WHEN PIONEERS TRADED IN BENSON
SNOW AND FLOOD
When, in the summer of 1870, the Great Northern railroad was completed into Benson there was something started. Someone had built a stupendously awkward grain elevator and hired a man named Clausen as grain buyer. Some pioneers had the opinion that he built it and managed it himself, but they were not certain, at any rate, Clausen was the manager and that fact all the pioneers learned before they had transacted much business with him. But the word elevator was certainly a misnomer for the principal grain elevating means ever used in that grain storage and grain docking house managed by Clausen were the grain elevating contrivances in the strong necks and legs of the oxen and ox teamsters that delivered the grain to Clausen. From the top of that so-called elevator driveway or bridge to the ground lt was at least twenty-five feet.
The bridge was so high that it was a merciless struggle, almost for existence, to haul a load to the top where it had to go. One team was not sufficient and they generally always had to hitch on a lead team in order to pull a load to the top of that swindling eminence. When they finally reached the top, the hopper, to empty the sacks into, was so high that a man six feet tall had to stretch his arms holding the graln sacks over his head to their very limit in order to boost the sack over the edge of the hopper when standing in the wagon box.
And then some days that man Clausen raved and scolded the poor pioneers as if though he was the Mussolini of all the grain business this side of the planet Mars. And he sure was the monarch of a great grain producing and marketing territory. He got all the grain then marketed by Chlppewa. Lac qui Parle, Swift, Pope, Big Stone, and Stevens counties, and most of that from Yellow Medicine county.
Pioneers used to relate that there were days when they could see in a long dark line of grain loads waiting to be unloaded sixty or more loads at one time. There were mostly ox yokes used then, but a few teams of horses could be seen in use even in 1871. Clausen did not only treat them rough when they were unloading, but he had a reputation for running everything to feather his own nest; so that one pioneer stated that on days when Clausen was in an extra mercenary mood of mind any settler delivering grain to him could be grateful if he got his empty grain sacks along with him home again even though he lost everything else.
One day when incensed at Clausen's crabby temper and fiery tirades a more than average muscular pioneer from Lac qui Parle county picked Clausen up, like police dogs pick up rats, and held him out over the high elevator bridge and shook him. Clausen pleaded with the man for mercy and was hauled in safely again. Those who knew the grain buyer claim the treatment did him good for after that day he was not nearly as abusive as formerly.
The road to Benson with a load was a long one in the pioneer days. It took most often four days with a yoke of oxen and two days with a team of horses to make a round trip from the Watson community territory. On nearly every trip some unfortunate teamster could be seen who had become mired on some edge of some slough or in some other mudhole and was waiting for some one to help him out.
A BACHELOR'S PET
Ivor Restum, who homesteaded the east eighty of the Stensrud farm and sold his land to Lars Stensrud in 1879, and went back to Norway where he is reported to have died a few years later, was a bachelor. The only company he had on his homestead outside of an occasional visitor was a pet cat that followed him all over the place. He thought a lot of that cat and talked to it while he did his work, and permitted it to make itself at home wherever it pleased.
He used to leave the door to the bread oven on his stove open in order to get the most heat out of the stove throughout his house. Then the cat when it felt cold got into the habit of crawling into the bread oven where it curled up for a cozy nap. Everything went alright for several years, but one day, an extremely cold day, Restum forgot the cat momentarily. He slammed the door to the bread oven shut, piled the fire box full of dry wood and went out to his stable to do some chores, and when he came into the house again discovered to his horror that his pet had roasted.
But it was not humorous. It was pathetic. That was the opinion of all his neighbors. For the lonesome man was so attached to his pet that he never got over the tragedy. It was the only household company he had in the world. He was a good hearted, good natured man, respected by all his associates for his friendly, helpful, and cheerful disposition until that accident occured, but he never seemed so happy afterwards.
A FISH STORY
One bright June morning in the early seventies Hans Halvorson came across the river to John B. Oyen on some errand. He was seen walking down towards the creek at a normal pace until he disappeared from view in the creek valley. Shortly afterwards he reappeared running up the hill towards the house. When he got within hailing distance he shouted: "The creek is full of fish!Buffalo fish!"
And that creek sure was full of fish. Every individual buffalo fish seemed to be fighting his fellows for space to proceed up that stream until those on the sides were repeatedly crowded into the tall slough grass that lined the edges of the creek banks. Halvorson and Oyen notified their neighbors and they came and helped spear buffalo fish and they loaded one wagon load after the other until way into the night. Then for several days they cleaned and salted fish until their fingers smarted and backs ached. But many of them had fish to eat for nearly a year. The buffalo fish invaded all creeks tributary to the Chippewa, Minnesota, and Lac qui Parle rivers in the same phenomenal manner that day that summer, for there were then no dams to obstruct their progress, but lt has never occured again since that year.
SNOW AND FLOOD
In the year 1866 it rained so in the later part of the spring that the Chippewa river went over its banks and the water stood way up the side of the bluff that Watson is built on for a short while. Those who had dugouts or log houses near the river were glad to escape with their lives. There were several floods in pioneer days.
The late Henrik Egdahl who settled in the Lac qui Parle section of the Watson community territory in 1869 told the writer that once in a snow winter after one of the pioneer year blizzards he attempted to take a trip out to the Minnesota river and walked out on what he thought should be the edge of the river bluff. Not being able to see some well known land marks, some trees, he soon realized that he had passed over the edge of the river bluff and stood on an enormous mountain of snow. He retraced his steps cautiously to the bluff and walked south until he got down the hill to Frank Stay's home. From that observation point, by the river bed, the long ridge of snow sticking out from the Minnesota river bluff in a south-easterly direction proved to be a mammoth snow mountain. It was at least sixty feet high straight up and down as if cut off with a saw on its south-eastern extremity. It covered the space where the western approach to the Stay bridge is, and towered right over the river.
When the snow thawed that same spring there was a real flood in the Minnesota valley. The flood water went over everything except the very tallest tree tops, but the Lac qui Parle river was almost bigger. Held back at its mouth by an immense snow barrier it was one morning washing in on the fiat land that Lac qui Parle village is built on. This high water stage did not, however, last very many hours for as soon as the ponderous mass of ice and water had forced out the snow barriers it did not take it long to recede.