My Pa Could Do It
Reginald and his brother, Ray, grew up under the tutelage of a no-nonsense father. His energies were devoted to eking out a living from the harsh Dakota prairie. Their mother was a placid and malleable woman who lived in her own dream world. She was well-content to run the house and to leave weighty decisions to her husband. There was little socializing for this pioneer family. It was a mile or more across fields and fences to the farm of the nearest neighbor and fifteen miles over dirt roads to the closest town.
Reginald and Ray thrived on the heavy work and the can-do ethic of their farm environment. For these stalwart sons of the soil it was all in a day's work to break wild horses to the harness and to lift wagon wheels off their axles. It was the only way of life that they knew. When they reached school age they enrolled at the one-room school but their attendance was sporadic in the Fall and Spring when the farm work was pressing. They did learn to read basic words and to do their sums but conjugating verbs and locating decimal points did not interest them. They did not see how it could relate to the important things of life like growing crops and caring for livestock. The outdoor work in the fields was preferred over the confining regimen of the school room. The teachers rarely protested the absence of these rough and ready boys — the school room was a quieter, more orderly place on those days.
The boys looked up to their father. It was from him that they learned the important things of life: When to plant the crops, how to harness an unruly horse, how to find the way home in a blizzard. Their father gave them considerable freedom, but when they questioned his authority they learned that their father had the strength to prevail. They respected him for that.
Reginald and Ray were companions as well as brothers. They delighted in playing practical jokes and in taunting each other. This frequently led to shoving bouts and sometimes to more serious wrestling matches out back of the barn. Although Ray was a year older than his brother and somewhat heavier, Reginald had the will and tenacity to more than hold his own. Flo one objected to the bruises and welts but loose buttons and torn clothing brought down the wrath of their father. This did not deter the boys — for them it was a point of honor to get even for any affront, real or imaginary. And so as they grew to manhood they became strong and reliant but sorely lacking in sophistication.
One morning in late summer the young men sought their father's permission to drive the Model T Ford to the town of Kimball. Ray pointed out that the barley was too damp from the heavy dew to be cut that morning. "Besides," said Reginald, "they would soon be needing more binder twine anyway." They neglected to mention that they had heard that the county fair was in progress in Kimball that day.
What excitement — the raucous sounds from the carnival and the crowd of people (200 people was a crowd to those farm boys). Reginald and Ray wandered the midway and were drawn to the tent where a muzzled bear was tethered out front. A barker was exhorting the crowd to see the wrestling bear take on all challengers. "Ten dollars to anyone who can go a round with this bear. Step right up and make ten dollars'" It sounded like easy money and when Ray dared his brother to accept the challenge there was no backing out for Reginald, Mow Reginald had wrestled full-grown steers to the ground but he had never tangled with a bear; he had no comprehension of the strength of a bear. Mis naivete was such that he expected to win the money.
It was no match. The bear threw Reginald to the canvas and pinned him there. The crowd jeered in the disappointment of spending a quarter for such a short spectacle. Sadly, Reginald had not learned his lesson. As he got to his feet, he was heard to say, half to himself, half to the crowd: "If my Pa was here he could do it."