Dad’s Stories

My cousin Marian recently provided me with a wonderfully fun glimpse of Dad’s life, covering all the ground from his childhood to before Alzheimer’s disease started to chip away at his memory. It sounds like Marian and Mary (another cousin) were putting a heritage book together. The project stopped when a computer crashed and all the pictures that had been gathered crashed along with it. Dad wrote up his contribution before the project met an early end. Here are the memories Dad offered:


Written by Rev. Irvin Hultin

As I have gone through the area of the old homestead where I lived as a child, it brings back many memories of the past. The farm that dad farmed was only one quarter section; one half mile from the Pembina – Walsh county line with the farm in Pembina county. The living place was a plot of about six acres in the woods on the south west corner of a quarter that belonged to Ole and Haver Foss. The north branch of the Park River flowed through it which made it a nice living place. The farm place was about five miles west of Hoople.

Though I do not know of any details, I understand that dad and mother lived out in western North Dakota and farmed on the reservation for a few years before going back to the eastern part of North Dakota. The homestead was not on the quarter of land that dad owned but was in the corner of the next quarter north owned at that time by the Lanes. At the time I was born, it was owned by Ole and Haver Foss. Lane died in World War I. He was reported as saying, “I would rather fight the Germans than the wild oats.”

Dad farmed only one quarter of land. He used about ten acres of that for pasture and the rest for wheat, oats, barley, corn and a few potatoes. When the grain was up and the mustard began to bloom four of us boys, Merton, Vernal, Alvin and I had to go out to hoe the potatoes and corn. In the spring we had to herd the cattle along the roadside until the pastures got high enough to feed the cattle. After the fields had been harvested we would put the cattle on the fields to pick up any grass that may have come up. Sometimes we had to stay out of school to help.

The house on the homestead was on high ground. It was not as we think of a house for ten children. The kitchen was a good size and so was the living room. One small bedroom was on the main floor and there were two rooms upstairs, one large and one small. Doris and Ann slept in the small one. Where did the boys sleep? I remember Vernal and I slept on a wood bed while we were small. When the wooden bed was discarded, Merton and Alvin slept on one end of the full size bed and Vernal and I slept on the other end. By that time some of the older boys were working away from home. When it came to meal time you can imagine what it was like. At times there weren’t enough chairs to sit on. One time dad’s brother, Uncle Olander came to visit. He made a couple of benches which solved the problem. When there was company there wasn’t enough room around the table so it meant some of us had to heat later or take our plates elsewhere.

Besides the house there was a log barn with a hay loft. There was never enough room to store the hay for the whole winter. Hay had to be hauled in from time to time all by team and hands. Soon the logs began to rot away and a new barn had to be built. The solution; dig out an embankment and make a basement barn. The ceiling and hay loft roof was taken over to the basement barn and used for the top, so we still had a place for hay.

The granary on the place had at one time been a log house. It had two lean-tos, one on each side. The west side was used for oats, the middle section for wheat and the other lean-to was used to house the old model T car. One day dad drove the model T into the garage and went right on through, down the river embankment and came to a stop before it hit the river. The end of the garage flipped back down and the car had to be pulled back up.

At threshing time the grain would be hauled from the thresher with team and shoveled into the grain bins (there were no elevators then). We younger kids had the job of keeping it back as it was shoveled in. We had a smaller granary that was used primarily for wheat. When it came to grinding feed, we used an old burr mill powered by a six horse power engine that was always hard to get started which was done by pulling the flywheel and using every trick imaginable to get it going. The same engine was brought up to the house to run the washing machine. The washer was an old wooden machine that was made for washing by hand but Helmer fixed to up to be driven by engines.

Helmer, Arvid and Leonard bought the first Maytag washer about 1928. Helmer took it upon himself to build a cistern. We no longer had to carry water to wash from the river or well. This was a big improvement.

The Hartford school that we went to was less than a mile from home if we went across the pasture and field. If we followed the road it would be a mile. In the spring when the water was up in the river we had to follow the road until the water went down. In the winter through high drifts and heavy snow we walked the short cut to school.

All ten of us kids went to the Hartford school. Ann was the only one that didn’t finish the eighth grade there as we moved to Hoople so Vernal and I would go to high school.

The Hartford school was a small white building on the corner of McDonald’s land. It had six or seven trees on the yard, a barn and two outhouses that usually ended up in a snow drift in the winter. The barn had been used for the teacher’s horse in former years when that was the transportation.

When I was in the fourth grade the school was remodeled to have a basement, two restrooms, cloche rooms and a furnace. Up to that time it was heated with a pot – belly stove on the main floor with a long string of stove pipes to the chimney at the far end of the building. All classes were at the front of the room. Classes would begin at 9 am with a 15 minute recess and noon hour (this was only half an hour in the winter).

My classmates were Norman Langrude, Glenn Riley, Donald Matter, Vernal and for a time Margaret Olefson. Margaret was a real ‘tomboy’. She could take me down and sit on me or take some of the other boys down and sit on them. Vernal and I started together as we were only fifteen months apart in age. At the same time Russell, Merton and Alvin were also going. In a couple of years Russell and Alvin would finish and Ann would start.

In the winter Russell would go early to start the fire for the teacher. When Russell finished school the job fell to Merton. The students had to sweep the floors and clean the erasers. Punishment for misdemeanors was to stay in at recess of after school. There are funny things that did happen in school. Alvin was to write the final examination for the eighth grade that was sent out from the county superintendent’s office. One of the questions asked was “what book was the character – John Silver in?” Alvin didn’t know the answer as he had not read the book, Treasure Island so he left it blank. The teacher in looking it over said she would not send it in if he didn’t fill in the blank. The only John Silver he could think of was in the comic strip from the newspaper, “The Katzenjammer Kids” which he put on the examination paper. The teacher didn’t like it very well but she did send it in and he passed the exam.

Another time just after school was dismissed for the day, Vernal and Reynold Bodmer ran through the school with muddy shoes. As the started to go home the teacher called Vernal to come back and clean up the mud. Vernal’s answer was “What are you hired for?” He had to stay after school.

Doris tells of one of her teachers that brought willow sticks to school to discipline the kids. She called them her “gads” and evidently used them. Think what would happen today if a stick were used to discipline students.

There were many experiences that go back to our very early years. We had very few boughten toys and things to play with when we were kids. Vernal and I frequently went to the back of the small granary where dad had thrown some of the old worn out parts. We would have fun playing with some of the junk. Sometimes we would mix water with clay. Sometimes we’d mix water and ashes that had been thrown on the river bank and try to form it into a house or some other structure.

I marvel that mother was able to keep track of us all the time. One time in the spring when the water was high in the river we were allowed to go to the place where the straw shed had been built in the barnyard and make a swing on the poles that had been left from the top of the shelter. We sat there swinging and enjoying watching the water flow by. Water has always fascinated me as can be proved by the fact that when the water was low in the late spring I would build a dam across the river so the water would get high on one side. I would try to have an outlet in it that would let some water out to keep the dam from breaking. I recall one time that the dam broke and it let out so much water that dad who had been on the other side had to take a long way home. Sometimes Vernal and I played with the toads we had found.

One year our neighbor had Vernal and I trap pocket gophers on his summer fallow. He gave us a nickel for each one caught. We would set the traps one day and check them the next day. That summer we caught one hundred and five gophers. We didn’t get rich on it but we had something to do. When he cultivated the fields he would watch for the sticks we tied the traps to. He would take time to move them out of the way. The other six boys usually had a job in the neighborhood.

Vernal and I never had a gun of even an air rifle. The next best thing was to make a slingshot. We became pretty good with the slingshots. It was not unusual to see us boys walking around the yard with a slingshot in our pockets and a pocket full of stones. Stones were a scarce commodity in our area. We often broke old pieces of iron to use for ammunition. Sometimes dad would take us a couple of miles west to a gravel pit. We would gather a bag of stones that would last for awhile. There were certain birds that would be our target. These included blackbirds, sparrows, and a number of others. Robins, orioles and most song birds were safe from our slingshots.

We didn’t have a gun so it was rather difficult to hit a gopher with a slingshot. We would catch them with a snare that was put around a hole and wait until the gopher would come up and out. We would pull the twine and catch a gopher that way.

Arvid was the hunter of the Hultin family. During the winter months he hunted skunks, raccoons and badgers. He also trapped weasels and mink. Many of the furs would be stretched out on the back of the old granary. It could get pretty well perfumed around that area.

I remember hearing it told of Arvid shooting at squirrels with his twenty – two rifle. He shot several times at a squirrel and missed it. Alvin sneaks up with his slingshot and with one shot brought the squirrel down. We got quite proficient with the slingshots.

We four younger boys, Alvin, Merton, Vernal and I were together more than we were with the older boys. Henry and Norman Langrude made frequent stops at our house especially in the summer when the chokecherries and black haws were ripe. We know where the best ones were and would find them to eat. Our teeth would be stained from them as we would eat them by the bucket and also Juneberries.

It was our duty to find and pick the berries for mother to make preserves for the year. This began with the gooseberries which took a lot of time to get them from the thorny bushes and even more time to pick off the stems. Mother usually did that job. The chokecherries were easier to pick and didn’t take as much time. Later in the summer the plums ripened and we would go plum picking. Doris often joined us for this. We would take a bag and when it got full we would set it in the brush for dad come with the car and pick up. We usually picked a pail full for the land owner as a good will gesture (Jimmy Milchel’s woods.) I have seen very few places where there were as many black haw berries as there were in that area. In the late fall we would find a few hazel nuts. They were good but often were full of worms.

After Doris finished high school in 1931 she worked a summer for Mary Hurtt. She also worked as a telephone operator in Hoople. The next year she left for Chicago Evangelistic Institute. She worked in a home to take care of her expenses. While she was there, mother died January 3, 1931 from pneumonia. Doris came home at that time and stayed until 1935 when she, Vernal, Ann and I moved into Hoople so we could go to school. Mother was 52 years old when she died. The next four years we lived in several different places in Hoople until we were all finished with high school in 1938. I worked one summer at Ted Holts. Merton was working at Henry Jackson’s farm. I left Hurtts in January 1933 and went to Chicago to attend Chicago Evangelistic Institute. It is now known as Vennard College of Iowa. I came home in the summers to help on the farm.

One summer I worked at Bethany Orphanage at Bethany, Kentucky. I began my pastoral ministry at Hannah and Wales, North Dakota while attending University of North Dakota. From there I went to rural Mandan and Fort Rice, North Dakota. I served the United Methodist Church at Turtle Lake and McClusky, North Dakota next. The next three years I served a point parish which included Sterling, Braddock, Moffett and Driscoll, North Dakota. Then I moved on to Hazen, Beulah and Zap in North Dakota. We lived at Hazen at the time they had the Zip to Zap at Zap, North Dakota. We were assigned to Tuttle – Robinson parish next. From there we moved north to a point charge of Rocklake, Clyde, Egeland. Then to the southern part of the state to Marion and Dickey. I retired in 1986 and moved to Minot, North Dakota and served two years as a Visitation Pastor. In 1988 I had a heart attack.

I met Frieda when I was pastor at the Turtle Lake United Methodist Church. We were married August 3, 1964. Reverend Everett Owens officiated. I think it was the hottest day of the year – 103 degrees. Frieda doesn’t remember it being that hot.

David was born July 22, 1968. Judy and David met at work in Fargo. David is assisting manager and Judy works Graphic Arts on the computer. Both are employed at Express Press. They have a little doll, Emily Elizabeth born August 26, 1998.

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