From Horses To Airplanes
(Two Norwegians, a German and a Swede)
Top: Clearing land on heavily wooded farm, 1930s.
Middle: Polly, purchased March 1, 1931, for $30.
Bottom: Sightseers inspect a barnstormer's airplane, from Morris, 1932.
Excerpt from Donald B. Johnson manuscript:
"Pa bought the farm, 114 acres which was mostly oak woods, for $35 an acre in 1917 and put a new furnace in our house in town to burn wood. It was one of those wonderful things with a big, square, register in the floor, where women delighted in standing in the morning in their nightgowns or dresses. Even Ma was tempted that way quite often, though she always preached, 'Don't stand around and waste your time in the morning!'" [4.8-4]
"Sam [Schram] was a blacksmith with road construction outfits.... He was solidly built and strong-looking, so Pa asked him if he could use an ax and he said, 'I was born in the woods.' Sam was from Wisconsin and Pa could tell by his brogue he was German. Pa thought only Norwegians could use axes, but he sure got fooled when Sam came along. They must have been the strongest pair of woodcutters Ashby ever saw.... Sam worked for Pa for many years in the winter after it froze up and Sam came home from road construction [season]." [8.154-3]
"The first two winters we were on the farm, Pa and Sam Schram cut oak railroad ties, mostly in the woods south of the house: 107 the first year and 120 the second year. That south pasture was full of big oak trees.
"They cut the logs eight feet long and hewed them down to eight inches thick one way. The other way, they left them the full width of the tree, up to 18 inches or more on the butt end. The tops had to be at least eight inches.... The railroad paid him from 80 cents to $1.50 each, according to size and quality. Those extra-big, heavy ties were shipped to the cities for use in the switch yards where the traffic was so heavy."
"Sam notched the logs with the heaviest double bit ax he could buy and Pa hewed them with the biggest broad ax I had ever seen.... Sam would trim [the rest of the tree] with his ax and pile the wood for circle sawing. He kept a fire going and burned all the brush as he trimmed." [8.154-7]
"There weren't many airplanes that flew over, then. We always stopped and watched them. When we were still in town, one would go over once in a while, and everybody would run outside and yell, 'Aeroplane!'" [12.76-1]
"I was hauling stumps over into the woods with a stone boat when John Knutson came walking down and said he had just heard that Lindberg had flown the Atlantic. When that news reached Ashby, old Ole Buskerud bellowed, 'I wish he had dropped in the ocean!' -- because Ole was a Norwegian and Lindberg was a Swede." [12.75-6]
"Barnstormers in old army planes flew in a few times and landed on Gamey Peterson's field or up on the field across the track from the elevator. They would take passengers, and quite a few would pay $5 or so to go up, putting on helmets and goggles for about a 10-minute ride." [Marjory went up, flew over the farm, and her grandmother later said, 'I knew it was you up there.' Donald didn't fly until California. 'Give him plenty,' Marj told the pilot then, and he did. Donald didn't get back into an airplane until he came to Alaska in 1980; Marj took flying lessons and eventually got her pilot's license in California.] [12.76-2]