Author’s note: This story is as told to my sister, Janet Black Yznaga, who typed it up. Our father, born in 1909, would have been 25 when this story happened.
In the summer of 1934 Willard Black and Bill Brady spent 6 weeks cow herding the combined herd of cattle from the Fred Black, Bill Brady, Andrew Hill, Jim Sweeney and George Myers farms. Because of the drought there was insufficient pasture on the hill where the farms were located. The farmers got together and arranged for the cattle to be trucked to a site, which was on the Chippewa River south of Misha Mokwa, which is just west of Highway 25 and north of Nelson.
The pasture was rented from H.O. Tiffany at a cost of $1 a head a month. On the day the cows were trucked, they were to load 14 cows at Bill Brady’s. When they got them loaded they counted only 13. A recently freshened cow was in the yard so they loaded her to make the 14th. Later that day the original 14th cow was located on the farm and eventually she was brought down to the pasture as well.
Willard had purchased a 5-year-old Model A Ford that spring from Hartung Auto in Arkansaw. He had paid $150 for the car. He drove his car down to Misha Makwa. He and Bill spent their days swimming in the Chippewa, their nights camped out in an abandoned building. They milked the cows twice a day, morning and evening, by hand. Although there were approximately 60 cows, Willard was responsible for milking about 20, his father’s herd and those of George Myers. They had taken a cream separator to the site as well and it was set up in another abandoned building that had a concrete floor.
Who bought the milk and cream, and how was it kept cool?
The recently freshened Brady cow came up missing almost immediately. She had gone off in search of her calf. Somehow Bill and Willard learned that the cow had been found by Frank Olson in Pepin. The cow had either swum the river or crossed it on the bridge. They walked to the farm where the cow was, Bill paid Mr. Olson 50 cents for a newspaper ad which he had placed but which had not run yet. They also borrowed a rope from Mr. Olson using it to lead the cow back to their herd on the river. They assured Mr. Olson that they would return the rope on the following Saturday night when they went to Pepin, a place they usually spent their Saturday nights.
Andy Hill had hired someone in the area who came to milk his cows twice a day and on this particular weekend Andy decided to give his hired hand a break for the weekend. Andy drove his 6-cylinder Whippet automobile down to Misha Makwa. He wanted to spend Saturday night in Durand where he was courting his future wife, Luetta Fisher, so he tried to talk Willard and Bill into accompanying him there instead of going to Pepin. Bill was quickly convinced to go to Durand and when Willard reminded him that he had promised to return the rope to Mr. Olson, he shrugged that responsibility off saying they could do that the next week.
When they did eventually return the rope Mr. Olson was furious saying his family had needed that rope for clamming. Bill got ticked and demanded his 50 cents back because the ad had never run so did not need to be paid for. Mr. Olson, a grumpy old man, said, “I never thought you’d be so small as to demand that 50 cents back”.
Bill and Willard also fished a lot. Someone, possibly Bill’s father, Bill Brady who had been a cook in a logging camp, told them that they could catch a lot of fish easily using dynamite. On their first attempt the stick of dynamite floated and was carried downstream rather quickly by the current. It went off with a very loud boom, which must have alarmed anyone who heard it. For their second attempt they tied the dynamite stick to a railroad tie. It sank and soon went off with a thud. The water boiled up bringing up many catfish, some a bit mangled. Bill and Willard were waiting downstream a ways to retrieve the fish and they had a tasty catfish meal that night, cooked by the senior Bill Brady.
After about six weeks, some rain had fallen and there was some pasture on the farms on the hill so the cattle were to be returned to their respective farms. Andy convinced everyone that they could drive the cattle back rather than trucking them. The first challenge was to get them across the Chippewa River and they found a place to do this. It was deep enough that the cattle would need to swim part of the way. Andy stayed up on the bank directing everyone. Bill and Willard were in the water herding the cattle. John (somebody) tried to ride one of the cows across apparently thinking that the others would follow but that didn’t work because the cattle weren’t all together in the water. First they had to drive them all into the river at the same time. Eventually they did get them all in the water and across the river.
Donald Chapman, one of the herders for the drive, was to ride one of George Myers’ horses but he wanted a saddle for it. Willard borrowed a saddle from Henry Smith, a neighbor in the Big Arkansaw valley. The saddle had previously belonged to Fr. Lauffer, a priest who had been at the Round Hill church for some years. At some point Donald decided that he could ride better bareback and he took the saddle off. Willard was worried about getting it back to its rightful owner so he took it into the brush and hid it until he could retrieve it later, which he did.