University of Minnesota Duluth
 
 
MyU | Search | People | Departments | Events | News

Envelope: E-mail Tim Roufs
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

extended search


Flying Bird Image


When Everybody Called Me Gabe-bines,
"Forever-Flying-Bird":

Teachings from Paul Buffalo

Timothy G. Roufs (Ed.)
University of Minnesota Duluth

a note on tenses
  a note on style

 
orignal tapes information

Table of Contents

"This project has been financed in part with funds provided by the State of Minnesota from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund through the Minnesota Historical Society."

"This publication was made  possible in  part by the  people of  Minnesota  through  a grant funded by an appropriation  to  the  Minnesota  Historical Society  from the  Minnesota  Arts and Cultural  Heritage  Fund. Any views,  findings,  opinions,  conclusions  or recommendations expressed in this publication  are those  of  the authors  and  do not necessarily represent those of the State of  Minnesota, the  Minnesota  Historical Society, or the  Minnesota  Historic Resources Advisory Committee."

Canvas


Buffalo Image

43

Cattle, Horses, "Siouxs"

Wild horses on Red Lake Indian Reservation, 1941.

Wild horses on Red Lake Indian Reservation, 1941.

Creator: Minneapolis Star Journal

Photograph Collection, 1941
  Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. SF9 p3 Negative No.
Settlers came along the river,(1) started farming, and we all got interested in that.(2) Before long we all grew big crops. We all wanted cattle, so a few of us got cattle and started raising cattle-beef. They had a creamery in Deer River, and people had cattle along the river to get a little cream to sell to the creamery -- we did anyhow. We had garden, and we had cattle. We had, anyhow, fifteen or twenty head, and that was quite a lot then. We had three, four head of horses besides.

We got the cattle in about '24, 1924. bI-zi-dikay-w^g, that's "cow," a big animal built like a buffalo. It looks like a buffalo . . . kind of like a buffalo, bI-zii-kii. People around here had a few cows before the Finns came around, but not many. And in the '18s my folks had some cattle at the Leech-Mississippi Forks, but we didn't have much of a herd until from '24 and '26 to '30. In those years we'd buy cattle and then start building up a herd. Cattle increased fast on the along-the-river lots. My folks eventually had quite a few cattle that way. We even had cattle enough to butcher.

Herd pasturing on wild hay, ca. 1910.

Herd pasturing on wild hay, ca. 1910.

Photographer: Harry Darius Ayer

Photograph Collection, ca. 1910
  Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. SA3.1 r17 Negative No

We raised the cattle ourselves.(3) We'd buy some and raise the rest. The Government didn't give us the cattle those days. Later on they gave us cattle, but those were prairie cattle and they didn't do as good here. Those prairie cattle couldn't do very good here. After we received them they couldn't mature here because I think they were starved before they came here, and then the chilly climate shocked them. The cold weather gave them a shock, and they didn't do too good. They didn't milk, hardly. They'd just run. They were wild like deer, so we couldn't get any milk out of them, hardly. But the regular Holsteins -- regular cattle -- boy, they were good cattle.

We had Holsteins. I think we had a good area for Holsteins. We didn't have to grub stumps with them because they were kept on the meadow, on the Mississippi bottom, and there was plenty of water there. I think we had as high as eighteen, twenty head. . . . Yes, we had about twenty-three head, but they were un‑registered cows -- like Holsteins.

There's nothing but milk with unregistered cows. You can't breed them or anything.(4) So we came into Guernseys later on. After while, later on, we turned to Guernseys because they're better for milk and butter. We used to go the Deer River creamery and sell cream. That's why we had Guernseys -- they'd do good for milking. We always kept eight head a-milking. And we kept the best milkers. We graded them. Boy they did good here.(5)

I noticed too, later on, that some folks further up the Leech River had some of those prairie cattle just running wild like deer up there. My folks lived up there at one time but when they moved down to the Leech and Mississippi Forks they moved out of that claim.(6) When my dad got old he told us, "Well, I can't hay no more; why don't we go after that beef?"

So we'd take the team of horses, and rifles, and we'd go up there and shoot the cattle with rifles. They'd run like a deer. They were wild up Leech River.

Joe Barnes will tell you that too. He can tell some of the things that really happened. He can prove that what I say is true. This boy here, Joe Barnes -- a white boy, the one that lives next door to me in Ball Club -- was my neighbor when we were kids. The Barneses lived across the river from us, across the Leech River. They lived a mile and a half from us. Now he's got a place in Ball Club. He's got that whole block, and he's got that gas station.(7) His family raised a big garden too -- at the Leech River homestead -- and they had a lot of cattle. They had a lot.

When I was young, well, I got milk from the Barneses. Same with lots of other Indians. Indians would come by in canoes. They'd stop for water -- for cold water -- at Joe's. They had spring water, a flowing well(8) there. Maybe they'd borrow some garden things.(9) "Maybe Joe has cows milking," they'd say. They'd hope so. Maybe they'd buy some milk. Maybe they'd buy some bread -- some home-baked bread. About 1908, 1909, 1910 bread cost about 10 cents a loaf. They didn't have time to bake bread when they were paddling around from White Oak to Leech Lake or to Federal Dam. So they'd buy a loaf of bread, and they'd get a big bowl, put milk in it, and dunk that bread in it. Oh boy!

Our white friends from across the Leech River, the Barnes family, joined us and were always ready to help us. I think we bought some of our first cattle from them. They were always ready to back us.

Why?

Because we worked, and they worked with us. We were friendly in those days. Our white neighbors always showed us how to raise stock. We had cattle, and some of us had horses. They showed us how to take care of them. They showed us how to feed the horses, thinning them by measuring their food and balancing their diet. They taught us how to have good stock. We learned from the white people. Finally, a government farmer for the Indian Department -- Mr. Bemis -- joined us and went out to the field to work amongst the Indians. He showed us how to take care of ourselves.

Gitche-no-din (Great Wind), Mille Lacs, ca. 1925.

Gitche-no-din (Great Wind), Mille Lacs, ca. 1925.

Photograph Collection, ca. 1925
  Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. E97.1G r10 Negative No. 35741

We had lived in wiigwaams, but sooner than we expected we came to have sawmills in our area.(10) Once we had the sawmill we made lumber, and out of that lumber and logs we made a permanent home, and that's where we stayed. Instead of moving around from place to place like we did with the wiigwaam, we had a permanent place to go for the winter.

Exterior of sawmill, Skibo Timber Company, Skibo, 1913.

Exterior of sawmill, Skibo Timber Company, Skibo, 1913.

Photographer: William F. Roleff

Photograph Collection, 1913
  Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location no. Album 95 Negative no. 3474-B

Cutting logs at Skibo Timber Company sawmill, Skibo.

Cutting logs at Skibo Timber Company sawmill, Skibo, 1913.

Photographer: William F. Roleff

Photograph Collection, 1913
  Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. Album 95 Negative No. 3440-B

In spring and summer our fields and our crops had to be taken care of. We always had something to do to pass the time and prepare for the hard winter months that were coming ahead. When we moved to that little cabin, it was not the first time that we had snow. We never know when the rainy weather or when the snow is coming. But I believe the people of my past, the older class, were always prepared for the winter.

They always had a little something to eat. By practicing being prepared, you'll always have enough, and you need enough, for the children have to eat. You have to bring the children up right, and keep them warm in life with the natural cooking of food.

I'm telling you a great history of my life, and I hope that the great improvement we have seen will always give us a better chance to take care of our food. Food is something that we have to take care of to keep in good health.

Now we have good medical services. We have hospitals.(11) We have roads.(12) We're developed into a better way of life at this time.

In the early days we didn't have any of these -- instead we all joined in to help one another. We were neighborly. We always gave a hand to whoever came and wanted help. As an Indian I had to do that in my times that I've seen because whites were moving in on us. Later on, when we were stuck, the Barneses had a telephone. If we couldn't get a doctor in my later days, the Barneses called our government doctor for us.

They were always ready to help us, and we were ready to help them.

We used to get together too. The neighbors would come over and visit one another, both whites and Indians. The womenfolks made tea and coffee. We had a good visit, a good cup of coffee, and good Indian bread. The women made fry bread and all that stuff.

We had saws by then and we sawed one another's woodpile, 'specially if someone was sick. Probably the old man was sick. If he was, we all joined together to help -- boys, neighbors, and all.

Sawing wood for household use on the farm, ca. 1920.

Sawing wood for household use on the farm, ca. 1920.

Photograph Collection, ca. 1920
  Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. SA4.9 r63 Negative No. 6086

People always liked to be with us in my days; that's in the '20's, '30's.

We lived at the Leech and Mississippi Forks, down on the river where my step-dad had an allotment.(13) We improved that place. We made a farm and raised cattle and pigs. We had pigs there too, you know. But we didn't have many pigs. I think we had four or five at the most. When we got little ones, we discarded them because we didn't want to keep too many. The reason why we had the pigs was to use up the last part of the milk. There was a lot of waste in that milk the way we used it, so we'd take the waste milk and throw it to the pig pen. The pigs'ed use it up, and it wouldn't sour. The folks would generally take the cream off the milk and they'd make the butter -- home-made butter. Then we'd take the skimmed milk and we'd throw it out to the pigs. We couldn't keep it, because we had no freezer, no cooler,(14) so we threw it out to the pigs. They'd eat on that real good. Then we'd get the garden stuff, like cornstalks and everything, and throw it in with the pigs too. Well, gee whiz, they'd do pretty good on that; ya. When the fall came we'd butcher some cattle and pigs and we got pork chops and beef. Besides that, we had all the deer meat we wanted.

We got along good.

Oh, we had cattle about ten, twelve, fifteen years, 'till we all got big and started leaving home. The old man got old and started selling them. The winters were too long and it was hard work to keep them, particularly after he and my mother were home alone most of the time.

I don't know for sure why my dad quit farming, but . . . well, some of the boys got married and sickness struck him. People in our family got old and we all split up.(15) So the folks didn't need that much anymore. They didn't need the gardening, they didn't need the meat, because the young folks were growing up and moving out. They didn't stay. Soon as they grew up, they got married and moved out to somewhere else. Most of them moved out to look for work somewhere, and to find better living and have their own housing. Some of them wanted to be in cities.(16) They wanted to live the city life. We all wanted to go ahead in our own way.

I think the prices and valuation of cattle went down at that time too.(17) You could get a cow cheap them days. The valuation went down and then the high price of labor came. And many left the farm for that money. Going out to work and making money was a big thing those days. But in the thirties some of us had to find ourself self-employed in farming again, because you couldn't hardly get a job anymore, and that way you still had your winter use left to you.(18) That's what was in our minds. See?

But hard winters are long and after we settled down in one place we had to use that money we had through the winter too. When something else rose and cost more money, why it took much more time to go out and get a little more money logging and doing cash work, and the farm just kept dying down.

High wages came when the war began,(19) and everybody wanted to go and make money. As soon as everything began to open up, the jobs started to open up and people started hiring to beat heck. After that, community development(20) came in and began improvement for young people. Educational came in and the young people all wanted to join up with the education.

Pretty soon the Indians forgot their stock.(21) Even if one of the children didn't care to go anywhere, he probably wouldn't want to stay to farm, even if the father or mother is living. He'd probably say, "Well, I ain't gonna stay to take care of the cattle. We can't handle them cows. We ain't got enough machinery to hay. I think we better sell some of the cows. We'll sell some cows and use up the money in order to live."

One time I was leaving home to work at the mill in Cass Lake,(22) and when I left I asked my mother, "I'm going to work. OK?"

"Ya. OK."

And then quite a while later I came home again. I said, "You're minus. You're minus a cow or two, maybe four or five of them. What happened?"

"They began butchering cows and selling meat."

Of course meat wasn't worth much. Cattle wasn't worth much.

The horses were gone too. I didn't ask them what happened to the horses. I think one died, and it looked like they sold the other one, harness and all. It looked like they just drove that one horse for a while, then sold it.

And that was Joe Nason and the Barneses that did that. The Barneses had small, smart kids -- Joe, Herb, and Jim. They gave my brother Joe(23) a god-damn old Model-T for five or six cows. God! Those kids -- Freddy and Joe and Mark Nason -- they're the ones that did that. They didn't care. They lost faith in raising cattle.(24) I don't blame them. They got lonesome for their dad, I think. He had passed on by then.

That's a good thing I took the pressure off of my mother by leaving home. She didn't have to worry about feeding me then.

But anyhow, by then we were always going to town.(25) My brothers especially were always going to town. Sometimes they were in town so much they forgot to get firewood for my mom.

When I was home I was always hauling firewood, but another time when I came home the fire was out. And I saw that there was no wood. I said to mom, "Mom, where's your wood?"

"I ain't got any."

"What do you do for wood?"

"I go out myself and cut it."

"Who do you go with?"

"My gathering partner, 'Pokey' -- Po-ki-n^k -- you know; and Maggie -- Maggie Nokay, Maggie Joe Thompson."

So I started to haul wood to beat heck, by hands.

The place went to heck. There was no management. When I came back, still another time, my mother said, "Everything's gone, Paul. But I don't, we don't, have to stay here. I got old age pension now."

So she decided to move off the farm, and she moved into Ball Club. That was about twenty years ago . . . that was about '42; ya. That was in the 1940s anyway -- maybe '45, '46.

So she got off the farm. They had to come for my mother. I left them. I went up north and worked in a lumber camp. And the house at the Leech-Mississippi Forks stood there for a long time after she left. We had a good cabin there. It was warm. We had a nice place there -- a nice plantation -- by a river. We'd get deer out in the field anytime we'd want. They're pretty careful about that now.

The next thing you know some of my brothers moved right in with my mother in Ball Club! They could-a kept the farm, them boys, and kept going. That was a good. . . . A good garden spot.

"Yaah," I said, "I was sorry to see that."

The trouble is nobody wants to farm. That's still the trouble now; everybody doesn't want to be on a farm now-a-days -- even though a farm is the healthiest and the best place that you can live. It's more clean. When you're on a farm you know that you're occupied. The farm is the healthiest thing there is; ya.

Oh, some of them would like to come back, but it cost money to start in farming. Now, with the price of cattle the way it is, you can't get a cow for less than a hundred dollars.(26) But still, if you buy a couple hundred dollars' worth of cows and start improving your place, you got something. You can start up with just a few cattle. Those cattle increase fast. Boy how they used to increase! A lot of them who started like that years ago are doing good by using that way of improving. They have pretty good homes and get themselves a little more stock each year as they go along. They start up and keep increasing all the time.

You can trade for anything with a cow. Now-a-days if you have a cow, or some beef, your neighbor'll trade you for a pork or anything.(27) Stock raising's a big value now.

But now, who wants to farm? If you get hungry and you go down and get a quarter's worth of meat, you got a stew bone. That's all they care about eating now. All they want to live for now is better clothes, modern in style.(28) Style is what destroyed the mind of the people. All the people care about is cars, nice cars. Everybody says, "Before I get a cow, I gotta get a nice car." First of all they buy a car -- before they get cattle or anything they could use in the future. That's wrong to buy a car first of all.(29) It's all right to have a car, but have your own place first and then get a car that you could use. And use it right! Use it only when you want to use it for something, and not for running around just to see what the others are doing or what's going on. That car costs money to run. It's eating money all the time, every time you turn that wheel.

But when you stay on the farm and occupy your farm, and when you're putting money on the cattle, hogs, chickens, or something, they're growing. They're growing and increasing their price all the time. That's the way the cream is coming for your living purposes. And your crop is coming for your living. We don't consider that now; no. But what does a car do? It eats up your living. And it endangers your life.

Now-a-days they're making a group settlement here on the reservation.(30) They're all resettled in a group, but that isn't going to last. A lot of those people are working in the mines.(31) There's a lot of work in the mines now because they're selling metal and it takes a lot of employment to start to get something in. But you wait, in later years the mines will be automatic with electricity. Everything will be press-the-button. They won't need as many crews as they have now. Where will the labor go then? What could they do then? There won't be so much work then. Well, some of them will have to go back on the farm, I guess, and start farming again.

So why not farm all the way through? Why not keep farming, keep raising stock, and then deposit money in your credit account? If you start early you'll have something, but it even isn't too late to start anytime. You increase fast on stock. So when you retire, you got something. Stock is the best thing because you increase on that.

And they increase on their own. Even in the wild.

Did you know we had wild horses running around Ball Club, all sizes? We had any size you want! It was so sheltered in the woods they didn't even have to have a barn. See? What I mean by sheltered is that when it snowed it didn't bother the horses at all. They had hair -- fur -- that was thick on them and they were under the thickest trees -- cedars and all that kind. These wild horses were usually more in the cedars, jack-pine and balsam country, where it's sheltered. They were under there, just like wild deer -- fifteen, twenty-five, thirty to a herd, right there out of Ball Club in the surrounding Leech Lake area. You can see those trails yet -- where the ponies used to run through -- three, four feet wide. The width of those trails all depends how many wild horses go through every day or every week. And there were stallions around there that would make right for you.(32) And you could hear those stallions going after one another . . . battling. . . . They were kicking; ya. You could hear the ribs, kIuw!! kIuw!! Oh boy! Then the boss was the leader. Oh gee! Naturally.(33)

Some of the Indian ponies get pretty ornery, you know. An Indian pony is waa-naa-sa-muuss see, Indian pony . . . aa-ni-shi-naa-bay bay-bay-o-gaa-ji. If they see anything moving they go right after it, and they fight with their front feet up in the air. You have to battle to beat hell with some of them. But some of the stallions had bells, just to let the people know they're around. People would catch them once in a while, because they didn't belong to anybody, and put bells on them. Then the people just let them run loose.

And when a bronco horse mixes with an Indian pony, then you have to watch out. A bronco has a high life, a high spirit. A bronco's high life; he's nervous until he gets squeezed.(34) You never know what he's going to do -- until he gets acquainted with you, then you can do anything. Indian ponies have spirit, but the Indians work it down. They work it out of them by hitching them up. Indian ponies like to be hitched up . . . some of them.

A party of white people came up from I‑o‑way(35) and they were having hardship here. It was Old Man Grife and his wife. Old man Grife settled right across the river, and sooner or later there were many Grifes. "Geeze," Old Man Grife told some of us when he first arrived, "I'd like to get a driving pony, or some driving horses. Where can I get a set of driving horses? I need them 'cause I'm gonna live here."

One of the neighbor boys, Joe Barnes, said, "What do you want to buy a team of horses for? Just go out here on the Mississippi and get some. Take a rope and lasso 'em."

That guy from I‑o‑way had a big cowboy hat on too. Joe told him, "If you're really a cowboy, you'll go catch a couple of them wild horses. Go lasso them."

By God, they did just that! They caught a couple, a nice pair of horses. They brought them home, put them in the barn, took care of them, fed them up, watered them and everything. The Indians around there knew they got these horses, but they never said anything. One Indian said, "Well, the horse'll do something for this country, anyhow. They'll help the people."

"Another thing. It will be good if they use those horses in farming because then maybe a little cash work will circulate amongst the others."

By gosh, that was the nicest team of horses that I ever saw, 'till later on. We met that guy one time when I was around eighteen years old. I said, "Boy, you got a pretty good team there, don't you?"

"Yea. . . . Boy!"

We had big teams about 1917, '18. We used to haul hay with them.

Team of horses towing sled of hay, ca. 1910.

Team of horses towing sled of hay, ca. 1910.

Photograph Collection, ca. 1910
  Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. HD5.29 r10 Negative No.

That guy asked me, "You think I could haul a ton of hay with these?"

"Oh, easy!" I said. "Those are the strongest little son-of-a-guns there. You can't hold 'em back. You can haul anything with them, but you have to get a wide-runner sleigh. And you have to feed them up too."

Those days they made homemade sleds out of oak. Geeze, they did a good job! Shucks, those horses would haul anything with a wide-runner sled. They call them "drays," in English, or "sled." "Sled," "sleigh" in Indian is bi-buun-nay-daa-bahn. bay-buIn, "the winter sled" -- that's all it is, "winter sled."

Horse drawn sled hauling logs out of the woods, ca. 1895.

Horse drawn sled hauling logs out of the woods, ca. 1895.

Photograph Collection, ca. 1895
  Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. HD5.31 r6 Negative No.

"You got a pretty good team there yourself," he told me.

"Yea," I said, "it belongs to my old man."

"Boy, you know what? I've been worried about somebody coming after these little horses of mine."(36)

"Naah," I said, "they won't come after them. They'll be there for the next five years."

They'd just multiply in the woods. They'd multiply in the woods and we didn't know whose they were. So Old Man Grife didn't have to worry about somebody taking them away from him.

But the Indians were the ones that brought them in. When they brought them in they just pulled the harnesses off and let them go. Mares and stallions get together from far and near. They'd travel in herds. Those days there were no fences and they went wherever they wanted.

They went right through the woods. The flies drive them crazy and when those flies came after them they were ready to go right through the woods, right for the water. I've seen ponies throw water on their backs to keep the flies off. And they'd get on the windy meadow somewhere -- where the flies are blown off of them -- and there they'd stand. Oh, they were a beautiful herd -- a wild herd. They were wild. They're wild horses; ya.

You should have seen that herd of horses. I would just like to have a picture of what I saw. They were the prettiest horses: their coats were "crazy quilt," spotted, white, hay-colored, and black. Oh, I tell you when they stampeded, they were right behind one another. Oh, boy, they looked pretty! Ya!

We had a lot of wild horses running through the woods. And the woods are just lousy with murdocks.(37) A murdock is a milkweed that grows about three feet high. They look like green berries. It isn't berries, though; it's just pickers -- a ball of pickers. When you walk through them they get on your clothes. And if the horse goes through them he's pickers all over, 'specially right there on the back of the mane. So when they caught a horse they had a hell of a time to comb them off.

Believe it or not that's what happened around the 1918s. The Indians just started picking up horses that were running wild. Gee, that was something! Heck, it was nothing for the boys to go up there and get some old plug. They'd corner a plug, some old plug, and they would throw a halter on him, and put the bridle on him, and ride him around.

Now! Here's another question they'll ask you: "They had ponies. How did they get their ponies?"

In the winter time four or five Indians went down the Mississippi to where the horses were herded and they caught one horse each. The Indians were always the good riders. They lassoed however many horses they wanted, regardless whose horse it was, but they most generally took one each. The horses all ran wild. They tied them on the saddle of another horse to take them home. They did this in the winter. It was much easier to do this in the winter when they were herded. And in the spring, they'd have a new crop of ponies. They couldn't move them that way in the summer.

Chippewa Indians with horses near Walker, ca. 1900.

Chippewa Indians with horses near Walker, ca. 1900.

Photograph Collection, Postcard, ca. 1900
  Collections Online
  Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. E97.1 r80 Negative No. 49122

They had tricks; boy!

And when they wanted a team, they took a team. Ya. They took the team of wild horses, and put them in a shelter, and fed them right up. They didn't drive them right out. They didn't drive them right up from wild. No. They just lassoed them, and then led them out. Boy, I'll tell you I've seen wild horses -- twenty-five, thirty of them in the bunch.

Everybody got horses that way those days. If a guy's horse died out he generally didn't have any money to replace it, and there were no loans those days. The old-timers didn't know what a loan was. The banks started making loans about '20 . . . '15 or '20. So before that he couldn't get another horse unless he went out and picked up a wild one.

The Indian word for wild horse is b^g-w^d-jI-bi-bii-jo-gaa-jii; bay-bay-jo-gaa-jii, that's a wild one. b^g-w^dg means wild; it means wild. Ho-ho!! Gee!!! duu-no is a bull. And a horse is bay-bay-jo-gaa-jay-jii, duu-no, duu-noo, one. . . .

But the Red Lakers say it different. For "horse" the Red Laker says mIsh-t^-dIn, mIsh-t^-dIn, that's a horse. And the Leech Laker says day-bay-ji-go-ga-jii, that's "one nail after another," talking about their hoofs. It's "one nail after another."

Yea! bay-bay-ji-go-gaa-jii, that's a Leech Lake Indian word. A Red Laker says mIsh-t^-dIn. mIsh-d^-dIn means a horse all-together, but mIsh-d^-dIn is a horse that's let go and lives on his own.

In the Ball Club area there were . . . oohh boy . . . about twenty-five or thirty wild horses in a herd. The horses always were wild. That's their original way. They were born that way in the traveling herds. Sometime maybe you'll see the same herd. I don't know how many herds there were, but they had herds all over. I would guess five, ten, fifteen, twenty -- fifteen, eighteen hundred horses in all. But that would include different branches -- different reservations. OK? There were about twenty-five or twenty herds in our reservation. So that'd be five, six, seven hundred on Leech Lake. That's just on Leech Lake; ya. Ya. And the further West you go, the more wild horses you found. The more wild ones you found.

But after while lots of people began catching them and the herds disappeared about '28, '29. They gradually disappeared.(38)

In those days the horses were mostly saddle horses, not work-horses. But they also had nice working-horses to break up a piece of ground, n^-kii-bay-bay-jo-gaa-jii. day-so-bii-bay-bay-jo-gaa-jii, that's you're "on-his-back, riding horse on the back." See? Wh^^h$. day-so-bii-bay-bay-jo-gaa-jii. Saddle is day-s^-bii-p^-bii-wIn, "chair, sitting on the horse," a-p^-bii-wIn; day-s^-bii-^-p^-bii-wIn, your day-s^-bii when you're riding a horse. day-s^-bii-a, day-s^-bii-a-mIss-t^-dIn, riding horse; ya.

They had hair and fur that was thick on them, so the cold didn't bother them at all. No, it didn't bother them. Ya, I've seen them with my own eyes! And I know what I'm talking about. I'm glad I'm telling the truth about the vision I had toward the wild life. When I was young I had a vision of this wild life. Those were wild days when I was young.

When I was young we used to put horse hair in a bottle. We used to wonder and try to figure out what caused the horse hair in the jar to move. After so much time in the water in a jar the horse hair will start to move by itself, and it will look like one worm or something crawling around one another. Maybe you can put three or four of those horse hairs in there. You could see them wiggle in there and we often wondered why that horse hair did that. The only way we could figure it out was that the horse hair is part of a life of the creature or the animal that we have. The hair is full of electricity. That's why horses are a little afraid of the storms -- of the lighting and everything -- which by contact will send their electricity to the creature or animal that you have. There's electricity in every person, and in every living animal.

Electricity is a thing that puts life into people. By electricity the bloodstreams have flowage. The electricity of your life, of the flesh, helps to build energy. And when you're full of that energy, then you're able to live a full life. But if it's dying down, then your weakness is coming.

Horses were coming in, plantations were coming in, and white people were picking a spot to raise cattle and everything. Years ago, in 1910, 1909, in the summer, they used to have cattle work coming in. We were on the frontier, you know, and people were buying up Indian lands and buying up State lands. Towards the last many of those lands became State lands again. Anyway, about 1910, 1909, white people were buying up all these lands and they got into raising cattle and horses, which was good for the Indians since the Indians knew how to cut hay by hand. We cut that wild hay by hand on the river bottoms.

And some of these farms got to be large. They had a pretty large number of horses and cattle. Many of these farm owners had the money to hire people, and so they gave out contracts for hay and things. A farmer would come in and give out contracts to each group for a certain amount of hay. They each had a contract for a certain amount and my stepdad was one of those contractors. And sometimes it was difficult for him, because he had to come out there in the field where they fed the crew.

Ten ton of hay was nothing. We'd put ten ton up in a hurry. But sometime the farm owner called for a hundred ton, and maybe he'd call for a hundred and fifty ton. Maybe some other company would call for some hay besides that.

There were acres of hay meadows, wild hay meadows, along the Mississippi river bottom south of Ball Club, where I was living. People living there would have wild hay and time to cut it, so they'd get a contract. Those that didn't get a contract went ahead and cut hay anyhow. A man and two or three of his sons would cut and fold hay. They might have to have hay anyhow. Maybe they'd have a pony, or maybe they finally bought a cow.

The hay most generally was piled a ton to a stack. It was better to stack it and cap it than to leave it standing as little shocks -- little piles. They counted the shocks as they piled them on the stack. I think it took twenty-three pretty good shocks to make a ton of hay, but they generally put extra shocks on the stack for a cap. They generally used shocks for capping the haystack. By the time they got the capping on, they judged twenty to twenty-five shocks to a stack -- but still, they averaged a ton to a stack.

Haying near Blackduck, 1937.

Haying near Blackduck, 1937.

Photograph Collection, 1937
  Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. SA4.51 p18 Negative No. 24599


To make that ton-stack we'd first put the hay in shocks and then we'd go around with the wagon pickin' up the shocks. One guy stood in the front of a shock and the other guy stood behind. The hay shocks were in the middle and when they said, "OK," they both lifted at the same time and threw the shock on the wagon. The shocks weren't too heavy, and the two guys walked along loading the wagon that way and when they had a load they dumped the hay where the stack was going to be built. See that's why they built ton-stacks -- because they could dump the hay anywhere and then make a stack.

We'd put the shocks together to make a stack. We'd shove a pole in through the bottom shocks and then we'd pile the other shocks around that pole. The cedar poles we used were smooth and shiny. They were about four inches through, and they were about, oh, sixteen feet long. You'd see many of these -- many, many, of these stacks -- along the river bottom!

Hay stacks in field two miles from Eveleth, ca. 1912.

Hay stacks in field two miles from Eveleth, ca. 1912.

Photograph Collection, ca. 1912
  Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location no. SA4.51 r21
YR1962.3918 Negative no. 62977

They called them ton-stacks because they would average a ton. And in the winter that's all that sled would take. There were no roads, no snowplows. They made a team and went in there with a team. They loaded a ton of hay and the horse made tracks. When they hit the main track made by the Indians and by the people that hauled hay, they had a good hay road.

Moving hay in winter near Waskish, ca. 1910.

Moving hay in winter near Waskish, ca. 1910.

Photograph Collection, ca.1910
  Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. SA4.51 p25 Negative No. 19914

You'd see many people cutting hay in many different divisions. The "division" is a different area. Mud Lake, and along Mississippi and the Ball Club Rivers, on the one side, was one division. See, we only took hay from one side of the rivers. There were two sides of the meadow along the river but everybody just took one side. Oh, there was also White Oak. All the way down to White Oak Lake there were stacks along the Mississippi. All the way down there were ton-stacks of hay for their cattle. The white people that were coming in with cattle used wild hay too. Goose Lake, above Mud Lake, was a division. Whenever there was a meadow, on the Leech River, there was haying. Leech River had good hay meadows.

Horse-drawn reaper, ca. 1900.

Horse-drawn reaper, ca. 1900.

Photographer: Brooks

Photograph Collection, ca. 1900
  Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location no. SA4.52 r46 Negative no. 7359-A

Different groups would be cutting hay and the men would be busy working in their camps along the river. At the camps they had fish for food, meat, and everything. They used their muscle too. When they had enough hay for their own use, they cut some more and piled it up, since they could haul that hay, or hire someone to haul it. I think good hay was about six dollars a ton them days -- about 1910, '11, '12. Some of them got three, four dollars a ton. It all depends on what kind of hay they had.

If you had good hay you got a pretty good price. And if you delivered the hay you got a couple of dollars more for delivering it, and what you got for delivering all depended on the mileage. They used a lot of hay for bedding in logging camps too, and we sold a lot of hay to the camps. Each and every one that wanted to cut had orders for hay, even for that wild hay.

I sold straw too, to the lumber camps. That's what I did. See, in the winter I came home away from the mills.(39) I was looking for a job, and there was some straw stacked in the meadow. And at that time there were horses. The old man, Great Grandpa Smith, I think he had them horses.

"Grandpa, we want to use them horses."

"OK."

So I started hauling hay. I think me and Tom Nason hauled about six loads of that. We gave the money to my mother. We gave her checks and everything. That's how she went along a long ways, before she got old age pension. So she was all right.

When they were haying in those days they used to hire quite a few young boys, young Indians. During the cutting of the hay they'd all line up behind one another in the hay field, six and seven in a row.

If you caught up to a guy, you'd have to pass him. You'd go ahead, and he'd have to go way behind. That was quite a game. You'd be in the line, and if the back one or the middle one catches up to you, you'd holler, "Whooo!!!" They'd stop. They'd all stop. Then the one that caught up had to walk up to the front because he's fast at cutting. Maybe he has sharper tools -- a sharper scythe. And then, when they lined up again, somebody'd holler, "OK!" That way you don't jar anybody's leg or anything. They'd all stop when they heard that "Whooo!!!" They used cooperation. They'd circle around like that, all day long. They'd cut, and stop, and drink water. They had a water boy delivering water, carrying water to them.

Raking hay by hand, ca. 1910.

Raking hay by hand, ca. 1910.

Photograph Collection, ca. 1910
  Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. SA4.51 r35 Negative No. 86679


Cutting hay in those days was all hand work, and they used to cut quite a strip in a day. They were good men that were swinging a scythe. They'd be body-swinging it, using their body to swing it instead of their arms. Some of them just hooked their right arm on the handle, that's all, and moved their whole body with it. There's nothing to it when you know how, and when you get the practice of it.



Then there were the bees!  . . . I want to come to that.

At times, while they were cutting hay along the edge of the brush on the river bottom or along the edge of the brush on the high land, they would run into a beehive. Just to stop and rest and have a little recreation to re‑create, somebody'd put out a bet. One of them would say, "We stirred up some 'Siouxs' there."

"Where?"

. . . They called the bees "Siouxs," you know. bwaa-n^g is a Sioux? bwan, Sioux is a bwan; ya. They call the bees "Siouxs" because they're touchy -- they're touchy and boy they really go when they're disturbed! You can stir them up easy. They're fighters too. You have to switch to beat heck to get any of them. And they were brave enough to camp on Indian(40) premises. That's why they call the bees "the Siouxs."

When an Indian's driving along a road and looks out and says, "There's 'Siouxs' there," he means, "well that's them bees." So when that hay cutter said, "There's some 'Siouxs' there," what he really meant was, "There's a beehive there, ah-mi^." The regular name for bees in Indian is aah-muu . . . aah-muug. The bee is the one that stings very bad, and aa-muug is, they go in groups, aa-muug. A bee's nest is w^-dI-sw^n. Nest is w^-dI-sw^n. aa-muu w^-dI-sw^n. That's where the bees live. . . .

When they spotted "The Siouxs" one of the darest(41) one's would pull off his shirt. Most of them have their shirts off anyway, but if he didn't have his shirt off he'd pull it off. If he did have a shirt on he'd pull it off, cap and all. He'd go and get a big switch and call out to the others, "Come on! How many of you want to go with me?"(42)

Well, once he said that, they all had to go. If anybody didn't want to go they call him "chicken." Somebody'd say, "What's the matter?" Before he got a chance to answer somebody else would say, "He's a coward."

They'd all march up to the beehive and smash it in. After they smashed up the beehive there was quite a battle. The young people would stir up the bees and then pretend they're battling. You ought to see the bees flying around!

"Ahwch!"

Those bees would sting 'em right in the back, and on the back under the arms, and back of the neck, and on the ears and all. Some of them bees would stick right there too.(43)

OH, MAN!

The boys are Ojibways battling "the Siouxs," and they finally "finish 'em off." Somehow they move, anyhow -- the bees move. That's why the boys said they "finished 'em off." They really didn't mean it, but they didn't know what else to say. "We're the braves," the leader said. They go naked when going after the bees like that, so they should be brave. Some of the white fellows overseeing the hay cuting would see this and they'd laugh. It was more of a showing off of how brave they were. They didn't have to do it; they were just daredevils.

You know, after a while they began to find out that so many bee stings would add poison to your system. But they weren't afraid of that. They know what to do. When they'd get through with that beehive, they'd all jump in some mud. They were working on a river bottom and there was an old logan -- an old puddle -- there. They'd jump in that. The Willow River used to be a place where they'd do that too. They'd jump in that hot mud and rub it all over to draw the poison out. They'd stay in there a good twenty minutes, anyhow, and have fun. Then they'd jump in the deep water and wash that mud off. When they were through all you could see were red spots; that's all. That mud has something to do with drawing the poison out. It's just like a poultice. And that's rich.

Then they'd laugh and tell about fighting "the Siouxs." That used to be an old story to tell how brave and coward they were.

Oh, we used to have fun. That was fun, but I wouldn't try it any more. I won't bet anybody on that. I know how it feels when a bee stings you.

When I was a boy I used to go and bust up beehives, and battle with them. When I was a boy we used to break those bees' nests looking for honey. We used to break 'em when we saw something that looked like honey, and we'd try to eat that honey. We used to do that when we were foolish kids.

My folks told me, "Don't do that. They remember you. Someday they'll sting you."

If I get near a beehive, I get stung right now. I'm afraid of bees, you know, because I did wrong. See? I battled with them before. They know when I'm afraid of them. You bet; they know I am afraid of them.

One stung me one time when I was going to pull a tarpaper off of an old shack. I was going to re-use the tarpaper. It was a muggy day, it was going to rain, and I went up to them ready to pull that tarpaper off.

BANG!

One stung me right between the eyes. There was another bee flying around and before I realized what hit me, he hit me back of the neck. Oh boy, did I make tracks! I think I jumped three feet high to a jump. I sure could get around those days too. My partner(44) was standing back laughing. Every jump I'd make, I'd go, "Hoh!! Hway!!!" Ah, that was fun. Gees! He'd look at me and then he'd laugh. He'd laugh at me and I said, "You laugh. This doesn't feel good when you laugh. Someday you'll run into it too, and then probably I'll be laughing."

Ya.

But one time I was skidding pulp(45) with a guy with a tractor, and we wanted to get through a certain place in the woods. Here there was a big bees' nest in there. We weren't going to disturb that bees' nest, but we had to work there. We had to pick up pulpwood that was piled in there, so we went in there and picked it up. That other guy was standing there watching me. I'd get stung and I'd run, and he'd laugh at me. He just stood there and laughed. "Come on," he said, "they ain't gonna hurt you. You're the only one that's scared of 'em."

I listened to him when he told me, "Don't pay no attention to 'em. Just be about your work." But when I went in there to be about my work I got stung. They were flying all around there, where I was working, and once in a while one'ed sting me. He stood right there and never moved, and he never got stung. They were flying all over him, too.

He said, "If you're scared of 'em, you're gonna get stung."

So this spring I remembered his words when me and my neighbor went out and picked up pulp with a pickeroon. We were a-sticking that pulp with a pickeroon when he said, "There's bees there flying around."

Just as he was saying that one stung me a little bit, and I said, "Ahow! He stung me . . . not very hard though."

"Ahow!; another one hit me!"

"Come on; don't pay no attention to them," he said.

We had to pick up about fifteen or twenty pieces there. There we stood, and they were flying around me, right around where we were working. I never paid any attention to them. Well, after we got through they were still there. I wouldn't run. By God, they never made an offer there when I just kept about my work. They knew I wasn't going to bother them.

That other guy never got stung. They never bothered him, but he would never bother their nest over there either. They're good when you leave 'em alone. They know. But boy, if you start to raise Cain and start running, that's just what they like. They'll get right in your clothes. You can't run away from them neither. They go right for you until they catch you. It's no use running. They'll catch you. Ya.

I'm still afraid of bees. I still remember what my mother told me . . . and they still remember what I done.



Cutting hay with sickle bar mower, ca. 1910.

Cutting hay with sickle bar mower, ca. 1910.

Photographer: Harry Darius Ayer

Photograph Collection, ca. 1910
  Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. SA4.51 r68 Negative No. 34735


Later on hay mowing machines came in. Everybody bought mowing machines then and you could cut twenty, thirty acres like nothing with them. And they had rakers that bunched the hay after it was cut. Those rakers would grab the hay and make windrolls.(46)

Windrower turning hay over into windrows, ca. 1920.

Windrower turning hay over into windrows, ca. 1920.

Photograph Collection, ca. 1920
  Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. SA4.51 r4 Negative No.


And we young people -- the young fellows -- all joined hands to help the father or to help the boss in the fields. In order to earn our meal we had to work with them and so we rolled that raked hay into little shocks and put caps on them. When we finished with that we collected the shocks and piled them up into those ton-stacks.

Later in years a guy with hay stacks put a presser on those ton-stacks to make bundles . . . bails -- hay tied in bundles. He would go around with his bailer and hay buckers(47) would little by little put the stack up into the machine and press the hay into bails. I think they pressed a lot of hay that way.

Wagon loaded with hay bales, ca. 1910.

Wagon loaded with hay bales, ca. 1910.

Creator: Harry Darius Ayer

Photograph Collection, 1910
  Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. SA4.9 r111 Negative No. 81707

That's the way they bailed hay at first. It wasn't too long before they had field-bailing and pitching. When they cut that grain they had a machine right in the field that would bundle the hay so light they could throw it on the wagon with a fork . . . if they wanted to. And from that they'd make bails -- right there in the field. Then with that you'd walk alongside the wagon and pitch the bails onto the wagon. It goes faster that way, and in a little while you have a wagon-load full of bails. Wh^^h$. A good field-pitching crew cleaned up a lot of acres in a day that way.

Oh boy, they work. When that field bailer finally came in to our area they got a big contract for wild hay with the railroad. The railroad came in to the Deer River area a lot earlier -- about 1898, 1899(48) -- and then moved on in to Ball Club a few years later.(49) But it was quite a few years before the railroads came in and started hauling the hay out west.

Loftus-Hubbard County fifty cars hay special train; Chicago, Milwaukee & Puget Sound Railroad, ca. 1915.

Loftus-Hubbard County fifty cars hay special train; Chicago, Milwaukee & Puget Sound Railroad, ca. 1915.

Photograph Collection, ca. 1915
 
Collections Online
Minnesota Historical Society
Location No. HE6.2 p26 Negative No. 81564

After the railroad started hauling hay that field-bailed hay went right onto the railroad cars which were standing along the river bottom. The railroad track went right alongside the river bottom. They figure the hay, river, and railroad went together, and logs too.(50) That's why you see towns all along the river on Highway Number Two. Most generally the towns follow the mainline of the river because of early water navigation.

The first frontier navigated by water. Pretty soon they established little towns and little cities and gave them names. Group after group moved in, and pretty soon churches came there.(51) In each place they all made a town, and in each town they made kind of a society. Everybody helped those days.

I think we were getting along good at that time. But afterwards so many big outfits came in pressing hay, pressing hay,(52) that they began to clear up the land.(53) As time passed they cleared more and more land, and more land. They burnt a lot of this swamp land, and that made a good hay meadow for tame hay and so they used tame hay in their fields. Before long each farmer made his own tame hay and he sold his tame hay wherever he wanted.(54)

Wild hay wasn't much good by itself, and you had to give the animals a lot of other feed if you used a lot of wild hay. Wild hay doesn't have strength in it, like tame hay, to upkeep the cattle during the winter. But the cattle and horses got along good with the wild hay we gave them.

We were careful to be cutting that hay at certain times during a year. We cut some hay early. When that wild hay was cut green it was more for a tonic or physic‑al. When hay's too green it loosens the cattle up. We'd get so much of that green wild hay and we'd salt and cure that. We cured that hay good, salting a certain part of it. We'd take some of the rock salt from the pork barrels and heat it up and smash it, and then throw a couple of handfuls on the hay so that the animals would eat that. We didn't use too much! We'd use just a little handful. We'd scatter some salt -- but not too much -- in the center of the stack. Then that goes right through the hay. Well, then the animals'd eat just so much of it. And if there was no salt they wouldn't drink much water. When there's salt they drink lots of water, and then they go and rest. When they get up that goes right through them very good. It stops the colic on a horse and keeps the horses' hide and cattle hide loose. Boy, they like that. They liked coarse salt too so sometimes we'd salten the wild hay a little bit with that.

Beside that salted hay there was coarse hay. Sun-kissed hay is well-cured. We'd leave hay lay out a long time in the windrolls. That's coarse hay. Coarse hay was more for the horses. They liked that well-dried hay. We had horses, big horses.

But most of the settlers preferred to use that tame hay.(55)

With wild hay it took a lot of oats and corn to feed the stock good enough to uphold the animals over the winter. Wild hay was good if you caught it right, and if it was seasoned right. But you have to give it to the animals green. This alfalfa and all clover and stuff like that was en‑riched. It was rich, so it didn't take so much in hay to feed the animals with that. So that slowed down the demand for the wild hay. And when it slowed down on the wild hay, everybody commenced to go in on tame hay planting. Now they have big fields and so everybody grows his own hay.

But they've always sold some hay even when they're mostly growing their own . . . when it's a drought especially. That's when they sure sold hay. When the western and eastern and southern farms had droughts, they'd come up and hay with us. They took wild hay then -- that's the best they could take during a drought. They'd load it on railroad cars and take it to their farm or cattle area.

Them's olden days; ya.

Pretty soon some of these things we had were gone. We couldn't sell our crops maybe. Maybe we couldn't sell our cream. At one time we had creameries where we could sell milk. We had a lot of creameries, but where are they now? We had freight warehouses. We could exchange crops for something to eat at that time. The lumberjacks could buy things with the money made when they guided that timber down the rivers to the mills.

Now, over here by Ball Club and Deer River, even if you've got a hundred sixty acres you're doing nothing, just raisin quack grass.(56) You're growing nothing. You can't even raise cows . . . with all the flies, and no water except along the river bottoms. It gets too dry around here. This isn't cattle country; the flies are thick here.(57) That's why they foul up.

And the winters are too long -- nine months -- so you have to feed 'em too long. These are long winters and we should be prepared for them. There's a lot of work to cows and horses to get prepared for winter. That's the trouble with it. You get tired of working for the stock. The stock should run loose all the time . . . like they do in real cattle country.

There are a lot of things newcomers have to learn about living in this country. They forget the hard winter months, now, and the long winters we have here. When there's good weather, they say, it's too hot to work; it's too nice to work. And when it's cold in the winter, they say it's too cold to work. They say, "Oh, there's too much snow. It's too cold to go outside."

But you have to take it one way or the other. You have to labor when you can, and you have to get your stuff ready for winter while the getting is good. That's what we're learning now.


Footnotes

1. The Mississippi River.

2. James E. Rottsolk (1960) summarizes the "growing" of farms in Itasca County:

"And the development of farm lands in Itasca County after the turn of the century was rather amazing. The census of 1880 reports no farms in Itasca County. In 1890 only 18 farms had been established. They covered 2,327 acres of which only 426 acres was improved. . . ."

"By 1900, 217 farms had been established; by 1910, 830; and by 1920, 1,436. The acreage had increased from 27,641 acres in 1900 to 108,380 in 1910 and to 168,976 acres in 1920. This represented 9.7% of the land area in the county. Of this about 20% was improved farm land. . . . The average farm was about 117 acres and was valued at $4,556. All but 98 of these farms were operated by their owners."

"All the crops from Itasca County in 1919 were valued at $1,547,984. Two-thirds of this came from vegetables. Hay and forage crops were valued at $423,952. Cereals were valued at $148,637."

"Dairy products produced in 1919 included 1,503,327 gallons of milk, over 240,000 pounds of butter, over 100,000 pounds of cheese, and almost 15,000 dozens of eggs. In addition more than 30,000 chickens, over 8,000 pounds of honey and over 17,000 pounds of wool were marketed. Farmers in Itasca County were also raising 637 beef cattle and 2,173 pigs. They had over 2500 horses to help them with their work. The farmers tapped almost 1000 maple trees to make 267 pounds of sugar and 149 gallons of syrup."

"The greatest acreage, almost 16,000 acres was used for hay and forage crops. The most valuable crop was no doubt potatoes. . . ."

"And so, by the twenties, the homesteaders had arrived. They had built their homes, cleared the land and planted their gardens. Every year they cut brush and blasted out stumps. Every year more land was plowed. Farms sprang up in many sections of Itasca County."

"The farmland was never quite as rich, over a period of years, as land advertisers claimed. But it gave good yields of potatoes and hay. Cattle could be raised. The tilled acreage continued to increase; the [white] families were settling down to life in Itasca." (p. 64)

And later Rottsolk continues:

"Most farmers today [1960] in Itasca County, although classified as farmers by census takers, would be better described as rural dwellers who raise a few crops or keep a few dairy cattle and make their living at something else. . . ."

"But it wasn't always so. Back in the twenties Itasca land was advertised as the "land of golden opportunity" for farmers -- those who wanted to build up dairy herds or raise grain and potatoes. And for a time it looked as though Itasca County would develop into a great farming community."

"The Itasca County Farm Bureau, organized in 1918 . . . helped farmers tackle their agricultural problems together. Developments occurred in land clearing, livestock and crop improvement, marketing and community work. . . ."

". . . The number of dairy cattle increased in the county from 6000 in 1920 to 15,000 in 1930. . . . From 1919 to 1920 the acreage in tame hays rose from 9,000 to 21,700 acres. Alfalfa crops doubled and redoubled. . . ."

"During the thirties no unusual trends seem to have developed in farming in Itasca County -- unless it would be, as in everything else, that the value of farm products went way down. By 1935 the total number of farms in Itasca County was 2803. . . . Farms averaged 94.2 acres in size."

"By that time hay and other grains for forage had become the most important crops. Itasca farmers were raising 44,152 acres of hay. . . . "

"The general trend in Itasca farming [in 1960] is quite clear. Fewer farmers are cultivating less land. Farms are larger, and increased yields, as in the case of potatoes, may keep the production of some crops fairly high."

. . . "The pattern of work for Itasca farmers has not changed too much. Most raise hay and oats during the summer months when they can be out in the open. Potatoes are still a fairly important crop. Many raise cattle and sell dairy products, some poultry and poultry products. Quite a few make extra money cutting timber. Others raise pigs, goats, sheep, or a few beef cattle; some develop pure-breds."

"Most farmers raise their own sweet corn and rutabagas and cabbage as well as strawberries and raspberries. Some raise asparagus, green beans, cucumbers, dry onions, peas and tomatoes. Only one or two try watermelon and cantaloupe. Several have apple and plumb trees; a few have cherry trees and grape vines."

. . . The big change, one even more apparent in the last five or six years, is simply that there are less [sic.] farmers farming. A few are developing large farms; many have taken jobs in the towns or in the mines and farm as a sideline."

"And a good many have planted pine or spruce where once they raised hay or pastured cattle."

"Itasca farms are going back to forest." [pp. 125-129].

3. Paul's family bred and raised some of the cattle themselves (i.e., "raised"). Some of the cattle they bought (probably as calves).

4. Practically speaking, it was not profitable or worthwhile to breed the unregistered cattle and sell them for breeding stock.

5. By comparison, "For two winters [1917 and 1918] Herman [Rieger], with the help of lumbermen, cut the timber on his eighty acres. At the time he was paid $6 a thousand foot at the landing. He cleared perhaps $2.50 of this. Finally, in the summer of 1919 he finished clearing about forty acres of his land and bought cattle. During his second year of raising cattle and selling milk he cleared $1700. That was enough to pay all their expenses for a year and a half or more." (Rottsolk, 1960, 59.)

6. Cf., Ch. 39, "Leech and Mississippi Forks."

7. Joe Barnes' one-pump (that worked) gas station (known affectionately by Paul and a few other friends as "a half-a gas station" because of its age and condition and the fact that it was often open to dispense only "regular" gas when Joe happened to be there and know the person who pulled up at the pump . . . except for a few select friends who knew where the key was hidden and would go in and turn the gas pumps on, fill up, and pay later) burned to the ground about 1976. Not long thereafter a very good younger friend of Joe's and Paul's died in an agricultural accident. The interpretation of that event by friends was that the soul of Joe Barnes was lonesome for his very good friend, Bud Villeneuve, and called him to the next world for company.

Paul's narrative begins in Ch. 1, "Early Life at Leech Lake," with the sermon at Joe Barnes' funeral.

The term "boy" is a term of endearment and friendship often used for a male of any age, including individuals 100 years old (or older); quite often it is the most frequently used term by men when referring to male individuals that one grew up with, or male individuals of approximately the same age.

8. An artesian well.

9. That was likely mostly food from the garden, and maybe occasionally seeds and plant sets.

10. Cf., Ch. 38, "Timber Days."

11. Cf., Ch., 48 "White Medicine."

12. Cf., Ch. 41, "Talking with the Old Folks: Recollections and Predictions."

13. Cf., Ch. 45, "Treaties, Allotments, and Self-Government."

14. They did not have a refrigerator or ice box.

15. The children grew up and moved out.

16. Regional "cities," like Grand Rapids, Cass Lake, Bemidji. The lure of places like Minneapolis and St. Paul and Chicago hadn't begun yet. "In 1928, the Meriam Survey reported an estimated 800 Indians living in Minnesota's three major cities, [Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Duluth]." (League of Women Voters of Minnesota, 1974, p. 38.)

17. "During the thirties no unusual trends seem to have developed in farming in Itasca County -- unless it would be, as in everything else, that the value of farm products went way down." (Rottsolk, 1960, p. 126.) See also footnote #24.

18. The Great Depression started in 1929 and lasted until the late 1930s. "Hard times came in" for folks around the world.

19. The Second World War (WW II), which lasted from 1939 to 1945.

20. "Community development" includes programs like the Community Action Program (CAP), The Headstart Program, the Mutual Help housing programs on the Leech Lake Reservation, and the arrival of Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) [now AmeriCorps VISTA].

21. Livestock.

22. Cf., Ch. 39, "Leech and Mississippi Forks."

23. Paul's half-brother.

24. If one is raising cattle basically with a few cows for subsistence, the viability and sustainability of that venture is pretty much immune from market forces. That changes when one expands the herd size and enters into "farming as a business" (to use Paul's terms). To give a rough idea of what was happening with raising cattle during this general time period, when Paul returned home from Tower Boarding School in 1912 not long after his mother and Jack Nason moved to the Leech-Mississippi Forks and begin raising just a few cows basically for their own use (mostly for cream and butter) the average wholesale price of cattle at the Chicago Livestock Market was $7.95 / hundred weight (Cwt). When Paul was working in the J. Neils Mill in Cass Lake and when he was living in Bena the same kind of cattle were about $9.50 / hundred weight (Cwt). In the early years of the Great Depression the value of these cattle on the market went from $15.91 / hundred weight (Cwt) in September of 1928 to $ $4.80 / hundred weight (Cwt) in February of 1933. In other words, between September of 1928 and February of 1933 beef cattle lost about 70% (69.8%) of their commercial value (as measured by prices at the Chicago Livestock market). This dramatic fall in the market price of cattle, and the general scarcity of for-wage jobs during the Great Depression, are why Paul and his family basically returned to (or were forced to return to) subsistence living in the '30s; as Paul notes, "But in the thirties some of us had to find ourself self-employed in farming again, because you couldn't hardly get a job anymore. . . ." This dire economic situation is also what led Paul to later say about his younger brothers, "They lost faith in raising cattle. I don't blame them [for selling off the cattle]." About the time Paul's mother was thinking about moving into the village of Ball Club at the end of the Great Depression (in 1940) the wholesale price of beef cattle in Chicago was still only about $9.46 / hundred weight (Cwt). Local prices would be lower, but most likely would be similar to regional and national trends. See also footnote #17. Source: National Bureau of Economic Research. Accessed 15 October 2018. https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/M04007US16980M287NNBR.

25. Deer River.

26. The cost of cows depends on a number of factors, including the general age, condition, and location of the cow itself as well as its breed and lineage. In October of 2018 it is said that dairy "cows" generally currently sell for $900-$3000 . . . depending. In August of 2018 a 500 pound generic calf would cost $160 / hundred weight (Cwt), or $800 (Beef2Live. 12 October 2018).

27. It has been suggested by others that there is a significant underground economy operating in general within which you can trade almost any product or service. Beef, pork, venison, chickens, fish, honey, painting and repair services, and the like. Although the trade goods and services are generally different nowadays, the basic system operates much like the earlier barter system wherein folks traded wild rice and maple sugar and homemade goods and handicrafts for tools and other goods from the early traders. Non-cash income, including trading and bartering, remained important in the area through the middle of the twentieth century. See Schensul, Paredes, and Pelto, 1968. Cf., Ch. 41, "Talking with the Old Folks: Recollections and Predictions."

28. This is a 180 degree reversal of a traditional pattern where the style of clothes meant very little and eating was of primary importance.

29. It's very unusual for one to come right out and say that something is wrong. This shows the intensity of the criticism of the younger generation(s) for favoring clothes over eating, and cars over cows. Usually individuals beat around the bush about a topic, which everyone pretty much understands anyway. Folks more generally "point out" how to live and how to do things in general, nonspecific, ways. It was a very common and effective style of lecturing, and discussing things in normal conversation, to not criticize anyone directly but to simply "point out" things and let the listener(s) come to their own conclusion(s). As Paul notes elsewhere in his narrative, a good pointer ". . . doesn't have to say it all out. A good pointer doesn't have to tell you that you have to do it. He'll let your own mind figure if you could use it. It's only a reminder. He reminds you. What do you do about it? He'd help you with that too. He'd talk points." Cf., Ch. 40, "John Smith 'Wrinkle Meat,'" Ch. 11, "Campfire Talks," and Ch. 28, "What's Behind the Sun?: An Indian Sermon."

30. At the time the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe was developing its initial reservation housing project involving groups of single-dwelling houses and other Mutual Help home ownership units in several villages on the reservation. A dozen or so homes were set up in various village centers and were centrally located in each village as a group. Many criticized this type of settlement pattern at the time, preferring a more customary or traditional pattern of having the houses scattered throughout the area rather than concentrated in a single location. At the time, the Leech Lake Housing Authority concentrated the houses primarily to minimize the cost of installing plumbing, septic systems, and other utilities and infrastructure costs. "Our first development projects were built in 1964-1966, which consisted of 105 rental and Mutual Help home ownership units. Since the first years of development to the present the Housing Authority has built and/or purchased nearly 600 homes within the reservation boundaries." (LLBO Housing Authority, 17 October 2018. http://www.llboha.org/.)

31. Several people from Ball Club and Deer River worked in the iron ore mines on "The Range." Iron ore mining was an important feature of life in Ball Club, MN, with some residents from there and Deer River commuting to work in the iron mines of the western Mesabe Iron Range around Bovey, MN.

32. The wild stallions would charge at you.

33. Of course the boss stallion was the leader; that's the way it is according to how nature works.

34. A wild or half-tamed "intact stallion" (a "bronco") is "nervous" until he gets castrated, upon which time it becomes a "gelding."

35. Iowa.

36. He's worried that an Indian will know that he got these horses on the reservation from the wild herd and will come and claim them back.

37. Also known as burdock (Arctium).

38. Thanks to conservation efforts the Lac La Croix herd of wild horses can still be seen north of Lake Vermillion in Quetico Provincial Park. This group of horses was reportedly living semi-wild near the Lac La Croix First Nation until the 1970s. (Ontario Parks, 2017.)

39. Saw mills. Cf., Ch. 39, "Leech and Mississippi Forks."

40. That is, they were brave enough to camp on Anishinabe or Chippewa lands.

41. Daring-est.

42. This is said to basically be the format that one used to invite peers to go with him into an actual battle.

43. When a honey bee stings it injects its barbed stinger and cannot pull it out. After it stings the bee sometimes sticks to its target for a short while until the body of bee separates from the stinger and the body parts which remain attached to the stinger. A honey bee dies after stinging, unlike wasps and hornets that do not die after stinging and can therefore sting repeatedly.

44. A very good friend and hunting partner, Orson Weekley, who was a kind, thoughtful, and helpful neighbor.

45. Pulling pulpwood out of the woods.

46. The "raker" would make windrows, rows of cut hay that usually are allowed to dry in the field.

47. Young guys throwing the hay into the hay bailer.

48. "In 1896, then, the Itasca Lumber Company moved its railroad over to Deer River and built a line north from there. As a result, Cohasset became unimportant as a trading center and Deer River soon became the logging center of the western part of the county." (Rottsolk, 1960, p. 24.)

49. Dumas was the Great Northern Railroad stop between Ball Club and Deer River. According to the 1915 Great Northern Railroad Valuation Records, a 12' x 74' railroad platform with a station sign was built there in 1903.

50. Cf. Ch. 38, "Timber Days."

51. See Ch. 44, "Churches and Missionaries," Ch. 37, "Finns, 'The Sweatbath-Men,'" and Ch. 38, "Timber Days." Cf. Rottsolk, 1960, Ch. 8, "Churches and Community Life," pp. 74-81, and Ch. 13, "More Churches Are Built," pp. 104-106.

"At the turn of the century only three villages were incorporated in Itasca County. These were Grand Rapids with a population of 1,428, Deer River with a population of 251, and La Prairie with a population of 88. At the turn of the century -- when the total population was 4,573 -- 4,573 were listed as 'rural dwellers.'" (Rottsolk, 1960, p. 25.) "St. Louis county is 63 miles long, 60 miles wide and covers 2844 square miles. It's about twice the size of Rhode Island, half again as big as Delaware and covers one hundredth the area of Texas." (Rottsolk, 1960, p. 1.)

52. "Big outfits" came in and started bailing hay on a larger scale. See also footnote #54.

53. "They began to clear up the land" by removing the trees and stumps and shrubs, preparing the land for farming "tame hay" with machinery.

54. "Along the Sour Dough Creek [near Togo, MN] wild hay grew in abundance. Many settlers quickly cleared land and raised their own hay. The logging companies needed tremendous quantities of hay for horses and oxen. Homesteaders even bought hay stumpage on public lands."

"Sometimes someone would cut and haul off another man's hay and trouble would begin. In an argument over hay stumpage involving not more than ten ton of hay Joe Gardner shot and killed William Garrison." (Rottsolk, 1960, pp. 50-51.)

55. "From 1919 to 1920 the acreage in tame hays rose from 9,000 to 21,700 acres. Alfalfa crops doubled and redoubled. . . ." (Rottsolk, 1960, p. 125.)

56. Compare: "And a good many have planted pine or spruce where once they raised hay or pastured cattle. Itasca farms are going back to forest." (Rottsolk, 1960, p. 129.)

57. "Up in the Togo area horseflies were not only huge and plentiful but [they were also] poisonous. Because of the flies, horses bought and brought in seldom lived more than two summers. Sometimes the horses were worked to death hauling equipment over the rough roads or just in cutting out and repairing the roads. . . ." (Rottsolk, 1960, p. 51.)

to top of page / A/Z index   to top of page / A-Z index

This site is under construction. Comments are welcome!

Envelope: E-mail
E-mail comments to troufs@d.umn.edu

The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity educator and employer.>
Copyright: © 1997 - 2019 Timothy G. Roufs

The views and opinions expressed in this page are strictly those of the page author.
The contents of this page have not been reviewed or approved by the University of Minnesota.


Page URL:http://www.d.umn.edu /cla/faculty/troufs/Buffalo/PB44.html
Last Modified Monday, 22-Oct-2018 18:40:37 CDT

Department of Anthropology, Sociology and Criminology
College of Liberal Arts
215 Cina Hall
University of Minnesota Duluth (maps)
Duluth, MN 55812 - 2496 (maps)

Gitchee-Gumee Live

to top of page / A/Z index   to top of page / A-Z index

View Stats

© 2019 University of Minnesota Duluth
The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity educator and employer.
Last modified on 10/22/18 06:40 PM
University of Minnesota Campuses
Crookston | Duluth | Morris
Rochester | Twin Cities