Tonight we had corn on the cob at dinner. I’ve been working on my extreme dislike for grocery shopping and consequently, we’ve taken advantage of some of the fresh produce available at out local Sunflower now Sprouts Farmers Market.
Every time I eat corn on the cob it takes me back to my summers in South Dakota. The farmer across the road from my grandparents’ place grew corn. His house was up the hill and not all that visible from the road, and I could not understand why it wasn’t just ok to cross over into his field and help ourselves to a few ears. I loved the stuff and couldn’t get enough. My grandmother ran the country post office and store, but being 17 miles from a town, fresh produce wasn’t high on her list of offerings.
We called him “Batch.” Tonight I was wracking my brain trying to think of his real name. I always thought of him when I heard Garrison Keillor talk about the Norwegian bachelor farmers–especially the part about seeing their bedding on the clothesline once a year. That part of South Dakota was populated with second and third generation immigrants from Scandinavia, so I’d assigned Batch to that category.
I decided I’d see if the 1940 census would help. This was about 10 years before my grandparents moved up there from Beaver County, Oklahoma, but I knew that by the time I started going up there in the mid to late 1950s, some of the “old-timers” were still there. So perhaps I would recognize some of the names.
Somehow, I remembered Granddad calling him “Augie.” So, I thought I’d search Hughes County, located right in the middle of South Dakota, for a man named August. Sure enough, the third on down, was August Rauch in Township 111, Range 77. This section was only 5 pages long, but it was full of names I recognized. There was Earl Mosteller, and his father Earl, Sr. I never knew Earl Sr. but Earl Jr. was a missionary and always spoken of in reverent terms. I knew his mother, Mabel, and she’s there too–she lived in Canning, the little village where my grandmother’s store was, in a small trailer, out behind Grandma Clark’s place. I didn’t see Grandma Clark there, so perhaps it was prior to her arrival in Canning. The DeHarts were there as well–I knew Alda and her brother Charley and their canaries. Charley was at the post office every day to pick up the mail and one week when I was bored, I’d dyed my two white kittens with food coloring. Charley had only on good eye, and he said, “Is my eye deceiving me or is that cat green?” It was the funniest thing I thought I’d ever heard.
There was Merl Putnam, age 17. He was a man with 3 sons when I knew him, and he was one of the few people who could match my granddad’s exacting standards. Granddad helped Merl build his home down the hill on the creek, and Merl helped granddad keep his buildings and equipment in good order. I think Merl’s oldest son bought Granddad’s 1932 Ford pick-up I learned to drive in when Granny and Granddad came back south for their retirement.
I saw the Nye family–I remembered them–Clayton Nye had twinkly eyes and always had a kind word for me. All their kids were in the area–I knew some of them later. And there were the Samco family, who were listed as merchants of the grocery store. That was the store that my grandmother later owned–I didn’t know the Samcos but I do have a post card that has “Samco’s Store” on it. And in the same building as the “grocery store,” there was a hardware store, long since abandoned when I was there. I saw the proprietor of that store on the census as well. The Fry family was there, the family that owned the store in between the time the Samcos had it and my grandmother bought it. By the time I knew Canning, it was a sparsely populated place with a church and a post office and a large, two story red-brick school that had once housed all grades through high school. I attended that school when I was in the 6th grade, and by then it was functioning as a two room school. However, because of its former grandeur, we had a gymnasium in the basement and really nasty looking lab specimens in one of the upstairs rooms. Those rooms were not heated but they served just fine for recess on the days we couldn’t go outside.
But back to Mr. Rauch/Batch/Augie–here he is on the census (along with the Nye family)–
Look at where he’s from–it’s not any part of Scandinavia. Luxembourg? He was 46 in 1940 so when I knew him in the late 1950s, he was pushing 60. This makes me wonder when he immigrated. Like all our genealogical quests, one answer leads to many more questions.
I enjoyed this trip down memory lane–the “village of Canning” showed teachers and preachers (both the husband and the wife were listed as ministers) at the small country church, and many many farmers. But there were also some folks who worked in the gravel pits for the WPA and even one man who said he was a musician in an orchestra. I don’t remember too many of those out in the prairies–when I knew him later, Mr. Schomer was a farmer. And there were a couple of young women who were listed as “typist” for N.Y.A. Sounds like perhaps an offshoot of one of the WPA programs, but I’ll have to do more research for that.
So now I’m off to see what I can find about Mr. Rauch’s immigration. As I tell my clients, it doesn’t have to be MY famly for me to get involved and enthused.