Those Blame Coyotes Followed Me Home

My dad, Theodore Nierenberg and his brothers Ed and Oscar came here from Parkers Prairie, Minn.  The farmland was good there but grasshoppers were very bad; they decided to come to N.D. to work.  They worked for Coopers; as many pioneers did when they first came to this territory.

Theodore Nierenberg worked for R.C. Cooper for seven years.  He sowed and harvested grain right where Cooperstown stands.  The only thing in Cooperstown at that time was the office of Bill Glass, a lawyer, and a small warehouse that belonged to Cooper, where people could get supplies.  My Dad was barn boss and took care of cattle.  In the winter he lived in a small shack by Lake Five with my uncle Bill Ashby; almost every morning they would have to shovel a trench for the 450 Black Angus cattle to get through to water.

The way to acquire land was to homestead (live on a quarter of land), by tree claims, (plant trees on one quarter) or by the right of pre-emption.  According to early recollections it didn't make any difference to Cooper if he owned the land he farmed or not.  If there was land that had not been claimed he could move in with his outfits and break it up and sow it.  Cooper had one quarter broke up and a dandy wheat crop on it - one fellow came into the area to homestead so he found out that quarter was open - he decided that was where he was going to homestead so he went into town to Bill Glass to file papers on it.  Bill Glass and Cooper were buddies so Bill Glass went to Cooper and told him, but he said the papers hadn't got to Sanborn yet.  Cooper got his driving team hooked up and he headed for Sanborn, the head office was there.  He beat the train, so he filed the land in the name of one of his hired men; that way as soon as it was proved up he could purchase it from the hired man!

Cooper put up a shooting gallery for his men, he'd give them 25 shots for 25 - There were six candles set up, they had to shoot the wick to put it out, they got $1.00 back if they shot out the six candles.  At first Cooper was making good money at that but then the boys got to be good shots and then they just shot for fun.

Cooper and his brother had been mining in Colorado before they came here.  Cooper sold his share of the mine to his brother and then he stayed here and farmed.  Mules were shipped in for labor, some from the mining outfit.  The old well at the Cooper ranch is filled with nothing but mule shoes, the mules had to be shod often.  Cooper's office was right across the road from the Cooper ranch.

My dad bought homestead rights from Ashby, and eventually built the house that is now on the farm.  I was born right here on this place and have resided here all my life.

I wasn't too good a boy at school although it wasn't really my fault, there were some big boys at school and me and James (Hazard) were small, and the teacher would let the big boys drag us around by our feet in the school; which really wasn't right.  One day I came to school and I couldn't get in, the big boys had locked the door so I just went and sat behind a shock all day! I didn't care so much for school, but I finished the eighth grade and then I quit school and helped Pa on the farm.  I drove horses when I was quite small.  When Pa started farming his stepfather gave him a team of two-year-old colts.  I used to drive the smoothing harrow with that team.

Indians used to come across our land to go to Devils Lake; they called it the old Fort Totten Trail.  Farmers didn't care if they made a trail across their land.  Pa was out drilling one time with a mare that had a colt; the Indians came along and the colt followed.  They tried to chase the colt back for about half a mile, finally they had to turn around and bring it back.

Another time, the Indians came through, they had a new surrey and a black team, the harness and surrey were all tied with red cloth to show.  A little Indian girl fell out of the surrey and hurt her arm.  They drove up to our house for help.  My stepmother was quite a doctor, she wanted them to take the girl to town to a Dr. Kerr who was there then but no they didn't believe in Doctors.  They wanted her to do something so she got two strips of birch bark and cotton and she set the arm.  After that the Indians brought us all kinds of gifts, but I have nothing left.  They did make my stepmother a pair of buckskin moccasins but they didn't fit her so she gave them away.

Me and Jim Hazard were always together.  Once when I was about 12 years old I had been at James' and got home later than I was s'pose too, so I got the dickens, but I went after the cows which was my job.  I was riding a little two-year old mare, and as we were going across to get the cows here there were two coyotes, then more coyotes all over.  The mare got seared and threw me and started for home.  I was so frightened, but by golly, she came back up to me, and I got back on her back and hit for home.  Those blame coyotes followed me home.

A couple coyotes once chased me on the bicycle too but I figured that was because I had dogs with me and they were afraid the dogs would get their young.

Now here's a story you won't hardly believe.  In early days a land company owned most of the land across the road, they owned land all over here.  Wells and Dickey was the name.  On one piece of land a fellow broke up about 40 acres, next year he didn't put it into crop and it grew up to weeds and grass.  So Dickey came to my Pa and asked him "what will you take to work that up and put it into flax.”  My Dad told him that it would take an awful lot of work, Dickey said if it goes over 25 bushels you give us one fourth of it, so Dad took him up on it.  And they worked it and put it into flax.  I ran a brand new seven-foot binder and a hired man ran a six-foot.  Just as soon as you hit the flax the bull wheel would catch the sod and cogs would slip, we couldn't do a thing.  Pa went to town and got a new reaper (a reaper had a round platform and you sat down on one spot and it had three long arms, they went around and would catch the flax and pull it in the frame and when you came to the windrow the operator would step on a pedal and that would lock one arm and scrape the flax out.  That worked good.) The machinery wasn't too good so when we kept working the soil it still lift chunks of sod and thats why the binder wheel couldn't go over it, but the reaper was a different story, it had only one large wheel and it was heavier too.  We took six horses out with the reaper, first half day we didn't have too good success, there was so much juice in the flax straw it caused a gum to form on the sickle, after dinner we went out with a barrel of salt water and a broom, we'd make two rounds and we'd wash the sickle off.  That way we got the flax cut, but it was worth it as the flax went a good 30 bushels to the acre.

One morning in March here come a Poland China sow with six little pigs in the yard - we advertised in the paper but nobody claimed her.  A while later Jim Hazard and me were riding by the two big straw piles - we saw a big hole in one of the piles, course we had to investigate, so we went home and got a flash light and right in the middle of that straw pile was the place where that sow had had her pigs and raised them.

We used to have house parties - good times we'd have -the old folks and the young folks went together.  There was a fellow who stayed at Fred Williams, he could really play the violin and I could call square dances.  Now days if there's a dance in Cooperstown and one in McVille the Cooper kids go to McVille and more than likely the McVille kids come here, you never see the old folks go along with the young folks.  One time Florence and Carl Urness had a house party, some people met at our place, we took two sleigh loads from our place alone.  Later on people had barn dances.

We played baseball - each Township had a team, we had a team that beat Cooperstown - Paulson was coach of Cooperstown and he was so angry he went and hired three of our players away from us.  Ole Lura was our Treasurer, Aug.  Perchert, Al Perchert was catcher, Manley Opheim, Bob Perchert was pitcher.  Any way, that was the end of our team.  Well, the Cooperstown team went to play at Hannaford; Rob had them shut out in the seventh inning.  There was a fellow who worked for Paulson who came in on the train to Hannaford, so they put a suit on him and Hannaford turned around and beat Cooperstown 7 to 3.  Made Rob so mad he quit.  After that he wouldn't play ball.  Most of the towns and townships had a team so in the summer we played ball and in the winter we went to dances and played whist.

In the 1920's I had the livery - I drove Dr. Almklov and he told me when I started that we's have to go no matter what the weather was - I would wear out a team in the winter.

One stormy night Mrs. Skei (mid-wife) called me to take her out to a farm east of town.  The farmer said he would put a light in the very peak of his house and I put a light atop my rig - we started out and got as far as Pfeifer's farm - I decided to take off across country toward a light - we drove until we got to a fence - I was getting ready to cut the fence when we saw a light coming - the farmer was coming to meet us, we remained at his farm all night, the fee was usually $5.00 but the farmer gave me $25.00.

One time a fellow named Brownfield brought in two loads of broncos, some big, most little, there was lots of fun in Cooperstown then.  He hired some of us to break them at $5.00 apiece; if they had been ridden he could sell them quicker.  Well, Edward Tromsness, Carl Nierenberg and me decided to do that too.  One day Carl and Edward were out riding and Sam Langford came in; he had his eye on a little bay.  Sam wanted to buy it but he wanted it rode first, so they asked me to ride it, well the other two guys had the breaking saddles - We went to the playground (where Johnson Store is now) it was all banked up with snow.  So I got on her back, she made a few jumps and stopped; wouldn't go any farther.  Well Buzz Painter came along with the dray team, a pair of grey mules that Killeran owned, he carried a mule skinners' whip so he gave me that, and I gave her a crack, she made five or six good jumps and throwed me saddle and all, right up against the basement of a building.  I wasn't hurt too much.  When the other boys came back I got the breaking saddle and rode her a mile or so.  Sam bought her and in the spring she had a colt.  Sam turned her out with the colt and she was around the place eating, all at once she turned up missing.  About 11/2 months later Brownfield wrote to Sam that she was out at Belfield with her colt and he should come and get her.

Frank Nierenberg (interview)

Source: Cooperstown, North Dakota 1882-1982 Centennial Page 114

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