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Consider the Hills

Presentation by Pauline Neher Diede, Hebron, North Dakota

Germans from Russia Heritage Society Convention July, 1991

Transcribed by Shelly Rolandson
Edited and proofread by Janel Wald and Linda Haag


A full moon and then a moonrise, this is a sight. A portrait in gold, framed in her light, suspended in space; ageless and timeless in beauty and grace. The moon repeats the cycle of ages untold. Its course is a mystery, never to unfold. North Dakota, of the United States of America, with its buried landscapes: hills and bales, buttes and creeks, rivers, lakes, plains and the country hills. A starry night, often considered to influence mankind. Everything in nature invites us to be what we are. A man’s life should star in some field or art, to bring forth a shine among many stars. From the rise of the sun there begins a day of hard work; an opportunity toward resourcefulness. North Dakota halberds on the threshold of a new and greater era for progress, that which will bring more of the good things of life for its entire people.

The nineteen eighties, the book writing years, is sod house product Pauline Neher Diede, discovered that life is a challenge for the changes; welcomed the break from old familiar ways. The change may be the most important course on your road to destiny. During the roaring twenties, the farmstead was home, alive with family and animals. Where no one was spared from work, as when food was made from scratch. Those were the generous years. Oh ye time honored home, where now the rolling hills foster range cattle.

Here in western North Dakota stretches the sculptured land of silent spaces where the forces of nature have shaped curious beauty. Where there is a variety of wildlife and where the buffalo is a comeback. From the North Dakota badlands comes one or two ye friends, let’s go up the hilltop to find us a place away from the crowd. Let’s meet with the setting sun, near the glorious cloud. Let’s ponder and bow to the rainbow’s nod. High on the hilltop we meet in rapture with God.

Just the theme, “Consider the country hills”, has an effect on us. The forked creeks, the stony spread, here’s where the immigrant settlers sized up with a look in their eyes, “This is mine.” But was it really his? Nay, it belongs to the generations.

The glittering grab of free land: the Homestead Act of 1862. People came form all parts of the world with strange names and strange ways. They brought with them bare belongings and built a dugout, an earthen room that had a dirt floor; a frontier home. When settlers had time and the means, they built a shack out on the leveled prairie or near an elongated hill. There about begun the cycle of plowing up the land. The plow was pulled by horse and guided by man.

Parallel trails, called “the prairie road”, meandering about on the rugged land. The basic road dipped and disappeared into a valley, a draw, then uphill. The horses, a good part of the habitat, swung into an easy trot. Yet visible still are a few winding dirt roads of nature’s eminent detours.

Memories, once mind lets go of a thousand reminders, the years of learning by back breaking work, as in clearing the fields of its stones, we the kids and Jack, the horse, hitched to a stone boat, the job was endless. Many decades later the earth gave way to a tree creeper. Oh, what profound life long lessons, as children caress the hills and creeks of natures domain. The books were scare in school for reading, writing and arithmetic.

The Diede country home; stone cemented, white washed, built buy the sweat of the brow. Now the swallows mold nests into the corners. Trees tell the tale of time. The richness of such a life is past. Beautiful, blue sky, there’s magic in the familiar, sturdy fence post. With many a sound of the clickidy-clock whirring sound of the old windmill, not pumping anymore, who gave many, reminisces of company to the farm woman. .

Under the whipped cream clouds, a warm prairie wind blows over the historic Custor’s lookout. We witness grain fields that are stitch and look like a machine made carpet. When the grain was loaded, and a horse hitched to the wagons, we drove on a dirt road to the smallest close elevator town, like Antelope. It had its own significance; a store to pick up the essentials as well as the mail. Farmers met for discussion, often argument. The early day Antelope running (2) stuck to the village name.

A kind of a pride arose among farmers for bigger homes showing signs of prosperity. Here at the stating farm demonstrates the symbol of family unity, as they ate meals together, did chores, and milked the cows by hand.

An early model car, Frank Fischer proudly takes his new bride for a honeymoon. A romantic drive to show his new woman how lucky she is and what he can do to keep that wheel staying in that rugged dirt road.

The hetter days when four horses were hitched behind a reaping machine, pushing the mechanism along the ripened grain, while a man stood on back platform, gauging, guiding. Reigns around the neck, with an eye on horses and hetterbox, a taxi job, yet better then the sye cutting. Those where the roaring twenties, as when car and tractors roared.

The transitional years; a tractor pulls the disc. Mr. Fischer was a farmer of note. Having reached the centennial age, he commented, “It was a satisfying life, it was real life.”

The binder; it too exhibited prosperity, used for a higher crop stand for to shape them in to bundles, casting them out into rows. Here’s where the kids were taught to shock. In one convenient shock was hidden a gunny bag jug of water for thirsty shockers. The thrashing rig days, when neighbors crewed together, bundle racks for gathering shocks, or the pitching’s from stacks into the machines devour. The show of straws spoon out forming a straw pile as the red grain spurted into the grain box. A loud call was heard, “time for lunch.” At last, a modern change to a one-man combine with no more company.

The fashions of the 1920’s: three Antelope community ladies were: Madam Swinler, Kuffman, and Fischer. Summertime dress wear: hat, sleeved blouse, full skirt, petty coat, long stockings, high buttoned shoes; a mode to keep a woman’s body well covered.

The Christian Diede family, who were ethnic people of the Germans from Russia, is the area majority. The Diedes, very originally, came from Poland, settled in south Russia, and then immigrated to America. The sod house was where the family lived for some time. The Diedes, a proud industrious family, soon laid claim to farms for their sons. Schools needed teachers, grown up sons needed wives. Gottlieb Diede married Anna Capits, an ethnic bohemian. This wise school teacher, wife and mother influenced the intellectual of the community.

The celebration of silver wedding anniversaries was for Dave and Lid Diede, and the Reverend, Henry and Frita Rifsneider. Lydia Capits Diede shows her exuberance of good will to all. A teacher, a talker, a stitcher, a community and church leader; she kept the vital candles of community and family life burning.

Antelope school number five had a school picnics. Families were large, children were raised on simple but ridged terms; dress in the same clothes for a whole week. Lunch buckets contained a hunk of bread, sausage, sometimes an apple for a treat. School number five; newly built after fire destroyed the first one. Not only used for school session, likewise, for meetings, elections and programs. The school bell told the children on to higher education. NDSU extension service symbol signifies the life of Custer Lookout Homemakers Club as well as the Sister Circle, The Antelope Homemakers Club; and a home economic enrichment.

The Dirty Thirties had seven years of drought. The nation’s devastation spasmodic showers caused fields to burst into foliage, as grasshoppers devoured every green leaf, the Frank Fischer corn field. Little two-year-old Darleen Diede, during the extreme heat of 1936, the child could not tolerate the ground heat under her bare feet. We placed the rug there. Everything suffered; leaves parched or grasshoppers chewed it.

Life goes on; the passing of the thirties. People mustered strength and character. A mother of a two year old holds her own child; the symbol of a fourth generation. Oh, for the hardy pioneers, Gross Father and Gross Mother Diede. Baby John Buluike grew up. He chose a life that spelt, “free to be me”; way out of tradition. His wider travels took him to East Berlin, behind the weird wall. John got scared. In accordance, USA caressed his instinctive love for nature’s animals. A shift to a little town of Antelope has peeked of progress for several decades. The area farmers met for discussion, blunt with one another, believing honest hard labor, makes the United States of America.

The towering emblem of every town, next to the water tower and the church steeple, the grain elevator generalizes the loaf of bread that sustained mankind. Horse drawn loads of grain supported the Antelope oxidant elevator. The Antelope store building provided postal services as well, so eminently sounding with life. The old building was moved to the Meyer farm where memories creaked as the wind blows. All that remains of Antelope are a few trees, disclosing its own fragment of its story. You guess the rest. Here abundant ethnic culture and fields tilled according to conservational methods.

A once sturdy stone house, cool in summer and warm during the wintertime. Oh, for the hospitality of family life, where we prayed and ate together and heard the news from the radio, that Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941.

The fork hillside and prairie landscape, where native trees follow a vein and a stream. When chokecherries, June berries, and wild plum spare their astringent fruit, we witness the last wildness. We can gaze for long moments over the distinctive beautiful horizons while sitting on a colossal stone. . It’s hard to be agnostic toward a stone There’s a sentiment about cow herding days and my aged days, as I sat on it and God spoke, “Why sigh, go and write the prairie land story”.

Along the Golden Valley road in Mercer County, we see an abandoned farm home where once a young family sought a livelihood; when life was simpler yet full of hardship. Today, we give it a reminiscent look. We walk closer to the once inhabited home where the man plowed the fields and the woman, subject to a thousand demands, struggled for identity. Are women forgotten of their sacrifices? No. Mothers of the prairie knew how to pray. We offer a laud and tribute to the pioneer woman.

The town of Taylor was a forefather’s hand that planted the trees, now towering over favorite house and barn. Leave that old tree and forget not its grateful shade. Oh man, do not cut down a tree! What history in this grantor of a home.

The Matt Crawly ranch home, built in 1915; the best of the time was a place of education for a better life. The natural beauty of a ranch setting behind a barn, we look at a clayish butte amidst the hilly country. The early day farm or the rancher’s barn was a brilliant red. To this day, unless painted red, the barn has no character. A modernized version of the pioneer Crawly ranch boasts with Dakota pride, as the Prairie Diamond Ranch, anchored by Clarence and Mary Ann Unbreau, its spectacular symbol of progress.

Oh, for those spacious hayloft barns, where horses were the status. How happy were that horseback riding times at the Crensel farm, which were the standard pastime of the era. A sleigh ridding party, a winter sport, the horse drawn sleigh filled to capacity, slid along to the Crensel home for a hardy, good old-fashioned kettle of beef stew. What wholesome Sunday afternoon family fun.

Consider the country hills: snow had drifted altering the landscape. Over many parts of the world snow has fallen silent and soft. Let us go up the hill and behold the glory of God. A wondrous scene no brighter view unfolds as the morning sun shines over the shelterbelt. Cattle feed and bask to the sun’s warmth. The rancher says it plainly, “its ranching refined”. The Hoff purebred Hereford herd bound for the home yard for the season’s end. Pony and rider pause to get the herd a temporary graze. Why hurry? Actually, there’s too much rush as it is.

The geets and Holstein calves, the pedigree of black and white looked as though each had a fresh bath. were naturally the benefits of a 4-H project. The claves lay basking in a summer afternoon semi-shade. .

A country church in 1987, St. Clemmons Catholic church of Haymarsh community, observed the historical significance of one hundred years of faith. The hardy pioneers reflect an inspiring record. Still active, neighbors come to mass.

The buggy days; a special team of horses hitched to the carriage, the man awaiting for family to crowd together into confined space for a drive to church, to town, or to the neighbors. The gentle team animate horse sense-- a Zimmerman picture.

A tree grew tall and lofty near a county road. Cars speed by, hardly aware of its wistfulness, sadly transpiring for attention, “Go slowly ye driver, a story the tree can share.”

“I have watched as a young boy many a distressing scene,” recalled rancher Jim Crawly “as travelers crossed the unpredictable Knife River. For which reason I call it the million-dollar bridge, what progress!” exclaimed rancher Crawly. Country town streets too have taken on stately look. With seasons natural beauty and mans innovation, we sense a town’s hospitality, the town of Richardton with its historic significance.

Onward we drive on superhighway I94 for a little natural scenery repose. We enter the well-designed rest area west of Dickinson. Here’s the grip of natures rustic, the emblem of Dakota County. A modern country home where there is the soils of open space. There’s something about the prairie hills that bestows the feel of freedom away from city clamor. How would have the pioneer woman reacted to such a display? She’d have been shocked to a dead silence.

A modern country mailbox with a wagon wheel symbol, the gabber of metal, so forlorn when empty, but what a large part of life passes into it and out again; words of love or sorrow, newspapers, magazines, bills-- just getting the mail, what’s new today?

Cuddled in a ring, the thrash machine spoors, offer a last kiss to each other. The historic monster processed millions of bushels of wheat, now dotting the countryside as relics of an age gone but not forgotten.

Oil gushers were discovered in Tioga in 1951. North Dakota oil wells averaged nearly one mile in depth. Oil is the inherent potentiality for development, and likewise the natural gas resource. We travel highway 10, leading to Hebron. Look at the glories of a cloud, a vision of a thunderstorm, a little apprehensive of what such a cloud will do to the golden grain field. Yet, it’s hard to be agnostic. Man has long marveled at lightning; it was the ultimate weapon of the gods of ancient civilization; lightning kills. Man is warned to take shelter. As lightning flares, the thunder follows with a rumbling roar. The most destructive part of a thunderstorm is the tornado, a violently rotating column of air, which descends from a cloud system. In an average year, tornados claim many lives and cause enormous damage; the sign of horrendous power.

We meet the apprehensive colorful aurora of Dakota nighttime, the grantor in the March of night. A breathless hush as we behold the northern lights. Nature may seem to be fickle and unpredictable, yet there’s a certainty about her. After the stillness, it rains; perhaps in sudden bursts and follows a follows a rainbow so beautiful and somber, a promise. We worship the creator God, who gives sunshine, rain, and a promise. There are special moments of nature when wildflowers burst into bloom after a rain. We see a hillside eye catcher and a bit of unspoiled nature on the Diede land.

The Combland-Diede coal mine is next to the prairie hill. It was the fuel resource for early day settlers; a reminder of torturous work for both man and horse. In view of progress ought we not to challenge the inevitable? Across the hills dry weather will come, we know it’s a semi-arid land. Fortunately, a natural spring flows from the earth and hill. For it not for this spring, there would be no water for the range cattle. A conservation project, a wildlife refuge, the water pit is dry where ducks could waddle, where birds and animals could drink from. Oh, that the cloud overcast would let it rain.

Leaders are all about us, as Phillips Brooks Spade, find your purpose and fling your life out into it. And the loftier your purpose, the more pure you will be, to make the world richer with every enrichment of yourself.

The Rod Diede family of Bowman, North Dakota is an average modern family townhouse; Direnda Diede gives the yard a creative arrangement. Rod calls it the mortgage hill. Yes, every generation should have a process to struggle. Man was made to be active and he is never so happy as when he is a working man according to the master’s plan.

The rainbow; it has a magic all its own, a promise for a good life. There’s a tie that you can’t dissever in the spender of Dakota land. The glory of a sunset, over hill and sod, bids to bow ones head in homage, in gratitude to country and God. Thank you.

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