“Yesterday’s Memories Tomorrow’s Dreams” by Carmen Tom – The Big Cattle Drive

It was in the middle of the 1930’s our families were living in a small town in eastern South Dakota. We had moved to Briton from our farm east of Pierpent South Dakota. We had lost our farm due to the big depression of the thirties.

One summer I watched the big cattle drive, there were real cowboys headed by their trail boss Star Buck Jones. I remember seeing him in Western Movies at our local theater. You must remember it was during the 1930’s big depression, times were really bad, so bad that unemployment was over twenty- seven percent, there was no real way of knowing who was working and who was not. With no unemployment checks, no well fair, and no social security. If you had a job you were one of the lucky ones, most people would do most anything just to work. Buck Jones and his cowboys drove this large herd of cattle all the way from eastern Montana about five hundred miles.

Britton had a real good stock yard and cattle auction every Wednesday. This was a big sale; people from all over eastern South Dakota came. Briton became a very busy town. As kids we would all go down to the stock yards and as kids today say “Hang Out.” I can’t remember hearing if the cowboys got a good price for their cattle or not. I’m sure they took whatever price they could as they sure wouldn’t want to drive those cattle all the way back to Montana.

As a kid growing up in Old South Dakota we were real poor, we called it dirt poor. As I look back at it now being poor was a real blessing in many ways. The Stadlers, Warwicks, Fittings, Umbergers, the Bentons and so many more. We all learned more about what real life is all about in one summer, than I would say kids today learn in their twelve years of schooling. We had the best teachers, the cattlemen, farmer’s etc.

We spent so much of our time at the stock yards, train depot watching the trains come in and out each day, the grain elevators, pool halls, and yes the taverns. Back then it was OK for kids to go into taverns, this was especially nice in the wintertime, they were one of the warmest places to go. It was so fun to hear all the bull from the farmers and workers it could be educational all in itself. We really learned from the PRO’S. We learned what real life is all about.

I heard a contractor tell his workmen one day “you can read hundred books, or listen to a teacher, but until you have actually built a house, barn or whatever you really do not know how to do it.” I remember when I first went into the Motorcycle business; I would work on almost any make or model. I had all kinds of books and manuals, but until I’d actually torn apart the engine, gearbox or some other part I had no clue how to do it. Many times I would have to do the job more than once before I got it right. But I did learn.

I’m seventy- five now looking back at how really poor we were as kids, our parents, the hardships they had, things in old South Dakota were really tuff but we learned about life the way it really is. I see how kids today have an easy life, many not working till their out of school. Most have there own cars, live in beautiful homes and have more clothes then all us kids put together had. They all own more than one pair of shoes, they go on vacation once or twice a year and many even have their own cell phones, computers, they have so much one can’t list it all. But you know that all of us poor kids of the 1930’s knew more about what real life was all about be the time we were ten or twelve than most kids today that are eighteen and twenty years old. But one must ask whose fault (if any) is it?

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