My Grandpa Alfred Stadem was an auctioneer, a welldriller, a threshing machine operator, a band director, a choir director, a railway man, and a Sunday School teacher. He was very talented in all these professions he engaged in. I heard him once say it as he used to when he was auctioning off farm machinery and other goods. All of his children played in the band in town that he directed. My mother played a cornet and she also played in the same school band at Augustana Academy that I attended after I graduated from Grade School.
Quite often some of my thirty cousins attended this old Norwegian high school at Canton. It used to be Augustana College, but they moved the college to Sioux Falls, and the buildings at Canton where the college was located is now a Christian high school.
LOVE FOR AIRPLANES
[My dad Bob Ginther fell in love with airplanes and flying at a young age, was trained by a lady flier in Omaha, and he] solo-ed in an old-fashioned bi-plane [which had two wings, stacked one over the other]. He had a helmet and goggles he used when flying. As the years passed he bought an Army Observation plane from the Army. This was Army surplus. I recall seeing dad pick up Grandma and Grandpa and take them for a ride in his Taylorcraft Observation plane. They of course enjoyed this ride very much. My father even hunted wild animals by airplane.
A sad thing happened on one of these hunting expeditions. Dad had Uncle Art along who was doing the shooting. They would go low when they spotted a fox or wolf and then Uncle Art would try and kill the animal. But once while attempting to take off three times from the runway of a small airport in Sioux Falls, only after minutes later the airplane crashed and they passed into eternity.
When I think back I remember that both of them were ready to go as they had settled the question in their minds and hearts years before this fatal crash that of repenting of their sins and accepting the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior. Yes, they truly were Christians. It is a pleasant thought to know that we who are ready for eternity will see them in heaven someday. What a wonderful thought.
My late father when he was living was going to sell the observation plane and buy a Piper Cub and train men to fly and become pilots. But this thought he had never materialized. When he was headed back to South Dakota from Puyallup, Washington, he had just been building a house for mother by digging the basement. [Lumber also stood stacked in the yard nearby the dug foundation, which the widow later sold to bring in income]. I remember this was in January of 1947 when he left with his airplane never to return again [Bob went to So. Dakota by train, not plane, and signed a check for an airplane with a private aircraft dealer at the airport in Sioux Falls, but was having trouble with it, and the owner who just sold it to him said to take it up again after several attempts to get it running properly, and when he did, with Arthur Stadem his young brother-in-law aboard to go hunting with him, it crashed 13 minutes later in rural Baltic, SD. The dealer subsequently charged Bob with Pilot Error as the cause, but it was on his word to try it again that Bob trusted his word so much he took it up, only to crash. The dealer also quickly warehoused the wreck in a secret location so it was never investigated to determine whether it was pilot error or an engine malfunction. It was found at the crash site in the wreckage by some local authorities and reported in their accounts that Bob Ginther had switched the engine off, so he evidently knew they were going to crash, so he got prepared for the worst right at the last moments of his life. Then the dealer sued the widow for the full amount plus his lawyer's fees, all which she paid in full rather than face a trial she knew she would most probably lose, though she knew what the dealer had done. This story is given by her in her own account, found on the Plain View Farm pages.). It seems just like yesterday since I lost my father.
On our four acres out west we had a horse, a cow, two pigs, and some chickens. Dad even had a smoke house. There were two acres of blackberries and two acres of cherry trees on the place. I remember during the winter of 1947 when our mother came back from our father and uncle's funeral that was held in Bryant, S.D., at the Lutheran church there where Rev. Peterson was the pastor. That winter we ran out of fuel for our stove in the berry cabin. This cabin we lived in while Dad had begun building the new house that was never built due to his death. Well, some folks from our Mountain View Lutheran church came and brought coal and wood that lasted the whole winter through.
CHERRY PICKIN' EVERYBODY AT THE GINTHERS!
I remember also the time when Mother needed money for food for us children, and I told Mother that we could sell our pie cherries by putting an ad in the Tacoma Tribune, which we did. People began arriving on weekends and they picked the cherries off the trees, and we weighed them and sold them for 5 cents a pound. These were used to bake pies or can up for jelly or sauce. Mother was able to earn $200 selling these cherries and oh, how glad she was that we had thought of doing this.
BAD FALL TURNS OUT A BLESSING IN DISGUISE
Another time I had fallen down a manhole in front of a beauty salon in Sioux Falls, and the company responsible had paid my hospital expenses and doctor bill. Then I got on a train and went beack to Puyallup, Washington, and an agent from the beauty salon company for the insurance claims came out on a train behind me and came to our door and knocked, then asked if Darrell Ginther lived at our home. I answered yes, I am he, and he told me who he was and said "Will this be enough?" He handed me $200. [I accepted the money as full payment for my claim of injury due to his company not putting up a warning sign or erecting a barrier and leaving the hole open like that for someone to fall into.]. I gave Mother $100. With the rest I went off to Lutheran Bible Institute in Seattle, Washington.
Mother finally sold the 80-acre farm back in South Dakota [that John and Anne Ginther lived on during their last years, which they had bought for them to reside on], and she also sold the cherry and blackberry farm in Puyallup. She then bought a home in town nearer the schools for the children not to have to walk so far.
SASKATCHEWAN-BOUND NORWEGIAN IMMIGRANTS!
While I waiting at the Greyhound Bus Depot one day, in a seat next to me sat a middle-aged lady who had a happy smile on her face. Her name was Ruth Snelling. [Darrell may have mentioned his writing project about the Horse and Buggy Days to her first]. She said she could contribute some of her experiences of days gone by but still happy in memories of experience during the years ago on the farm. She said in those early days of their folk's homesteading, they had no coal for heating their house. They also lived in a sod shack [as the Stadems did who homesteaded the Worth County area in Iowa and then the Bryant, SD area] and had oxen in the Dakotas and Canada also.
They travelled by wagon with a team of horses pulling them from the Dakotas to Saskatchewan, Canada. In 1909 it was very desolate and primitive in that territory. Flax was a more valuable fuel than any other materials used for fuel to cook with and to heat their dwelling through the cold months of the year. She recalls when the children would go out on the prairies and pick up buffalo chips. For vehicles in that day, there were the "Democrats"--two seated buggies with high, slim wheels.
Instead of Shetland ponies for riding, they had ponies that were called Indian ponies. These were very small.
Hans Snelling, [her father], brought his family from the Dakotas, including his daughter Ruth who told me about these episodes, in the old days long ago, taking their milk cows and oxen and work horses when they migrated to Canada. Her father Hans had come over from Norway on a sailing vessel when he was just a youngster of 7 years old. She told me her mother was an ardent reader of the Pecorah Post [the Pecorah or Decorah Posten, a Norwegian language newspaper for immigrants?], and she had come from Oslo, Norway when she was a youngster too.
When the wind blew the dust off a dragged field, she and the children would go up and down the field picking up Indian arrow heads.
THE OLD BUFFALO RING
On my own Grandpa Stadem's farm, on one of the hills there was a buffalo ring. When wild animals would threaten the lives of the buffalo calves, they would push their young calves into a circle and the buffalo adults would trot around a circle with the calves in the middle, protected from any danger that was around. These animals would trot following each other until there was a circle so embedded in the ground that when people saw these circles in the ground they called them buffalo rings.
On the same farm across the road where Grandpa planted a lot of flax from year to year. There was a flat stone, two of them thin and flat, covering two supposed Sioux Indian graves.
We left the graves alone and never did dig them up. Grandpa removed the stones. I often wondered if there were any bones under the sod or Indian trinkets that were buried with the dead if they were truly Indian graves. They evidently had been buried there for a long time, many, many years as the ground was so hard you couldn't even dig unless you used a pick ax. These flat, long and wide stones were laying down right on the very top of this small hill, a very beautiful place in the summertime.
WE FARM BOYS MADE OUR OWN FIRECRACKERS FOR THE FOURTH
I recall that in the summertime, on the Fourth of July, my brother Lorin and I would get a few nuts and bolts and cut off match heads of ordinary pine matchsticks and take the match heads and put them in these nuts and bolts, then screw the bolts tight to the nut in the center, and then give it a hard toss at a large protruding rock sticking up from the ground, and it would explode and make a noise like an exploding fire cracker. This was the way we had fun in celebrating the Fourth of July on the Farm when we were youngsters.
Grandma would make delicious goodies to eat also. We used to and still do enjoy homebaked, fresh bread and rolls.
There were quite a few sheep on the farm. There were about fifty, and sometimes our dog pal would bring the sheep and cows home. If the sheep got out into the corn then Pal the dog would go after them on command and bring them out. He was a well-trained dog and always looked to be petted and awarded an extra portion of warm milk for his helpfulness.
There were several cats on the Farm also and every once and a while you would see them waiting and about to enjoy a gopher meat lunch. These cats were good hunters and would catch and kill gophers, mice, and field rats, and sometimes a small rabbit.
Sometimes I would ride down to the mail box, 2 miles away on one of the work horses bareback. My uncle, Leroy, would ride Sandy down and back for mail. I never could ride this horse. He was always so nervous and I was afraid of being thrown off. But he was of use to my uncle riding him. He never really was broke.
Sometimes we would ride bareback some of the calves, but with the pigs it never worked. Before you knew it, you were in the mud.
HOW WE ENTERTAINED OURSELVES BACK THEN WITHOUT TODAY'S VIDEO GAMES AND TV AND MALLS
We used to take old rubber car tires and sit in them, and hold on to the inside of the tire and someone would push us down the hill. This sure was a lot of fun, just as good as any old carnival ride you could have. These were free rides you didn't have to pay for which we enjoyed all the more because we thought it up ourselves. We would go ice skating in the winter and enjoyed this also. Sometimes we would build a fire on the edge of the pond.
Winter is a time for play and work. There is always snow to shovel and sidewalks have to be cleared as well as driveways. It's surprising how much fun you can have in the snow with a toboggan sled or skies. If you like to ice skate in Dakota or Minnesota, there are plenty of lakes and outdoors ice skating places that are lit up by lights so you can skate after dark. We used to enjoy doing iceskating in Minneapolis, and I still do. I used to go with my cousins iceskating and oh, how much fun we did have. Skiing can be a rather expensive outdoor sport, but it is a healthy one, giving one good physical exercise.
Some enjoy playing hockey on the ice which is another sport. I like to go tobogganing on a board pulled by a horse, which is a lot of fun. Bob sledding is fun also down the slopes of some hill or small mountain.
In Alaska they use dogs that pull their cargo over the snow and ice on a sled. These are called Huskies. In mountains, when the climbers became lost, they had the St. Bernard dogs, knowned for saving countless lives of many people. Around their necks was a little cask of medicine, something to drink that would warm them, and then the dog would lead them back to safety of shelter.
Nowadays things have changed a bit from years ago, as they now have snowmobiles on skis and other means of travel over the snow. There is a new vehicle that will travel o n skis also, on pontoons and on lwheels. On the highway this is a wind blower snowmobile. What a change from the horse and bob sleds of yesterday. These new modern vehicles on snow and ice have bucket seats and are kept warm with heaters in them and are used for travel.
JESSE JAMES'S COUSIN GAVE A SPEECH
On one occasion my Grandpa Alfred Stadem (now deceased) told us that he had the privilege of going to hear the cousin of Jesse James, who gave a speech. Jesse James was the outlaw who held up the Rock Island train years ago during the old Wild West frontier days of early America.
We used to enjoy riding our Grandpa's horses. These were work horses, but they sure could give you a rough ride if you tried to ride bareback. The reason for this was because we had no saddles. It costs something to own a horse. You have to have feed and hay, and you have to see to it that he has good shoes to walk on. If you have a pasture with a lot of good green grass growing, this will keep him fairly cheap.
THE MISCHIEVOUS BILLY GOAT
My late father Bob was given a billy goat, but he didn't keep it in town. The reason was he would climb up about anything that he could scale. He would get up on father's car and tramp in the fabric top part. Dad soon had to take him up on the farm. Grandpa couldn't keep him either. So he took him to an auction. What a monkey he made out of us. As he would get good and nervous for his safety, he would eat anything, including glass. What an exciting billy goat he was. He would butt you continually. A mischievous goat was old Billy. I hever heard about whatever became of him [Grandpa Alfred sold him, for "Fifty cents more than he was worth," he said. Or was it twenty five cents or even a "plug nickel"? Whatever it was, it was a bargain to get anything for that four footed nuisance that terrorized everyone, particularly the girls, with its charging and butting them from behind when people least expected it!]. Who knows? He might be in some butcher shop right now, or in someone's stew kettle--ha ha!
It's fun to be on a farm, better than a zoo. Go out to one sometime. You will see things you never would see at the zoo. City slickers never have the same pleasures we country hicks did. The grandest places in all the world is home on the range. We used to sing, "Home on the Range" in the little old country school house on the prairie. Those were the good old days. It's fun to have had a farm to go to for the summer. And the Christmas winter season--sports were full of adventure and exciting fun on any hill. We would ice skate on the frozen pond and ski and sled in the hills and bluffs. We youngsters could be seen frolicking in the snow and on the ice--this winter wonderland of entertainment was fun for all.