"Sometimes I like to sit and dream
Of youthful joys and labors;
When states were large and cities far,
And roads were for the neighbors."
(Memories of Grandpa Heliker as told to Grandma in Feb., 1964)
I have seen and heard and been around for 4 score years and feel the urge to speak out and tell you some of the things I remember that have taken place during my lifetime or before.
My parents immigrated from St. Clair, Michigan in 1871. They came in a covered wagon or prairie schooner, with all their possessions, drawn by a team of horses. They settled on the homestead later known as the Pioneer Farm, four miles northeast of Allen where my sisters, Rose and Lillie were born. Ponca and Wakefield were their closest trading points. Indians still roamed the prairies, but didn't cause any trouble. After living on the claim for five years, my parents moved to Wakefield where I was born, and my father pursued his trade as a wagon maker. One to the wagons he made is now on exhibition in Minden, Nebraska. My folks moved back to the homestead in 1885 and Dean was born in 1892 and lived there, with the exception of a year spent in Allen, until my father's death.
I grew up on the farm and at an early age had morning and evening chores to do, such as bringing in cobs, wood, and coal, thawing out the pump in winter, and filling coal-oil lamps. We used to lay up strips of slippery elm bark for chewing gum and also resin from rosinweed in the summer.
I attended school at Springbank until I finished the 8th grade, carried my dinner in a tin dinner pail and walked two miles over the hills and through the valleys in all kinds of weather. It was a one-room school and there were about 50 pupils enrolled. In the center of the room was a large pot-bellied stove that heated the room fairly well. I will never forget the tin water bucket and the one dipper that we all drank from. The water was carried from the nearest home to the school.
In the winter, the boys and girls coasted downhill on bobsleds, and in the spring and fall, they played baseball, pullaway, etc at recess.
My father was 50 years old when I was born and with his white hair and beard, seemed like an old man to me from the time I can remember him.
I always helped with the farm work, milking cows in the winter time when the walls were white with frost, counting pigs at feeding time to see that none were lost, following a harrow in the spring until my feet were dragging, and husking corn in cold November with a trusty team and wagon.
When I was 18, I attended Wesleyan University and took an academic course and in 1905 I went back and studied voice and violin. In 1907, I finished the typewriting and shorthand course at N.B.T. in Sioux City.
Dean and I were doing the farming and for recreation, we played in the Allen band, and I played on the baseball team as shortstop and second baseman, and sang I the male quartette and the church choir. Our male quartette sad at your mother's high school graduating exercised in 1905. When the horses were working hard all day, instead of driving a team, we used to walk four miles up the railroad track to band practice. I played the baritone horn.
About this time, I bought a team of black ponies (Nig and Lou) and had yellow flynets, a new top buggy, laprobe and buggy whip, and started courting my best girl (your mother) in earnest. And, oh! Those buggy rides. In the good old summer time, we went to picnics at Allen, Ponca, Wakefield, Emerson, and Hartington. I always played in the band and was shortstop for the ball team. We were paid $1.00 a day for the band and about that much for the ball team and we won our share of the games so made our expenses and had a good time doing it. We could always get a good dinner for 25 cents.
After we were married, we lived on the farm. There was a lot of work to do: Plowing, planting, harrowing, harvesting and corn picking. I will never forget how I suffered with my arms while we were picking cornno mechanical corn picker then. Picking and shoveling were done by hand. Dean and I picked 5,000 bushels of corn in 1910, and sold it for 33 cents per bushel. There were no support prices then.
We moved to town in 1921 and shortly after, I started to work as manager of the Fay Clough elevator. Later, he sold it to the Holmquist Elevator Company, and I continued and manager until the elevator burned in 1956. I was 72 then, so took my Social Security and retired but worked some after that for the A.S.C. and was paid well by the government.
We bought our home in 1940 and finished paying for it in 1947. We have made many improvements, enclosing both porches, installing the bathroom and modernizing the kitchen.
For the past years, I have been busy from April until October with gardening and yard work. I spade the garden and mother does the planting and it supplies us with vegetables and fruit the year around. In the summer, I like to sit on the bench in the shade of the old apple tree and let my mind wonder back over the years. What else is there in store for a man over 80 years old? For one thing, you do have more aches and pains and have slowed down considerably. My vision isn't as good as it used to be, having had cataracts removed from both eyes. I use a hearing aid and have considerable trouble hearing when several are talking.
My role I the world today is one of acceptance of whatever is to come. How one feels makes a big difference. I still enjoy gong to church and am surely thankful we have radio and television t bring us news and entertainment. Fifty years ago, I never dreamed that I would sit in my home in Allen and listed to voices from all over the world, or look up into the sky and see a man with a machine made of wood and metal flying among the clouds of heaven. On my 78th birthday, your mother and I watched Colonel John Glenn blast off for three orbits around the world.
I have seen many changes in Dixon County in my four score years. I remember when the Northern Pacific Railroad Company built what was known as the Pacific Shortline from Sioux City to O'Neil, now owned by the Burlington. The construction crew of 20 mule teams and 40 men camped in our pasture, and my folks sold them feed for the mules and supplied the camp cook with butter and milk. The cuts through the hills were made with two wheel scrapers.
I saw the first t rain go west on the new track. It was a trail run and consisted of a steam locomotive, a coal tender, three freight cars and a passenger coach. It was in charge of an engineer, fireman, and brakeman. It was a wonderful sight for my family and me. The townsite of Allen-40 acres-was given by the man whose name it bears in 1890. It was all prairie land and pastureland. There were no buildings or trees on it. The Railroad Company built the depot and buildings on Main Street, and Allen soon became a thriving village. The first Methodist Church was built in 1890 for the Sunday School class that had been meeting in the Springbank schoolhouse. My dad was one to the first three trustees that helped build it. Local members did much of the labor.
For fifty years, we had daily freight and passenger service from Sioux City to O'Neil. The passenger train consisted of two coaches and a baggage car. It came from O'Neil in the AM, stopping at Allen about six-thirty in the evening. By 1940, people were traveling by automobile and bus and the passenger coaches were discontinued-just 50 years after the trial run. I saw the first and last passenger train on the Shortline.
I remember the first rural free delivery by team and buggy and I wrote a nonsensical letter to your mother so she would get it in the first mail a few hours later. It was a 26-mile route. It was a few years later before we had a telephone and were on a 15 party line and everyone could listen in. Much different than our dial telephones today.
In our community where twelve families used to live and work and make a comfortable living, now three families own or rent and farm the land with modern machinery. What used to be done with horse and manpower is now done with five thousand-dollar tractors and other power machinery.
Where I used to pick eighty bushels of corn a day in a horse-drawn wagon and shovel it into a crib at noon and night, two men with a corn picker and sheller with tractor can pick and shell two thousand bushels a day. Fifty years ago, we selected our seed from the crib and it was worth 35 cents a bushel. Now the farmers plant only hybrid corn and pay ten dollars for their seed. It is better corn, drought resistant and produces more bushels per acre which is causing a surplus and becoming a problem to the government, as the government purchases the surplus and stores it for future use. The support price at present is $1.10 per bushel.
We used to fertilize our land with barnyard manure-no expense but it took men with strong backs and arms with pitchforks to load and unload the wagons on the land that was not producing well. Now everyone uses commercial fertilizer and it is spread on the fields with tractors and machines made for that purpose at a cost of ten dollars per acre.
Small farmers are being forced off the land due to the high costs of farming operations and must find employment in cities and town. Deserted farm buildings are going to rack and ruin and some of the houses are being moved to town. We are seeing revolutionary changes brought about by automation-a shorter week of 30 to 35 hours are being suggested. More leisure time and unemployment will result. Automation is a real threat to our young people of today.
In May of 1964, Roy F. Heliker suffered the first in a series of strokes that eventually took his life in April of 1965.
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