Dear Gary, family and Dunseith Alumni,
Over the Holidays my Granddaughter came over to interview me for a school project. The questions she asked brought back the memory of my son interviewing my Dad, John Awalt about similar topics. Thought maybe it would jog memories from other families.(The following is the letter written by my Father John Awalt)
a) Where were you born, and when? John Charles Awalt was born on January 19, 1904 in Holmes Township, Rolette County North Dakota. My parents were William David and Mary Agnes Awalt. My parents came to North Dakota on an immigrant train from Iowa and filed on a quarter of land in the Turtle Mountains North East of Dunseith. The land was on the North Shore of a very nice spring feed lake called Horse Shoe Lake. The land was all thickly timbered, in fact it was so thickly timbered that you had to look straight up to see out. Each tree was hand cut so we had lumber to build our home and barn. We stumped out the trees so we could farm the land. The timber was also used for fire wood. There were fish in the lake, sharptail grouse in the meadow’s, ruffled grouse and deer in the woods. All provided a good source of food for the family.
b) What was school like for you? I walked two miles to school. It was just a one room school house with 8 grades and one teacher. One year we had 37 students in our school. We went to school from April until about Thanksgiving. When weather got bad school was closed. The year I was in 5th grade our school was closed to I went to another school where the kids were all from Norwegian families. The children all spoke Norwegian during recess and before that summer was over I could talk Norwegian along with the best of them. As I have grown older I’ve forgotten most of it.
c) What chores were you expected to do? My chores were to see that the cows were brought in to be milked, I was to feed the calves. I also needed to chop wood and keep the wood box filled.
d) What did you do for fun? In the summer the neighborhood kids gathered at the lake and went swimming every evening. In winter we gathered in the same place and went ice skating. We cleared the snow by hand unless it got to deep and then my Dad would bring down his sharp shod team and use a blade to clear the snow off the ice. There was a steep hill between our house and the lake where we went coasting in the winter time. We used ski’s, sleighs, most anything you could slide on, even my Mother’s dishpan, we wore the bottom right out of it. One summer we took Dads buggy to coast in, we tied ropes on the axel to steer it, but for some reason it got away from us, we hit a bunch of willows turned it over and did a pretty good job of wrecking the buggy altogether. That was pretty had to explain to my Dad.
e) What kinds of machinery did you use for farming? Our farm work was all done by horse. There were no tractors and very few cars. Every family had a driving team. Some were pretty classy! I had a saddle pony I was pretty proud of, if I whistled he would come or answer. One night when I was at a girl friends place her brother went out the window and took my pony from the hitching rack where I had tied him. He hid the pony out behind the barn and thought he was playing a good joke on Me. When I got ready to go home I came out of the house and no horse, so I whistled and soon knew just where the horse was because he answered me.
The grain was cut with a horse drawn binder, shocked by hand, then threshed with a steam powered machine. It usually took about 12 teams and bundle wagons to haul the bundles to the machine, 3 wagons to haul the grain to the granary. In all about 18 men. The men were fed in a Cook Car that went along with the threshing rig. The young men always tried to get a job hauling bundles, as it was a means of making money also some what of a picnic, although hard work.
Haying was also done with horse drawn mowers and rakes. Then the hay was hauled with wagon and hayrack and stacked by hand into mounds.
The fields were plowed with 5 horses and gang plow, each outfit could plow about 5 acres per day. The size of the farm determined the number of outfits you had to have. One would hitch 4 horses to a harrow and walk behind to drive, also 4 horses on a ten foot drill. 20 acres per day.
(It was a slow way to serve the Lord.)
f) How did you clear the snow after a storm? As for clearing the snow, we didn’t. We shoveled a path to the barn, to the wood pile, and the little house out back. We made roads in the snow when it came in the fall and the sun moved it in the spring. Those roads were sure good for sleigh ride parties in the long winter evenings. Also all the grain had to be hauled to market in winter. It was 12 miles to town.
g) How did you refrigerate your food? We had only natures refrigeration, so we waited till cold weather to butcher. The beef would keep all winter, the pork would be cured and smoked. Stripes of beef were salted and smoked for jerky. Venison and pork were mixed and ground together for sausage, called country sausage.
h) How did you get your washing done without electricity? Washing clothes was done with soap and water. Mostly with a wash tub and a wash board and lots of elbow grease. The soap came in bars that you sliced off the amount you wanted then softened it in hot water, or you rubbed in into the clothes on the wash board. Later Sears Roebuck came out with a washing machine that consisted of a wooden tub on four legs like chair legs it had an agitator that worked by pushing a lever back and forth. Later Maytag came out with a gas powered washer. We had the perfect clothes drier, it was the sun. When the sun was out the clothes dried fast and were whitened at the same time. There were no wash and wear clothes. Everything had to be ironed.
I) What was dating like for you? Dating–Why Ask Me?
It must have been somewhat different then modern dates. We had house parties, school activities, church and swimming and ice skating parties. There were baseball games, not organized teams but some pretty good players that made for some great games. All of this took place in a radius of 10 or 15 miles from our home. We used horses for traveling. One advantage of going by horse was on the way home you would just tie the lines on the dash board and the horse would go home. This freed up your hands for the girl you were with, two hands are always better then one and you didn’t have to watch the road either. There were several of us from our neck of the woods that would gather together in the Bob Sleigh and go to town for the townhall dances. We would take two teams, one team would be tied half way, the other team would pull us into town and halfway back and then we’d switch teams again, that way it wouldn’t be to hard on any one team. Sometimes we’d be going 16 or 18 miles, that doesn’t sound very far in today’s mode of travel but back then it was a long haul for a team.
ASK YOURSELF SOME OF THESE QUESTIONS AND SEE WHAT CHANGES HAVE BEEN MADE FROM MY DAD’S TIME TO OUR TEENAGE TIME AND NOW TO THE TIME OF TODAY’S CHILDREN.
I hope this stirs up some good memories for everyone.
Bonnie Houle (56)