By Jim O'Leary
An e-mail newsletter for and about Waverly people, used with permission in the HLW Herald and on this web site.
Feb. 25, 2002
A little background will enhance the two stories below by our own Burt Kreitlow (who refuses to be called "Doctor Kreitlow").
Besides his farming career, referred to below, Burt taught in a one-room schoolhouse (District 58, north of Montrose) for two years, beginning in 1935.
He, then, worked as an extension youth agent in Mankato in 1938 and 1939, and as a county extension agent at Warren and Crookston until the war started, when he served in the Army Air Corps in Africa and Italy.
He returned to the University of Minnesota for his graduate work, finishing in 1949 with a doctorate in education and sociology. He taught college first at Michigan State and, then, at the University of Wisconsin (Madison) for 32 years.
After a lifetime of teaching mostly on the college level, including 32 years at the University of Wisconsin, he has turned his hand to writing.
Right now, he is in the process of writing his own memoirs and acting as a co-author with another WWII veteran who was a prisoner of war of the Japanese.
He says of himself, "And it all goes back to Highland!"
'Be prepared have that Ford's rear axle handy'
By Burton W. Kreitlow
My early years on a small dairy farm surrounded by other dairy farms prepared me to be cautious around dairy bulls. Bulls in our then very rural Wright County had a bad reputation.
In the 1920s, nearly all farmers had a bull. No such thing as artificial insemination in those days. Each year there were stories every week in the papers about angry bulls goring farmers.
In most cases, the farmers saved themselves. In other cases, severe injury or even death was the result. Then a headline would read: "Another farmer killed by bull."
All the Highland neighborhood kids were frightened of bulls. When bulls were loose with the cattle, we avoided that pasture.
When viewing a herd from a distance, we looked for the telltale signs of a bull. When our own bull needed to be out with the cows, there was ample warning from Ma and Pa.
Even our so-called "friendly" Guernsey bull was not to be trusted.
To prepare for any eventuality, Pa kept the rear axle from an old Model T Ford next to the barn door. He claimed to have used it twice on Old Ben, but never on our friendly George.
I was now in high school and Bud and I were responsible for letting the cows into the barn for morning and evening milking. George was stanchioned in the smaller barn with six young cows.
When he entered the barn, he knew where to go to find the ground oats and hay put out for him earlier.
All was well that mild spring morning when Bud followed most of the cows to their stalls in what we called "the old log barn," and I followed George and the six young cows to "the new barn." The old log barn was built in about 1880, and the new barn in 1900. The six cows went in and George followed.
I started into the barn to fasten each in its place. As I entered, George had turned around and was facing me. His was not a friendly face that morning.
He took one step toward me, put his head down, and began pawing the straw covered floor. Yes, I was frightened, but prepared.
Pa knew his bulls. The Ford axle was leaning against the barn next to the door. I remembered things Pa had said, "Don't run unless you're sure you can get away," "Stare him down the bull will be frightened too."
"If you are close enough, reach down and grab the ring in his nose and twist with all your might. That will bring him to his knees.
"But, if you can get your hands on that Ford axle, grab it, raise it above your head and bring it down on the bull's head as hard as you possibly can."
I slowly stepped back one step. George followed by one step. I grabbed the axle. George pawed. I raised the axle. George snorted. That axle came down harder than the bell ringer's maul at the county fair.
It came down on top of his lowered head, right between the ears. Poor George. He fell to his knees, became glassy eyed, then stood swaying.
He walked slowly to his stall. I followed and secured him.
There is a moral to this experience of mine. Listen to your Pa and keep the Ford axle handy.
Thank you, Patrick
By Burton W. Kreitlow
Some incidents from one's childhood and youth were amusing at the time. Others were funny only when recalled years later.
For me, the incidents that first come to mind are those where I am the smart one, in the right, or never the goat. Yet, being ignorant or the butt of a joke sweetens with the passing years. I am now able to share embarrassments, youthful naiveté, or downright stupidity.
My freshman year in high school included several such experiences, filled with embarrassments. This 12-year-old, fresh from the farm, was initiated into the modern world of flush toilets on his first day of high school.
It was the fall of 1929; I had just entered this giant school of over 100 students. The security of the one room Highland country school with its jacketed wood stove, three gallon water bubbler and outdoor toilets was over.
No longer could I raise two fingers and get permission to leave the room for "number two." For "number two," the permission was automatic. For "number one" we were told to wait until recess, except when our faces became red, legs crossed, and one hand tended to fall to the crotch.
On my first morning in high school, the frightening history class was over with a 50-minute wait in the assembly hall until the next class, english. I had to go "number two" and was petrified! No response to the two fingers I raised, just a severe stare from the principal. I waited.
Later I saw one of the bigger boys get up and leave the room. No hand raised, nothing said, he just walked out. A relief. I got up and followed.
"Where are you going?" The question was asked by the principal, a goddess speaking from her raised platform in the back of the room.
I'm not sure whether or not my voice signaled my fright, but I did answer, "I'm going 'out' to the toilet."
I did know it was not "out," but "out" was my response. "Go" came from the back of the room. It had a strange lilt to it, but I was in too much of a hurry by then to wonder why.
I continued in a rush to the basement where the sign "Boys" was on a door. I walked in. The new world of indoors plumbing appeared in its entire splendor. Three box stalls that looked about right for Shetland ponies and four strange porcelain bowls standing on end. The boy who left the room first was using it for number one. Weird.
At this point, I guessed that the pony stalls were for number two. Gathering whatever courage remained, I opened one of the doors and went in.
Nothing but a bowl of water about 18-inches off the floor with a strange wood cover. In it a hole very much like that in the Highland School four holer. Conclusion: This was the right place. I sat down.
One of the worst events of my four years in high school occurred then as soon as I stood to button up. Water began rushing into the bowl and it had the roar of a flood to me.
How could it be stopped? I sat on the seat and the flood stopped. I then got up and it was Niagara Falls all over again.
Conclusion: I wouldn't flood the school if I kept the seat down. Holding the seat with one foot worked as well as sitting on it, but I knew that I couldn't stay in that pony stall all day.
I considered leaving it and getting out as fast as I could, but my value system, though limited, signaled a message, "If you do something bad, admit it."
I had to tell someone, but whom? It was then that I remembered the furnace room nearby, and Patrick, the janitor, was there much of the time. I concluded that a small flood was better than a large one.
I would let the toilet flood and find Patrick as fast as I could. I rushed to the furnace room with that roar of water behind me. "Patrick, Patrick, I broke something in the toilet and it's flooding!"
Patrick led the race. All quiet as we entered. "Someone must have fixed it," I said. Here was that "teachable moment" I learned about later in life. During the next five minutes, Patrick, the janitor, taught me how plumbing worked and gave me more needed security than all the teachers gave me during that first semester of high school.
"Thank you, Patrick."
And thank you, Burt Kreitlow.
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