We have retitled the “Weekly Radio Readings” to “Historic Happenings.” Each week’s story will be posted in its entirety. The stories can also be heard Sunday mornings around 10 am on WILD 102’s “Looking Back in Time” program.
Weekly radio stories are researched, compiled, and read by Sheila Winstead, RCHS Board Member.
Available recordings are also linked to the Wild 102 “Looking Back in Time” page.
March 26, 2023
The 1930s were a difficult time for many families. People on farms around here probably had an advantage, being able to grow gardens and raise animals for food. Still, everyone tried to make a few extra dollars however they could.
Norbert Dostal wrote a story for his descendants and published it in 1986. He called it, “The Changing Times on the Farm Scene 1910-1986.”
Today I’ll read his story called “Snake Root Plant Hunting and Digging.”
Snake root hunting and digging was a good hobby. This hobby or job with some hard work could make it a good or poor year for getting spending money. It was about the same as getting winter spending money from trapping. From a nice patch of snake roots came a good yield of a special root that had a sale value in the Far East. I think that the Indians looked for these patches long before we as kids went to look for them. The roots of these plants had a special odor. I called it a pleasant scent.
The flowers of this wild plant, that was found in certain areas, were not too easily located. Usually we had some way of finding a good digging area full of hardy plants that yielded good sized roots. We looked around the same area and took care not to leave many plants of any size untouched. A good look at the areas close to the good-sized plants would very likely bring to light another patch, for they grew in certain areas that had not been found for a few years. The perimeter of a small opening in the woods might be a likely place to scout for a new patch. This added to our treasured store on hand, which we came to call our very own, and the small amount that was earned in this way, added to our spending ability. Some years this could be very good, when the prices paid by the local buyers were above normal. My cousin, Roy, was able to buy himself a new suit of clothes. I haven’t heard of anyone getting a greater amount in one season.
In various places snake root can be spotted growing on the ditch slopes and some folks locally have a small supply, and at times add to the supply, of this medicinal root. Claims of the medicinal value in the roots are made by these users. We know that there are many other plants growing in various areas that have a healing value ascribed to them. Very few people recognize many of these wild-growing plants as having curing powers, if used according to their capabilities. Some are even used to heal cancers. Now much faith is placed in capsules and or pills that can do some good. Many of these same medications come to a quick halt when it is found that they do more harm than good, if used too much and are therefore left for some very special cases.
Some of the medications prescribed to me in my early problem years would be dangerous if used beyond the doctor’s directions. If they are mentioned to modern practitioners they claim that they never heard of such, as they were taken off the recommended lists of medications.
Another person who remembered picking snakeroot as a kid in the 1930s was my dad, Gilmore Flaten. He wrote down this story from his childhood telling of a couple ways he made money.
We also had to try and make some money. I remember in the summer we made enough money to get firecrackers for the 4th of July by picking snakeroots. There’s still a lot of them around. It was a hard way to make money, walking around in the woods with hot weather about that time of year and lots of mosquitoes. We got 10 cents a pound for the roots. It took a lot to make a pound. We would take them down to Knutson’s store in Pinecreek and trade them for fire crackers, a big deal!
Then in the fall we had a different way to make money: trap skunks. That was kind of hazardous duty. I got blasted quite a few times. I remember Ma meeting me and told me to go behind the woodshed and take my clothes off and bury them. That was supposed to take the smell away but it didn’t always work. We didn’t have bathtubs in those days so to wash up we’d put some water in a wash tub and take soap and rag and try to get most of the smell off. No perfume to doctor you up with either. I always thought I’d done a good job but that changed when I’d get to school. As soon as it started getting nice and warm in the schoolhouse the teacher would say, “There is someone in here that smells skunk. Raise your hand” So I’d have to raise my hand. “Gilmore, you will have to go home. The other kids don’t like the smell.” So I’d go home and hunt more skunks. We would get 2 or 3 dollars each for them. Sometimes we could find a den and dug them out. We could get from 8 to 10 in a den. When that was over it was quite a disaster. Hunter and skunks all smelled the same.
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