Strasburg, North Dakota – Religion, Farming and Education Issues

Germans from Russia Heritage Society
Cassette Tape Collection (Date Unknown)
Number Two in a Series

Transcription by Joy Hass Stefan
Editing by Janel Wald and Linda Haag

I was born in 1885, in a little sod shack. It didn’t even have a floor in it or a door in it yet, in Campbell County, South Dakota.

Strasburg, North Dakota. Population: 643. Our hometown. One in a series of sound portraits exploring the values, history, and character of life in small towns. Produced by Minnesota Public Radio Station KCCM, with funds provided by the North Dakota Committee for the Humanities and Public Issues. On today’s program, Adriana Nieuwsma tells her personal history of the town, from the perspective of the Dutch settlers, and Strasburgers tell of their attitudes about religion. The interviewer is John Ydstie. Now, Adriana Nieuwsma.

I guess I was the first baby in that county. There were a few settlers there, and they built a sod church, a Reformed Church, there about three miles away from my folks, the few settlers that were there. There were mostly Dutchmen. My folks lived there for two years, and then these homestead rights came out and he went further into North Dakota to look for a homestead. And he found a place that’s about seven miles southeast of here, between here and Hague, and he filed on that as a homestead. That’s where I was really raised. I lived on that place for over 50 years. I spent most of my life there. In the first years that my folks farmed there, they had to bring their grain, their wheat to Eureka by wagon and oxen at first; later, by horses, as time went on and the country progressed.
They bought their horses from Indians by the river. They called them broncos. Have you ever heard of bronco horses? They call them broncos. They’re awfully wild, but the Indians usually tamed them, and they’d come through the country and sell them to the settlers here. They were tough.

That’s how we had our first horses, I know. I remember my dad plowing with the ox team, yet. It sure took determination to come here, and they made good. They had their good times and hard times, but I think they were wise they came. It was too, because of the military rules that they had there, of being drafted. Every boy had to become a soldier if his health was fit. He had to serve a term in the service, whether there was war or not. They weren’t satisfied with the government. Then, when the United States, of course… they got such good reports from the United States that these things were all so different and everybody was his own boss, you might say, and that interested them, I guess. They were just eking out a living in the Old Country, and I guess they had just enough money to come across. Then my dad worked in Chicago in the Pullman car factory for awhile, until, I think he had about $100, and he had to start farming on that.

What was it like to grow up out here in those days?

I think the people were happier then than then are now. We never knew any better. We didn’t have any shoes to wear; we walked barefoot during the summer, and in the wintertime, well we little kids just stayed inside. My folks had a sod house, and it was built like this. They had a T to it with a barn for their horses and cows, and then there was a kind of a little hallway in between, and we had our toilet, or you might say our backhouse in that hall. We didn’t have to go outside for that. And the hay, my folks would get that in from the back, and they fixed a roof over the haystacks, and hauled that full of hay, and right from the inside they could get the hay to the cows and to the horses. We lived indoors most of the time. My dad would go to Eureka maybe once a month and he’d get a few groceries.

We didn’t have school in the winter then, because we didn’t have the fuel… just three months in the summertime. I think as far as being satisfied and happy, people were more satisfied then than they are now. We didn’t have all kinds of toys that we could lay our hands on. In the wintertime, we’d usually sit around in that sod house; I remember that. People around here had burners made. It was something like an old fashioned wash boiler. Do you know the old fashioned wash boilers that they used to heat water on for washing? Well, they’d get an outfit like that made. They could get that made in Eureka by the blacksmith, and they would fill that full of flax straw. My folks usually had some flax straw, and they’d stock it as full as they could, and they would set that on a cook stove. They took those two lids off, set that upside down, and that straw would burn slowly, and pretty soon we had a red hot stove. It was just like a stove; it was red hot. Oh, it was cozy and all, and my dad spent most of his time in the winter reading stories. We had story books; we kids could sit there, only it was Dutch.

We could sit there all evening and he would read such an interesting story, and we didn’t want to go to bed. “Read some more, Dad. Read some more, Dad.” Of course it was all in Dutch. Uncle Tom’s Cabin was one of my favorite stories, that is the (66; neighborhood) the Dutch call it, the (66; neighborhood). We would have him read that over more than once to get the full drift of it, and then there was another one, (67), Gertrude, the Lamplighter. That was a book about a little girl that lived with her father in one of the lighthouses on the shore of the ocean. That was one of my favorite ones. And I would play checkers or something like that. When I was a child, time never lay heavy on my hands that I can remember. I got married when I was going on 20, and we raised a big family. We had 11 children. They say women don’t work now days when they are housewives, but I was a housewife and I worked.

The Germans and the Hollanders get along fine?

Oh yes, we had all German neighbors for so long, all our life.

Never had any problems?

We never had any trouble. No, we always got along fine. We’d help each other out. But when our children were growing up, and we children, at home, we just wouldn’t think of our youngsters dating with the Catholics, and they didn’t want their kids to date ours either. We kept that kind of separate, but now in high school, they marry right and left, together. Just so they stay together, and that’s the main thing.

[85-91 - The Old Rugged Cross hymn]

Is religion important in this community?

Oh yes. Yes, very much important, yes. Even the Catholics… they are good, solid, good Catholics, I’ll tell you. They attend their church. If everybody would be as faithful, attending their worship services, they would be alright. We can live our religion in our everyday life. We have to. If we don’t show our religion in everyday life, it’s no use to go to church on Sunday, and this pleases the Lord on other days in itself.

Do the people here do that, in this town, do you think?

That’s quite a deep question, you know. I think, as a whole, I think they do. They do live a religious life, yes. It’s a Christian community.

I would say our whole life here in Strasburg each stems out from our church. The church is the center and our weekly things are all centered from the church, as to the activities and everything that we do. Everything is connected with the church, almost.

What kind of activities would they be?

Well, like the Guild, that’s our women’s group, and if they have anything going on in town, it’s usually one of the church groups that are doing it. Like having a bake sale, or getting in a quilt party group. They all stem out from the church.

You know, Sunday is the day you go to church, and that’s it. Everybody just does.

What does religion do for you, or mean to you?

Well, I don’t know. It’s hard to explain. If you didn’t believe in God or anything, then you could just go rob and steal and cheat anybody and not even bat an eye, right? The only thing you’d think is maybe I won’t get caught by the law. If you have religion, you don’t consider that, you think well, maybe there’s somebody up above that you’re cheating. It’s a right and wrong, that’s all there is to it. I think, in my opinion, if you rise your children without any religion, you almost raise them like an animal.

Are the young people in town carrying on that religious tradition, do you think?

They are definitely not carrying on those religious traditions as strongly as the older ones are. But I think the trend might be coming back, that they probably will.

Why do you think it fell off, then?

I don’t know. Well, I think maybe in the Catholic Church, maybe they got too lenient with their religion. They thought by changing the rules and being more lenient, you’d have more coming to church. It seems like now more of them are dropping away from it, because, even at my age now, you don’t really know. You go to one Catholic Church… well, they don’t have to go to confession, or they can have church on Saturday night and it’ll count for Sunday. The next church you go to, it’s visa versa. And that’s kind of hard to swallow because you don’t really know what’s right and wrong. If they’d have kept it the way it was, then there’s no doubt in anybody’s mind, that’s the way it is and that’s they way it stays. It gets to the point where I can see where these young people would really be confused. Now we’re a little more (130) right here in Strasburg, and when they get out, these kids have to be completely confused. Because they go to the colleges, and it’s completely lenient, so they don’t know if it’s right from home, or right up there, or what. I can see why a lot of them are dropping away.

Religion is a big thing, like you have to go to church and everything, because religion is just a really big part of everything… especially older people. The other generation, I think it’s just a really big thing in their lives.

How about for the young people?

Well, some people will get into religion a lot; then again some of the other people will be against religion because their parents are shoving it down their throat, kind of. So religion is a big thing to some people, and not quite so big to others.

How could you tell that Strasburg is a religious community if you just came in and hung around for awhile?

Well, they have a lot of church groups, and most of the postcards are of the inside of the Catholic Church, and they have these plates showing the outside of the Catholic Church and stuff. Mostly, everyone is really proud of the church, because it is a beautiful church, and there would be a lot of people going to church all the time. The church is just a big thing.

Do you think it’s more important than in most small towns?

I don’t think so; not around here anyway. I think church is big in most small towns that I’ve been in. It’s just amazing how the parents and the people might think that, like somebody might not go to church on a Sunday. That’s really a horrible thing to do here. It’s so big. They’re brought up strictly on the Bible, and if you drift a little bit from that, you’re a horrible sinner. It’s kind of ridiculous, I feel.

Does it put a lot of pressure on you?

Well, not really, because you just have to live with it. I’ve set myself to live with it, but a lot of the things I don’t agree with.

Is it a pretty conservative style of religion, do you think?

It’s strictly straight. It’s really what the Bible says is what goes.

Life centers on the churches. As you drive into any of these towns, you see the high church steeples. The church is the most prominent building in the town. I think life pretty well revolved around religion.

Are there any other signs of religion, besides the church? If someone would come into town and stay for a couple of weeks and pick up, do you think?

When we speak of the next town down the road, Hague, I find these people are very charitable to each other. They’ll say good things about the next person, but never anything bad. Even when I’ve kind of slipped, and said something a bit uncharitable, they’d correct me. So I see religion really in practice or charity, Christian charity in practice, and it’s really delightful. Some people that I knew, they didn’t like, that if their name was mentioned, they would defend that person. So I’ve seen more religion practiced in this area than I have anywhere else I’ve been.

I’ve talked to a couple of people who have said it’s a rather conservative brand of religion. Why is it conservative?

We’re well versed on the developments in scripture. They take a lot of the things in scripture which were literary devices that the writers used to bring plans across. These people aren’t aware of this, so they still interpret it literally, and there’s really nothing wrong with that. And unless we have something better to offer, I don’t feel them setting these traditional values.

They’ll be on sale after this mass; they’ll be on sale all afternoon and evening in the basement of the church and so on. This is our annual fair day and the workers are asked to check where they’re supposed to be at a certain time.

We’re having our annual church fair, and in the afternoon we set up all these games for the children, and the young adults.

What kind of things are they?

Oh, we’ve got a fish pond, and a dart game, a cake walk, a roulette wheel… it’s just for penny stuff, though.

A marble game.

Why do you do this?

To raise money for the church. My little boy could hardly sleep last night, waiting for the carnival. He said, “one more night and when we wake up tomorrow, is it the carnival?” And the first thing he said this morning was, “Is it tomorrow?” He really did, yes. He couldn’t wait for the carnival. Of course he’s only three, so he’s quite young.

[267 – 290 crowd noise from the church carnival – roulette wheel, bingo]

We have jackpot every six weeks during the school year, and this is, I would say between the church and school and PTA, kind of all in one thing, that we have this annual church fair. We have the KC’s and the St. Mary’s Society, which is more or less part of the church.

Is the church an important part in a small community like this?

I would say so.

Why would you say so? Why is it so important?

There are a lot of things that wouldn’t be started if it weren’t because of the church, like this gathering here tonight wouldn’t be if it weren’t started by the church societies. The only reason you can feed for $2 the way we fed here tonight is because most of the things are donated. The farmers are asked to bring three spring chickens, cut up, and city ladies are asked to bring a dollar, a cake and three dollars. And most people do it quite freely. They don’t ask any questions. It’s just part of the festivities.

I see some of these have signs “chances” on them. Are you selling a chance on some of them?

Yes, we do. Some of the articles are made by different members of the societies, and they donate them, and we sell chances on them, and they’re raffled off at the end of the evening. Dish towels, a rug, Afghans, and we have raffled off a baby quilt, and eventually, during the course of the evening, between the bingo rounds we’ll be raffling off the rest of these articles that we sold chances on.

It’s too doggone much work for the few people who participate in all of this. We have maybe 500 – 600 people here, and about 12 ladies have to take care of all the gosh darn food. Like my wife came over here yesterday from about 2 o’clock, and she was standing here until about 9 or 9:30 last night washing dishes. Well, there’s no need for that, for four or five women out of 250 women. I’m supposed to be working, but I can’t. I’m not even going to look for an alibi, but if I was able, I’d always take my shift too.

Do you think this is kind of a traditional kind of festival to have?

I’d hate to see it go. It is. This has been with this church for, I wouldn’t say how many years, and it’s been not so much just in our people, but people coming here. Now tonight, I couldn’t help, but notice all the people from Westfield, Strasburg, Hague… good people from Napoleon, Kintyre, Hazelton, it’s terrific.

Strasburg is a lot more Catholic than I’ve seen any other place. And the people take their religion really seriously, more than I’ve seen in most places. It’s often been said that Strasburg shouldn’t have two schools, and my belief is that they shouldn’t because our community isn’t large enough. But I think that the trend towards the… the reason they have two schools here is because of the strict religion in having a Catholic high school and grade school. Some of the people feel that a religious type of education is better, but it’s up to them. People should send their kids where they want, and so forth. I know that they all want them to be educated, because the older people realize that without education now days, their kids will amount to nothing.

Is there an antagonism between the two schools?

It’s more with the parents than with the children. They’ve had a big school bussing problem here that they’re trying to get resolved. I wish they would resolve it. Through the gossip channels we’ve lost people at the bank that used to be good customers here, different things. It hurts a small town. If everyone would get along regarding these schools, we wouldn’t have a bit of problems here.

Do you have Catholics fighting Catholics?

As a matter of fact, it isn’t through religion that they’re split, but because of ideas, and it all comes down to the everlasting dollar. The people on one side of the street say, “I’m not sending my kids to the parochial school because it costs too much and I’m already getting state aid to send my child to public school.” The parochial people say, “We want funds from the US and state government because we are tax payers.” Well, take away the dollar and you wouldn’t have either one of the schools. That’s exactly what it amounts to, money. That is one thing that is really hurting this town.

Do you think it will be resolved?

I don’t know. I stay very clear from things like that. Being in business on Main Street, you just don’t open your mouth. I don’t make a comment as to which one of the schools is the best. I don’t care, really. I know that it’s hurting the towns to a point now where if people want to move to Strasburg, they have to consider this… which side of the fence are you going to be on? That’s why I just keep my mouth shut and if I want to send my children to the parochial school, if I’m paying for it, it’s no one else’s business. If I send them to the public school, it’s nobody’s business.

I think there always be a little bit of friction among the different schools, but I think they’ll still be able to survive. Because the Lord provides, and we couldn’t get along with just one, I’m sure.

You couldn’t get along with just one school?

No, definitely not. We couldn’t get along with one.

Why not?

Because the one would be too small and the funds aren’t available to build a bigger public school. It would be higher taxes, and the people really can’t carry higher taxes, because of the small incomes.

Catholic education has been around this area for a long time. If we ever let it go, we’ll never get it back. As long as the people are willing to support it on a county-wide basis, I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t continue.

I believe that one big school would make our town happy, and I think we’d have friendship again.

Will you see that time, do you think?

I’m looking forward. I imagine in about four years, I think it’s going to change, because the tax dollar is hitting our private, I mean going to the public school, and they won’t get refunds for the private school anymore, and I think they’re going to fold up. It has to, because this can’t continue with two schools in a little town like ours.

It’s hard on the town in terms of the people being mad at each other.

You bet your life it’s hard. It ruins our business. I have people driving away to different towns to shop, just through that, because they get mad at me or mad at the other guy for saying something. And you can’t favor both sides, you know how that works. We’ve got big friction.

If it wasn’t the schools, they’d be grumbling about something else. Just people that are hard to get along with, hard to please, no matter what you talk about, they’re always against something or everything. There’s probably some friction, and there’s some good also. We have people coming from Linton, Kintyre, out here; I mean from a big territory, they come here. They go to school here, and then, you take like Sunday night with the church supper and all these people were here for this church supper. So you gain by that, and you lose on the next thing. You’ve got your ups and downs.

Strasburg, North Dakota. Our hometown. One in a series of sound self-portraits illustrating the attitudes and character of life in small towns. Produced by Minnesota Public Radio Station KCCM, with funds provided by the North Dakota Committee for the Humanities and Public Issues. Producers of the series are John Ydstie, Dennis Hamilton and Bill Siemering. You may purchase a cassette copy of this program by contacting KCCM, Concordia College, Morehead, Minnesota 56560.

[466 – 484 - The Old Rugged Cross hymn]

[end of recording on side A]

[begin tape side B]

(Farmers talk back and forth about selling calves)

Some farmers talking at Strasburg, North Dakota. Population: 643. Our hometown. One in a series of programs exploring the values, concerns, and character of life in small towns. Produced by Minnesota Public Radio Station KCCM, with funds provided by the North Dakota Committee for the Humanities and Public Issues. Farming is essential to the economy of Strasburg. And on today’s program, you’ll hear conversations about farming recorded in the farmers’ co-op elevator, in the Pin Palace Café, and at a Junior Chamber of Commerce banquet. Later in the program, you’ll also hear of the interests and attitudes of high school students. The interviewer is John Ydstie. We begin with the farmers’ co-op elevator and the manager, Vic Daringer

How are the farmers doing?

Well, I was just out… I was out on leasing sales and leasing land for the state of North Dakota, and they talk about the cattlemen, the cattle prices are bad, and the cattlemen don’t have any money, and that the farmers haven’t got any money, and inflation is eating up all the profit, but they’re sure paying an awful price for that land. I ran into, I think it was in Sargent County, I rented 80 acres of land for $2525 for one year’s lease, 60 acres of cultivation and 20 acres of prairie. Of course, a lot of this probably is grudge. They get mad at one another, but they sure pay an awful price for that land. They sure ain’t slowed up on the land. They’re renting it… there’s none of it. This is my first experience, and I’m in my seventh year, I was out selling land that I didn’t have any that wasn’t sold.

According to parity, it doesn’t make sense.

I suppose some of this is probably a couple of neighbors getting into an argument over it. But I just came from McIntosh County, and a fellow came in there and he was renting. He was bidding on all the land all over the county, you know, just anything, just bidding on it. And he got some of it; he got some in that corner, he’s got some in this corner, he got some in that corner and he’s got some in the middle, and he paid a good price for it. I don’t know what he plans on doing with it. I don’t know what his thoughts are.

Well how come I always hear the farmers complaining that they can’t make enough money?

Well, if you were a framer, you’d complain too, for the simple reason because they’ve been used to high cattle prices. They’d take these calves in, and last year they got $300 apiece for them. Now they get less than $100 for the same calf. And they go in and get the same thing they have to buy, like a sack of oats or repairs, and that’s probably up 50% or better. Their fuel is up 25% or 30%. There’s a fuel man right there, he can tell you. And he could do something about it by bringing the price down, but he doesn’t.

Well, how about the grain market now? Two years ago, they were getting, what, a buck 85 for wheat?

And now it’s $7.35 or forty.

That’s about four times as much now.

The grain market is real good, and I don’t think the grain farmer can complain. The only thing he could complain about now is drought and grasshoppers. A lot of fellows don’t have anything to sell right now. This is what they’re complaining about.

You take the average farmer that, like say, I’ve been here 22 years now, and you take what I’m worth. And you take a farmer, oh, I could name some guys that started farming when I started here, and let them sell off today, they’re worth probably $200,000 or $300,000, if they sold out today. Look what I’d be worth.

Yet the average guy, when you took this job here, they kind of average you, because they thought you had one heck of a good job, and they were out here on the farm milking cows, and didn’t have the money to spend…

They didn’t count the two days a week where I had to be here.

I don’t know about that, but they didn’t have any money to spend, and you had your monthly salary check, and you were living high on the hog.

They’d been living higher than I had, I’ll tell you.

Look at the last ten years, and you’ll notice the difference. Prior to that time, money was a little tight.

Yes, but I worked for it too, $250 a month or $200 a month.

That was one hell of a good wages, at the time you started here. $250 a month was good money.

When I started, I was probably working five years already when I made that. But you take these farmers, even in their bad income; they had more convenience than I did. I had to be here six days a week, where they probably… sure they milked and had to be there in the morning and evening, but they…

I think what the farmer mostly complains about, he probably has a few dollars at the end of the year, but then he has to have a new tractor, and he has to go in debt maybe $5 or $6,000, and then maybe the next year he’s got to buy a new… now you go in debt more than that if you’re going to buy a new combine. If your combine’s ruined, it’s $18,000 - $20,000, and of course, he can afford to pay more for it because, look what he’s getting for grain. But they always have big debts hanging over their head, and this is what they complain about.

But they spend it before they’ve got it. How many farmers drive a ten-year-old car like I do?

I’ve got a lot of them who’ll buy more… like the last few years they made good money and they spend it all. They’ve got everything new.

Sometimes they get a truck here, and then they’re broke. Then they’re hurting. They don’t look for a loan. I’m putting in a crop, I’ve got a good crop, well, and this crop looks like I’ll be able to harvest it. I got it on swats now, and then they already go and go buy a new car or tractor, or swather or combine, or whatever, you know. Well, I’d like to drive a brand new car too.

You’re just conservative.

Why sure. If I get a tough year, I wouldn’t be hurting. A guy should look ahead. I feel that way. You don’t hear me complain, that’s the thing. I’m satisfied.

Alrighty, we have a rug, and a rug, and a rug. Look at that! [goes into an auctioneer’s call 091 – 096]

All of the reports that have come through the last couple of days show that we might have little higher prices. How do you evaluate this?

There’s not much grain.

No, and I can see it, in the dry weather. Wheat, spring wheat, we’ve got to get this cut, there’s a shortage.

It’s because of this corn and wheat that Russia bought, and then everything went down.

Flax had nothing to do with that. Why would that make flax go down?

It follows.

[ 106 – 110 Farmers keep talking back and forth]

I was trying to think where in the heck I was this last week or so that there was just load after load of grain sitting in the elevators. I think it was in McClusky.

There’s been a lot of grain hauling in the last ten days, just the week before this.

This was all Durham. And they said to hang on to it for $7, $7.25…

They were just about bankrupt; there were $10 million dollars…

And still he says hang on.

They have guts enough to say hang on. They have to [122] all their back dues, or they’re bankrupt everywhere.

Did you hear that guy the other night at Jaycees?

I think I heard the whole speech again over the telephone Monday. It was an hour and 45 minutes. I was there, I heard it.

Were you there?


I didn’t know anybody could talk that long.

This is what I can’t figure out. The young farmers are worried, and then they get a guy in like that to talk for hours. Why didn’t they get somebody in here, like from the Jaycees? To talk about what they’ve done, what they’re doing or what they’re going to do.

I’d like to give a little prayer right now that the Jaycees made up. So if we’d all pay attention: Heavenly Father, we ask your blessing, not only for the meal that we have eaten, but also for the many friends gathered to partake of the meal. We ask your special blessing so that the outstanding young farmer chosen here may be successful as the Emmons County representative at future competitions. We ask through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Well, to get started with our banquet this evening, the first thing I’m going to do, I’m going to tell you I’ve got some good news and I’ve got some bad news. First of all, I’m going to tell you the good news. Now the good news is that President Ford is working on a tax cut for all the people in the low income bracket. Now that’s the good news. Now the bad news is that he hasn’t figured out how to get them an income. See? That one’s supposed to be funny.

By the way, I forgot one thing. I forgot to introduce myself. Most of you people probably know me. I’m Kelly Fischer. I live ten miles east of town, and I got stuck with emceeing this program tonight. I don’t know how it happened, but at this time, ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to introduce to you a person I’m sure you’ve all heard of before. I’m sure you’ve probably met him before. I’d like to introduce a man who was formerly national vice president of the National Farmers’ Organization… he was born in 1911, he was raised on a farm; he farmed in Woodbury County, Iowa. He has been an inner pool member since the beginning, was elected to the board of directors in 1960. Ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to introduce to you Mr. Erhardt (Pinkton)[applause]

I’m grateful to have the opportunity to talk to a rural audience. I believe that we are tonight, in probably the most precarious condition economically since perhaps 1932. I believe we are at a point where the entire rural community could very well fold. All the guns are trained on farm prices. And if you heard the farm report in the last few days, in the last 30 days farm prices fell another two percent. And on the ratio given here, that would have to be the equivalent, if we were still at 78 percent of parity, of being down now to 75 percent. And yet everyone in the nation is screaming that farm prices have to come down. I think we’re in a real problem, and I don’t think that most of us understand it. Because of higher prices, we expect they’re here to stay in some commodities, and I’ve gotten a feeling of indifference. Farmers have always been that way. Optimistic people, and I guess they’d have to be if they were going to stay in business. But in about the 15 to 20 years that I’ve been working with the farmers, I’ve heard them talk about two good years, about 20 years ago, and next year. Always next year… gonna be the big one. And the farmers do have the opportunity to save all of rural America, and to save their prices. And I believe that if they fail, it’s the end of the rural community as we know it. Corporate agriculture will move in. It already is. Standard Oil Company announced last week that they’re making a study on the feasibility of their moving into agriculture. It’s coming unless we can get the prices that we need to stay there. A man that’s making money, they’re not going to get his land. But when he gets to where he can’t pay his bills, he has no choice and it will move over. And you and I, as it cannot exist as individuals, once the corporations get control of enough of it, they’re going to bust us like they did the broiler producers in vertical integration.

And with it goes every rural town, because these corporations are not going to buy their fertilizer from the businessman here in Strasburg. It is yours and my personal forefathers that came from the east, came across from other countries that cleared the wilderness and made it possible for us to have what we have today. And now it is our turn. We have to protect it economically, and we can do it by working together, by blocking our production, by establishing our own price the way every sound business and industry in this nation has always done it. We can do it. Thank you.
Thank you Mr. (219; Pinkton)

We have got a double electric blanket with two controls. Look at there, and I’ll tell you what, if you get a better one downtown… you couldn’t get a better one downtown, you could just get one down there that costs more, that’s all, in perfect condition. And who’s going to give the first $25? I’ll tell you what, if you didn’t close the windows the last couple of nights, you might wish you had it already. Well, give five, seven and a half or ten dollars… let’s go!

[228 – 254 auctioneer]

Are you retired?

No, not really, but I should be.

Oh, I guess I’ll farm another year, try it anyways.

It didn’t go so good this year. We didn’t have much down there, you know.

If I would’ve gone two years, before I retired, I’d sit prettier than I did.

Than you do now.

Yes. I had four years. Two years hail and two years drought, and you know what it costs a year to farm.

I don’t like it in town myself.

What we are going to do this winter, she said. We used to have so much fun on the farm. Out there we used to climb on the haystacks and slide down the hills. I said, oh, you’ll find something to do. It’s true that farm kids have so much more fun than kids in town. There’s just no comparison.

I suppose the big cities are the same way.

[277 – 283 cheerleader squad cheering for Strasburg]

Is this a good place to grow up?

In some ways, I think, and some ways it isn’t. It seems kind of far out here from the other world and you learn a lot more here, like everybody knows everybody, and everybody else’s business. In big cities it wouldn’t be that way.

I’d say you get out and me being a farm boy you learn how to, and you see more town boys learning how to run tractors and everything, where as in the city, you don’t really know how to do nothing. You go to a factory and get a job and you do one thing all… you know, all day.

I like to hunt. You can drive right out of town and hunt.

The people are really nice, mostly. Everybody gets along with everybody, usually, except for the one bad problem that is gossip. In a small town if anybody says anything, everybody knows about it. Well I got out this summer and I went to Aberdeen, South Dakota, and I really liked it. I was glad that I left. I think more kids should do it and then come back and go to school and stuff. It’s really something.

You’re using rather innovative methods of education at Emmons Central. How have the people reacted to those innovative methods?

I think people are open. I think they’ve come to realize that you can’t do things by force all the time. You walk into a classroom with 30 people, and it’s pretty easy for some people to go in there and make these people behave. Sit them in the corner or else, this sort of thing. But I think we’ve gotten away from this and I think parents have too in their own homes, and they realize that youngsters are more open and they get around more, and they just have to be treated a little bit differently than they were treated in the past.

[320 – 336 football coach instructions to his team]

I do believe there are many disadvantages in a small school system. However, there are many things that are hard to measure. I do believe there is more unity in a smaller school; you feel more… I do think the teachers can spend more on a person to person basis with the individual students. For instance, here at Strasburg Public, I know all the students. I know their backgrounds, somewhat, I know the parents’ background, and many times, you can see the difficulties that result are because of some of these problems at home and so on. I feel in the larger city you have more broken homes, you have more people that are just part of the institution. Overall, I think if we could probably have a little more financing… I think the state… equalization of funds would be a little more equally distributed, I think we could do a much better job than we’re doing now. We are lacking in many areas that it’s impossible to implement these programs. But I’ve seen students from Strasburg Public leave here and they’ve done very well in both private colleges and the universities. So we can’t say that it’s a detriment to go to a smaller school. I think there are a lot of things to be desired, but at the same time there are a lot of things that we have that a larger institution does not or will not offer, or can’t because of the very size of it.

I’ve worked with high school students in Valley City and Tower City, which is a small town just east of Valley City. And I notice a difference here, between both of those places. I think the kids here are more open and they’re not quite so… they’re a little less sophisticated from where I stand. They’re not quite so worldly, but really, when you come right down to it, I think they’re just nicer kids than the people I worked with. Now, of course, there are exceptions to every rule, but I think, as a whole, the kids are just more good natured and more friendly here than the other two places. And they’re not, I don’t know if this is quite the right word, but it seems to me they’re a little bit less cynical too.

Do you think you’re getting an education that will serve you well when you get out of town?

I don’t because I don’t think I’m learning as much here as I would back in Bismarck or someplace like that. That’s just my opinion. I think when you get out of here you don’t know too much, usually.

I think the only thing you know is not what you pick up in school, but what you pick up along the line growing up. You get out and learn different things, and you go back to school and before you know it you’re out. I think it’s what you learn out of school, not what you learn from your books in school.

[405 – 414 more of Strasburg cheerleading squad]

Strasburg, North Dakota. Our hometown. One in a series of sound self-portraits illustrating the attitudes and character of life in small towns. Produced by Minnesota Public Radio Station KCCM, with funds provided by the North Dakota Committee for the Humanities and Public Issues. Producers of the series are John Ydstie,Dennis Hamilton and Bill Seimering. You may purchase a cassette copy of this program by contacting KCCM, Concordia College, Moorhead, Minnesota 56560

[426 – 450 accordion music]

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