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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Year(s) (01/20/11)

TITLE: Problems in South Dakota (part 3) Those Dirty Thirties
By Verna Mull


South Dakota farming has always been a challenge, but my parents had a few good years after the loss of their baby. My brother Gaylord was born 10 years after Dolly Mae who had died. Dad had a fairly large herd of cattle by then, and things looked a little brighter, until the ďDirty Thirties.Ē

Mother gave birth to one more child in 1931. That baby girl was me. My parents had definitely not asked God for another child, but oblivious to their desires, I made my appearance anyway. My oldest brother, Onas, was seventeen, and embarrassed that my parents would have a baby at the age of 42. In fact, my fifteen year old sister was the only one who was one bit excited about my arrival. My brother, Gaylord, who was five at the time, was angry because I was not black, and he had told my parents that he wanted a black baby sister. He was angry because they deliberately had gone against his wishes and had a white baby. He had seen a beautiful, curly headed black baby, and his heart set on the thought that I would look like that baby.

The weather was so bad that by the time I was nearly five years old, the money was so scarce that there was a question if the family could survive. Onas and Myrna were both in high school at Wessington Springs Jr. College, which was a drain on family funds, even though they both worked at the school at every opportunity. Of course, their wages were ten cents per hour.

The crops were a total failure during those years, and my father had to default on payments on an eighty acre plot of ground that he had purchased, and let it go back to its original owner.

To top this off, Dadís feeding cattle contracted anthrax and had to all be shot and burned out on the hills. A few milk cows didnít get the disease, but things were so bad that Dad had to work on W.P.A. for food, and they barely made the taxes on the farm that grandma had given them.

When I was nearly five, my Dad and one of his brothers, Uncle Will, headed for Iowa to look over conditions there. Iowans were complaining about drought too, but they found crops were surviving and there was good grass. This seemed great after the conditions they were living under.

While my Dadís brother and he were in Iowa, they found a vacant, large, dilapidated farm house that they managed to rent together. There were large doors that could be shut, leaving approximately one small home on either side. This was early summer in 1936.

They drove back to Iowa with hope in their hearts, and packed up everything that they owned, and moved to Iowa by car and train.

My Dad rented their farm to his unmarried brother, Weaver. Weaver was just to pay the taxes and try to maintain the farm, so that Dad would not lose that also.

Dad and Uncle Will were able to get jobs. Uncle Will had 3 children, Opal, Warren, and Frances. Of course, Dad still had three, as Onas had been married by this time. They both managed to support their families.

Our cows, horses, and machinery were moved by train. Onas rode in the boxcar with the cows to milk them. Once unloaded, he headed back to his home.

When Uncle Will and Dad had a day off from work they drove around looking for farms to rent for the following year.

Iíll never forget the heavy rain that fell shortly after we had arrived. Both families stood out in the rain until we were totally drenched. I personally had never seen anything but sprinkles of rain before that day.

Since the house had been deserted, the grass around the house was nearly 2 foot tall. Gaylord and I created a maze in the grass, and chased one another on our hands and knees. This was also the first grass I had ever seen that tall.

Prayer was answered, and each brother found a farm for rent for the following year. Uncle Will moved to Independence, Iowa, and our family moved to a farm about three miles from a town called Marble Rock.

Dad was looking forward to a future, and put the stressful South Dakota years behind him.

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Member Comments
Member Date
diana kay01/29/11
great story. i reckon you have the makings of a book here.
Bonnie Bowden 01/29/11
I was also shocked to learn that my mom could have a baby in her 40s. My youngest brother was fifteen years different in age, but his birth turned into one of the greatest gifts of my life.

I am happy your saga is continuing.