Interview with Fred Wieland (FW)

Conducted by Vernon Wieland
18 July 1999, Streeter, North Dakota

Transcribed by Jayne Whiteford
Edited by Laura Eltz

VW: How did you farm? Tell me how you farmed because it was so hot, you always told me about it was so hot.

FW: We had to cultivate in summer and in fall. And you couldn’t use a single disc on it. We had to use something with shovels to cultivate the land on account of sand storms. And then I used the little corn cultivator that’s still standing at home.

VW: Yeah

FW: But the pole is broke, the snow broke the pole. I went out in the morning at four o’clock, four o’clock in the morning. And then I worked till about eight and then the horses were so wet that they dried, that much they sweat. Then I unhitched them and took a rest the whole day and then I turned the horses out. We sat inside the barn, I had a door on the other end and that was the coolest place for the horses, and the cattle would go up in the spring, and I stayed in the house; and had a washtub for cold water in the room for (A12 breathing). That is all I know about.

VW: I suppose it wasn’t as hot as it was about three years ago in North Dakota.

FW: Well, then they started us paying substitutes for delayed payments; we sold wheat for twenty-two cents a bushel. Then President Roosevelt said that we were underpayed. And then he paid us some extra money. That almost was enough for me, sometimes a little over, but I had to pay for the rent. And the rent you had to live and the cows we still milked. I trucked some cattle once down to Fargo. And then I bought twenty-two sacks of feed, I’d say, there was hundred pounds in a sack; feed for the cows and calves. I think I had eighty dollars for the cattle and I bought feed, sixty dollars worth.

VW: You didn’t have much left then. Were the pastures, all dried up and you didn’t have many cattle at that time, I imagine in the 30’s when it was kind of tough?

FW: No, we had cattle all the time.

VW: Did you milk a lot of cows then?

FW: We had our cows and I’d kept only a small flock. And the man came around and then spilt it. Whether you would keep your lowest, but you would not keep more cattle than that. I guess we were supposed to keep fifteen cattle, all together.

VW: Fifteen cows.

FW: Cattle, all together. And when we went to war, the cattle were close by the barn there and then anyone could count them.

VW: Is that including the calves?

FW: Well the small calves, they all got shot and were buried.

VW: The calves get shot and buried.

FW: They were still no good for any food, they had long hair and skinny and some had diarrhea. It didn’t look good at all.

VW: So he shot the calves.

FW: He shot four for us.

VW: How did they burry them? Just with a shovel and stuff, or how’d they burry them?

FW: Well, I helped him burry them.

VW: Oh, you had to burry them? Did they pay you for it?

FW: That was all included.

VW: I see. What are some of the hardest things that you had to do during the depression?

FW: It was all hard, there is nothing that I would say that I felt was, it is all the same.

VW: What about the people in town, did they have it as hard as you people out on the farm?

FW: Every two weeks a truck came to town and brought bread, butter, oranges, grapefruit and anything you needed. And the bigger the family the more you got. They had it made, the big families.

VW: In town?

FW: Yeah, they got everything. All the people got all the food to eat.

VW: Sounds almost like welfare then, those people who got food.

FW: The government run everything. Roosevelt did that. And they said the government is going broke, but anyway they brought the surplus oranges, very cheap, bread, flour, meat and butter. Meat I don’t think they got, they got sausage. We got it cheap. They’d said that they got so many oranges that the kids went out and played ball with them. Or the girls said dad do you think that 85, something like you got four kids 87. Dad was loaded with stuff. Butter, cheese, bread, oranges, grapefruit, and you had to ask for it. My dad wouldn’t ask for it, he was too proud. He didn’t take anything. And there was one Ethler and he was a rich guy. He even got twenty sacks of flour and he was a rich guy. He always had a lot of stuff. And that old Jake Shoemaker, he didn’t know what a grapefruit is. And then there was Hons Gray; it was our minister’s son, he was teaching school there and staying with old Shoemaker. He started eating grapefruit and Shoemaker would throw them out and give it to them to eat and when they found out that it was something to eat, he wouldn’t give that Hons Gray anymore of them. That is what Hons Gray said after telling him how to eat them he didn’t get anymore. So that is the big trucks. 107 and he brought everything, butter, bread, biscuits, potatoes, a hundred potatoes. They unloaded one at Sailman’s store when that was closed. They started clothing.

VW: What, when?

FW: Fred Wings, he went broke. He bought from the…

VW: See that is one of the calendars that I found upstairs. That is why I asked.

FW: Fred Wings.

VW: Yeah. You have a calendar up in the attic that I brought down here of Fred Wings.

FW: Well he bought the store, and his son made him broke. He stole all the canned foods and bread and everything.

VW: What is 119?

FW: That big chick.

VW: Oh.

FW: And they had a lot of the home Carlos potatoes down at the Paul Wibee’s who was the supervisor to. Big families got two hundred pounds of them, smaller families a hundred pounds. I guess nobody got more than two hundred pounds. So that’s where they lived. They couldn’t earn anything, nothing grew and then they had to leave irrigated lands to grow potatoes, and then they made more irrigation. And they made dams, big dams, to irrigate they had to get in weight.

VW: I thought that was when Roosevelt came in though…

FW: Roosevelt was better.

VW: He did the best.

FW: He was in Fort and died. And he was fighting so hard, and gave speeches on the radio. And the people give, they sometimes cheered for fifteen minutes. “Wait a minute,” he said sometimes. “Wait a minute!” and they kept on cheering and then he had to wait. Oh, he was the greatest president and had a heart. I’ll tell yeah, 143, when he brought up the stuff; his staff was wonderful. And then those rich guys, they always were scared; they thought that they would lose what they got. He didn’t touch them. They could go their way and make their money just like before. “He was only running for the poor,” he said, “for the people that don’t have anything.”

VW: Now, when we were going, one was starting. The people didn’t like the Germans, when World War I started.

FW: Well, I will fight against the Germans.

VW: Yeah.

FW: That is a 155. They came with a British ship. The British had the best Navy. And they had a German flag on a British ship. They shot a great big German freighter down that was loaded with food for the soldiers over there. For France and England and then they’d go right by, wouldn’t picked any of the soldiers up. And that was also priced 20,000 Germans; they were really bad. And that was the British themselves. If they would have stopped and picked some up they would have been identified, but then they blamed it on the Germans. Then the Americans said that if they shot one more ship down then they are going to declare war on them. Sure enough, the British went out and shot a battle ship down, declared war on the innocent German people. And they did not do it.

VW: How about even in Streeter, there were examples of people hating the Germans in the Streeter area or…

FW: But they weren’t suppose to. President Wilson had a big write-up in the German paper. And President Roosevelt said, “Any German citizen has just as much right in here as a British citizen.”

VW: That would have been Wilson.

FW: Huh?

VW: That would have been Wilson.

FW: It might be Wilson.

VW: Yeah, World War I it was Wilson.

FW: Oh, I see, that started in 1914.

VW: Yeah that was Wilson. What about, did anything else even in the Streeter area, where the people were against the Germans?

FW: Yeah, that racer a few hot ones.

VW: What did they do or what did they say?

FW: Well, that Putman had a big write up, he was the Streeter Herald newspaperman, about what he was doing. And then all those young Germans knew Art Graf, he was a big, strong man; went over, and give him hell. He said cancel my paper, they canceled eighty papers in one day and papa went broke with his newspaper. And then we ran the apartments and we had some German brothers stay here and he said something about the Germans. All the Germans and then 199 and took him by the hand around and then whipped that hand around and then got him down on the ground. He said, “Here beat him up.” The guy was lying in the dirt.

VW: You mean the brothers did that?

FW: Yeah.

VW: To Putman the newspaperman.

FW: Yes.

VW: They fought and the Germans beat up the newspaperman.

FW: And then there is Charlie Schmitz, he was a German, he had been fighting a lot too. And they just thought because they were Germans they have to put, us up with that name. And even the 209, in own sight. We were Russians we were always Russians and just as soon as the war started we were Germans.

VW: Well what nationality was that newspaperman?

FW: Irish I guess the Putmans are, Irish.

VW: And what was the name of the druggist? Do you remember?

FW: No, that Florence and Wart and the other one I don’t know; three brothers were. And they had girls who were just as big devils. It was Wicker, who didn’t say anything because all the German guys as were his hired men. He didn’t say anything, he just laughed.

Interviewer: 222

FW: He had a big farm. He 223 Dutch

VW: Oh…

FW: If you know what that means.

VW: Yeah.

FW: Yeah, they had a lot of fights but when it came down to law, the one that started the fight would lose. He would lose it by law.

VW: And Putman is still is a newspaperman?

FW: That was Warren Putman. And all those Germans, I feel ugly when I pass a German in this town, he says. And then Art Graf, he was a German and he was still sing to the book strong man. He went over here and he said cancel my paper, I don’t want to read one lie that you put in there. I don’t want your newspapers anymore cancel it. And eighty newspapers were canceled in one day and more later.

VW: What did you say the name of Brumis was that beat him up?

FW: That was Brown

VW: Brown

FW: Brown

VW: And he beat him up.

FW: He was quick. He just took his arm and wrapped it around his own legs and he liked that. Then he tripped him and he beat him up; he hit him left and right in the face. And gushed 245

VW: Did you see it?

FW: No, but, I think that that is funny. And he, the druggist, even had glasses on.250

VW: So that Irishman didn’t fit in, too well with the Russian-Germans.

FW: He looked for what he said the next time. Shoot, that is the way they stumped them. And they told him I think that is was Wilson that had that big name and a big poem in my dad’s newspaper. And he says I’m a German citizen I have just as much right to live in this country as any other natural born citizen. Well my dad was not a citizen, but he did his duty. He paid his taxes, and had a bunch of kids, soldiers ready to go into the army and they were some of them, they went out and he had a great time. He became a member of Red Cross, he lived by Red Cross stuff whether he wanted it or not. And then Ed Wishck he was in the spring and he was 269 and then bought ten dollars worth of red cross and then talked nice and bought that 272 was so damn poor, he couldn’t afford five dollars but he never found out.

VW: Isn’t Ed Reeser still around?

FW: Well, his boys are but Loa Nielsen, that was his daughter.

VW: Oh, oh, oh.

FW: So now she is eighty and she didn’t seem that old at Christmas.

VW: There was a Reeser, there was another guy I think he was at the reunion a Reeser I thought. Wasn’t there one that managed the Oliver place?

FW: Yeah, that was Bill.

VW: Yeah, that’s the one.

FW: Loa Likkiss. And he had one brother and he died. Two girls and two boys, that is what he had.

VW: What nationality were, the Reeser’s?

FW: He was Pennsylvania Dutch.

VW: Like Scherer. None of your brothers were in the war, were they?

FW: My oldest brother was ready to leave, he got as far as Jamestown, and the war quit.

VW: Oh.

FW: She warned us great big guys, you know those Scherer’s. Nobody had to say anything against the Germans like that, terrible part.

VW: You probably would have had a lot of fights in that German-Russian community.

FW: A few. They do not have anything against the German country.

VW: Yeah.

FW: All of that, there were sixty-three Putman’s and there was Wivle and then there are a Will Good, he was an underdog and look out at the other ducks and the farmers Schmidt bunch. That they didn’t add too much. If they got the right man, he didn’t like old Brown, they liked taking him down; and knock his teeth in.

VW: One time you said that they were talking even you heard one they might even put the Germans in a concentration camp or in a camp. Was there any, what, where did you ever hear that? Do you recall at all?

FW: They had this in World War II they put Japanese…

VW: Yeah they did that.

FW: In the concentration camps.

VW: Yeah.

FW: They sent three Japanese from California. They were sticking up for Japan. Well they were traders; they had them in Bismarck in the penitentiary.

VW: Were there a lot of people that were against the Germans during World War II in the Streeter area, or not?

FW: No, that was gone, if the Germans were mostly English people then they talked all English. World War II, I didn’t deal much with that. We went back to Russia again and we were Russians. The Russians fought two wars on our side. And then when the last war was over, the Russians were so poor they didn’t have the equipment to work and didn’t care to work. They sent out millions of bushels of grain to Russia.

VW: Well, now when talked about you weren’t citizens yet; when did you guys become citizens then in the United States?

FW: Well I was twenty-one I took out my citizen paper. I still got that today.

VW: At home or here?

FW: Yeah.

VW: How about Grandpa Wieland?

FW: He never became a citizen.

VW: He never became a citizen, how come?

FW: He couldn’t talk English.

VW: Oh, I’ll be darned.

FW: There was old Fred Dockter, he was a rich guy, and he wanted to be a citizen. And demanded questions, he couldn’t understand one word. And then he said them in German. 357-358, and finally they decided and give him citizenship. But my dad was too proud to do that. He could have gotten relief like all of the others did, but he wouldn’t take any. We were out there when my mother was buried because she had an expensive coffin, because she was so big. And that was a two thousand dollar funeral. Then Maggie and John went out to the raffle boards; and they said they would only pay so much for the funeral and they paid the total amount. They paid two hundred dollars and they didn’t get anything.

VW: And how much was Grandma Wieland’s funeral?

FW: The coffin was two hundred dollars.

VW: Oh, that is what the funeral was then.

FW: That was the funeral. My dad’s was sixty dollars.

VW: But your mom and dad never became citizens. That’s surprising; I never knew that.

FW: I tell you they got everything so down. Andrew filled his question out. He was eighteen then he got a questionnaire to fill out. Out of the country and out of the war. And they asked him questions if he’d go to war and fight and he said “no.” And what they didn’t understand was that he said, don’t insult the 400 and when he came to hand the questionnaire in, he told him that. Isn’t that the area 404 and he said he wouldn’t want to go to war as he was a trader. He wouldn’t give him the paper. And then they had a smart man there who knew Andrew well; and that Andrew was not a bad guy and he went in and talked for him and said that the young man did not understand what he was asking and he wouldn’t know what he was saying. And now he says he’s got two boys and they are natural born citizens, why should you push their dad, in the corner and he did even know what he said. And he got his citizenship paper. I was safe and good, and you have a good friend, an educated friend, he will talk for you. And I didn’t have them, I think; I was only asked how they make the laws and 430. He and I took our citizenship paper out the same day. And his dad was never a citizen either. He couldn’t write or read, and he couldn’t talk. He was telling once about Oliver and he was going to start thrashing on Wednesday; and then the kids said that they want to get to. And then when they told 443. 444 they are going to start thrashing. And he couldn’t understand why they were 449-452.

VW: That is really amazing.

FW: They couldn’t talk, but that saved Pete and my dad would have been the same. A bunch of kids, were left behind to work. They had smaller boys and my dad had bigger boys. And then whenever they worked they were locked in light by the older John. My brother, Johnny, worked for Charles Wieland, and did he talk for him. He was a good hired man. He had a foreman and a farm, George Wieland was a banker, but from the future he was German too. Wieland was smart with a group. And then he had several hired men and John was running the whole farm. And we reported to Wieland.

VW: So when do you think all the Weilands, send John and Andrew and all of those were American and came to America too because they thought that we might…

FW: 486 from England, they are 487. Half of the girls got married to a citizen. They were citizens of the U.S., of course. The two youngest girls were natural born citizens.

VW: Emily wasn’t a natural born.

FW: Emily was not a natural born.

VW: Yeah, Emily had to get her citizenship then too.

FW: I don’t know if she got it. She got it though marriage. And I think that Bertha got hers. When she got married she became a citizen. And her brother John took his citizen paper out and then the land was gifted him and he says you made your wife a rush. So he took citizenship away from his wife, and he could marry and then when he got his citizenship again; she became a citizen through his paper.

VW: Oh, well now, she was German-Russian. Everybody was German-Russian.

FW: Yeah, she was born here though.

VW: But her parents were German-Russian.

FW: But that law changed a lot, hardly anyone was looking for their citizen paper.

Side 2

VW: Okay, you tell about how they made bread in those early days, in Russia. Go ahead.

FW: That’s Ernie Pedom in Europe; they didn’t have the chance as much as here, in the United States. They made a lot of their home stuff; they made their own yeast from the settling of wine barrels. Because wine barrels were great big barrels which were six foot high, they would hold at least two hundred gallons. And when they were emptied during the winter, they took the settling from the bottom of the barrel. It was a thick, grape settling and they took that out and made patties, just like hamburgers. Then they laid them in the sun to dry. That was the yeast to bake bread. They had such huge ovens they would bake up to twelve loaves at a time. And they heated the 22

VW: Any way you want to, Doitch or English.

FW: They heated the oven with dry corncobs and grape vines. When all of it was good and hot, they scratched all of the ashes out of the fire and the wives set the bread in there with a long shovel so she could reach the back end of it. And when the bread was all in the oven, she closed the door and went for a visit. She didn’t care what was going to happen because she knew it wouldn’t burn, that it would just bake nice. The loaves were from twelve to fourteen inches high and white and each loaf in one pan. They stored the bread down in the basement. They had a thing that looked something like a stepladder. And it was hanging up on the ceiling and for each row, in the middle; they would hang a loaf of bread. The loaf of bread was just touched from the outside, like the pan and on the top and bottom it was free. And they would keep that bread up for more then a month before it was eaten. And the wine was drank in the winter, and they cleaned the barrels in the summer. They had to take the ends out to give the barrels a good cleaning. That is all I know.

VW: Did a lot of them make wine in Russia that they made all of their liquor, their wine and stuff?

FW: Most of them made wine. Unless the very poor ones that just barely owned a house, they didn’t have any wine yards. But most everybody had a vineyard.

VW: And you had grapes in your, didn’t you? At your farm, you had grapes.

FW: Yeah, yeah.

VW: What color were the grapes?

FW: They were white and black.

VW: Oh, you had white and black.

FW: No brown one though; just black and white.

VW: How much wine did your dad make? Did your dad make the wine?

FW: I don’t know. He sold a lot. One year, he had nine barrels cooking. Out of each barrel they probably had seventy-five gallons of wine in one barrel. And he had about nine or ten barrels standing one year, and he sat on a little bench so he could reach up with a stick and stir them, so they wouldn’t boil over. When it stopped cooking, all of the grape wine came up and the clear wine stayed on the bottom. Then they let out the clear wine and carried it to the basement.

VW: Oh, so the white wine was separated from the other wine.

FW: The white wine was separated. We never had white wine much; a barrel only once in a while. It was a different grape that turned into vinegar and wine. Just as soon as the poor neighbors found out that a barrel of wine has turned to vinegar, they come and barrowed vinegar. They drank it.

VW: They drank it but, said they were going to use the vinegar. Did you have any such thing as homeless people at that time? What did you think of gypsies or homeless people like that in your area?

FW: They had an old folks home, but not in our town. It was in a different town.

VW: Is that where the poor went?

FW: That is where they go when they have nobody. My grandmother went there. When she became helpless they put her in a poor house. Then she got taken care of by a nurse.

VW: How about gypsies; were there a lot of gypsies in your area once in a while?

FW: The gypsies lived separate. They come though for business, and had some stuff to sell and steal. Then they would try to get the money twice for what they sold. A gypsy is nothing but a crook. Roland Mocices wife, was from Germany; she said Hitler started to kill the gypsies. All they did was steal money from the kids. They would break into your house when you weren’t home and beg for things. The fastest way to get rid of them is to get a glass of cold water and throw it at them, and run after them. Boy they would run their legs off.

VW: Why would that be?

FW: They didn’t like the water.

VW: You mean that they weren’t clean.

FW: They were not. They were just running from the water. This one time, 108. Then once they wanted to get rid of her; they sent me down with a dipper of water and as soon as they came out they started running and I would run after them. It is quite funny. And then they would go back that day.

VW: When you were there, you did a lot of visiting in Russia. Could you describe how they visited and how when you went to visit people, where the old folks sat and where the kids sat.

FW: I don’t understand.

VW: When you would visit people in Russia, could the kids go in the house or did they all stay outside.

FW: Well, when they were little they went in the house, when they became bigger they played outside. The nationality was not mixed. The Germans lived separate and the Russians lived separate. The Jews lived among the Germans and among the Russians. It didn’t make any difference where they got the money. They lived among the Russians and among the Germans. But there are the churches. They are all separated. Our church was almost the whole town. Then there is Grassnot, which is a town. It is all Catholic, no other religion.

VW: Well, you never saw a Catholic get married to a Lutheran did you?

FW: Out there, no, I wasn’t that deep into the business. Here they do it, but out there I don’t remember.

VW: I know that one time you said that there was a room where the kids could never go into. Was that in the United States or was that in Russia.

FW: That was both the United States and Russia. In the U.S. my folks went to town a lot and they 143 locked it. No one could get in. He was going to make us dinner once and we didn’t have any match to start the stove. I had to run to the neighbors to get a few matches; they were locked in.

VW: Another thing that I always think about Russia, is what do you remember about the depression? You remember a lot I am sure.

FW: I don’t remember too much, but I have heard people talk about it. They had a depression one year when they didn’t get any crop or any hay- nothing. Then they took a few first class men, from the town. Who went into a city where there was a bank and borrowed thousands of dollars and brought it back to all of the people in our town. Those were men that had to pay back; if the poor couldn’t pay it.

VW: That was in Russia?

FW: Yes.

VW: Oh, I see.

FW: But they went and borrowed a lot. I know that my dad said that there were three men going and they borrowed thousands of dollars and brought it back and divided it up. And then they could buy wheat and flour and other stuff they had.

VW: Do you remember if you did any hunting? Did anybody do any hunting or anything like that? Did you have anything like that?

FW: There were special men that had a gun. I think our town didn’t have more than three or four guns. You had to have a government permit to have a gun. Some went out goose hunting at the lake. They had one night of sleet rain, and froze. Then those geese, they couldn’t fly, were frozen up. They could walk and they would chase a big bunch at the horse harbor; they had horses in there. People would come and cuddle, hunt rabbits and even other stuff that was out there.

VW: Okay, what about the depression in the United States? What all things do you remember of the depression in the United States? Start out when you bought your thrashing machine. That was in what year, when you bought your first thrashing machine?

FW: That was in 1925.

VW: 1925

FW: It was a good one.

VW: What kind of a thrashing machine did you buy and what kind of tractor did you have to run it?

FW: A Twin City tractor and Twin City machine.

VW: How big was the machine, and how many inches was the pier?

FW: Twenty-eight inch.

VW: Do you remember what you paid for it?

FW: For the machine and the tractor it was thirty-one hundred dollars.

VW: thirty-one hundred dollars, which is a lot of money.

FW: Now we paid three thousand dollars for the machine and the first year we made a thousand dollars more than that.

VW: Was that over the thirty-one hundred or just a thousand dollar profit?

FW: That was with the expenses paid.

VW: Then you got married in 1927 and you and grandma started out on the farm, what did you have and where did you start farming first?

FW: Dixie Recters land. He went to Minnesota and gave me his entire farm. I got first chance to rent it. There was dozens of guys that wanted it. The next one that came after me was big and strong. He was so damn poor he couldn’t even pay the rent.

VW: Who was that?

FW: 234

VW: Well you don’t have to say it. When you and grandma started out what did you buy first. What are some of the things that you first bought when you first got married?

FW: First we bought a cow.

VW: How much did you pay for it?

FW: Seventy-five dollars. She had a calf within two months and was really a good cow. Then we milked four cows, which were our bread and butter. Then I had some corn shucks and some hay and I could feed them good. We got up to eight dollars a week for cream.

VW: Then you bought some furniture too. What did you pay for the furniture?

FW: I don’t know that was grandmas. She bought all of the furniture.

VW: I know you told me one time how much you paid for the table and the dresser.

FW: Well there was the table, six chairs, the dresser, and a cook stove, and then a washer. I think it was about one hundred and forty dollars.

VW: That was the dresser that Cindy took to Devils Lake.

FW: Yeah.

VW: Those were the chairs that we have right now.

FW: And the bed is at home in the barn.

VW: Oh, the bed is in the barn.

FW: Well it is standing there where the picnic table was outside. That was her stuff that cost me so much. Before we were married grandma sent for that stuff and her dad had the money borrowed from her when she worked out. She was an only girl that liked to work. Some of the neighbors said that Maggie was the only girl of the Stoles that wanted to work. The rest didn’t want to work. And they ordered the stuff from Streeter under my name and we were not married. I couldn’t talk to her.

VW: What are the things that you remember of the depression? Do you remember where you were when the depression came in October of 1929? Do you remember what happened there?

FW: I was on my dad’s farm. We tried to buy that but we couldn’t make it. There was not enough money and too much debt. My dad thought that he was going to borrow four thousand dollars and pay up all of his debts and he wanted a loan from the state government. The government would only give him thirty-one hundred dollars and then I had to pay a thousand dollars down in Fargo. Jake was supposed to pay one third of that and he didn’t. He stills owes me two hundred dollars. We made the loan, with the state and had to send the state twenty-five dollars before the state started to look into it. I paid Mike Helmp twenty-five dollars; Jake was suppose to pay half but didn’t. Then when there were a few mistakes against me; the government ate me up. And I have been good and kind to people.

VW: Now, why did you move from that Louie Bump farm to the place that you bought in 1941? How come you moved there?

FW: Well I could buy that cheap. I bought those two quarters of land, and the farm, great big barn for thirty-five hundred dollars.

VW: Two quarters and a farm for thirty-five hundred and you couldn’t do that over at the other place?

FW: They wanted for the two quarters, four thousand. That barn wasn’t worth looking at and the house was the same. You couldn’t put a furnace in; there was no basement for the furnace, no chimney, the chimney stopped up stairs. We had to put pipes through the floor to go in the chimney. Before we moved on that farm, I ordered a furnace and then grandma said, “When we lose the land then the furnace is gone too.” I said we wouldn’t lose the land. Then Hout came over to put the furnace in but the old furnace stayed in the corner. When he was done he charged us two hundred and fifteen dollars for the complete furnace. Carl Riding put his in just because we had a furnace. He put one in his house two years later and it cost him eight hundred dollars.

VW: What are some of the other things; what was it like farming during the depression?

FW: Just like before.

VW: What happened when the banks closed?

FW: Oh, well we lost a few dollars. I lost sixty dollars.

VW: You lost sixty dollars in the bank, how did you lose sixty dollars? Explain that.

FW: I didn’t, but they didn’t cash my checks. I would get a check for coal in January and they would hold that check. I paid the taxes in March, that was thirty-two dollars. I once was going to clean out all of my checks and take the rest of the money out; they told me that those haven’t come yet. They pushed me out and then the money was lost.

VW: Oh, did you think that the bank was going to close and that is why you wanted to draw your money out or what?

FW: No because I needed the money, and didn’t have much left. When I paid the taxes, thirty-two dollars, and coal, fifteen dollars, it cost a lot. I didn’t make much money.

VW: And you were one of the few that didn’t work in the PWA gang.

FW: I didn’t; I worked at the airport for three days to get the license for my car.

Interviewer: Airport, what airport?

FW: That quarter there, where he has his sheep, was an airport. There they leveled hills and everything with horses and scrapers, picks, and shoves.

VW: So you worked there for three days, on PWA.

FW: Just to get enough for the license for the car. Then I took and worked nothing anymore. Then later on they had other projects. Road gravelling, I could have been the foreman of that gang, but I didn’t want it. Let John Nelson have it. He said that he needs eight dollars worth of medicine a week for his dad and he needed it so I gave him the job. He made good money there and kept records of who worked and how many, the hours and all of that. Then send it into the coal mine.

VW: How did you feed your cattle during the depression? What year was the worst?

FW: Well, we bought hay and straw to ship them. We had to pay ten dollars for a ton of straw and twenty dollar for a ton of hay.

VW: How could you afford that?

FW: I don’t know. It was a little rough hay and we pitched grass and some thistles.

VW: How did you make the thistles?

FW: Well they already kind of liked them, but they got diarrhea so that you couldn’t feed them steady.

VW: What did you put on the thistles for them to eat them?

FW: I would feed them a little hay and straw in between.

VW: Did you put molasses on some of that stuff too?

FW: Old straw, yeah, for the horses.

VW: Just for the horses?

FW: They didn’t like it but they knew that they had to eat.

VW: Did anybody come around and buy cows from you during the depression and then kill them?

FW: They bought cows for twenty dollars a cow. And Youngecaster paid fifteen dollars and they killed them. The cows that they took were shipped to the south. They had plenty of pasture in the south. Then when the train unloaded the cows, they were thirsty. They didn’t have water on the train, so they were wild. The poor people down there could get a cow to milk, and could buy it later. Around here when they had the stockyards full of cows and cattle, the poor guys come, a couple together and bought the cow together. My brother John and old Stigman, killed a cow for themselves.

VW: Well, the government also killed cows and buried them didn’t they? When they were skinny?

FW: That I don’t know. The cows were poor but you could always manage because we had plenty of spring water. There was a lot of water. There were birds and chicken hawks and prairie chickens. Ducks and whatever you want to see were landing by that spring. And the cows stood in the water.

VW: What was the worst year in the depression years?

FW: I think it was 1934.

VW: Why was that the worst year?

FW: Well, because nothing grew.

VW: Did you have a lot of grasshoppers or dust storms?

FW: We had plenty of that. Grasshoppers, gave us food poisoning. (?) They cut out the furnace and then mixed the poison in there. They washed the floor once and then let that water wash out. (?)

Permission to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested by contacting Michael M. Miller