[Excerpts from emails written to Scott in early 2001]
It's kinda funny, but I was just telling a good friend of mine of how much I missed sitting under the big ole cottonwood, drinking iced tea, and listening to Willis Green tell mule skinner stories. Willis and Lucille lived across the creek from us for quite a few years, and were a big part of the Okobojo family in that time. I was their designated goat milker when they were away for any length of time, in fact, I always looked forward to the wages that I would earn from covering their chores, as it afforded me more quarters to feed into the pool table at the Blue Lantern Tavern, located in Onida. My entire childhood revolved around the Okobojo creek. It consisted of either fishing, swimming, skiing,trapping, ice-skating, or hunting along that creekbank. It was a great place for a kid to grow up.
Got a chance to read George's recollections on your page and found it very interesting. I enjoyed his tour of the house, (as well as the trip to the outhouse)! It never ceases to amaze me how quickly things change, and how much of this change his and my grand-parents generation witnessed in their lifetime. Between George's description of the township and their home place, and my own recollections of playing in the area of the old store, post office, and "The Hall" as we called it, my mind's eye had a ball, as the memories came flooding in.
My dad's father Arlos, and mother Genevieve (Eldridge) Binkley were the first of their clan to settle in the valley. They moved up from south of Ft. Pierre. You mentioned your father living across the road from my family, which I believe may be the same place that Willis and Lucille lived for a while. Which is the same place that Johnny Glessner, (Hal's son?), lived for a period of time. He had a son my age whose was named Hal. Once you've lived in the valley, you never really ever leave. There isn't a day that goes by in my life, that I don't recall something from my past in the valley. It might be the simplicity of life that I seem to miss the most.
Hal Glessner, George Green and my grandfather Arlos Binkley used to put up hay together as well as pooling their resources at harvest time. Gramps and Hal apparently combined (harvested) their crops together, then Gramps would harvest some of the neighbors crops - (Garrett, Grossclose, Zimmerman), right up until the snow flew if you included the corn crops. Arlos brought his family to the area from south of Ft. Pierre in 1942. He bought the place from George Bunch, who I believe was married to Ross Green's sister, Flossy, (who worked at the telephone office, which was housed in the place located on the corner just southwest of the city hall). I guess that would be due west of the store and post office, (and I suppose, the printing office that George wrote about).
Dad mentioned the store was operated by a man named Alex McGannon when my dad was going to school there. He said that soda cost a nickel for a long time, and he suffered through somewhat of a "soda drought", when the price went up to 6 cents, as his mother Genevieve felt that that price was outlandish! She was laying out $2.79 for a pair of shoes back then, so it must have been hard to budget that extra penny for soda pop.
Getting back to Willis, I noticed your mention of the bunkhouse, when describing your father (Billy)?, and grandpa's visits back to Okobojo. That was one of Willis' rituals when the weather started getting cold. He had an old wood burning stove in the room behind the garage, and he stoked it up every morning while he was doing his chores. By the time dad and us kids, (my brother Marlin and I), showed up, he had the cowboy coffee on the stove, and the room was comfortably warm. My brother was just old enough to hang with dad and I, maybe 4 yrs., and we would bundle him up in his parka, bib overalls, and checkered scotch cap, with his 4 buckle overshoes, and head across the creek to get our morning coffee at Willis'. Willis got such a kick out of a 4 yr. old taking to coffee, that he gave Marlin the handle "Mr. McGregor", after the character in Maxwell house coffee commercials in the '60s. I'm getting a chuckle out of this stuff, so bear with me.
My dad mentioned Billy, but didn't have many memories of him. What he did mention was that he was a very bright fellow, and went on to become an engineer or something? I wonder if there is any correlation between his IQ and the fact that he left Okobojo!!! LOL
My grandparents moved to Pierre in '56, although he and my father were partners in the place, up until he died in '86. I feel very fortunate to be one of those kids that got to work with my gramps. When we harvested, he operated one combine, (an Oliver model #35), and I ran the other, ( a Massey Harris model #32 ). My dad was in charge of the grain trucks and elevators. Our grain trucks consisted of a "46, one ton Ford, and a '48, 2 ton Chevy. I remember grinding many gears in that old Ford, as it had no sychros in the transmission. Between the two of us, we kept dad hopping, as he hauled and we cut. We had umbrella, holders welded to the platform of the machines, so we had shade most of the time, (except in early morning, or late in the afternoon), so we tolerated the heat. It was the chaff that I irritated me alot. Enclosed cabs and air conditioners were just beginning to catch on, and most of the custom wheat cutters had them on their machines.( I remember thinking that those sonsabitches didn't deserve cabs any more than I did, and I was pretty envious of their situation. When we were finished cutting for the season, I took solace in the fact that they were still working up north, while I was getting ready for the county fair)! While I sat and scratched every itch that I could reach, I would glance at gramps in his chino pants and long sleeved chino shirt, (buttoned to the top, with a bandana tied around the collar), enjoying a hot cup of coffee in 100 deg. plus weather!! This picture just didn't look right to me, but I don't ever remember the heat ever getting to him. He was in his element whatever he may be doing, if it pertained to farming or ranching.
the okobojo creek used to have loads of beaver in it. i can remember a hut of mud and branches just west of the bridge where the creek turns north. many muskrat too. i dabbled a little in the trapping bidness, but never enough to show much for my time. my dad and uncle ken used to trap alot of skunks to earn extra spending money. he loves to speak of the times that the teacher had to send them home, owing to their odoriferous conditions from emptying their traps before school! my favorite times were hunting rabbit and pheasant along the creek. i guess the spot just west of the bridge on our driveway used to attract alot of people from town interested in catching bullheads ( and the occasional pike, in the spring of the year, when the creek was running). did you get to see the spillway just up the creek from Jack Finley? We used to pull a few good size fish out of the pool below it, as well as snapping turtle.
we did our share of water skiing on the lake. in fact dad used to put our little boat in right next to the house, and we could ski the creek from the house to the spillway. my dad is still telling the story of a particularly wide turn that i made around one of the bends of the creek as we were coming home from the lake. we were running out of daylight and he had the hammer down. between the poor visibility, the speed, and my recklessly wide turn, it made it impossible for me to veer away from our bunch of cattle, who had waded out into the water to escape the flies. dad only remembers feeling a tug on the boat and looking back to see something that resembled helicopter blades flying through the air as i had skied over the back of an old Hereford cow, and did my impersonation of (the agony of defeat), only ABC was nowhere in sight! it was the same with turtles all the time. if a person stayed inside the boats wake, they were safe, but that can be kind of boring.