Life with Grandpa and Grandma Johnson and Emil
(By Geneva)

Grandpa Charlie and Grandma Johnson

I used to help Grandpa Charlie clean grain in the spring of the year in the granary. The cleaner (fanning mill) was on an engine pulley and I was in a bin shoveling grain into the hopper. When it came out clean he would shovel it into a clean bin.

He would keep praising me and one time he said “I’m going to buy you a cone of ice-cream”, but he never did! Somehow I can still remember it. Picking potatoes and planting them he would say "you are a cracker jack, you work so fast". I helped him plant all of the "carrigna" trees from the east grove to the back grove; one spring, triple rows of them. He had gotten them free from the government for a winter break.

The year Emil bought the combine, it was the first year we had a crop after all of the drought, armyworms, and grasshoppers. About the year of 1941 Emil stuck his neck out and bought a combine, and he really went through hell, wondering if he had made a mistake. Grandma and Grandpa would not say a thing they kept their mouths shut. Anyway we were the first with a combine in the neighborhood.

It rained and rained that fall and shocks of grains of the neighbors were sprouting. But nice days came now and then, Emil straight combined and we made good, that is when Grandpa Charlie and Emil made $2,000 which was a lot in those days.

Then we had one quarter, Emil owned the John Larson quarter and rented one quarter north of Johnson’s place.
I thought Emil would ask Grandpa Charlie to pay him for harvesting his crop too, because Grandpa also rented the Bodeen place and Emil did the work, worked the fields and everything. Then "big shot" Grandpa said (after the harvest was all over out of the blue") "Well boy, I will pay half of the combine, what a let down!! but not a word did Emil say, he should have told him "Here, you let me worry and suffer alone all of the time, which almost caused a nervous breakdown for both of us, now you pay me so much for an acre or bushel and I will pay for my combine myself." But Emil just never had the guts! His mother and father completely dominated him, even though he knew what they were doing to us.

Grandpa took all of the proceeds of his land and rented the Bodeen farm and Emil did all of the work and Grandma and Grandpa tool all of the grain. This went on for years.

Then when Emil started to farm a quarter of Richard Hansons’ land, that was the first we got half of the crop. Before that the only money we had was when Emil bid on a Coteau school bus route, which was $35.00 a month. He traded in the Ford coupe for a Sedan, he paid Raymond Wiper the Ford dealer in Bowbells $25 a month and the other $10 went for gas and oil - at least we had a car.

I went out on confinement cases (about eight of them), and everyone who got sick came and got me to work for them. Only $10 for two or three weeks, besides taking care of the entire family, washing small kids, baking bread and everything.

Hilda gave me June’s outgrown clothes for Maxine. June was only three years older than Maxine and I sewed from bleached flour sacks, and I also wore Myrttle’s cast-off dresses “I thought I was lucky!! She always bought them too small and then would gain weight between diets and I would get her clothes. I also sewed all of Maxine’s dresses until she was in High-School.

That went on through the years, Grandpa taking all, and saying at the end of each harvest "Now the Boy can take over". Grandma would say, whenever Emil would voice an objection, "Some day it will all be yours."

But after we moved to the Bodeen place, Emil did tell Grandma he would not farm it, unless she rented it to him. I heard her tell Grandpa that, so then she did rent it to him, but she would not pay her own son, her share of the seed or harvesting it, that is, based on the bushels harvested, so he lost out there too.

Grandpa’s second cousin John Larson had rented his quarter to Lewis Sundin (a neighbor) for years, then he began coming over to the Johnson place, almost every week, begging Emil to rent it. Emil refused at first, but finally he said he would. Then John continued to live in his little house that was later moved to the Johnson farm and that was the one Victor slept in. It had a stove and a bed, I tried to keep it clean but finally gave up. I heard Emil tell his Dad once that John was sick and wanted Emil to come and take him to Coteau, so he would take the train to Minot to see a Doctor. But Emil never did and I never knew who did take him but John died in the Trinity Hospital in Minot, and since John was Grandpa’s second cousin and only relative Emil got himself appointed administrator. I do not know for certain, but I’m sure something went on, I suspected but never really heard for sure, but anyway Grandpa got the land because he was the highest bidder, so he paid for the land.

We were the only mourners at John’s funeral at the Coteau Methodist Church and he was buried in the Little Butte Cemetery where he has a large stone on his grave.

Well, I heard Grandma tell Grandpa at the dinner table the next year, “you know that Emil is supposed to buy that John Larson quarter, you have to keep your word now and let him buy it from you at the same price. Grandpa never answered her but anyway the transfer was made. What the date was I never heard because all of these things were done without my knowledge.

Then Emil bought machinery but Grandpa wouldn’t “oh yes Grandpa bought the first tractor Emil made him, because he was humiliated by farming with horses years after the other neighbors had tractors.

My father had a tractor in 1922 and a complete threshing rig in 1923. It was in the late 1930’s when Grandpa gave in and bought a used tractor but no tires, he was too stingy for that kind, he just piled it up in the bank. The first good crop after the drought Grandpas’ Federal Loans were paid back. They would have lost their land if we had not been there to milk and farmed etc. because the cream checks helped pay taxes, buy coal, and the grocery staples. Grandma bought a lot of fancier groceries and gas for trips she wanted to go on, as she liked good food. She got a government pension each month from Alberts war insurance, I’m not sure if it was $57 or $75 a month. That is how she controlled everyone, no one had any money but her, and she knew it too, and so did Grandpa. He looked out for himself first by letting her and Emil treat me like they did.

Then when Emil and Grandma were on a trip, Grandpa would tell me things Grandma had done to him.

Emil smoked and she supplied him with money for cans of tobacco for a couple of years but if he spoke nicely to me, he would get no money. She bought an electric washer and told him she would not wash any dress shirts, so he couldn’t go to a dance unless I was home visiting then he dressed up and went to dances with her encouragement.

When John Larson would walk over to the Johnson’s place and beg Emil to farm his land, and he refused for sometime but finally he agreed so John took the rental of the land away from Lewis Sundin, which created hard feelings but John insisted. He walked over and had dinner with us, weeks on end finally Emil agreed to farm his quarter, which was real good land and Emil did a better farming job then old Lewis Sundin up until then we had just one quarter of land of L. N. Peterson’s to rent, we got half share of the crop, furnished 1/2 of the seed and farmed it and paid one half of the harvesting.

Grandpa took all of the crop of his land for himself and Emil did all of the work. I rode and tripped the binder bundles and later rode the combine by lifting the cutter thing so it didn’t hit and catch rocks etc. Also Maxine and I hauled grain with the pick-up, started a small engine and would shovel the grain into a hopper thing that loaded the grain into the bin but we had no income from all the work we did, nor from the cream checks yet we did the milking, Emil cleaned the barn etc. I raked hay to stack with the team of horses (Buster and May) up to the haystack for Emil and Victor to stack onto those old-fashioned hay stacks, nor did we get any money from the sale of about 20 head of, young cattle, that Grandpa sold every other fall or so. Grandma would tell Emil whenever he complained about it that he would inherit all of it when Charlie and she were gone, that was the old country way of doing things, it was the custom those days in the old countries, that the oldest son inherited everything, Probably that is why so many came to the United States to homestead land because they had no chance to get land at home, if they were not the oldest son.