Happy New Year! We hope that 2023 is starting well for everyone.
To start the new year, 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 will also be linked to the Wild 102 “Looking Back in Time” page.
January 15, 2023
Arnold Grefthen from Wannaska wrote books with stories and memories from the old days. Copies of them are in the research area at the Roseau Museum. I’ll read from “A Land of Howling Wolves, Part 2” today.
The following was recently related to me by a local resident. It was during the cold winter of 1936 that a friend and myself, both unemployed, hungry, and undecided as to what to do next. We were both young and single, which was a blessing in those hard, cruel days. We had no one else to look out for, only ourselves.
A young couple, who were about to leave for the Winter to stay with relatives some one hundred miles away, gave us permission to stay in their cabin, providing we took care of their small flock of sheep and a milk cow. These animals were housed in a small barn on the place. There were no animals other than the ones just mentioned. No horses or tractors to haul hay to feed the sheep and the cow. The hay had to be dragged in rope slings to the barn from a stack about one-eighth of a mile away by manpower. There was one blessing. The cow was a good milker and furnished us with milk to drink. We were to feed, water and care for these animals.
There was an abundant supply of dry fuel wood in the nearby woods. The only trouble with this was that the dry-standing trees had to be chopped down, then chopped into lengths we could handle and carried on our shoulders to the cabin. These poles or lengths were then chopped into stovewood lengths with an old axe. As we were about out of wood and hay, we discussed the idea of using the cow as a source of power to haul hay and wood.
We searched the place for something that could be used on the cow as a harness. We found an old horse collar, a pair of buggy harness hames, and some barbless two-strand wire, a single old tree, and some assorted lengths of rope. The horse collar was then put on the cow. In order to fit the cow, the collar was put on in an upside-down position. Then the hames were wired together in a fashion to fit the horse collar. Attached to each hame was a large metal ring. To each of these hame rings, a length of the two-strand wire had been fastened. The loose ends of these wires extended a few feet to the rear of the cow. These loose ends were then fastened to each end of the single tree. To the center of the single tree, our longest and sturdiest rope had been tied. Wearing the makeshift harness, the cow was then led to our timber lot with several feet of rope dragging along behind the single tree.
Arriving at the timber, the rope was then looped around several pole lengths of dry fuel wood. On the return trip to the cabin, the cow easily dragged the fuel wood along, being led and guided by my buddy as he would pull on her left horn for a left turn and on the right one to turn right. The cow was next used to pull slings of hay to the barn. As the weather was very cold, we scrounged all the old coats, rags, and gunny sacks we could gather up and placed them over the cow’s udder to prevent frostbite. These old coats and rags were held in place by a rope across them and tied together over the cow’s back.
One day we found an old handmade wooden sled with wooden ski-like runners. The sled had probably been used in the past to pull blocks of fuel wood from the wood pile to the cabin. The wooden runners were still in fair shape. Out of odds and ends of old lumber, a wooden platform was next built and fastened in place over the runners. We now could haul hay in style, hauling much larger loads and a lot easier to transport. Our hay and fuel wood transportation had now been solved by the use of cow power.
I had gone to visit a neighboring farmer to get some potatoes from him, of which he had a cellar full. He had told us we could have all the potatoes we wanted for eating purposes. As I was returning to the cabin in the late afternoon carrying the potatoes in a gunny sack, a strange sight met my eyes as I approached the cabin. There was my buddy driving the cow hitched to a large load of hay. He was driving and guiding her by means of two lengths of twine tied to her horns as though she had been trained for years. A tug on the twine fastened to her left horn, and she would respond by turning left. A tug on the right horn, and she would turn right.
Our bill of fare that winter was mush, pancakes, potatoes, and an occasional chunk of meat, donated by our better-fixed relatives and neighbors. For the two of us, our total cash outlay for the winter was eight dollars and forty cents. This money had been spent for kerosene for our lamps, coffee, flour, sugar, and salt. There was no chance of getting any more money until spring’s work started in the farming areas. We had no money for tobacco. Occasionally a tobacco-using neighbor would give us some of his pipe tobacco. This neighbor bought his pipe tobacco in one-pound cans. Then he would fill one of those familiar pocket-size tins and bring it to us to smoke in our pipes. Those were indeed hard times.
Thank you to (www.roseauonline.com) for letting us share our county’s history with your listeners by donating air time, studio time, and production staff every week.