On the Prairies of South Dakota,

by Darrell R. Ginther

I recall the days when I was just a lad, when my father Bob Ginther would take me up to Plain View Farm in rural Bryant, SD, where my Grandpa Alfred Stadem lived. [He also took me to Grandpa John Ginther's farm, his old father's place in rural Hayti.] Those were the days that I recall as happy days. I cherish the memories of my growing up. I remember the times my Step-Grandmother, Anne Ginther, used to take me to town with the cream and eggs to trade them for groceries. Yes, the ride was great fun. And, of course, those summer days were very hot, but Grandma would buy us a bottle of cherry soda pop which my younger brother Lorin and I enjoyed very much.

My Grandpa John Ginther also sold cattle to the stockyards. I was told that from 1897 until today the market has been so crooked the farmers don't get the price they should get for their livestock. And it hasn't improved for the farmers, I am told, and things are getting worse. There was a farmer in northern Minnesota we heard about. The farm folks all went to town. When the farmer and his wife returned home, about fifty pigs were missing and to this day they never have found out who stole the pigs. When they were approaching the farm home they saw a truck pull out and after awhile they discovered their pigs were gone. [Such were travails for some unfortunate farmers in the good old horse and buggy days!].

Summertime on Plain View Farm would often find us boys swimming in the Slough, an old waterhole in the nearby cow pasture. And just after getting cooled off in the waterhole we would take a softwater shower in an ivy enclosure just outside the white Stadem family farm house. We would also ride one of the work horses bareback to the mailbox two miles away and back again with the mail. In the cool of the evening we played cricket with our aunts and uncles. Then we all gathered on the sunporch for an evening "Singspiration" and watched the sun set in the west down over the Prairie. Finally, to bed we went. These were some of the things we did for recreation and fun.

In the mornings we heard the familiar voice of Grandpa Stadem calling, "Time to get up for breakfast." But first we milked the cows, and fed the calves and pigs, and only then did we go to the house for a hearty, typical Norwegian breakfast of pancakes. Grandma Stadem always made the best thin pancakes that would cover a whole large dinner plate. We always had devotions with the meal. My Stadem grandparents were Christians and loved God and taught us about Jesus and His love in giving His life for us on the Cross, that we might have our sins forgiven by the shedding of His blood, which cleansed away our sins.

During the discussion after devotions, we might be asked to go plow with the sulky plow with three horses pulling it. Or we sometimes hauled manure and scattered it over the fields that had been cultivated. We also shocked grain and hauled bundles of snapped corn, or gathered eggs, or fed the horses and cows in the barn. There was always something that had to be done of the Farm, and our work seemingly was never done.

During the noon hour we two brothers picked wild plums, which Grandpa crushed to make plum juice. He put ice in it for a nutritious drink that tasted delicious. When we went to the junk yard in the late summer we picked chokecherries, which were cooked by Grandma to make some good tasting jelly for our toasted, [home-baked bread.]

Grandpa John Ginther was a horse trainer. He performed in circuses that came to South Dakota. He had one horse named Ben that was so well trained he could stand on one leg on a trainer's box. [When the horse did that] Grandpa gave him sugar lumps as a reward for performing the act as commanded. Grandpa travelled around with several circuses that stopped to entertain people in the small towns. Ben the horse was the most beautiful horse Grandpa ever owned. It was brown and white-spotted. He also had Shetland ponies, and saddles to go with them. My brothers and sisters got to ride them. Grandpa's ponies, Pat and Peggy, pulled a small rubber tired buggy. This pair had several colts, which were so much fun to pet and feed sugar lumps. The male, Pat, was slender and smaller than Peggy who was taller and more filled out and heavier.

I remember one evening my Grandpa said to me he was going to shoot some pigeons for supper. So he told me to go up in the haymoun in the barn and shake the rope up in the coupaloe which I did and the pigeons flew out and lit on the granary. I then ran over to Grandpa and asked him why he didn't shoot and he said he was waiting for the pigeons to get closer together so he could shoot all of them in one shot. I must must have got Grandpa excited because he only got two birds. I ran over and climbed up the ladder and retrieved the two pigeons from the roof of the granary. That summer evening we had an excellent supper of fried pigeon.


I recall a large picture I used to look at hanging on the wall in the living room. It showed a bright red chariot with 8 teams of German Rhine Horses with decorative harnesses pulling the chariot. One day when we had just come up on the [John Ginther] farm from Sioux Falls, I saw something that I thought looked like a Merry-Go-Round on a wagon. And sure enough it was what I had thought it was. We got a ride on it around the farm with a couple of horses pulling it. Was it ever a fun ride!

This Merry-Go-Round [Grandpa John Ginther made] was one of the wagons that was in the parade that I was in.

Well, there was a lot of work to putting a parade like this one together. The harnesses were all decorated up, and polish was used quite a bit to polish the copper and silver plated parts. To the harness red strings were tied hanging down from the bottom of the harnesses on the sides of the horses. The horses were worked and curried over. The manes were all braided up on the top of the horses' necks. Their tails were braided up in bobs. The wagons were painted in bright carnival colors, red and white and blue. Crepe paper up on the Merry-Go-Round from the top to the bottom of the wagon. The spokes in the wheels were painted. There were several wagons and buggies in the parade line up.


The day had come for the parade. This parade was held in the small county town of Hayti, South Dakota, known as the County Seat right next to Marsh Lake. My step-grandmother [Anne Ginther] and me were to lead the parade with the Shetland ponies pulling us in the small rubber tire buggy [Grandpa made these special buggies with parts from the dump he found discarded from old cars and carriages].

Grandpa drove a couple of teams with a large circus wagon. There was one entry besides all the wagons, horses, ponies and floats that Grandpa had in the parade, and this entry was several young oxen that a farmer had brought to be in the parade. I remember petting the oxen and the farmer didn't appreciate me petting them after he had curried them, so he spoke to me to quit petting them. They were very attractive, these oxen.

I remember all the people from towns around and farms standing watching the parade as we all went by.

In the Merry-Go-Round there were several beautiful high school girls having a good time on that float as it was pulled along by a team of horses. This seemed to be quite an occasion for such a small town, as I never did hear of another parade in that town of Hayti again. There was much excitement and enjoyment being in the parade. I remember seeing the sheriff waving to us as we went by.

So we came to the end of the festival--the horses and oxen parade which is now just memories in the minds of boys and girls, who are now grown up and perhaps will tell of this to their children.


There also were many carnivals that came to these towns and still do even today. They would get up their Ferris wheels in the Main Street and run for about a week. So circuses and carnivals wre kind of a break after harvest time was over on the farms. There were watermelon festivals that most people would attend. I remember hearing once of a family that had gone to one of these watermelon festivals, and when they got home that same night all their chickens, cows, horses, and household items and valuables were stolen by a caravan of gypsies that made a practice of stealing when everybody was away from their farms and attending these watermelon festivals.


Sometimes the population of foxes and other wild animals got to such an enormous size that the farmers from surrounding farms would get together and circle these animals and kill them with their guns, as especially foxes, skunks, and weasels would kill the chickens and the wolves would do the same. There was a bounty on these and during some of the years you could get quite an amount of money for the pelts. These pelts would be made into gloves, ladies' coats, etc. They were very costly and still are when bought at a store. Fur coats are prized by women who wear them. [Some of Grandpa Stadem's relatives, the Jensens, are still in the fur coat business, and make many other fur apparel items too for sale--Ed.]


I'm sure you can remember picnics that you have been to. Well, I remember my Grandpa who was Norwegian [Grandpa Alfred Stadem] tell me of the picnics they used to have on the Farm.

These were Sunday School picnics for those who attended Sunday School at the little Norwegian Lutheran church in town. I asked Grandpa what all those different swings were for, hanging in the tall trees. And he said many years ago they had Sunday School picnics under those trees. There was a tire swing, a chin bar hanging from one of the trees, and the regular wooden boardseat swings. So in the years long ago children were just the same then as they are today. They all like to swing and teeter-totter. Of course, there were softball games and cricket was played, all kinds of lawn games. My grandfather didn't have to mow his grass. The best lawn mowers in the world he owned, and could you guess what they were? The grass was aways short, almost to the ground level. His sheep would trim the grass so good a lawnmower wasn't needed.

Fishing was always fun to do in the good, old summertime, and we got to do lots of that. One time I heard my grandparents talking Norwegian. And what they were talking about I found out later. It was about taking a trip by car over to Lake Norden, which also is the name of the town that is nearby the lake. A lot of the towns in this district of South Dakota are named the same as the lakes. So we all including my cousins, parents, uncles, and aunts all went to Lake Norden. Of course, there were sandwiches and lemonade brought along, and at the day's end the fishing had been good, a hundred bullheads were pulled from Lake Norden and my own father Bob had the job of cleaning them. It didn't take long for him to do it as he was a butcher by trade and he knew how to filet them.

So we had a delicious fishfry dinner the next day. About all the fish you would think that were in that lake you would think were bullheads. Honestly, I never did find out if there were other species of fish there or not. This was just one of those fish outings we had, but the most profitable of all I had ever been on at a lake. These fish had been so hungry, I could practically catch them on an almost bare hook.


Being brought up in a Lutheran church, there was a need for laymen to have fellowship with other Lutheran congregations. So began these all-day Church fellowship meetings. Christians could give their testimonies. Hymns were sung, scriptures were read, duets, instruments were heard. A message was delivered by one of the men or pastors. There was a children's service and the ladies of the church where the meeting was being held would serve a fellowship dinner which was very much appreciated. Delicacies that were brought by the Norwegian ladies.

This Lutheran Fellowship Meeting association is still going on. A lot of the Bible verse signs that are seen on the highways of South Dakota were put up by the funds that were donated, given to the sign project. There was an evangelist that did this sign making. And the fellowship took it on as a project.

There is a tract project for the distribution of Christian tracts for the salvation of souls. A bulletin is sent out once a month to those who are members of the Fellowship and who support the work. Mexican young people have been able to go to a Christian high school known as Augustana Academy, located at Canton, South Dakota. Some of the Governors of South Dakota have been speakers at Commencement Day services at this Christian high school. I myself attended this school. These same Mexican young people have gone back to be a witness to their own people in Mexico. A mission has been established at Laredo, Texas, on the border of Mexico and America. A blind man [Claire Hobart the classical piano music composer and his wife Norma, whom you can read about on Plain View Farm on the Plain View Heritage domain] runs the mission and many souls have been saved through this mission station on the boarder. Many farmers have supported this mission work for years. God bless them!!!

After these Fellowship Sunday meetings were over, we would go home to the farm and would have to milk the cows, which was a job because sometimes it would be raining, and we would have to milk them outside as we had lost the barn during a severe storm that had swept through the farm one year.

Back in those days they called them hurricanes. Now I think they are known as tornadoes. I'm glad to share these happy experiences with all those who are interested in the days when I remember horses and buggies, dirt roads and farm work that was done mostly by work horses.

There quite a few Model T's and Model A's at this time. Also in the 1930's, going down the highways, but not the large-scale tractors used today for farm work. But those modern uses of doing farm work were fast coming into existence. The tractor as we know it today is used and practically all horses are retired from the farm. Nowadays you will see a lot of riding horses that are owned and used for riding by farmers and city dwellers who have them for youngsters to ride, and also keep the grass down in vacant lots in the cities and towns.


For two years after my mother and us seven brothers and sisters lost our father in an airplane accident, my brother and I lived with our grandparents near Bryant, South Dakota. We attended a grade school in the country. We walked every day two miles to school and two miles home again to our grandparents' farm called Plain View Farm.

The reason it was called Plain View is that you could see the whole farm from the hill the house was built on. We had an American teacher who was of Russian descent.

Once a year Grandpa would let us ride a board with a horse named Sandy pulling us to school on this board, and oh, how we enjoyed riding this board. I think the reason we were not allowed to ride every day as long as there was snow on the ground was because of having to take feed to school to feed the horse. And that could be a lot of bother. So just once during the school year were we allowed to do this. Sometimes the snow was so deep that the banks were nearly up to the top fo the fence post. After school we would go iceskating on the top of the waterhole in the Slough that was frozen over most of the winter until spring came again. Sometimes we would go get ice from the Slough and make homemade icecream which was good, as we could use the cream we got from the milk that we had gotten fresh right from the cows that we milked on the farm.

Grandma would put fresh butter and sardines on our sandwiches, or head cheese or bologna sausage that was h omemade by Grandma. We would eat our school lunches we brought in the basement of the old school house. Our aunts and uncles went to this same old school house when they were children.

The children in this farm country do not go to this school house anymore, as it has been long closed up and the children who live on the farms today are picked up by bus and taken to the small town's school houses in town. I remember at the close of the school year that the girls had asked us to go to a dance, but our Grandpa would not allow us to go. The next day the girls asked us why we didn't come, and we told them, then they cried because they had worked so hard to move the hay back in the barn and set up a record player and everything, that they couldn't hold back their tears. You see we were the only two boys in the school outside of the girls' brothers, and one other girl from another family.

The country school house of today is almost out of existence except down south and a few other places. Due to transportation it is cheaper to take students by bus nowadays, then keep all these schools open. It costs so awful much for the upkeep of buildings that are way out in the rural areas that they are practically out of existence today.

These are fond memories as we were from the city and had the opportunity to go to school in the country which was sure different from the nice warm school houses of the city and had hot meals served us we didn't get in the old country school house.

There was a potbelly stove in the school house in the country, but now they have electric heat in some of the school houses. Going to school today is sure different then the time when our parents went to school. Children today do no know what it is to walk miles to school to get an education that our parents had to do when they were children.


Part II, "The Old Horse and Buggy Days," by Darrell R. Ginther

Links to Darrell's Prince of Zion Tribute Directory and PVF Homepages, Plain View Farm stories, and more:

Plain View Farm Home Page

"The Buffalo Mound on PVF," by Ronald Ginther

"How Plain View Farm Got Its Name," by Ronald Ginther

The Billy Goat's Story, by Ronald Ginther

"The Mystery Cup," About Discovery of old Indian artifacts on PVF, by Ronald Ginther

Erling Jordahl's Account of Bryant Lutheran (Norwegian) Church

"Giant Footprints," Tribute to Pioneers by Ronald Ginther, About Pioneer Sod-Busting Days in Territorial Dakota and Bryant, SD

Prairie Farm Home Page

Central Road Map to Most All Stadem Family Websites Pages and Prince of Zion Tribute Pages

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