball, played games, most anything up there. We didn’t have the chance to run into town like they do now days and spend the wheels here and grind the motors up until 4 or 5 o’clock in the morning. We had orders from the parents, if we went away; we had to ask if we could go to the neighbors or where ever we wanted to go. If they said, ya you can go, we looked at the time, but they said 11 o’clock. That’s all they said and we knew it, if we weren’t in at 11, we got it the next morning. There was no running around like they do now. That’s what they should have now days.
TM: We use together at homes, played games, or danced. They had accordion, one row accordion. This is how entertainment went.
LS: You didn’t need a big orchestra?
TM: It was clean entertainment, too
AM: And we didn’t get into mischief like they do now, like some of the kids.
LS: You look back in those early years, 1910, 1920; do you think the people were more sociable and neighborly?
AM: They were. When we got into the ‘30’s, that was the best time we had even if it was depression. Now days and the days before there was always some guys, you know, when they had a $10 bill in their pocket, they figure they don’t need anybody any more. But in the ‘30’s there everyone was broke and every body knew it. They greet each other and had conversation regardless where they got together, they had conversation. This is in the past. In this town here, we’re pretty well know each other and we all get together. Like this morning down there, we had a lot of fun, getting together in the coffee break. I had fun with the little fellow sitting, notice that little fellow. I told the waitress to give him a half a cup of coffee; he’s not grown up yet.
LS: Do you think the older people are the ones that have kept that neighborliness the younger people don’t...
AM: Ya, they did. They...
TM: More disciplined. This is what’s lacking now days. There was more discipline then.
AM: My folks, if they got company, and if I or any of the girls would have went up there when dad or mother talked to the company and wouldn’t but in, you couldn’t eat for two weeks, you would got one of your slap right now. We know what we had to do when company arrived; we sat down and listened to them. But know days you don’t associate with somebody and if they have kids about 10, 12 or 14 years old; they listened to their father what he talks, and pretty soon they take over. Dad, it says so in the books. They don’t do nothing to him. We couldn’t do that.
LS: You said you played baseball, did you have country teams, too.
AM: We had country teams for a long time, and then I started playing in the city teams. I played in Pix City when the dam built over there. I played with Hazen and I ended up with Buelah and I was 51 years old; when I pitched the last season and I pitched nine games and I lost one. I was pretty fair.
LS: How did you organize a country team? What would your district be?
AM: The bunch we had out there and we had a pretty good team. We had local boys. We had all the way from the north road going out of Buelah. Not too far away from the river, all the way, I say about 2 miles of the north road going out of Hazen. We had the team picked up and we didn’t have 15 or 20 players. We had about 11 or 12. I tell you, we had a pretty good team.
LS: Would that be kind of a township team then or...?
AM: We called it the K and E team because it was from the Croontal extension area, so we called it the K and E from the river bottom, the river bottom.
LS: Did Krem have a team then too?
AM: Yes, Krem had a separate team. They had a separate team. I use to pitch over there and pitch for them. There thought they were a pretty good team. Then this expansive, when they first organized it, that was only 16 years old. They called me the fire-ball pitcher. That expansive outfit didn’t have much of a pitcher, but they heard about me. So this one Norwegian guy, he was the manager of this expansion team. He come over and asked me if I would pitch for him on the celebration in Krem. I can’t say I pitch for you, I got to ask dad. He said he is going to ask him. He asked dad and dad says, “No, no, we got other work to do then pitch baseball.” He come over to me and told me again, “what am I going to do now?” I say, “Go home and come tomorrow again. Pester him maybe he breaks down.” He wouldn’t break in. But the third day he come, he says, “you can go and after the game, I want him home.” So that morning when I went to Krem, he gave me the Model T Ford to drive over there. It was colder than hell. I had the top down...
LS: What year would this have been?
LS: If you were 16, and you were born in 1905, you’d be 21.
AM: I went over there with that Model T, and drove into the Krem, my cheeks came on; colder than hell. I went, anyway, when I drove into Krem, I seen some of those Krem’s coming in, that was the pitcher coming in. You know I think we beat them 4 to 2. The first 9 yards there was two guys over there; they figured they couldn’t be stroke out. The first 9 yards they didn’t even get a foul tip. And after the first 9 men had batted, the catcher I had, he had to change putts. His feathers was coming out of the put. He caught the fire-ball pitcher. Anyway, they couldn’t get over that. Especially that one guy, he died about a year ago, too. Up to the last minute when he seen me, he says, “I still couldn’t see how the hell you stroke me out.”
AM: Ya, those were the days!
LS: Did you go home right after the game then?
AM: Oh, ya, ya. They gave me $5.00 and I dressed it, and they had a mill setting there in Krem. That’s where we dressed. And I put my shoes, my dress shoes, in a drawer there and I left my clothes there. I went out to play baseball and when I come back they stole my shoes. So I had to buy a pair of shoes, then I was broke. That was a good one.
TM: There was bad ones at that time, too.
AM: I think they done for a trick on me.
AM: Ya, we had some good times.
LS: You came from a family that had a lot kids? Did you mother and father have ways of making ends meet? Would your mother sow or did they have a big garden...?
AM: No, a big garden.
TM: She sowed.
AM: She sowed by hand, but she didn’t sow for others, just for ourselves.
TM: We never had a large family.
AM: We never had a large family. They always died out.
TM: One time she said they had three girls. And then she was pregnant and by the time those, she had twins born then. By the time those twins were born she had lost two of those other girls, so she had one child left. They never had a big family together. They died young, most all of them.
LS: So, she had 14 children, but they would die in childbirth.
AM: Ya, when they were small. I think the oldest one, the one that drowned, was 11 years old.
TM: She had those three girls and by the time those twins were born, she only had one girl left. They only raised 4 children out of the 14.
LS: What would happen, Diphtheria or?
AM: Ya, mostly Diphtheria.
TM: A lot of times it could have been Diphtheria, but they
called it the (Koelith or
AM: They call it in German the (Hunsbreny?). Do you understand German?
LS: I’m German, but I can’t speak it.
AM: They call it in German the (Hunsbreny?). That’s Diphtheria in English.
TM: When those, see those children had stomach trouble or they called it the (Koelith or Coelith?). Really it could have been appendix trouble and they never knew what...
AM: There was no invention for appendix problem, way back there.
LS: Kids would die from a lot of things then I suppose? Today would just be a shot...
AM: It’s different now than it was there.
LS: How else would families make ends meet? Would your mother make her own soap? Or did she...
AM: She made everything. Baked her own bread. When she had flour, she could fix the biggest meal just with flour.
TM: Well, German dishes, flour dishes.
AM: And meat, as far as meat, we always had enough meat to eat. They raised that, see. Soap and she made clothes for the kids, for the kids we had.
LS: Did you have a root cellar then or did you have a cellar under..?
AM: No, we had a cellar under the house. There was no furnace under there like now, there was like a root cellar, just a little hole in the ground. There was no root cellar.
LS: Did you go to the flour mill in Krem then, to get you...?
AM: That’s where they got it ground.
LS: When you were a boy growing up, August, did all the farmers around your community have horses then, or were...?
AM: Ya, they never got any tractors till way late, heck that
was in the ‘20’s when some of them got tractors
and then some of them got cars. It was really surprising,
you know, when I remember one particular guy, he bought a
Model T and to church; people were noisy. They walked around
looked and one old guy looked underneath the back and he said
to this guy says, “By the way, how many cylinders does
this thing got?” As much as I know,
7 1/2. (Laughter)
AM: Nobody laughed. Oh! I tell you that was a joke. Ya!
TM: And those horsed were so scared of those cars.
AM: There were some good horses in the country. Those horses that were out there, I tell you, they were use to working. You could work them all year around. They didn’t give up. They were just like the Russians from Russia, see.
TM: Well, we worked with horses.
AM: We worked a long time. I worked, when did I first buy my first tractor? We were married for quite a few years. I worked around 200 acres with 6 horses. I got that in time and raised pretty good crops.
TM: Now the farmers don’t get done with all the big machines, then they used to get done with the horses.
AM: It’s all together different. Some guys, what I can’t figure out, they got a good tractor, maybe 2 or 3 years old, the neighbor buys one, a bigger one, well, I have to get rid of this and buys a new one, too. Then they get in the red. You look at the FHA outfit over there. I don’t know if they still got it like that. They have a map hanging on the wall. They got all the farmers staked out with stick pins. Where ever there is a red stick pin on, they are in danger. But the ones with black, they still can borrow.
LS: Are there a lot of red ones?
AM: Oh! I tell you the time I was in there, that was quite a few years ago; I never go in there anymore. But when I was in there, my brother-in-law was going to buy a farm around here, coming from Wyoming. I went with him. We went in; over half of them were red ones.
TM: I don’t think they do that anymore.
AM: They got to have a record somehow.
TM: They don’t stand up anymore.
AM: I know that a lot of guys borrow more money, more than they should have.
LS: Were there any oxen being used yet when you were growing up, either one of you?
AM: My folks started with oxen. They plowed with them.
TM: But we didn’t see that.
AM: We didn’t see that.
LS: They were gone by the time you can remember.
AM: That’s right. They had all kinds of ways of doing it. Then so funny, they broke 3 or 4 acres, didn’t look where they broke it, just so they had something to put crop in. The other field was the other way, instead of going through ½ mile field like they do now. Which is a lot easier, but they were glad to get some of it grow.
LS: Who had at had the early threshing machines around you area?
AM: Well, Ole Swabe had one and then...
LS: Is that a horse power or wooden...
AM: No. Well, it was horse power first and then they converted into a little tractor. Then old Bense, I don’t know his first name anymore. But his boys, I remember, they had a steam rig, a steam engine and an old (?) machine. They use to come through and thresh for us. There was some of the English people, Tucker was his name. He had an outfit down the river, but he seldom come up that way. They didn’t jive with the Russians, see. So they worked by them self.
TM: I think, though, when they lived in South Dakota yet, they use to use horses to tramp...
AM: They did up here, too.
LS: Walk it out.
TM: They run the horses around, around till...
AM: No, no they had a regular machine, but they had the horse power pulled down...
LS: with a tumbling rod
AM: And a power take-off with a shaft from that horse power and then they had about 12, 14 horses hooked two behind two. They went around and around, they pitched in and that’s how they threshed. I never heard thresh out with...
TM: I heard my folks talk about it.
AM: I remember when they had this horse power. When they had so many horses and they hooked them on the horse power. That’s what they run the machine with.
LS: There weren’t any threshing machines or steam engines that were owned by 3 or 4 farmers collectively, were there?
AM: Well, not up north, but I think down south they had a few guys, they had some hooked up, but I can’t recall the names. Up north there, there was old man Hoff, that got an old thresh machine and tractor, but no steamer. The Benches, they had a steamer, but that was the old man Benches.
TM: How about the Adolf’s, they had a steamer.
AM: I don’t know who was the operator on that? After so long, there was more machines, steamers, gas engines and everything come out later on.
LS: Would they fire the steam engines with lignite then, being some...?
AM: Some of them with straw because there was plenty straw. They hauled water for the steamers. I remember I hauled water for an outfit, the Medler outfit.
LS: Did you have to go quite a ways?
AM: No, not for water because they had the creeks, coolers run through there and there was some springs in there and water holes. You only had to drive down in the pasture, but you had to have some pretty good horses to pull that tank with 500 gallons of water out of there. It took awhile to pump that tank full.
LS: I was going to say that it would take awhile to pump...
AM: You had to pump it by hand. I remember one night, I and the engineer had to watch boilers on the steamer. I had to pump that thing about three times until we get enough pressure then to get it started. We were barely done with it and had the pressure there, there they come threshing. It was pitch dark, yet. At that time they go from early morning till late at night. Nowadays, they would walk off of the field.
TM: 4 o’clock in the morning we had to get up and we had to fix breakfast. We had till 10, 11 at night to get the dishes done.
AM: But, I tell you that’s what made them people get so old. There was some people; they got up to the 80’s and 90’s.
LS: Ya, well, they say hard work never hurt anybody.
TM: I don’t know, I would have liked to have slept a little longer.
AM: Everbody else would, but at the same time you had to get up.
TM: and then mainly, you had a house, the whole bunch. Us kids, mainly, had to lay on the floor.
LS: They didn’t eat the with the cook car, they ate where they were threshing?
TM: Later on they did it, some place.
AM: One year there was a bunch come here, but that was way in the ‘30’s, ‘20’s already. From New Salem, they had a cook car hooked on behind, ya. That’s where they went to town and got the food. But most of the places we went, we ate in the house.
LS: Do you kind of miss those days; do you miss threshing a little?
AM: Well, I do. I just sold my threshing machine. I owned a threshing machine, too. When did I buy it?
TM: He threshed often, still with it.
AM: 1942. I threshed while I lived in town.
TM: Not too much.
AM: I sold it here, just this fall here. I sold to a guy here in town. He works in the mine and he farms a little. He’s got a few kids and he says he’s got to keep them occupied. So, he bought 40 acres of oats and he threshed it when 2 bundle racks. Ya, you should see that oats. It looks darn good. That’s what he done.
TM: Up north here, across the river, they have a real harvest threshing day. They have all kinds of machines, even wooden ones, real old ones. We went up there one Sunday. There were 5 machines were threshing. They were running it and showing us.
AM: That’s up here in Makoti. That’s where they have this threshing. We went up there one year; that really looked good. They had three machines lined up with tractors on and they hauled bundles in. They had a team of horses, sold horses and a trailer box they had threshed oats. The man went home with one load. They really made money with that, too. They charged 1.50 a person, wasn’t it, to get in? They must have had 4,000, 5.000 people there. Oh, gully did they have...
TM: And they had a tractor that still with chains. The wheels were steering. And our grandchildren, they sat on the car hood; they were going to really watch. They thought this was a big line of tractors, any shape and style what you want to see. They started whistling, they had these whistle on there cars; these kids got off as fast as they could.
AM: They got scared.
LS: Was there kind of crop rotation in those days, August?
AM: No, no.
LS: I mean would Flax be the first thing, then...?
AM: When they broke up a little patch, they put it in Flax, but then they didn’t put enough on, see. They believed it, ½ bushel to an acre.
LS: Was enough.
AM: And that isn’t enough. I see the Flax up there after I started raising Flax, the whole ground. I put on a bushel to an acre and I raised one year 33 bushels an acre.
LS: Were schools going already when you were 5 and 6 and old enough to start school, did they have schools built?
AM: Yes, they had schools.
TM: In some places they had it right in the homes.
AM: Some places they had it right in the homes.
LS: Was that area up there where your family homesteaded, did that become pretty well settled? Were there people...?
AM: That was heavily populated, but now they’re practically all out of there. The old guys died and the young guys moved away. The bigger farmers get in there and one buys the other one out, so.
LS: Would you have three schools in a township then, or 4?
AM: We had 4. 4 schools in a township, only the district we lived in towards last, they cut 2 months away from that township, than they had 2 schools in our district then; 2 miles wide and 8 miles long. They build consolidated schools in the other, 6 miles, what ever they had left. They just tore that school down about a year or 2 years ago, the consolidated school.
LS: Did they use of any these horse drawn school buses, out there in that consolidated...?
TM: Not around here, but around Butte.
AM: They had to haul their own kids out there.
TM: the Butte School that was a big...
AM: That was more in the newer times, too already.
TM: So, they had about 8 buses going to pick up all the kids to this one place. But it got so expensive, that they had to quit.
LS: Well, this one school district that you mentioned that was 4 miles wide and 8 miles long or 2 miles wide and 8 miles long; some kids would have to come quite a distance then to school.
AM: No, they had one on each end; they had 2 schools.
LS: Oh! I see.
AM: One on the north end and one more on the south end. It wasn’t too far for them then. But it was a heck of expenses for 2 miles wide and 8 miles long.
TM: Then when the dam came in, they had to move this box school out and it got close to our place. So, the youngest of ours had a chance to go real close, just about ½ mile.
AM: We were just about in the center of this 8 miles.
TM: When this area was all flooded down there.
LS: Well, now in the ‘30’s, did you have any trouble raising revenues, tax revenues to...?
AM: Well, ya, everything was in the red, see, for so long. That’s where most of the guys, you know, lost their land. Ours probably would have went too, but being that my folks got it then. In ‘38’ when my mother died. Dad died in ’32’. Then we put this under probation, see. They had to probated, see. So, they left that go till the probation was settled. At that time I got a little educated from people and there was 8 years taxes behind. There was no debts on the land. After we probated, they waited, but I did, I went into the bank and borrowed money to contract in taxes. That’s what I did. I had to pay off the girls, and I bought the place. And I still got it.
LS: Had your dad picked up any additional land or was he still...?
AM: Just that ½ section that I got. He had that homestead and then he bought one, a quarter. For that, I think, he paid a $1.50 per acre. But I think he paid on it for 25 years until he had it paid off.
LS: Then he bought that then in the teens or twenties?
AM: Well, no, he must have bought that before that.
LS: Earlier than that?
AM: Because when he come over here, he homesteaded, see.
TM: August, it was 1905. I seen a piece of paper one time. He was all paid up in 1905.
AM: Are you sure that’s when he was paid up or was that when he homesteaded.
TM: Maybe he borrowed the money, but the loan was paid. I seen that.
AM: It took him a long time.
LS: Do you think I want to ask you a question about the way things are today, now? Do you think that it still would be possible for a family of maybe the parents, two, three kids; do you think it would be possible for a family that size to live on a ½ section or ¾ sections?
LS: Why do all people say that you need 5 sections of land or need 4 sections?
AM: Because I can prove that, I can tell you that right out, I’m not afraid to tell you, because when a kid starts for himself, he figured he should be a millionaire in a year or two. Then he wants to go out big and that’s where he runs himself broke. When I started, I bought the land in the ‘30’, that ½ section. I had to borrow $2,700 to pay it because I had to pay it to the girls. I made a living on that ½ section and I raised 4 kids. They went through high school except one of them. They all four went through high school.
TM: You’re all wrong.
AM: All four went through high school. For themselves they made pretty good money and I don’t owe anybody a cent. And I still have that ½ section of land. I built a place in town here. I’m retired now, no sweat. We didn’t buy everything that we seen. We lived according to what the income was and you know how much income we had in the ‘30’s? We milked 8 or 9 cows. We had $3.25 a week allowed, that was are money to buy groceries and gasoline; and at that time I still smoked then and two cans of tobacco and I bought the paper, it had to be. So, I bought $.75 worth of gas for the car, it was 5 gallons that time and two cans of tobacco. The rest I gave to Vern. That’s what we lived grocery on and we never owed any store bill.
TM: We had chickens, we had our own cream. Yes, you could buy a 5 lb. macaroni box for $.57. That went a long ways. Home grown stuff, we, home dishes...
AM: No, I...
TM: Our kids never went hungry. That’s what they still
say to this day. Because we have three school teachers and
they said they could pick out their children which was under
nourished in the schoolroom. This one of them, who taught
in Miles City, she was really
worked up over this and she said that one thing that if we didn’t always have what we wanted, but we never went to bed hungry.
LS: So, you would say that’s a bunch of hog wash then that you got...?
AM: It is. It is.
LS: 5,000 acres of land or 3,500 acres of land...
AM: I tell you, this is going to end, too. This is going to be Socialist or Communist in time to come. Somebody is going to hog it off and the other is going to work as slaves and were going to get into it.
TM: The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.
AM: To top it off, the other Sunday, I listened to the 60 minute news. They had a foreigner in here, this (? Simron) on the news broadcast for the CBS, he interviewed him. He asked him, “What happened to the United States that we’re going backwards instead of forwards?” This guy says, “You know that your country is over educated. Your kids come out of college and out of high school and they figure the government owes them a little pencil pusher. But you have to take into consideration, that you don’t get anything out of that ground, that don’t do you any good.”
LS: Ya, that’s right.
AM: Then he made a remark, and he says, “What would stop that?” And he says, “Well, you mark my words, I might not be around to see it and you might not either. But if you be around in the next three years,” he says, “you are going to have the biggest revolution in the United States that you ever seen. And he says, “That’s what settled it over in Russia, Germany and all over in them countries over there. They were going the same way, and that’s going to come over here, too.”
LS: He said in the next three years?
AM: In the next there years. That same week I talked to a trucker down here, he goes all over the United States; he goes to New York, Phoenix and all over. When I mentioned that, he says, “You know, I run into that down in Phoenix, Arizona. There’s this spot, they don’t listen to the government anymore. They got their own project there. It’s controlled by Communist. They got their own bombs, rifles and everything ready to crack it loose.
LS: So, now we’re talking Politics, August. Let me ask you some political questions.
AM: I’m not very smart in that. I don’t choose...
LS: I’m not either, but I was wondering, was the nonpartisan league, a popular political party?
AM: It was. It was. It was a help for the country and Mercer County here and the State of North Dakota. It always was. Then they got kind of weak and the Democrats got kind of weak and they joined together, and now it’s the nonpartisan league and the Democrats together and that spoils everything.
LS: Did 50% of the farmers join the nonpartisan league?
AM: Oh! 7, I bet you this nonpartisan league, well, that was an operation around here. That was 90%.
LS: Is that right?
AM: The Democrats had no show in here what’s so ever. They couldn’t muster nothing.
LS: Did your dad join the non partisan league?
AM: Ya, he was in the nonpartisan league.
LS: What did he think of that organization having come over from Russia? Did he see that a nonpartisan league as a...
AM: He figured that was the thing to do, see. As much as I know, I don’t know. How they figured it, how they got organized, but they were in that, see. That whole community up north, everybody was in that.
LS: Did you ever hear Townly or Langer speak or any of...?
AM: Langer was a nonpartisan. Ya, I heard him speak. And that Langer, I tell you, he was a powerful man.
LS: Was he a good speaker?
AM: Oh, god, yes. He was. I bet you that Link don’t know one thing or bring out any speech like this Langer. Well, I’m not running him down. Link might be a good man in all of this. If he gets on the speak, I can speak faster and more powerful than he can.
LS: Did you ever meet Bill Langer?
AM: Oh, ya. He came right out here.
TM: He came right out here.
AM: During the thirties, he was governor there and he was campaigning all over. He told the people what the deal was and he stayed in office for a heck of a long time. I think the age limit got him out of the office.
LS: He died in office.
AM: Died, that’s right, he died.
TM: Ya, he was well liked.
AM: You know John Moses, he was a Democrat at that time and he run against him and he didn’t even, oh, heck, he didn’t see first base with him.
LS: Why was Bill Langer so controversial then? You know it seems like people either like Bill Langer, or that he was the biggest scoundrel that ever walked.
AM: Well, some of them were that way and I think the reason for that because they were going to get the Democrat Organization on the go again. There was no man in the State of North Dakota that could beat Bill Langer.
TM: He was good to the people in the State. He tried hard for them.
AM: He made mistakes too. You know when they come out with that monitorium that time, when people were in the red so far, he put on that moratorium, see, to try to save the people that owned the land. But that was a foolish thing to do. That was a mistake he made. He should never done that because if I and you live long side here and if I must of threw the way I told you how we lived out here, and you go sky high, why should you beat the people out of their money? You poor and you had a good time on it; you’re entitled to pay for it. If I pay and work myself through it, then I think you can too. One thing about Bill Langer, he took the poor in consideration with the rich. When he found something out that a guy was really pulling the wool over the poor guy, he was backing you up. And that’s the way it should be. Now days regardless if you go national or state or county, you got a bunch of crocks in there and you ain’t going to get rid of them anymore.
LS: Everybody wants to make a little money.
AM: That’s right.
TM: That’s the whole problem. Everybody wants money and more money.
AM: I don’t know rather you’re a Democrat or Republican.
LS: Neither one.
AM: What did you think of the defeat from Senator Young with Guy?
LS: I don’t know, August, I thought that was going to be a close race. I didn’t know who was going to win.
AM: I know it was going to be a close race, but I said myself, the age limit is going to knock him out. But then when they come around and told me what they heard of Guy, when he was in this bank deal in Minot there. I said, oh, Young is going to beat him and he did. And we got a few make over Democrats here and they were nonpartisan leaguers. Now they’re Democrats. I still stay on the Republican side.
LS: Was there still a Farm Holiday Association in Mercier County, Burdick’s organization, you know, the farmers that were going to stop foreclosure sales and...
AM: No, no.
LS: Do you remember when I mean, August?
AM: Ya! I know what you mean, but I never heard of that around here.
LS: They were going to stop. They were going to have holding
action and keep the grain back. They weren’t going to
sale grain or livestock or...
AM: I don’t think, I don’t think they were around here, not that I remember. We got Danny Foe now. We got the Farm Bureau and the Farmer’s Union. Anyway, that’s what we got here, but I never heard of this Farm Holiday. I never heard of that.
LS: Was the Farmer’s Union a popular...
AM: That was popular, but I tell you the way it’s going now, I think our Farmer’s Union here in town that’s going to go to the Jaycees. To top it off...
LS: What do you mean; go to the Jaycees, August?
AM: Well, we had a good outfit up here and we made money...
TM: This is a town organization.
AM: This Jaycee, you’ve heard of Jaycee?
LS: I have.
AM: The manager we have in there, he got alcoholic and he had to quit.
LS: In the Farmer’s Union?
AM: Ya! So they appointed a guy that had an office and he still got it in the Jaycees. There’s quite a few Jaycees he hired already since he’s in there. I think myself it’s going to turn over to the Jaycees.
LS: You mean it’s not a farm organization anymore?
AM: Well, he pulls more for the Jaycees, than for the farmers. Then they hired him on a straight salary. And the other manager, I was in the boat for 12 years, we had the other manager hired on percentage. They do a heck of a better job. This way he’s not even in the main office over here in the station, he sits over there in the hardware store. He don’t know what’s going on. He got employees that stand, a car drives up there and they look at each other, which one should go and serve it. That’s a heck of a poor attitude.
LS: I want to ask you some more questions about coal. Now, there was a lucky strike mine at Zap, right?
LS: That mine shipped coal on the railroad.
LS: Were there any other mines around here in the twenties or thirties that shipped out coal?
AM: Oh, ya. Beulah mine shipped out and there was another in Zap. What the heck was the name of the other mine in Zap? Lucky Strike and there was Cabbit’s mine that was a Jew, that operated the mine up there.
LS: Did he ship out too?
AM: That I don’t know whether he shipped out coal or not, but he had a mine up there. They had two mines up there. Beulah here, they shipped out coal because they had over two hundred people working here underground.
LS: What was the name of the mine at Beulah?
AM: Knife River.
LS: That’s right, ya!
AM: Knife River, that’s still, is the name. The one in Zap now, that’s the North American.
LS: Did they ever have trouble with unions, strikes, or...
AM: They didn’t before...
TM: Beulah had one time, that was quite a number of years back and another company bought them out and changed the name. They haven’t done it since.
AM: So, two or three guys, they were out of job. Those were the instigators. They changed the name. A different man bought them out. I don’t think they bought them out. It was just a blind deal. They laid them three off and the others they got a warning and were pretty careful what they do. Zap up here had a bad one last summer.
TM: They don’t benefit much by that. Beulah found this out then and it’s not a benefit to the city because so many people lost their jobs and had to leave town. So, they don’t agree with this.
LS: There weren’t any bad strikes like that back in the twenties or thirties?
AM: No, no.
TM: They don’t belong to the same union as Zap does, see. They have their own. That helps them along.
LS: Did the coal mines help this area? Do you think during
the thirties with everybody not having any money or anything?
Working in the mines, did that provide jobs...?
AM: They helped the Beulah area quite a bit.
TM: This road, they call it the (?). The banker built all these houses for the miners. There is still one or two that he built. He built them all a like. These were all miners that was working here in town
LS: So it was kind of nice to have a mining industry in the thirties for jobs?
AM: Ya, that was a good deal.
TM: The younger people got into it and made a living.
LS: Do you think, you know, there is a lot of talk now about what’s going to happen in North Dakota when gasification plants come in and big strip mining operations. How do you think that will affect?
AM: That will affect the State pretty much, so. You take that soft soil off once and redo it again like they do it and level it out. I don’t have much of an education, but anytime that you fool around with Mother Nature and change something on it, you’re up against it. You can see it with the county commissioners and what ever they want to change the channel, water stream, make it run different way, they have troubles right now. Mother Nature built that, and if you change that. Now you take that blue clay from eighty feet down, bring it up on top. That layer of clay is down for some purpose. Now you bring it up on top, they level it out and put that black soil. Take that off first in storage and put it back on three or four inches. That’s not like Mother Nature. They seeded some out here; they put oats in. That stuff come up that high and when it quit raining that’s when she burnt up. There’s nothing there to make...
TM: I still believe in time...
AM: No, it wouldn’t. It wouldn’t. I would bet
money on that. This is about the richest land in the State
of North Dakota; right through here from the river going west
of here, about ten miles away from the river. They flood most
of it out with the water. When they get in with their mining
with the pipeline, they lose practically everything. Farmers
were doubt enough, I least mine too, which I shouldn’t
have done. We should have all held back and not leased it
to them. Keep them out of here. Where are our people going
to go to? And another thing now, we’re short of facility
and school buildings for education. Now, I see in the paper
where Beulah’s going to get over three thousand people
in there. You figure that three thousand people and cut the
kids down to a thousand kids. They sure as hell wouldn’t
settle in the city limits, because they bought five, six hundred
acres out here where they’re going to start out. I bet
that’s going to be the biggest trailer court you’re
going to see out here. We got to foot the bill to bus them
kids in and to put the school buildings up. Who are you going
to get the real estate taxes and the money to do that? How
much taxes are them trailer courts pay, seventy-five, and
hundred dollars a piece, that all? They get the benefit and
probably tell the city here what to do, you better get a better
LS: Where are they going to put this trailer court in? Is that going...?
AM: I don’t know for sure. One is going to be south of town. MDU bought eight hundred acres from Meriot here. He’s got to move off of there, but he couldn’t take the house off, he’s got to leave the house. The manager of MDU is going to live right in that house. South of that house, they want to make room for two hundred or three hundred trailer houses. They got the area there to get a trailer court in. That’s one of them, up north by that gasification. Well, if they employ two, three thousand people, you know darn well their going to boycott there as closest as they can, to get their trailers in when they come with trailers. That’s going to wreck our country.
LS: If, do you, August, that a lot of these farmers around here had it to do over again, they wouldn’t have leased their land?
AM: The older ones, the younger ones don’t realize, they figure. Now we got some guys here, like the Jaycees, our neighbor over here, he belongs to the Jaycees. He was down in Bismarck and he had his speech on television. He says, as much as he knows, there is no body against it, you know, to get this in to improve. It helps the business and the towns. I go a long with that. He don’t know the future with them people that live out there. Where they going to go? You can’t get a job here for no money. Where they going to go? They bring their own people in, most of them, when they come into work. They don’t hire young kids here if they got experienced guys here. They put them to work.
TM: There’s young people in here already that are going to work here.
AM: They want to work, but they ain’t got the job yet. It’s going to wreck our country yet. Not the business.
LS: Ya, they’ll be a lot of money spent.
AM: Ya, they’ll be a lot of money spent.
LS: How were Beulah, Hazen, and Center in the twenties and thirties with mining? Were they rougher towns would you say then...?
AM: Well, I’d say when they, when they had all these miners in here, they weren’t just too rough. But you couldn’t play boss in here either because they were pretty well organized. They were tough.
LS: They lived right in town, then?
AM: Most of them lived right in town. I don’t know about Center, but Zap and Beulah they lived right in town. There’s shacks down here by the Knife River where some of the miners lived in. I would say it’s like anything else, you know, you find some rough necks where ever you go. That’s about the size here.
LS: You been a farmer almost all your life, August, one more question. I’ll quit after this one. When you look back over the twenties, and the thirties, and the forties, what Federal Programs or State Programs do you think help the farmer the most? Would you say Soil Conservation, or AAA, or County Agent or...?
AM: Well, no I would say better off if we would have none of them because they had over production in wheat. The way they come in with the AAA Office, they told you how many acres you’re allowed and so many acres to farm and the rest you had to summer fallow. Then they paid you a little bonus out. Well this soil up north here, the way they farm you know, people was going to take out of that soil everything they could. They didn’t summer fallow, a few acres of corn. They didn’t produce half of the wheat towards last anymore than what they did before. After they built it up with the summer fallow and everything and then they brought the fertilizer in. Fertilizer was cheap then, then they fertilized. That’s where that 50 bushel acre of wheat came in. They couldn’t get the over production down. So what’s the use? Let the man farm the way he wants. If he runs his land down, so it don’t produce anymore, that’s his problem. The over production won’t go up, see. The better farmers they get the benefit out of it. If you farm it right, you get something. If you don’t, you don’t.
TM: They fertilized then too, but they hauled the manure on the fields.
AM: They hauled the manure out there. The manure is better fertilizer than what you buy. It’s a funny way. The County Agent was here in town. One year I asked him a question, he gave me a dumb answer. From then on I didn’t even blink. When I farmed with horses yet in the other place in the field out there, maybe it was a spot as big as this house here. That darn stuff grew that high just as the wheat. It had flowers on and I couldn’t figure, green as lettuce. So when we harvested with the (?biker), we always cut it off. One year afterwards after binding, I took some of those leaves and took them in. I asked him, “What that is?” He said “that’s sow thistles. You got to be careful. You got to spray them twice, two years in a row in order to get rid of them.” I went over to the Farmer’s Union and that manager there at that time. I told him about it, I want dope to spray them sow thistles. He tells me I have to buy enough; I got to spray two years in a row. What the hell he’s talking about? He gave me a pint. He says, “If that don’t kill them out, nothing will.” The wheat might not produce the way it should in that spot. He says, “You take that home”. I took one of those cat spays and I went out early in the morning, it was a quiet day. It had night dew on there. I put that whole pint and a three gallon can, I sprayed them. About ten eleven o’clock I drove out to get the mail. I walked around and they were rattling already. They burnt out completely and I didn’t have no more trouble. So, what the hell is the county agent doing any good? It’s about $10,000 or $12,000 expense for the county. All he helped the Homemakers or the Home breakers, what ever you call them.
LS: Then you knew how to can before he came.
AM: That’s right. No, I tell you this, some they thought the world of a County Agent. And with the AAA Office is the same darn thing. Any time the government gets its hands into any business, you’re sunk.
LS: I thought of another question I want to ask. Were there a lot of people against Garrison Dam around here?
AM: Ya, there were.
LS: Did anybody try to hold out? Was there any opposition at all?
AM: Yes, some of them took it to court. They came around here and bought them out. They bought the land out that lived in the river bottom. Some of them they didn’t go for it and they took them to court. Some of them got as high as $12,000, $13,000 more. There was only three. When they come in here, they started here and then they skipped about 10 miles and then they bought another guy out. Well, they figured well, if they come in with the dam you got to get out anyway, so they sold it for nothing, see. But some guys got smarter afterwards and got more information on and got stubborn. Some of them got way more money than the rest of them.
LS: What did you think about that at the time?
AM: Well, at the time and the time now, the present time, I don’t think nothing of this dam either. They have a hell of a mess up there with those fisher men, hunters and everything that’s going to go through. When you rent a piece of land and when you have a fence joining next to it, when the water is backing into your land or some of the farmers land, then they go in there fishing. If you don’t watch there every day, they cut the fence down and your cattle out. It was the dumbest thing; they flooded our best land, the most valuable land out. The tax load got reversed and the rest of the township, and what ever was left, they had to get out.
LS: They told me that up around Watford City that the land, the river bottom land was the best they had in the McKenzie County.
AM: I tell you, down here, right in the bend, north of the field there, there was a rancher living in there, Boer was his name. When nobody raised anything, he raised it in there, also the Hilabrants, two of them down there, north of my place.
TM: The beautiful Alfalfa field that was there.
AM: Alfalfa, oh, hell, they cut two or three times in one summer.
TM: and pastures, you could take you cattle down there, raises them and pays so much a head.
AM: This was a murder for Mercer County. I know all the Watford City guys and all the way along here and the Indians had to move out. That was the wrong thing to do. And then they said do you intend to come to get the irrigation. Who’s going to get the irrigation in the eastern part of the State? What a baloney! We’re paying taxes for it.
TM: Oh, we have two farms up here that have...
AM: They have three of them, sprinkling systems put in. I really shows, you know.
AM: Look what it costs. It costs them $30,000 to get the
sprinkling system and then they have to pump the water. Why
hell! That’s not irrigation. No, that wasn’t the
best thing to do.