Monthly Archives: July 2013

Bert Rudie – Part VIII

Larry Litchy’s Chrysler

I vaguely remember when I was around seven, maybe eight years old, Lawrence Litchy used to cook moonshine. I remember he came driving in the yard and he had this great big Chrysler car. It was a big 8-cylinder car and in those days it was the fastest car that was made. It used to go like 100-miles per hour real easy. He’d come driving in the yard and was always laughing and showing everybody where the federal agents were chasing him. They fired shots at him and he had bullet holes in the back end of this car. He’d say, “Here’s one. Here’s one” and there were several holes there where slugs had gone through and this was on the left driver side of the rear of the vehicle so he was real lucky that he didn’t get shot or killed.


Speaking of moonshine, when I was younger – about that same vintage (seven-or-eight years old) – on our farm they used to cook moonshine in the hog house. They had that rigged up so that there was a false wall and you didn’t know that there was an extra room in there. The pigs were on one side and of course the smell of the pigs would camouflage the fumes and the smell of the moonshine which had a strong odor. They could feed the by-product (the mash) to the hogs when they were through cooking the moon out of it. When it got to where the smell was too strong and they figured that maybe the federal agents would be able to discover it, they would break down the still. I remember that my Dad, in order to get his share out of it before they guy pulled away, he took some of the pieces of the still and hauled them out into the field. It was at the time of the year when they harvested corn and they had corn in bundles (shocks). The guy came and he wanted the rest of his equipment and Dad says “Well, you’ve got to pay me, you know, what you owe” and then finally they settled up. So then they walked out in the field — retrieving all of these pieces of the still that were hidden underneath the corn shocks.

Trading Chickens for Peddlers’ Wares

When I was younger on the farm there were two peddlers that used to come around trying to sell their wares — like the Watkins and Raleigh guys. They had a lot of spices and really good nectar from Watkins. We used to really, really like it. We’d trade a bunch of chickens – a kind of bartering system for items. My mother went to the chicken coop and you could tell which hens didn’t lay eggs by the looks of them. Some of them were a little bit sick. They had little pus-looking eyes and drippy noses. So they are the ones we’d catch. The chickens would just sit there. We had a long wire with a little loop on the end to try to catch the chickens and jerk the wire. The loop fit around the chicken’s legs so it couldn’t run away — that’s how they’d catch them. The merchants had a regular box on the back of his car – a regular crate for hauling chickens. We used to get all kinds of goodies from selling those chickens — that was kind of nice.

Hatching Our Own Eggs

On the farm, my folks had incubators. They would save the chicken eggs and put them in an incubator. After twenty-one days the eggs hatched. That’s how they replaced the chicken flock. They hatched their own eggs. There were a certain percentage of eggs that were infertile or something happened that they didn’t hatch. So there were many discards. What we did one year was to take them out in the woods and stuck them in the bottom of a tree that had a V-shape to it. There was a sportsman’s club that Dad belonged to and for getting rid certain pests like crows or rats, they gained a certain number of points. There would be a prize for whoever got the most. So when I would set these eggs out there I had a whole bunch of foot traps and I would cover them with leaves and stuff. Sometimes I would go out there and there would be a whole bunch – like maybe four or five crows that had walked into these traps – and most of them were still alive. We would save the legs or the beaks or the head or something like that. Of course when Dad turned in all of these things for points, he won the prize from the sportsman club, which was a case of 22 mm rifle shells which was a pretty neat prize to get in those days. When the chickens would hatch, they would be running around wild on the farm. In the fall when it started getting colder, we got rid of the older chickens that didn’t lay eggs anymore. We would sell them off and get a whole bunch of younger chickens. We would clean the chicken coop and disinfect it. There was always this round-up of the new chickens, which wanted to roost in the trees. We had this grove of apple trees and different trees around the buildings and that was where the chickens used to sit for the night – night after night. When it got near fall or before winter – before the cold came, we would catch them and that was like a round-up catching all the chickens. We’d put them in the chicken house and of course we would leave them locked up there for a few days until they got used to it. Then finally we opened the little door so they could get out and run around in the yard — that was quite a fun thing.

Bert Rudie – Part VII

The Happy Farmer

On the farm we had horses to do all of the field work. I used to have to cultivate and plow everything with the horses. I think I was about ten-or-eleven years old when Dad found this used tractor. It was a big steel-wheeled thing. It was bought somewhere past the town of Royalton, which is like some twenty miles away from the farm. I don’t know what he paid for it; I don’t remember the details, but it was called a Happy Farmer. It was a two-cylinder putt-putt – something like the John Deeres that go “putt putt putt” with their two cylinders. It needed some work, so Dad brought the thing home to work on it. I would be helping him there and watching him. That was a big deal because then we could plow and we could do a lot of work with that old tractor. In order to bring the old tractor home, he had to take off the lugs. It had steel wheels that were about six feet high. And it had these lugs that were bolted on. Some of the roads around Bowlus and Royalton were better roads —even had tar on them. They didn’t dare run the lugs. It would ruin the road surface. So we had to take off all of these lugs from both of the rear wheels. When we got home, we had to bolt all of the lugs back on and put the thing together. It was quite an interesting experience.

Who Needs a Driver’s License?

When I was twelve years old, I was already driving the tractor, plowing, and doing different chores with the tractor. Dad said, “If you can drive the tractor, you ought to be able to drive the car.” So I tried it and yeah I could drive the car and shift it with a stick shift. I would drive and do errands. I didn’t have a driver’s license.

As time went on I would drive and deliver some of the milk cans to the creamery. I would drive to school every once in a while when Dad would have some important chores that he wanted me to get home from school sooner than usual, or if there were some extra activities at school that I would stay after then he wouldn’t have to drive to Upsala to pick me up at the high school. I would drive the family car to Upsala and park it there all day, and then drive home –again, no driver’s license.

I didn’t have a driver’s license until I left home after I graduated from high school and had my own car. We didn’t have no license and no insurance or anything like that. My first driver’s license was when I was working by Dassel after I left home. I got the driver’s license by going to the post office and you filled out a little card. I think it was 50¢. You paid for it and you sent it in and they sent you a driver’s license. There never was a written test or driving test. We just drove … no insurance — never ever had any insurance.

Bert’s First Car

I remember when I got my first car in South St. Paul. Dad used to drive the truck to haul the livestock to the South St. Paul slaughterhouse. I went with him this one time and we went to a place in South St. Paul and found this car that we liked. It was a 1933 Chevrolet. That was about the time that I graduated from high school, I guess. I was like 18 years old. Then I drove it home and after a short time I left home and went to work by Dassel and drove the car over there. That was where I got my first driver’s license.

I just happened to think of something about the 1933 Chevrolet that I had when I left home and was working in Hutchinson. I had picked up some old Model T lamps – some old antique car lamps from the old days when they had kerosene lamps for side lights on the vehicle.  Somehow I got a hold of some of them and mounted them on my Chevrolet. They were in good working order. They had a little glass in there and a little burner. It was like a regular kerosene lamp. We used to light them and that was a big deal. We’d go cruising up and down the streets on Friday or Saturday nights in Hutchinson, which was called “cruising the streets.” Big deal, huh? When we were working in Hutchinson, I only got a dollar a day. That was all I made working on the farm, and then of course I got room & board. So that was a big deal. That’s what it amounted to in those days. I remember that in order to buy gas for the car (we didn’t have that much money to allot for this or that or other things). There was this one place in Hutchinson where this guy had this real cheap gas for 10¢ per gallon. We would buy a dollar’s worth of gas which would last for a long time. We could even make a trip back all the way to Upsala and back and still have some gas left. Cars in those days used to get like 20-miles per gallon like with the old Chevrolet or the Model A. They make such a big deal about getting 20-miles per gallon in this day and age. Why they haven’t advanced anything in a lifetime you might say!

Bert Rudie – Part VI

In 1932, the Dort

I remember when I was just a little guy – I must have been maybe five- or six-years old and my dad had an old car called a Dort. It had a little cut-out device on the exhaust so that it would bypass the muffler and make a lot of noise — roaring noise.  Plus the exhaust used to go straight down from the pipe onto the road and when you would open up the cut-out, it would blow up a big cloud of dust so you couldn’t see all around the car.  There was this one guy that nobody liked. So when we used to go past his place, my dad would open up this cut-out and deliberately make a whole bunch of dust so that the guy would be shaking his fist at us and cussing us out. My job used to be (when I was a little guy) to pull the little wire that would lift the cut-out away from the exhaust and open it up. And then when we were driving along, my dad would say “No… Not yet. Let me tell you when.” So then he would say, “Now you can,” and I would pull up on the wire that went through the floor board and then the car would make a roaring sound and the dust would blow up. We thought that was a pretty good joke.

The Whippet

I remember some of the parties we had. My mother’s father would come over, I called him Grandpa Brada, and there was a relative, Nick Brady (married to Strina). They used to come over to the old house. They both had cars called Whippets that were notoriously famous for not starting as soon as it got down to zero or so. You had to crank them with a crank and even then they wouldn’t start. After a dinner and celebration, they wanted to go home and tried to crank up the old cars which wouldn’t start. I remember Nick Brady was so mad, he said “You darned rotten car. If they don’t want to start – don’t want to run – I’ll fix it so you can’t see.” And he took the crank and he smashed the headlight out which was sitting right on the fender. Everybody was laughing about that.

The Oakland

I can remember when Dad got the newer car after the old Dort gave out. He got a car called the Oakland. About the only thing I remember about it was that it was a sedan (a four-door sedan), and it had wooden wheels. The spokes in it were wood. The wheels would deteriorate and fall apart and I remember that once in a while Dad would have to go over to the junk yard in St. Cloud and get another wheel so he could replace the broken one.

The Willys Knight

They had something called a Willys Knight, which was a great big thing like a hearse. It had big high wheels and the wheels were so big that it would go through the biggest of snow drifts. We used to go cross-country through the fields to try to avoid the big snow drifts that were on the road in order to get to town for church or to get supplies.

Bert Rudie – Part V

Free Movies

It was a big treat for youngsters when in the Bowlus Park, every Friday night during the summer they would have free movies. Somebody would come out with a projector and a sheet. Everybody would be sitting on their hands or knees or legs crossed or whatever or bringing their own chairs to watch the movie. Boy! That was the only time we had a movie when we were younger. I remember there was one particular time that we were all sitting around and it was just starting to get dark and almost ready to start the movie. Some girls were running around – goofing off – and they ran and got their legs tangled up in the electric wires that they had lying on the ground to run the projector. As a result, they jerked the projector and it fell off the little stand or table that it was on and got busted. So we didn’t have a movie that particular night. Boy was that ever a disappointment! Everybody was really sad.

Making Hay during the Depression

Some of the things we used to do with the horses on the farm during the Great Depression when nothing would grow – not even grass – and we didn’t have enough grass and hay to feed the animals: There was a place by Little Falls, practically right on the edge of town, where some guy had some low-laying, meadow-type of grass. There was enough moisture in there so there was a crop of grass. My dad bought that grass standing and we went with the team of horses and cut it with a horse-driven mower and when it was dry raked it up on the hay rack. It was a big journey that took hours to get from Little Falls back to the farm. It was practically an all-day job to load up the hay and bring it back. Boy! I remember that was quite an ordeal. It was how we managed to get by — so then we had enough meadow hay to feed the horses, and the cattle especially. It was so dry that nothing would grow; during the Depression there was no rain for months on edge.

Bert Rudie – Part IV

Eggs and Cream

When we milked the cattle, we didn’t have any place to keep the cream that they separated. So they had to put it in cream cans – metal cans – and put it in the stock tank where the cows would drink out of on the outside of the barn. It had a little cooling tank that went from the inside of the barn to the outside and we would pump water from the well through this small tank. That would cool down the cream that they separated, so that it wouldn’t spoil until they could haul it to the creamery the following day. They used to haul cream every day. Usually several of the farmers would get together and they would take turns transporting these cans of cream over to the creamery where they would make butter out of it. When they would make butter, the by-product was buttermilk, which in those days they didn’t do anything with except send it back in your cream can and you would feed it to the hogs. So things have improved greatly.

When they would haul the cream to the creamery, they would also pick up groceries at the little store in Elmdale. There was one grocery store. My mother used to order over the telephone to the grocery store and order different groceries. And then whoever hauled the cream cans to the creamery would swing by the grocery store and pick up the groceries. They would charge it on your bill and then when you got your “cream check” at the end of the month, or whenever they paid, then you would settle up with the grocery guy to pay your bill. This same grocery store guy would buy the eggs. So they would send the eggs in and he would check them out and decide what grade you had. Usually he was the kind of character that would always find that most of your eggs were small instead of large. So you had to take his word for whatever he felt like giving you for your eggs. He would credit your account with that.

The Old School

I was in the fourth grade and I went to school one morning and it was really, really foggy. You could see only a short distance ahead of you. When I got to school, which was about half a mile or so away from our farm house, the school had burned down during the night. It was an old school. We had no indoor plumbing — we had outhouses. The school had a big wood-burning stove. I guess the teacher really stoked up the stove that night. Either he didn’t check the draft or it got so hot that it overheated and set the school on fire. We had a vacation until they fixed up the neighbor’s granary. They made big long benches and desks. We had to finish 4th grade in this neighbor’s granary.

4-H Club Projects

When I was young on the farm, one of the things we had for activities was an organization called 4-H Club. Everybody had a project. I had a lamb or baby sheep when it was real tiny and I fed it with a bottle. The lamb had a little pen and we kept it there until it got pretty big so we wouldn’t have to worry about it getting out. It used to run around all over the farm and follow you wherever you went. I called her “Louise” … that was my pet sheep.

I remember another year, I had a pet pig. I don’t remember if I had a name for it. He was separate from the rest of the pigs and we grazed him – or fed him – when he was a little piggy. When he got pretty big, we took him to the County Fair in Little Falls. A truck came by and picked up all of these animals for the fair. This was one of the first times that I ever spent away from home. We actually slept right in the pig barn where the pigs were. There was a stall and we had a bunch of hay — that’s where I slept with the pig. I didn’t win any prize, but it was quite an experience and the first time I was ever away from home.