Rev. Edgar F. Wheeler: 16 St. Joe Days (St. Joseph, Missouri)

Dad was a typical farmer, in that he expected more of his equipment than it was intended to do. His 1936 International pick-up truck was an example. He wanted to use it to haul livestock to market, so he extended the floor of the bed with a false floor out over the open tailgate. Then he built a rack to correspond in length. He also equipped it with heavy duty tires. It had a three-speed transmission and an underpowered six-cylinder engine. So, when it bogged down in heavy going, he would disengage the clutch, speed up the engine, then again engage the clutch until the engine nearly stalled. He would keep repeating this until he was clear of the heavy going. After using a trailer behind the car during earlier years, this International truck was the livestock market truck to St. Joe.

St. Joe was our livestock market place. It was about thirty-five miles from home. The route there took us through Atchison, where we crossed the Missouri River into Missouri at “East Atchison” (Winthrop, MO). We traveled three miles east on the Missouri flats, then turned left toward St. Joe to the north. From there the flat farmland lay on the left, beyond which Atchison and the Kansas countryside were clearly visible. On the right were what we called the bluffs which were a low hill range extending for miles to the north and south. This was always an adventure to get out of our home state and in different scenery. On one trip in the mid-thirties we were excited to see the new streamlined Burlington Zephyr flash past on the railroad track parallel to the highway.

St. Joe Days were different–exciting, frustrating, rushed! Dad would listen to the early market report on the radio. If prices on livestock were high, he would say, “Come on. Let’s load up and try to get to St. Joe for the early market.”

Then would ensue the rush to get chores done and livestock loaded up. Now and then tempers would flare when someone was failing to help. And often the animals, especially the large hogs, were recalcitrant. As we tried to get them into the loading chute, they would push our legs out from under us and run. We would try to run them down, finally calling on our large shepherd /collie dog to help us. He would grab the hog by the ear and hold on until we could get there and physically carry the beast to the truck.

And, still those were great occasions, once underway. Years later those times came back to my mind. We were caring for Mom and Dad Randolph in West Virginia. Dad was an avid angler, and he would occasionally wake up early and say, “Let’s go fishing,” and there was that scramble to get bait, and all other needs, ready to go.

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