Bura Dell Bowen – 1968
In the year 1905, a land boom was on in North Dakota. Horace Greeley’s advice to “Go west, young man,” tempted many young families to migrate westward and file on government land. A man for a small fee might file on a quarter section of land. He must live on it for several months out of the year and build a home. This was called proving up the claim. If for some reason, he decided not to stay, he relinquished his homestead rights and someone else could contest his claim.
Wages in West Virginia were very low, and while we had food in abundance, there was very little cash and people were crowded. My father, Milton Bowen, decided to try his fortune in this new land. We disposed of our small store of worldly goods at an auction sale. I watched sadly while a man walked down the lane carrying on this back the cradle in which all six of we children had been rocked. For days, my mother, Lacy, Grandmother McLain and various aunts made clothing for us. I can’t remember having owned a coat until the green lining from the cape (which my Uncle James McLain had worn during his military career in the Philippines, had been fashioned into a coat for me. The outer layer of the cape was blue and my sister inherited that.
Our bedding, clothing and treasures were packed in four black trunks. We were six children at this time, and the wagon in which we were driven to Salem, West Virginia, the nearest railroad depot, was crowded. We tearfully bade farewell to our Grandmother, aunts, uncles, cousins and last, but certainly not least, my brother Hutson’s faithful companion from his toddler days, ‘Old Skip.’ Hutson was ten years old at the time, but it was years before he forgot his old dog. When my Grandmother wrote several months later that all attempts to coax the dog away from the house where we had lived were in vain, and that he had refused to eat until he just lay down and died, Hutson disappeared for hours in order that no one should see him cry.
Two of my mother’s uncles were policemen in Salem and aided in loading our small army. A fine old gentleman named Brannon and his son, Lonnie, traveled on the same train with us, bent on seeking their fortune in this “Land of Promise.”
When we arrived in Chicago and stepped into the brightly lit depot, I thought we must have arrived in heaven. Such splendor could not be earthly. Our lights in West Virginia were at best smoky kerosene lamps, and more often, ‘tallow dips,’ a piece of rag in a bowl of tallow. Those of our relatives who had ‘struck oil’ had gas lights, but nothing which could compare to the huge chandeliers and sparkling lights of the Union Depot.
I was given my first orange in Chicago and thought that it smelled too delicious to be eaten. (I’m sure it was a great treat after of days of dining on musty sandwiches!)
In Chicago it was necessary to transfer to another depot in horse-drawn cabs. The first cab was overflowing before I was loaded, so Mr. Brannon, Lonnie and I took another cab. Our driver took us to the wrong depot, and it was necessary for Mr. Brannon to call a policeman before our cab driver took us to the correct depot. When we finally arrived, my parents and all of our belongings were on board and the train was pulling out. A brakeman ran down the platform with me in his arms, and succeeding in scrambling aboard and we were on our way once more.
We spent a week in Minot, North Dakota, while my father and the Brannons took care of the details involved in securing title to their claims. My father found a quarter section of land on which a small house, a sod barn, and a hand-dug well had been established, and later abandoned, by a previous homesteader. My father therefore contested his claim and we were able to move in without delay.
While in Minot, I played with the hotel owner’s daughter, a girl my own age. She was, incidentally, my first norwegian acquaintance. One day she pointed to a nearby basement stairway and said, “There’s a blind pig down there.” It was several years before I realized that a ‘blind pig’ was an illegal liquor still and not a hog with poor vision!
Some West Virginia acquaintances, who had preceded us to North Dakota, came into Minot. After loading us into a lumber wagon, we started off for our new home. What a contrast between the beautiful West Virginia hills, with their abundance of trees and thickly settled communities, and the barren, treeless, lonely stretches of prairie that was then North Dakota. You could see for miles and not see a thing but rolling prairie. One boy looked for several minutes, then sadly shaking his head said, “Not a tree in sight, not a tree in sight.” We started off cheerfully, but I think as we rolled along we began to feel as if we had swallowed a rock. A cold, damp wind blew across the prairie, chilling both body and spirit.
Our new house had one large room downstairs and an attic. The walls consisted of one layer of boards, covered by tarpaper, tacked down by lathes. The barn was made of chinks of sod and a straw roof. Our furniture consisted of packing boxes, an old stove and two bedsprings, no doubt left by the original homesteader. Boards nailed against the wall served as a makeshift table. There were holes in the floor. Sometimes, early in the morning, while humans lay abed, a little furry brown head would appear through these holes. If we were really quiet, a gopher would come all the way through the hole and run about the room, much to the delight of the small-fry.
The wolves and coyotes were numerous and destructive. Sometimes at night, when we opened the front door, several of them would run away into the darkness. Needless to say, we youngsters stayed in the house after dark. They were afraid of fire and one was quite safe when carrying a lantern. I recall being sent on an errand one extremely dark night, being assured that the lantern I carried would keep me safe. However, my faith was weak and my feet scarcely touched the ground. I could almost feel the wolves’ breath on my bare heels. At night, large packs ran together, and their mournful howls made cold chills run through you.
The cattle had free range the first year that we were in North Dakota and the cows always hid their newborn calves in the brush thickets, which were the nearest approach to trees on the prairie. The mother usually stayed very near the spot where he calf was born. Sometimes, though, she moved along with the grazing herd until some miles lay between them. The wolves very often found and devoured the calf. For days, the mother would run bellowing in search of her calf. Their grief was pitiful to see. They didn’t stop to eat, but ran day and night until they became so emaciated and exhausted they could run no more.
I’ve seen one lone coyote drive flocks of turkeys before him, towards his den, in the same way one would drive a herd of cattle. Every few feet, he would seize and kill one, only to leave it uneaten. They were great cowards, and would run swiftly at the first scent of a human creature.
As time passed by, the prairie, which at first had seemed so desolate and lonely, took on a new meaning. Even now, sixty-odd years later, I long many times for the peaceful serenity, the pure invigorating air, the clear blue skies and the feeling of supreme omnipotence which pervaded the prairie.
There were wonders that we had never seen from our sheltered valleys in West Virginia. One was the magnificent sunset, with its myriad shades of red and gold. Then on cold winter nights, the Northern lights, ‘Aurora Borealis,’ played across the sky like a symphony orchestra. All the colors of the rainbow flashed across the sky, as though a huge spectrum was being moved swiftly by an unseen power.
I will never cease to wonder at the miracle of the ‘mirage.’ Very early on a clear, still morning, we children felt as though we were transported to a fairy land. Towns which we didn’t know existed seemed to be only a few miles distant. Some of these towns, I later learned, were fifteen or twenty years distant.
Then there were the ‘chinook’ winds. After a bitterly cold winter, one day a warm southwest wind began to blow and the snow melted rapidly. Those were fun times. Little streams appeared everywhere, on which paper boats could be floated.
My father bought a team of ill-mated oxen; one a skinny red ox named Dewey (a willing worker), and the other a chunky red and white, named Tough. Old Tough seemingly belonged to the union, as he insisted on taking a rest period every few rounds. No amount of prodding or yelling would induce him to get up until his ‘siesta’ was over. We did manage to plow a few acres for a garden and a crop of oats.
This was virgin soil and we raised potatoes that weighed seven and eight pounds apiece. The oat straw was higher than my father.
The winter of 1906 was terrible and I’m sure if the good Lord and a rancher named Oliver Heath, our nearest neighbor, had not looked after us, we would not have survived. In the fall, my father walked to Minot, a distance of sixty miles. He transacted some business, and immediately began the homeward trek. His feet were blistered and raw when he finally reached home. I’m sure that Oliver Heath would have been glad to give him a ride, but my father never wanted to impose on others.
I don’t wonder that my mother, Lacy, shed so many tears that first winter. Our clothing was sadly inadequate for the forty and forty-five degree below zero weather, which was a regular temperature that bitter winter. The fuel, green lignite coal from the strip mines near what is now called Garrison, eludes description. It took a lot of coaxing to get a fire started, and then it had to be well stoked.
Storms were frequent and fierce. The wind blew with hurricane force; add a few inches of loose snow, and it was suicidal to move more than a few feet from the door. It often happened that people were lost and perished only a small distance from shelter. The snow was blinding and the wind suffocating. Sometimes we couldn’t see more than a foot from our front door. It was common for the first settlers to tie ropes from one building to another to guide them, as it was impossible to see. The town of Minot, North Dakota, is said to have derived its name from the knotted ropes that lead from one bachelor’s door to another.
Sometimes the storms raged for over a week, with very little letup. The wind shrieked and howled like a legion of demons, and I often covered my head with my bedclothes to shut out the sound and silently prayed for someone who might be out abroad. After a storm, the house was pretty well insulated by the tightly packed snow. The drifts were higher than the house, and we could drive a team of horses and a loaded sleigh over the hard-packed snow without making a dent.
That first winter we were short of food, and when my mother wept, my father always said, “The Lord will provide.” The Bible was always open, and I never saw my father sit very long without his Bible in his hand. Psalm 37:25 was a favorite quote, “I have been young, and now I am old, yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.”
Oliver Heath was an ‘Angel in disguise’ that winter. They had cowboys in his home, and they butchered quite often. Heath always sent over a large chunk of beef and sometimes, when our cupboard was bare, he would come by on his return from a shopping trip to Minot with flour, sugar and other staples for us. He always said, “I knew you had no way to get to town and must be running short of groceries.” This rancher-homesteader relationship was a far cry from that portrayed in western cinema.
In West Virginia on Christmas Eve, we children were accustomed to hanging our stockings around the fireplace, in hopes that St. Nicholas would come. My father always read the Christmas story, and we all had a sense of the true meaning of Christmas. In spite of the obviously bare cupboards and lack of shopping facilities, we optimistically hung our stockings on nails across the room. The next morning, we found a few cookies in our stockings, and were as delighted as children today are over a new bicycle or car! My mother must have baked the cookies late at night after we children were asleep.
The first Fourth of July celebration in North Dakota was a never-to-be-forgotten event. I can’t remember having had any special celebrations in West Virginia, but in North Dakota, those first years, everybody celebrated for days beforehand. Mr. Heath sent his cowboys with invitations to settlers and ranchers alike. When the great day arrived, they came from all directions in wagons, buggies and on horseback. I believe that some people came from distances of forty miles away. What a feast it was; roast beef, salads, pies, cakes, sandwiches, freezers of home-made ice cream, cracker jack and candy! Mr. Heath and his guests from afar brought firecrackers. There were horse races, foot and sack races, bucking broncos, and games of horseshoe and baseball. In the evening, there was dancing and card games. My father took us home before the evening celebration, but we had experienced our first big Fourth of July celebration and were tired enough to call it a day.
Olis and Edna Marks homesteaded about two miles from us and started a small grocery store and post office. They hauled their merchandise from Minot and the prices were quite high.
After our first good crop, my parents ordered food and clothes though the Sears Roebuck and Montgomery Ward catalogues. What a treat when the first orders arrived; twenty-five pound boxes of dried prunes, raisons and apricots. There was also jam in a pine bucket (the piney taste was atrocious but it was sweet). We made soap from fat and Lewis lye. This strong yellow soap was used for personal use as well as scrubbing and laundry (a few years later we bought an occasional bar of ‘Jap Rose’ soap…. we washed our hands just so we could smell the sweet perfume of the soap!)
Our food consisted chiefly of salt pork, beans, bread, potatoes and oatmeal. We carried water from an outside well. There was no bathroom, no telephones, no radio and no television. We washed our clothes on a rough washboard. Drying clothes was quite a problem in the wintertime. The wet clothes froze into grotesque shapes. We had lines strung inside the house and for several days would have to dodge about under the wet clothes. Sometimes, before we could get them pinned to the clothesline, the wind would blow them away and we did not find them for a long time, or if we did find them they would be so dirty that we would have to wash them again. I don’t think that we washed too often.
The first school I attended in North Dakota was a little one-room shack with a dirt floor. I don’t remember having a window, but as we attended school only three months in the summer, the door was left open to let in light. The shack was so low, I recall that the teacher could not stand erect. A table stood in the middle of the room with benches on two sides that served as desks. Needless to say, whenever the teacher stepped outside, ‘social activity’ was the call of the day.
We children had no manufactured toys, but were quite good at makeshift ones. A board over a barrel served as a teeter-totter and it furnished lots of fun. One day when my father was plowing, he exposed a rabbit’s nest with two little baby bunnies in it. We had been told that if a human held the babies, the mother would reject them, so my father brought them home. We taught them to drink milk and I think that we kept them for about three years. Anyway, they were about a foot high when they died.
One day my sister, Flo, who was between two and three years old, was so busy in a little patch of green grass that I went to see what she was doing. She had both of her hands full of tiny, writhing snakes, and the grass was teeming with many more. She was as happy as could be with these new playthings.
Our big old ox, Tough, died. My father bought a big old Clydesdale for five dollars at an auction sale. In those early days, men from the cities would go out on the range and round up horses, most of which belonged to the Indians, but which had run wild until the Indians no longer kept track, or perhaps dared not to claim them as their own. These men then drove these horses to the cities, having auctions along the way. The horses that were not sold along the way were delivered to packing plants or meat canneries.
Old Clyde was big and strong, and when teamed with Dewey, presented a ludicrous picture. Sometimes when Dewey thought that it was siesta time, Clyde kept going, dragging his unwilling mate along with him. Old Clyde, for all of his strength, was very gentle and wise. I’ve seen him stand with his halter rope stretched to its limit so that he would not step on the little pigs, who had made a nest in the straw in front of him. Sometimes I chased the little pigs away because I thought that his neck must be sore. One winter evening my mother, lonely for the company of women, wished to visit some old West Virginia acquaintances who lived six or seven miles away. Our only ‘chariot’ was a homemade sled or ‘stone boat,’ used to haul rocks from the field. Hitching old Clyde to this sled, my father was able to take my mother out for the evening, leaving we children alone at home. When they left home, the skies were clear. In a short while, though, the snow began to fall and the winds rise. Soon a snowstorm was sweeping across the prairie. My parents, homeward bound, lost all sense of direction and were in fact headed the wrong way. My father, having remembered to let a horse have his own head in a storm, let the reins slacken, and wrapped he and his wife in blankets. After what seemed like hours, the horse stopped and they found themselves in front of their own house.
We had many horses after that, at one time thirty-five in all. Some were beauties, and I often wondered if these had been stolen rather than driven off the range. We children learned to ride ‘Indian-fashioned,’ or bareback. I herded cattle on a strawberry roan Indian pony, and many a time nearly broke my back trying to ride standing up.
There was never a dull moment around our place. I recall the second summer in North Dakota; we had a good crop and the oats were higher than a man’s head. One day my sister, Mary, who was between one and two years of age, strayed into an oat field near the house. She was such a tiny child, and we searched for hours with no trace of her. Finally, as the evening shadows approached, my parents returned to the house, no doubt to the house, no doubt to be alone and pray. There was always the possibility that the wolves would find Mary before we did. I was always the official babysitter, and I was determined not to leave the field until I found her. I walked quietly for a few steps at a time, then stopped to listen. After a few such stops, I heard a small noise off to one side. Breaking through the heavy grain, I found her just awakening after a long nap.
Homesteaders began to arrive. We had two bachelor neighbors about a fourth of a mile from us. One, Ole Nelson, came from Norway. The other was a man known as Dutch John. He seemed not to have had a family and I never knew his full name. One day, he rushed into Ole’s shack, fell onto the bed and died. He had put gopher poison in a baking powder can and set it on the same shelf on which stood his groceries. When he baked biscuits for his dinner, he used the wrong can. The neighbors buried him on his homestead. The grave has long since been plowed over and he has returned to dust.
Another incident, which shocked and saddened us, occurred shortly after the death of Dutch John. The young man from whom we purchased our coal spent all of his time and money making his house beautiful for the sweetheart he had left behind in Indiana. One day my father went to purchase coal. The young man was so happy, explaining that he was to leave for a few days and bring his bride back to the house he had so lovingly built for her. The very next morning, someone came for coal and found him sitting with a shotgun between his knees, and nothing much left of his face and head. A letter lying nearby announced the wedding of his sweetheart to someone else. I wonder if she ever knew how lonely he had been.
While the cattle had free range, we youngsters never strayed far on foot. The cattle were accustomed to men on horseback, but a two-legged critter was considered to be a danger to be run down. With the coming of homesteaders, the cattle were fenced in, and we kids had free range. We wandered for miles ‘drowning out’ and snaring gophers. The gophers were so many and could ruin a grain field in a short time. We snared gophers by making a slip noose on one end of a length of binder twine. We then pressed the noose down around the gopher hole, so that the gopher couldn’t get the human scent. Taking the other end of the twine in our hands, we lay down eight or ten feet away from the hole and kept very quiet. Gophers are very curious and soon a little nose would appear, then the whole head ventured out. We gave the twine a jerk and the gopher became our unwilling playmate. Sometimes the boys made harnesses out of binder twine and tried to drive them, but they became hopelessly entangled in the harness. They had sharp teeth and claws and we often bore the marks of them.
There were many lovely flowers on the prairie. The first to appear were the little blue crocus, then the dandelions and then violets of every hue. The bluebells and tigerlilies grew in abundance. The loveliest flowers were the red, pink and yellow cactus blossoms. Sometimes, when we came running barefoot, we would step on these small flat cactus plants. We would then spend hours plucking the painful thorns from our feet. Wild roses perfumed the air in mid-summer, while the fall had its harvest of golden rod and gentian.
Mrs. Marks and my father started a Sunday school in the Mark’s home. Sometimes we children were unable to attend when the weather was cold, because we had no shoes. However, our education was not neglected.
Soon, I think that it was in 1908 or 1909, the Soo Railroad built a short line out from Drake, North Dakota to Sanish, and several new small towns were started. The town of Douglas was about two and one half miles from our home. The people came to town from every direction to see the first train come through. Oliver Heath and his father-in-law had the first meat market. Oliver also operated the first grain elevator.
Real schoolhouses were built throughout the area with a high school in Douglas. Churches were built; our first pastor was a homesteader named Graham. He being ordained in the Presbyterian faith called us Presbyterians. There were more Methodists than Presbyterians, however, so we soon became affiliated with the Methodist Episcopal Church. One of our first pastors was a young schoolteacher from a homestead in Montana. He was a man much like Billy Graham and there were some stirring revivals during his pastorate. We sometimes had services three times a day. My father was ordained by the district pastors and often took the pulpit in the absence of a pastor.
The first few years we had wonderful crops; it was not uncommon to harvest sixty bushels or more of wheat to the acre. A lot of farmers did not want to be tied down with milk cows and relied mostly on grain. Some of these never attended church and ridiculed my father because of his dedicated Christian life. However, when there was sickness or death in a family, they always came for my father. This group, as soon as the crops showed promise in the spring, would bring in kegs of beer and meet together for dancing and card playing. Very often, in late June and July we would have a hail storm, or the hot winds began to blow, drying up the grounds until we were fortunate enough to reap enough for feed and basic living costs.
These ‘optimists’ one by one lost their farms and left the country. Soil erosion began to be a serious problem. In the spring, with the hurricane winds that swept out of the northwest, I’m sure North Dakota dust could be found in Minneapolis. I have heard people say this, although I don’t believe that it has ever been verified. I think it was in the year 1909. We had a ‘bumper crop,’ and everyone was anxious to get their threshing down before grasshoppers took their toll or the rains started. The threshing rig was owned by Julius and Knute Oftedahl. A steam outfit, it took four men to operate the machine. One man was kept busy hauling water in a large tank. With a pump on top, he pumped water from the sloughs and filled the boiler. One man kept busy, almost roasting himself in the process, pitching straw into the fire pit. The fire heated the water in the boiler, producing steam to run the motor. One man watched the grain conveyor to keep it running smoothly while one supervised both the engine and the separator.
The women who were later to become Mrs. Oftedahl, Josie and Pauline, cooked on the cook car. I think there were eight men with hayracks to haul the shocks of grain from the field to the separator, four field pitchers to help load the shocks and four grain haulers. I believe there were usually twenty men. The threshing rig was in our yard on a Sunday. My father refused to let them thresh for him on Sunday, so they pulled the rig across the ravine to Ole Nelson’s field. The cook car remained in our yard. While the men were eating the noonday meal, the smoke of a prairie fire was sighted. Immediately, the men started plowing around the buildings and hay stacks. They also started backfires (a backfire was the best way to get a prairie fire under control. The men would start fires in the path of the oncoming fire and beat out the flame on the outer edge with sacks dipped in water, allowing the inner ring to advance toward the prairie fire.
We children were hauled in a grain wagon onto a plowed field, where we nearly suffocated. The women, using wet sacks, beat out the small fires started from the wind blowing sparks. The fire, fanned by a brisk wind, moved with the speed of a locomotive and covered an area of over one hundred square miles before it was brought under control.
We saw cattle trying to run before the fire, overtaken, and badly burned. For a short time we could see Heath’s windmill above the flames, but it crumpled and fell. Ole Nelson had a team of beautiful young horses. He was plowing firebrakes, but left the horses standing there for a few moments while he helped elsewhere. A neighbor then jumped on the plow and went to plow fireguards around his own haystack. When the fire came too close for comfort, he abandoned the horses, still hitched to the plow. Their manes and tails ignited, and in their fright the horses ran home into their barn. The straw roof began to burn and the horses had to be shot.
One on the men with the threshing rig rode out to see how close the fire was. He was overtaken, but he pulled his woolen sweater over his head and lay face down on the ground. The fire passed so swiftly over him that the only harm was a singed sweater. Oliver Heath, the only man in the country to own an automobile, was instrumental in rescuing several people from the path of the fire.
The winter of 1909 was a severe one. My mother’s sister married my first schoolmaster and located on a farm about two miles from us (on a clear day we could see them when they were outside). My Aunt’s first son was born one cold winter day. There was no doctor to be had and me mother went to be with my aunt, leaving Charles, about a month old, alone with the rest of us. She expected to return home before night, but a storm came up and it was two long weeks before she could get home. Our closest neighbors were attending a party some distance away, leaving a thirteen year-old boy at home alone. When my father saw that the storm promised to be a good one, he rode horseback to the neighbor’s and brought the boy home with him. For two weeks, he kept us kids in bed most of the time to keep us from freezing. I guess my mother, so we were told, spent most of the time crying and looking through the window trying to catch a glimpse of home through the blinding snow. Once a day, my father went to the barn, fed the livestock and milked the cows. Our meals consisted of bread and milk, or milk with dumplings. There were nine kids at this time, and I think my father did very well taking care of us. One day, when the visibility was a trifle better, my father rode a horse to the neighbors and fed their livestock.
The little homestead ‘shack’ was cold and drafty, also very crowded. In 1910, my father decided we could afford a new house and barn. As usual, the barn was built first. It has long been a standing joke that a farmer houses his livestock better than his family. This is not always true. A good, solid ten-room house took the place of the two-room shack (this house was recently torn down by the man who now owns the land).
There were good years, and there were years when drought, hail and pestilence took their toll. Consequently, nobody became rich. We worked hard. I took a man’s place in the field for several years, working from daylight until well past dusk. One day when I was raking hay, one of the reins slipped out of my hands. When I tried to stop the horses, they took fright and ran away. All I could do was wrap my arms around the seat to keep from being dragged. My father stood on a haystack about three fourths of a mile away and kept calling the horses until they recovered a little from their fright and ran into the haystack. We often had runaways, but never had any serious injuries. I’ve seen horses run with a wagon until the wheels came off, the box fell apart, and the harness had to be competely remade. When we saw a runaway coming, we got out of the way. The frightened horses would run right over you.
Our clothing was always very meager. If I had two dresses of cheap material, I felt positively rich. We had to quit wearing shoes early in the spring. The neighbors had good laughs at the sight of us going after the cows, wearing coats and capes. Barefooted, we chased the cattle up off the ground, so we could stand on the warm spot and thaw our frozen feet.
While there were crop failures, the baby crop never failed. Every two years, a cute little brother or sister came to live with us. The ‘tenderfoot,’ a name given to homesteaders living in a more affluent nearby community, grumbled about this ‘God-forsaken country’ and moved away. My father, the Reynolds, Roberts, Ole Nelson and some good Norwegian and German families were all who remained.
The land slowly began to take on its original appearance. The houses were moved into Minot and Garrison. My father sold his farm and bought a better one eight miles distant. Douglas is now almost a ghost town.
I always told my father that there was no such thing as a ‘God-forsaken land.’ I firmly believe that everything God created is good, that the earth has riches untold, if man has patience enough to find them. This has been true in North Dakota. In many places there are coal veins and now on many farms, left by the original farmers as worthless, there are oil wells. I don’t think they have even begun to realize how much oil is there. The farmers who remained in that part of the country now own and farm several thousand acres of land each. My brother lives on the farm my father bought, near Ryder. He believes that the best way to sell grain is ‘on the hoof.’ He practices diversified farming and has been quite successful.
In the 1930’s, the northwestern part of North Dakota looked like a desert. The government took a hand and built Garrison dam. They also encouraged the planting of trees to stop soil erosion. The land now, while not thickly settled, is green and fertile. My family has grown up. Some were able to go to college in spite of crop failures. They are scattered all over the USA, and like the ‘Tribe of Israel,’ have increased. Eight of us left West Virginia for the ‘promised land,’ and we increased to eighteen. Today, if they could be gathered all together, I’m sure they would number several hundred and still increasing. There are no jailbirds, no cripples, nor mentally retarded. This is not a boast, but a testimony to God’s goodness and mercy. We are far from being perfect, some of us are absolutely unstable and vacillating, but we know that God lives, and his mercy endures, to many generations of those who love him.