Wednesday, February 4, 2009

...on a Badlands Ranch

Growing up on a ranch in the Badlands near Kadoka was a memorable experience for Claudia Little.

After getting married and raising two children, she went back to school at Northern State in Aberdeen, followed by a long career in the classroom helping children develop a “love of learning.”

Now she’s sharing her childhood experiences through a pair of books and a series of presentations in the northern Hills. Her latest was Tuesday night (2/3/09) at the Spearfish Senior Citizens Center for members of the Spearfish Area Historical Society.

More than a century ago, her grandparents – immigrants from Germany – were living in Kadoka. Having learned both English and Lakota, her grandfather became a trader on the reservation and acquired land. And so it was that the family moved onto a ranch about 30 miles south of Kadoka, choosing a spot near Pass Creek, because "grandpa had learned in Iowa that tornadoes never strike at the fork of two creeks.” They soon moved in to a log house with a thatched roof, and he witched for a well – a well that is still good 100 years later.

A generation later – by the 1940s – Claudia’s father was operating the ranch, and she learned first-hand what it was like “Growing up on a Badlands Ranch,” the topic of her presentation to the historical society. She recounted her mother’s activities on the ranch, where “from sun to sun, the work's never done,” including huge breakfasts and large dinners, too, for some 15 people every day.

“Monday was wash day, Tuesday was ironing, and on Wednesdays we hung the rugs on the line and beat them to death.” Saturdays were reserved for baking, making enough bread to last for a week. Occasionally, she’d get to help her dad in the field, but also learned to help her mom in the kitchen, where at age 8 or 9 she learned to bake a pie.

“I detested having to gather eggs,” said Little, who recounted the displeasure of getting pecked by hens that weren’t happy to have her in the vicinity.

Claudia Little’s early education in a one-room country schoolhouse helped lay the foundation for a life-time of learning. The building not only served as a school, but it was a church and community center, and Saturday nights it was a hotbed of dancing!

Her family still owns the “202 Ranch” and still visits there occasionally. Little says growing up on the ranch was a wonderful experience, and she wanted to share with her experiences with her own children, so she has written two books -- Patches and Mudpies.

Go to our History Gallery for photographs and more
information about Claudia Little’s presentation on growing up on a Badlands Ranch.

Author Paul Higbee returns to the Spearfish Area Historical Society on Tuesday, March 3rd for a glimpse of “Spearfish High School from the 1920s to the present.”