(From newspapers and livestock publications of the day and a kid's memory.)
So what does Maury Telleen know about Autumn 1934? Well, for one thing I had celebrated my 6th birthday in May of that year … so I was accumulating some experience. I was also staying close to home because of the intense heat. Our president, FDR, had just asked Congress to rustle up 525 million dollars for drought relief … and that was just a down payment.
There wasn't much good news anywhere. Hitler's Germany was behaving worse and worse as he consolidated his nutcases and Stalin was going about his business in much the same fashion. Throw Mussolini from Italy in for more of the same. The weather was even contrary with the heat and drought.
Yes, I can vaguely remember the despair that the adults in the farming families experienced. In the mid-term election the Democrats swept the boards winding up with huge majorities in both the House and Senate. Same way with Statehouses. It was a solid repudiation of what was and I can recall the drought, the unremitting heat and farm product prices falling through the floor. You can't be growing up in a farmer's home and not be aware of the powerlessness being felt by your mom and dad and neighbors.
So you know what I'm going to do? Of course you don't. I'm not so sure of it myself, but I'll do it anyhow. In 1991, I must have wound up with some time on my hands, because I sat down and wrote a book called A Century of Belgians Horses in America. Perhaps because of Jeannine and her dad, Foster Sarchett, who had fielded a very good six-up of Belgians. And Jeannine probably felt he should get equal time with my dad … who had a mixed bag of drafters and was raising a foal or two every year in those dirty '30s. Whatever the reason, I did it. So I'm going to simply reproduce a little two-page story about J.C. Ritchie, Stratford, Iowa, from that book.
That makes this 75 Years Ago mighty easy for me and now, at the age of 81, I feel a little in need of a break. Hope you enjoy your visit to Ritchies' ... if you find it meets your reading pleasure, we still have some of the Century of Belgian books available for sale.
MY LAST MEMORY OF J.C. RITCHIE
It was either 1940 or '41, just prior to our direct involvement in World War II. Within months we would be at war … but we didn't know that.
My dad had a few Brown Swiss cattle entered at Iowa, as did my brother and I with our 4-H heifers. So the three of us kind of hung out there at the last pre-war fair.
On occasion Dad would amble over to the coliseum and watch the drafters go and I'd go with him. All four breeds would show at the same time. The Shire ring was to your immediate left if you entered through the livestock entrance. The Clydesdales operated on the immediate right. This arrangement was to accommodate the larger Belgian and Percheron classes who used up, more or less, the north 2/3rds of the ring. It made sense because the two smaller number breeds would usually be done and out of there before the group classes from the Belgian and Percheron shows needed to spread out.
So I went in with Dad and he promptly found a spot to watch his old friend, J.C. Ritchie, tie the Shire classes. That suited me too.
When Ritchie spotted Ed Telleen and his youngest kid, he stopped inspecting horses and came over for a little five to ten minute reunion with his old buddy. So the Shire exhibitors got a little 10 minute recess. Nobody got upset unless it was some showman who needed to go to the Men's Room, which was right handy.
I doubt if either one even mentioned the others' Swiss cows … it was horse show time. More fun than showing cows? ANY TIME!