Volume 124, Number 52
Knox native has seen things come and go over the years
BY MARVIN BAKER The Minot Daily News Farming has changed a great deal since Maggie Miller was born on a Benson County farm near Knox in 1916 but one thing has remained the same: the peace and tranquility of rural living.
Miller still lives on the farmstead her parents Michael and Katherine Miller homesteaded after they moved from Russia, via Dodge, ND.
"I’ve lived here all my life," Miller said. "I even sleep in the same bedroom I was born in."
She said there were 15 children in the family and she is the last of the "Mohicans." That wasn’t so unusual in the early days of farming in North Dakota as farm families often had six or more children to take care of chores that automation has replaced.
"We had big gardens and we didn’t hear such a thing as ‘I’m bored,’ "
Miller said, referring to comments sometimes made by young people today. "We had horses, cows, chickens, turkeys and ducks."
Fortunately for the Miller family, the workload was equalized somewhat because of the large family. However, Miller continued to milk cows until her mother passed away in 1957.
"I had to have someone bring in hay and haul manure so I gave it up,"
Miller said. "But I sure miss that fresh milk and cream."
She recalls the family using horses many years, 29 to be exact, to farm the 200 acres of farmland on the east side of Knox. She said her father got a tractor sometime in the 1940s, presumably toward the end of the war, but she doesn’t remember exactly.
That changed farming on a local level a great deal, according to Miller. But in her opinion, it also began the demise of small farms across North Dakota.
"Big farmers are taking over the little farmers and that’s a big drawback," Miller said. "Smaller farmers move away and what’s left? So many families are moving away."
She used Knox as an example, remembering the community on U.S. Highway 2 continued thriving after the Great Depression through the World War II years.
There was a lot of prosperity after the war, but since about the 1950s, population began declining.
"We’ve lost all kinds of business. We don’t have any businesses anymore, except the post office," Miller said. "We even had a hotel. I’ve seen them all come down."
Unfortunately, that same scenario has played out in many small communities across the state. Some communities have grown, while most have lost population and even perished.
Many farmers don’t even live on the farm anymore and some are farming massive amounts of property. "Nowadays, they have to have the biggest and the best," she said. "Their overhead has to be staggering."
But Miller’s vivid memory takes her back to 1938, when she said Knox was a bustling small town in north-central North Dakota. That was the same year she began working for the US Postal Service in Knox where she would remain until 2004, a span of 66 years.
"I miss the people so much," Miller said. "That’s a long time, but I miss handling the mail." She said she remembers the time she started as if it were yesterday.
She also recalls the hardships of the Great Depression, sometimes called the "Dirty 30s" that struck North Dakota farm families and most likely caused more people to leave the farms and small towns than automation in recent years.
"It was tough during the Depression," Miller said. "They brought up truckloads of food from Minnewaukan (Benson County seat) because nobody had any. But we survived."
Then came the 1940s and a world war that nearly changed the course of history. Those were hard years as well for two reasons, according to Miller. First, a lot of young men went away from the farms to fight the Nazis and/or Imperial Japan.
Miller, who has now lived through six wars, said they bear resemblance to today’s Global War on Terror, primarily because they severely disrupt families while the conflict rages.
She recalls how euphoric everyone was when World War II ended in August 1945.
"People were happy for the families who had boys over there," Miller said. "It’s the same now."
But not all has been bad over the years. Miller has enjoyed good health all her life and is thankful for that. She said electricity came to the farm sometime in the 1920s and running water was installed in 1957.
"And the way they build the roads now, that has been a big improvement," Miller said.
It’s ironic by today’s standards that a farm couple could raise 15 kids on 200 acres of property, but that’s what happened. Miller said there was some additional farm income as several acres of vegetables were planted and the family made sausage and sold it. But the kids didn’t complain and everyone seemed content.
She also remembers the days before the war when wheat sold for 80-90 cents a bushel. Now, it is $10 a bushel. "The prices are up but I don’t think they’ll stay there," she said. "But I wish to God I had them when I was in farming."
Miller, who seems content living on the family farm by herself, gets occasional visitors from the area to check on her well being.
She also has a small piece of advice for young people who may just be getting into farming or who may be thinking about getting into farming.
"Hang onto your dollars, you still have a future," she said. "Don’t stick your neck out too far."
This article was originally published in the January 2008 issue of Inside Ag, a supplement of The Minot Daily News.
Ninety-one-year-old Maggie Miller has remained on the same Benson County farmstead near Knox where she was born in 1916. She worked at the Knox Post Office for 66 years and misses the interaction with people. (Photo by Marvin Baker of The Minot Daily News.)
Schafer confirmation hearing
Senator Byron Dorgan, former North Dakota Governor Ed Schafer, Senator Kent Conrad and Congressman Earl Pomeroy prepare shortly before a Senate Agriculture Committee hearing on Schafer’s nomination to the post of US Secretary of Agriculture. The North Dakota congressional delegation escorted Schafer to the hearing, introduced him to the committee and expressed their support for his nomination.
At the hearing senators expressed the hope that Schafer can persuade President Bush to sign the new farm bill, rather than veto it as he has threatened.
In honor choirs
Three students from the Maddock School have been selected to be members of this year’s North Dakota American Choral Directors’ Association Honor Choirs. They were chosen from over 800 taped auditions made by students throughout North Dakota and will be traveling to the festival in Fargo on Friday and Saturday, February 1 and 2. Selected for the Treble Choir are freshman Janna Rice, left, daughter of John and Barb Rice, and 8th grader Breana Buehler, right, daughter of Todd and Nadley Buehler. Katie Rice, a 7th grader and the daughter of John and Barb Rice, was selected as an alternate for the Treble Choir. Selected for the second consecutive year for the Mixed Choir is Karl Kenner, center, son of Dave and Karen Kenner. The festival involves intensive rehearsals beginning Friday at noon and concludes with a concert presented on Saturday.
Students in Mrs. Mitchell’s fourth grade classroom at the Leeds School have been excited to have a SMART Board in their room this year. They have done many different activities with it. One activity was to demonstrate the water cycle and draw different types of precipitation on the Smartboard. Pictured is Richelle Darling using the SMART Board.
Tornado in a bottle
Leeds fifth graders are using a new SMART board, which makes learning more fun. Fifth graders are learning about weather patterns and climate in science. They are using the SMART board to draw incoming weather fronts on interactive weather maps. The chapter notes are projected onto the SMART board and incorporated into the notes are streaming video clips from United Streaming to enhance learning. Students are also using the Web site Brain Pop to learn about the weather. They watch an educational animation and then take a quiz by touching the correct answers on the SMART board. In this chapter the students experimented with making a tornado in a two-liter bottle. Food coloring was added for effects. Left to right are Riley Lawrence, Sara Galbraith, Timber Morgan, Carlito Woods and Austin Thorp and their "tornado in a bottle."
Students of month
December students of the month at the Warwick Elementary School are, left to right, front row, second grader Shania Georgeson; pre-kindergarten student Keyes Omen; and fifth grader Virginia Fassett. In the back row are Wendy Gourneau, resource teacher and student of the month coordinator; superintendent Charles Guthrie; and elementary principal Steve Jacobson.
The 2nd and 3rd graders at Leeds School have traveled back to the Mesozoic Era in search of dinosaurs. They learned fun facts about these fascinating animals and wrote and illustrated their own book about one dinosaur. To end the unit they played "dino" bingo. Andrew and Spencer Follman are shown reading about dinosaurs.
Grace Nybo is shown writing her dinosaur report.
Here Ricky Jorgenson is painting his dinosaur.
Gary Redetzke stands under his dinosaur, Deimomychus.
Erin Jorgenson points out her dinosaur, Mainsaura.
Hippology team takes 7th in nation
The Benson County 4-H Hippology Team represented North Dakota at the Western National 4-H Roundup in Denver January 11, 12 and 13. The team, consisting of Kristine Keller, Janna Rice and Sharisa Yri, placed seventh overall as a team. Other team awards were ninth in hippology stations, 10th in hippology written exam and slides and fourth in horse judging. Individual awards earned by the team were 10th in horse judging by Sharisa Yri and Janna Rice received third in written exams and slides, second in hippology stations and third individual overall.
Hippology competitions consist of four phases. The first is a written exam and slides worth 200 points. Secondly there are 10 hippology stations that have identification of bones, tack, parts of the horse and plants to name a few of the possibilities. This section is also worth 200 points. The third are four team problems in which the team has 10 minutes to prepare an impromptu presentation for judges and all team members have to participate in this presentation. It could be anything; for example, design a feeding program, exercise program or vaccination program for the horse. This portion of the contest is also worth 200 points; 50 points for each team problem. Lastly, there are four classes of live horses which are compared and placed first through fourth and this is worth 200 points; 50 for each judging class.
The team spent some time on the way to Denver at a ranch called Royal Vista Equines in Ft. Collins, Colo. The ranch raises mainly racing quarter horses and specializes in embryo transfer to maximize their bloodlines. After a lecture on embryo transfer and a tour of the facilities and horses, team members practiced judging there.
There were many activities planned for the 900 4-H members competing and staying at the Renaissance Hotel in Denver as well as a trip to the National Western Stock Show. The team met many other 4-H’ers from many states. Janna Rice had this to say, "What we noticed a lot was that many of the competitors were 18 to 19 years old." Sharisa Yri said, "I was excited to do so well on the horse judging and I made a lot of cool friends, like cowboy Troy." Barb Rice, the head coach also remarked "I was surprised they did so well. I think I was more nervous than they were. It was impressive that they could start studying last November, win the state, go on to nationals and be competitive at that level."
After the three-day competition and awards were over, the participants traveled to Loveland Pass, an hour west of Denver, for one and one/half days of skiing before heading home. Other travelers were Barb Rice, Linette Yri, Amanda Johnson, Jessica Johnson and Katie Rice. Donations from local people helped fund the trip.
Members of the Benson County 4-H Hippology team show off the ribbons they won in national competition. Left to right are Kristine Keller, Janna Rice and Sharisa Yri.