2013-02-21 / Columns

News & Reviews

By Edward F. Keller, D.D.S.
1732 Golf Drive Bismarck, ND 58503

Over the River

When I was a little boy on my Strasburg, North Dakota farm in the 1930s, my grandparents, the Schneiders, lived over the river at Fort Yates.As the crow flies, it is about 30 miles from Strasburg to Fort Yates. Grandpa and my uncles were blacksmiths and served the area farmers. When we visited them we never talked about going to our grandparents. We always said, “We are going over the river.”

We crossed the river on a ferry by Fort Yates. (During the winter when the water was frozen people spread manure on the ice to make a road on which to cross with horse teams.) When we arrived at the river and the ferry was parked on the Fort Yates side, a car horn and a wave alerted Mr. Thompson, the engineer. He chucked up his ferry and motored to fetch us. Once on the Emmons County side he let down the gangplank for our 1927 Chevrolet to drive on board. The approach on our side was on a steep portion of the bank. Mother always walked down to the boat while my father drove the car. Mother feared the brakes would fail and the car would run through the opposite barrier and into the river… which would make Mr. Thompson laugh. Once on the ferry, the engineer pulled up the gangplank and we were off to our grandparents’ side of the river. Mr. Thompson had make-shift living quarters on his water carriage. We watched him fry river fish and drink river water from a dipper. He was a suntanned, leather-faced, raw-boned guy in a floppy straw hat. On the other side he lowered the opposite gang plank, took 75 cents and we took off to grandma’s.

Till next time.

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