Archive for December 4th, 2011

“Yesterday’s Memories Tomorrow’s Dreams” by Carmen Tom – Oh Where is My Indian Four

Oh Where Is My Indian Four

It was the summer of 1949, Donna and I had got married in June, we were living in a small apartment. Donna had a good job working in a Drug store, 65 cents an hour. My 1948 H.D., 45” was paid for and I had saved a few hundred dollars in the Navy. It seemed like I was always riding that Harley. I rode it 2 1,000 miles from April to October. We have a real short riding season in the Mid-West. April and even May through October can still be cold.

It was a beautiful day, I could afford to take a day or 2 off, wages were so low, if you got $1.00 and hour that was real good. So, I decided to take off a couple of days and go look for this Indian four I had head about for the last 3 years. I had heard about this 1936 Indian Four, it was suppose to be up in the hills east of Britton, South Dakota. I talked to my good friends Bob and Henry, they really loved to ride on my Harley so they agreed to go along. I first heard about the Indian from a good friend of mine. He had a late model Harley and a small airplane, he lived on a farm near Heckla, South Dakota, 20 or so miles from Britton. Wilfred assured me the Indian four was somewhere on a farm up in the hills. He had been to a big farm auction sale in North Dakota. This one farmer was interested in motorcycles and airplanes. He told Wilfred about he Indian and also, of a 1937 Harley 74 side valve. He told me about he Harley this far boy had got drafted into the Army and was sent to Italy and was killed. Wilfred said he heard 2 young farm boys saying the Harley was either in North Dakota or Minnesota. They said one fanner said you should pick the Harley for $200-$300. We all got excited about the price. We all agreed we had to find the Indian before we go looking for the Harley. I had a big buddy seat and a large luggage rack on the rear fender, we always put a big cushion on the rack for all three of us could ride. Bob and Henry didn’t have a motorcycle or even a car, they both wanted a cycle but had no money. They both worked on farms in the Dakotas. We all use to unload freight cars when we could, the train came through Britton once a day, seemed like there was always freight coming in. Britton had 2 large lumber yards, they also sold coal. Most people heated their homes with coal, oil was just starting to come in. We got paid 50 cents a ton to unload coal, what a dirty job. I used to do it just to have some money. Prices were really low on almost everything in the 40’s and 50’s.

Donna parents had a Café, you could get a steak dinner for 65 cents. A good hamburger was 10 cents, and home made fries another 10 cents. There was no thing as frozen fries or frozen any food. There was this one Tavern a lot of working people hung out at. Old John was a wonderful man, he would loan $3-$4, you just sign your name and be sure you paid him when you told him you would. John made what most people agreed was the best burger in the country. He had a big cast iron frying pan, it was always half full of fat. He’d fry the burgers in this and for 10 cents you’d get a burger, if you wanted he’d cut off a large piece of onion or a big slice of cheese, all for 10 cents. Beer was 5 cents a glass, later it went to 10 cents, everyone said at 10 cents a glass people would quit drinking it, that didn’t happen.

As I said before Donna worked in a Drugstore, she made the best banana splits and milk shakes in town. They were just out of this world. Donna could cook and take care of a house by the time she was 12 years old.But, let’s get back to finding the Indian Four. It was a beautiful sunny day, so my buddies and I rode up into the hills east of Britton. I stopped at this on farmer’s farm, he was supposed to know where the Indian was. I forgot his name, but he did say he heard about the motorcycle. He had heard of a young man had rode it out of the Twin cities, he was looking for work. After the war, there was always work to be found on farms. We could always start haying in June and July. June we would usually cultivate corn and around first part of August we would start harvest. It was always a hot, hard, job and you would work 10-12 hours a day, day after day until harvest was over. We really like it when it would rain, we’d get the day off. We’d all head for John Huff’s tavern or the pool hall and shoot pool and drink beer, that was about all there was to do. Doing farm work was good in one way, they always paid cash, if you worked 60 hours you got $60, no income tax or any other deductions, just good old cash.

I had better get back to finding the Indian Four, the farmer didn’t know where the guy with the Indian was but he had heard he was working on the old Jones farm, so off we rode. Old Johnny Jones. was out by the barn, I knew John as he used to do a lot of drinking in Huff’s Tavern. I asked him of the Indian, he said yes he knew of him, real nice guy, he worked for us 5 days or so then he was to go work on the Thorpe farms, Thorpe was a really big farmer. Se we rode away toward the Thorpe farms. I got to thinking I hope this doesn’t turn out to be a wild goose chase. We got to the farm, I seen another old farmer I knew of Gunderson. He told us yes he’d seen the man, his name was Harold Miller, or something like that. Gunderson said Harold worked for 6-7 days and left, he was supposed to go work for Andy Peterson on his farm only 3-4 miles further up in the hills. The crops were usually poor up there so I figured we got to find Harold fast before he leaves. So, off we rode to the Peterson farm. It was getting late in the day, I said we got to find that Indian now! I didn’t like riding on gravel roads at night, if a car passed you it would kick up dust and it was really hard to see. We got to the Peterson farm, old Andy was out by the barn working on his John Deer tractor, model J. Old Andy talked like he had just come over on the boat from Norway, he had actually been here since 1903. My own mother was Norwegian, she had that brog till she died in 1985, what a wonderful mother and boy could she cook and make the best home made bread in this world.

Old Andy told us he had seen the Indian and Harold had worked for him for 5 days. Andy wasn’t interested in motorcycles but he had heard from another worker that Harold would like to sell the motorcycle before it got cold in the fall. He wanted to go to the west coast and get a job with the Merchant Marines. He told Peterson he wanted to be a sailor and see the world. He had been in the Army during the war and spent all his time in Texas.

Andy Peterson told us to try the Anderson Farm, it was only 5-6 miles away. So off we rode. When we got to the Anderson Farm everyone was out in the fields working. We talked to Mrs. Anderson and their 4 kids. She told us Harold had worked for them then he moved on, she told us he rode off on his motorcycle. She said he heard from one of the fellow workers that the Kiendersen fann was hiring. It was getting late, 6:30, I knew it was and we had 3040 miles of gravel roads to ride on,, gravel is hard to ride on in the dark. We rode over to the Kiendersen farm it was only 56 miles away, what a beautiful farm. All the buildings were painted barn red and their house was as white as you could paint it. I saw a man out by the well so I rode over and shut my Harley off. lasked the man if he knew of Harold the guy with the Indian Four? He said, I sure did, he worked for me 4 days and then left. I asked you got any idea where he rode off to? Mr. Kiendersen said he said something of a farm over in Brown County. Boy, now I just didn’t know what to do. Just as we were getting ready to ride away, Mrs. Kiendersen came out, she said I heard you speak of Harold, well he told me when I paid him he got word from another worker the Hill brothers were looking for a good worker, I’d try them. I asked where their farm was, she said 15-20 miles North East of here. They told us how to get on Hwy. 25 going north then to go east towards Rosholt. I said that’s a long ways to go today, it’s getting late. I asked, any chance we could sleep in your barn for the night and do you have any work we could do for a meal? She said sure. You boys water my big garden and I’ll fix you a good meal. Boy, she had a big garden, we started hauling water in big paiis to the garden. We had to walk over to the well, it was about 200 feet from the garden, but we got it done, it took us a good 2 hours. Mrs. Kiendersen came and told us we had done a real good job. I asked her why they didn’t use a garden hose, she said Mr. Kiendersen says hard work is good for you, I said, yes it is. She said, well go wash up and come in the house, I have a nice meal for you boys.

Mr. Kiendersen came into the house, he said you boys have jobs? We said we work most of the time on farms. He asked where lately? I said I just finished working for Joe Grope, Northwest of Britton 8-10 miles out. He said I know the Gropes, they have some nice large farms. We talked all through supper. Then Mr. Kiendersen said, let’s go out to the barn, I’ll show you where you can bed down. He said be sure none of you smoke, I said none of us do. He said that’s good, smoking will kill you. He bid us a good night’s sleep, hay makes a good bed.

We got up early, 6:00, we were all hungry, I said let’s ride over to Roshalt and get something to eat, then find the Indian. We rode to Rosholt, a real small town with one café. We went in,, ordered ham and eggs, only 55 cents each. I told my buddies we might as well fill up with gas, so we ate then went over to the service station. Real small place, had only one pump, regular gas 20 cents a gallon. I asked the old man if he had heard of a man Harold with an Indian motorcycle, that works on farms. He said, you’re lucky, he was here 3 days ago, said he had a good on the Warwick farm. It’s only 4 miles east of here on the old road. I said, thank you very much, then off we rode.

We got to the Warwick farm, there was a man out by the barn, so I rode over and shut the Harley off. I asked if he had seen Harold. He sure did, but he only worked 3 days for us he said. He had met this girl in town, I think he wanted to be near her. I asked do you know where she lives? Just 2 miles down the road he said, her name is Jackie, so off we rode. We got to the farm, there was this old lady hanging up clothes on the clothes line. I walked over to her and asked about Harold. That guy she said, I’d like to get my hands on him! I asked why and she told me because he took off with our daughter, they both rode off down the road. Where do you think they went, I asked? She said try the tavern in town, so off we went back to town, rode over to the tavern, you couldn’t miss it. Lots of old cars parked around in front, so we shut our bikes off and went inside. I seen this pretty little blonde over in one booth, I asked her if she,, was Jackie, she said that’s me. I’m looking for Harold, she said that dirty son of a gun, he rode off with an Indian girl. I said why would he do that, she said he thought he loved me but when he seen this Indian girl, he fell in love with her at once. I said, you have any idea where they went, she said I’d try Sisseton. Man I said, that’s a good 50 miles from here, she said, more like 55miles, we bid her goodbye. Kenny said, why would he leave that beautiful blonde for an Indian girl, I don’t care how good looking she could be.

We rode back on Hwy. 25, turned south on 127, a real poor gravel rode and could hardly go over 25 M.P.H. it took us nearly 2 hours to get to Sisseton. Bob said, now what? I said, we got to start talking to some farmers to see if they seen that Indian motorcycle. We rode over to the Fanners Union Station, lots of men around. I asked one young man, he was wearing overall, dirty ones, I though he might know. I asked him if he had seen Harold with an Indian motorcycle, he may have a girl on the bike with him. He said, you’re really lucky, why I said? Well, this guy with the Indian had a fight with this Indian girl, the police had to come break up the fight, she was drunk as a skunk. They took her to jail, they talked to the man with the motorcycle, told him to get a job and they wouldn’t take him to jail. I said, did he get a job? Oh sure, old man Bestson hired him, told the police not to worry about him, I’ll put him to work. I asked where is the Bestson? Oh, he said, everyone knows that, I said we don’t, so he told us how to get out to the farm. Boy what instructions, so many roads, I had to write it down, it ended up being 11 miles southeast of Sisseton. Boy what roads, gravel and dirt, we couldn’t ride over 20 M.P.H., you would think I was riding the Bone Head Enduro. We got to the farm mailbox out on the road, it said Bestson, we rode up the driveway. There was an old man over by the windmill, I asked him if he knew of Harold with the Indian? Sure do, he said, I worked him for 4 days, he told me I was a slave driver so he quit, I paid him, he was a hard worker too, but he had ants in his pants and was always talking about motorcycles and girls all the time. He said, this is a fann, he should talk about farming. I agree, try to get on his side, I asked again do you have any idea where he went? Said old man Wilkers was hiring, he had about 4.5 days work there. We got directions where the farm was, ended up being 12 miles away, it was farther south toward Eden. We got to Eden and asked about the man with the Indian motorcycle, it’s a real small town, 200 – 300 people. A man at he service station said Wilkers farm is back northeast about 5 miles. It must have been 4:00, we were all tired, we got to the Wilkers farm. A young man was working on an old Model A Ford. I asked him of Harold, he told me yes he worked for us only 3 days, then off he rode. I asked, you got any idea where he was going? He said if 1 had to look for him, I’d first try old Marvin’s farm, he’s always hiring someone. We got directions to the farm, it was supposed to be 8 or 9 miles south, off we rode. It took us a good half and hour to get there, the roads were real muddy, it rained the night before, we found Marvin’s farm. We rode up the old dirt drive way, almost went down it was so muddy. Kenny said, why don’t we go home if we don’t find Harold here. I said yes, but let’s see what they say here. There was an old man wearing overalls over by the barn, we rode over there, shut the Harley off for what must have been 10 times today. I walked over to the man, before I could say anything, he said I don’t want anymore motorcycles around here. We’ll leave but first could you tell me if Harold with the Indian worked here? He said, sure did, he only worked for me for 3 days and he was down that road. I asked if he had any idea where he might go? He said I’d try Sisseton, he talked of this beautiful Indian girl he’d met. I talked to Bob and Kenny, they both wanted to go home, it was now 5:30. We had mostly gravel roads to ride on, I asked will you guys come ask and look for the Indian in a few days if we go back to Bntton now? Both said sure will, so off toward Britton we rode, got there it was 8:00, still light out, but not for long. I tookBob and Kenny home, told them see you tomorrow at John Huff’s tavern, that’s always a good place to meet.

I went home, Donna was there, she had worked all day. She asked if I wanted supper, I said no, why don’t we ride out to the drive in and get a hamburger. She said that sounds good can I have onions on my she asked, yes I said, but it’s hard to kiss you after you been eating onions. We ate and talked to some friends out there, it was getting late. We rode home, I was kind of glad to be off the Harley, we’d been gone for a couple of days. That night I told Donna all about our trip to all the farms we had been to, she said Carmen, you aren’t ever going to find that Indian. The next day I went back to work and everyday I had that Indian on my mind.

In September 1 went to North Dakota to school, in the fall of 1951 we moved to Seattle. Each summer we’d go back on vacation, I was always looking for that Indian. I would drive up into the hills looking, asking many farmers about the man with the Indian Most of them had heard of him, I must have talked to a hundred farmers in the next few years. Always getting the same story, yes I heard of the man with the motorcycle, some said I think he went up into North Dakota, some said Minnesota. After a few years no one seem to know anything of Harold or the Indian motorcycle.

It’s now 50 some years since I started looking for the Indian Four. In never found it, but I know I met over a hundred people who did and knew of it. So it goes, I just dream of the Indian Four, always wondering just what ever happened to Harold and his Indian Four.