Slow Teamster

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Slow Teamster

I had a great uncle named Gideon Hoel Olson. He was born in Norway in 1882. The family were all copper miners in Norway. His parents decided to move to America to take part in the copper mining that was going on in the state of Michigan. They went on their first journey together as a family crossing the Atlantic Ocean. Four sisters and their parents stayed behind in Norway, the three brothers moved their families to a new land and the promise of a better life. Uncle Gideon and his brother Andrew stayed in Calumet Michigan only a couple years and then they moved to Northern Minnesota. They both were still single and went to work in the iron mines, saving their money to make their final move to South Dakota. They both wanted to be farmers. I seriously doubt if either one set foot in a saloon while they were there in the North Woods.

Gideon became what you might describe as an early day Teamster at age seventeen. One of his first jobs after arriving in South Dakota, was hauling bags of wheat in a Studebaker wagon to a Flour Mill on the Big Sioux River at Dell Rapids, South Dakota. This too was a long journey in those days about 1898. He hauled bags of wheat in a wagon pulled by two oxen, the travel could only have been a couple miles an hour. The flour probably had weevils in it by the time he got back home.

That was the good old days before bleached or treated flour, the flour sifter took out the little critters quite well. One thing about the oxen they can live on any of the grass along the way. There were plenty of waterholes where they could get a drink. An ox is nothing more than a mature bovine with an “education”. The education consists of the animal’s learning to respond appropriately to the teamster’s (ox driver’s) commands: in North America such as (1) get up, (2) whoa, (3) back up, (4) gee (turn to the right) and (5) haw (turn to the left). Mules went faster but they are just muley at times, most of the time.

Gideon had his trusty old double-barreled 12 gauge along as sort of a deterrent for anyone with the idea to cause them harm. Maybe they should just leave him alone and let him go about his business. He got to know the Santee Sioux Indian people very well as his trip to Dell Rapids took him right through the Santee Reservation. It was approximately 60 miles from where he lived in Lake Norden, South Dakota to Dell Rapids were the flour mill was located. That was a long journey with that wagon and his two trusty oxen Bova and Urus pulling it.

At that time Prairie Chickens and Grouse were very plentiful. I would imagine he roasted a Grouse, or a Prairie Chicken over his campfire every night. There were no established roads yet at that time. Rain could make any travel difficult to impossible, sometimes for days. Gideon was the quietest man I’ve ever known in my whole life. He had to be the perfect person to work with oxen. One time the wagon bogged down in some mud He hollered at Urus BACK UP-BACK UP they got out of the mud and proceeded on their way. I can imagine those two oxen  talking that night as “Urus was so sad.”” Bova said to Urus “Let it go, you know, he didn’t mean to raise his voice.”

I became a Teamster almost 80 years after my uncle. I hauled my freight by truck instead of ox. Sometimes I felt dumb as an ox for driving a truck for peanuts at the time, but I was stubborn as a mule and stayed at it because it kept the wolves away from the door. I would load my truck with meat at Sioux Falls, South Dakota and deliver it to stores in Arizona and California. After the meat was unloaded I loaded produce back. Everything from fresh vegetables to fresh fruit and avocados, cantaloupe melons etc. .That load of produce would be delivered back, usually to Minneapolis, Minnesota, Rochester or Duluth. This whole trip would take just a little over a week. You can see why our economy has been able to grow and prosper, mainly from the advances in the transportation systems.

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