Ol’ Joe was appreciative when real horsepower was replaced by tractors, cars, trucks, boat motors and other gasoline contrivances but in his later years he wondered aloud if all the new mechanical things were taking the place of real manpower leaving no work for a man to make a living. Joe philosophized that we are enjoying paradise now and not thinking of what it is going to be for the young folks that will be taking our place after we are gone. Ol’ Joe thought aloud that someday there was going to be “hell to pay”.
Ol’ Joe talked wistfully about his youth on the Rainy River and the relationships they had with the folks that lived across the River who had lived there quite a while before there were settlers on the U.S. side. Joe commiserated about how the friendships blossomed and about how they had a lot of good times together and always helped each other out. Then came World War II and they were ordered to stop going back and forth without going through a port of entry and it was like losing your good friends, many from both sides of the border were upset and frustrated at what they felt was government intrusion.
In Joe’s early years his father had to work “out” to make a living, he helped build the railroad from International Falls to Loman. The work was mainly done using just shovels and wheelbarrows, his wages were $2.50 to $3.00 a day an amount that was pretty good for those days. Consequently Ol’ Joe had to carry water from the River, get wood up with a dull axe and an old buck saw that badly needed sharpening. In the winter Joe snared rabbits and also got pretty good at harvesting partridge with a slingshot or homemade bow and arrow. He felt it was testimony as to how much game there was at the time;he also iterated that catching fish was a laughter as the River was absolutely full of them.
Ol’ Joe reminisced about how quickly his life had progressed. He could remember seeing natives with beads and feathers with white bands around their head paddling birch bark canoes. He talked of the Steamboat Itasca sailing by as he waved and its patrons returned the salute, he commented on the teams of oxen they had, the horses and all the work they did for them, the sleigh rides and how they lost them because of stagnant water. Ol’ Joe was twenty years old in 1924 when they got their first tractor with a two-bottom plow and then a bigger model in 1929 that he still had in the late 1980’s. Ol’ Joe’s first car was a 1927 Essex and his most potent memory was of how many times he was stuck in the mud on what were called roads as there were quite a few places in low spots that were impossible to get through in wet weather. In the winter the roads were not snowplowed so you had to in his words “buck” the snow wherever you went. Ol’ Joe thought it amazing and incomprehensible in 1927 when Charles Lindbergh was the first man to fly an airplane across the Atlantic Ocean.
Ol’ Joe was effusive about electric lights when they replaced kerosene lamps and was big on the impacts electric motors made especially when it came to milking cows and about how electric starters on cars made for no more cranking a car or tractor over by hand eliminating many injuries.
During the last decade of his life he was surprised at the developments that had taken place and he assumed perhaps correctly that he had seen more changes in his lifetime than any man of any generation would ever see again. He talked of stuff completely unanticipated in his lifetime like a non-stop flight around the world, putting a man on the moon, heart transplants, x-rays and satellites that deliver all sorts of what he termed misunderstandable conundrums.
Ya gotta wonder what Ol’ Joe would think now just thirty years later.