Mom introduces herself, the ranch, and a little wildlife and lands cooking towards the end of this column, Feb. 6, 1980.

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch

By Liz Taylor

February 6, 1980

Mouse River Farmers Press, Towner, N.D.


                There are two questions this week that need answering. Where do you get the ideas for your column, and who is Liz Taylor? Or, as it is phrased, “who the _____ is Liz Taylor?”

                Liz Taylor is my name, and while I have heard there is someone else by the same name, I have never met her so all I know is “what I read in the papers.” The other Liz Taylor is shorter, darker, more beautiful, more ‘zaftig’, and also considerably more well know than I, but the same age.

                Since this was probably a serious question, I will introduce myself. My name was Elizabeth Dokken (parents, Syvert Dokken and Clara Oium Dokken) until I married Marshall (Bud) Taylor almost 21 years ago. We live on a ranch about 17 miles southeast of Towner and have three children and some cattle and horses. The children’s names, in order of birth, are: Justin (19), now in his second year of college at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota; Tara (12), our only daughter, 7th grade at Towner, and Ryan (9), who is in the 4th grade.

                The cattle are named, rather descriptively, by my husband and I only know a few, “Brockle Face,” “Spotty,” “The Mean Cow,” “The Old Line Back,” and (of course) “The Young Line Back,” “Curly Hair,” “Stubby Tail,” “One Horn,” and those named after previous owners, such as “The Red Hoffart Cow,” and “The Last Haman Cow,” and so on. I could go on for several pages, but generally speaking, they are usually called “the cows” or “the damn cows,” depending on whether or not they are in or out of the pasture or what they are up to at any given moment.

                The horses are named in the same exciting way. “Thursday” and “Friday” are the Belgian work team, and I’ll bet you can’t guess the days of the week they were born! Silver, Buck, Minnewaukan, Adam Pete, Geronimo, Sharkey, Big Poco, and, of course, Little Poco…and again I won’t go on, for you get the general idea. I think there are 12 or 14 horses in all, if not, we’ll buy some.

                I am 47 years old and the cattle and horses and kids are younger and Bud is a little older.

                As for where I get the ideas of what to write about…everywhere! What I read, and I read more than I should, that is, my housework sorely suffers while I pursue this favorite pastime of mine, and then there is what I see and hear on television, and what I hear on the radio. A random sampling of what I heard and read recently and didn’t know, and come to think of it, didn’t  need to know…

                The New York Times, Sunday edition, requires the newsprint derived from the pulpwood made from over 600,000 trees or about 300 acres of land, every weekend, multiply this by all the large city daily papers and you won’t be surprised when you get up some morning and find yourself in a desert!

                How about this, a hummingbird beats his wings 4,500 times per minute…and who cares? A woodpecker can peck 500 times per minute and if you have ever tried to catch 40 winks with a woodpecker pecking on your wall or roof you will surely believe that! And a tarantula can live for 2 years without food…hey, man, I thought you were dead! Did you know the heaviest organ in the human body was the skin? It weighs right in there about 7 pounds. Want to lose a little weight? Go have yourself skinned alive!

                Speaking of such trivia and newspapers in general, surely you all heard the recent TV ad which said that newspapers are 65 percent advertising, 30 percent news, and about 5 percent “other.” So why not call it an “ad paper” instead of a newspaper? Good question.

                A lot of us scoff at TV but think for a moment of the marvels this often cursed medium has brought to us. Eric Sevareid, well know commentator, and, of course, North Dakota native, said in an interview upon his retirement, that we should not be so critical of television. He went on to say that as a child in the Velva, N.D., area, all people talked about was the weather, crops, prices for same, and common gossip, and that television had opened up vistas for people never before dreamed of. Maybe we know more than we need to know, but I for one, think it is better to be so well informed.

                And to continue on with this plagiarism, here is something stolen from a medical column of 50 or so years ago. “Dear Dr. Brady, Having suffered for over two years with pin-worm pruritis, and having spent $1,600 for two operations and consultations with physicians, all to no avail, I bought an ounce of 2 percent ammoniated mercury ointment, applied it to the itching skin, and obtained great help in two days. I now have almost no itching or stinging. A friend clipped your suggestion and sent it to me. It has been a miracle in my life. Mrs. F.B.L.”

                Answer: “Your friend probably clipped it from Little Lesson No. 13, ‘Unbidden Guests’. For this booklet, dealing with cooties, bedbugs, chiggers, hookworms, pinworms, round worms, tape worms, mosquitoes, flies, fleas, cockroaches, ants, black widow spiders, trichina, or what have you, send me 35 cents and a stamped, self addressed envelope. Any druggist can supply 2 percent ammoniated mercury ointment in collapsible tube.”

                Well folks, this may not seem like much to you, but if you are itching for spring to come, why not go see your friendly pharmacist and get a little of that 2 percent stuff…of if you can’t stand the pain from any more winter, perhaps a little of the 80 percent stuff from Towner’s ‘northside clinics’ might help.

                By the way, that little medical column comes to you from a yellowed clipping I got from Connie Williams in Towner. I stopped to see her one day when I was in town and she gave me that and some venison sausage. I, in turn, gave her some summer sausage given to me by my brother, Adrian, well known wildlife chef. I went home and fried the venison sausage she gave me and served it with pancakes…an enjoyable meal, to say the least.

                The summer sausage I had given her (I said it was venison) was apparently eaten and enjoyed by the time I called her a few days later to tell her it wasn’t venison summer sausage, but pure beaver! She did not turn green, but expressed her delight that she and her family had been given the opportunity to sample beaver…having already enjoyed such delicacies as bear and ‘coon. I’m glad they enjoyed their beaver sausage, but I, for one, am always a little cautious when I sample brother Adrian’s cooking. It conjures up in my memory of those bygone days of my youth when he was cooking such things as Mouse River crayfish, snapping turtle eggs, blackbird, and yes, I have eaten crow in every form!

                My favorite story about our wild culinary was the fall we such an abundance of wild mushrooms. They seemed to grow everywhere and there were such varieties…I read everything I could find about mushrooms, which were poison and which weren’t. Finally, I just fried about 8 different varieties in a pan of butter and ate them, a truly enjoyable feast. I was living alone at the time and Adrian came in while I was enjoying my meal of fried mushrooms, toast and coffee. “What kind of mushrooms did you pick today?” he asked. I said I had several different kinds in the pan. He appeared quite shocked and concerned. “Good Lord, if you die, we’ll never know which one killed you and which ones are safe to eat!” and walked out.

                NEXT WEEK: “Dumb Norwegians…and other jokers!”



Column for January 30, 1980.

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch

By Liz Taylor

January 30, 1980

Mouse River Farmers Press, Towner, N.D.


                The Mouse River Farmers Press has a somewhat wider circulation than I had thought prior to writing a column in it. One day I received letters from subscribers in Arizona (Ole & Lou Hjellum) and Alaska (Arly and Ginny Haman), and that’s about as far apart as you can get in the U.S. or A. On another day I received a letter from Mary Voeller in Minneapolis, Minnesota, not as far away, but just as welcome.

                Arly and Ginny are enjoying a mild spell in Fairbanks with temperatures in the 20 to 40 below zero range following some days of 50 below and colder! The Hjellums reported Arizona was basking in 70’s above, and their daughter, Carol, was visiting them. Mary Voeller didn’t mention Minnesota’s weather, but I expect it’s the same there tomorrow as in North Dakota today (Minnesotans blame North Dakota for their weather, we blame Montana, and everybody blames Canada).

                This column writing is great. I just answered three letters and got paid for it! Thank you folks for the letters and kind words for Fern and I and the “Press” in general.

                I’ve also talked on the phone in the past week to my three sisters. Hjordis (Blanchfield), Devils Lake, had been visiting to Kalispell, Montana, area recently and decided to go skiing for the first time in many years. A couple of trips down the “bunny slope” proved boring to her so she took to the larger slopes for an enjoyable day of skiing and all without mishap. I’m not surprised at her courage, she always had more than her share.

                My other Devils Lake, N.D., sister, Ruth (Kenner), was in the hospital in Grand Forks ready to undergo surgery for a broken knee cap. I had assumed, since she too is married to a farmer, that she had been doing a “rain dance” in the Fort Totten area to help alleviate the shortage of rain last fall and snow this winter. Not so. She was picking up a grandson at school and slipped and fell on the ice; knowing her, it wouldn’t have happened if she had had ice skates on instead of just shoes.

                Sigrid (Medalen), Petersburg, Alaska, recently won the “pickled herring” contest at a food fair there and received a wood carved trophy of a fisherman made in Norway. This may not seem like much to you folks, but anytime a farm girl from North Dakota wins a “pickled herring contest” I consider it news. Unfortunately, she had made several batches before she was satisfied so does not have the recipe of the winning entry, or I would put it in Fern’s recipe column.

                About the “Beef Referendum,” this is a referendum cattlemen will be registering for and voting on in the next few weeks. Registration dates are January 28 to February 6 at the ASCS office, and voting is February 19 to 22 at the same place. At this time cattlemen will be voting on whether or not they wish to have a small portion of their cattle check to be taken off to be used by the National Beef Board for advertising and promoting beef and to combat lies about beef and the beef industry. At current prices this payment would be around $1 an animal on the average calf.

                As a rancher’s wife, I see the need has come to promote this most nutritious of foods, beef. I did not always feel this way, thinking there was no more justification in charging ranchers and cattle feeders to promote beef than it was to bill wheat farmers to promote bread and macaroni. However, in the past few years I have read and heard too much propaganda about beef not being good for you. There have been countless unsubstantiated claims that beef causes cancer and heart disease, that we “rip off” consumers with high prices, etc. Cattle prices have never consistently kept pace with the rest of the economy, but have been subject to a high price one year, followed by several years of “break even” or “go broke” slumps. And the real culprits of heart disease and cancer still stress, bad health habits, food additives and environmental pollution to name some.

                And then there are “fabricated foods” as referred to in the latest Readers Digest; an expected 11 billion dollar industry in 1980. I’m talking about meatless hamburger, grapeless wine, and you all know what’s in some hot dogs! Some years ago, when Catholics were discouraged from eating meat on Friday, the standard joke in these parts was about the meat processor who put so much cereal and other additives in his hot dogs and sausages that “you could eat them on Friday.”

                Recently I was in Minot and hunger drove me to a convenient, well-known, if unpopular cafeteria where I had a meal of meatloaf, mashed potatoes, something green (vegetable?), and gravy on a paper plate. Well folks, the plate was the most nutritious part of that meal, also the most tasty!

                I have no quarrel with “fabricated” foods, nor with soybean meal additives, and cholesterol free margarine or the like. As has always been the case, world population is exceeding the food supply. However, I cannot condone the “one-upmanship” of fabricated foods climbing to the profitable top of the food industry on the lies they spread about beef, pork, poultry and milk.

                Last year an estimated $47,000,000 was lost to the cattle industry by something so simple as untreated lice on cattle. The Beef Board expects about $40 million for beef promotion through a favorable vote in February. Also, if you are not satisfied with their methods, or disagree with the program in general, your money is refundable through a written request. This is something like playing poker and having your money returned if you don’t like the way the game is going…it takes away some of the thrill of winning, but spares you “the agony of defeat.”

                That’s it folks. Quit your “beefing” and vote “yes”. And if you don’t wish to, that’s your business…or “everyone to his own taste,” said the farmer as he kissed a cow!

                I was surprised to read in last weeks “Press” that Towner has had a newspaper for 92 years…something to be proud of I think. I was even more surprised to read about the “men who’ve sweated out their living” there. Apparently the writer forgot about the “woman” who ran this paper for twenty some years, Fern Lee. I know this was not an intentional lack of credit, but I call attention to it because Fern was editor when I first began making weekly visits to the press office as editor of the Cardinal when I was in high school, never mind the year! I immediately fell in love with the newspaper business and especially the Towner arm of it. The old press office with its sloping floor, hot lead, black ink and the wonderful clank and clamor at printing time made it one of my favorite places.

                Next week, “Plagiarism for Fun and Profit.”



A Bud Taylor (b. 1921, d. 2010) story told firsthand about chasing horses from Towner to Jamestown in 1935.

cedarcouleeNote from the typesetter–the following story was handwritten by my dad, Bud Taylor, when he was beginning to feel the effects of his Parkinson’s Disease. I typed it so we could share it more easily. I left the language, spelling and grammar as I found them to keep it authentic. They’re from the hand of an old rancher with a 10th grade education, a sharp mind and an interesting life. I wish we could still sit down with Dad and Mom and listen to these stories firsthand, but these typed words will have to do. Ryan Taylor

Jamestown Horse Drive

I was in Montana the summer of 1934. Gordon (Gordon Taylor, a cousin to Bud’s father who ran some 500 horses and mules near Culbertson, Mont.) had sold a lot horses that year as grass was real short and the only grass was on the river sandbars.  A man from north of Crookston, Minn., got a few loads. All I can say for sure was Gordon got two loads back in the spring 1935.

He came to Towner by car, a 1927 Buick Coup, and a homemade two wheel horse  trailer with one saddle horse in it. He left the car and horse in Towner, got on train and went to Minnesota and came back with 2 loads of horses that the buyer had never paid for. Were pretty good horse geldings out of Percheron stud. Not just ponys, weighed 1200 to 1400 pounds.

It was March or February of 1935, not sure, there was lot of snow. I was in school and helped him take them to a pasture 13 ½ miles south of Towner. He had a horse, part thoroughbred, named Dillinger that was in the load from Minnesota. I rode Dillinger and he rode Frosty, the white horse he hauled up from Montana in the trailer. We stopped at Joe Voellers about 2/3 of the way down and he gave us dinner. The horses were tired and glad to stop and eat also.

We got to the Slate place and left the horses, all but Frosty. Axel Kongslie met us there as it was his pasture land. Gordon and him went to the river ranch that Axel lived on, I’d say 7 or 8 miles northwest and I took Frosty down there that night before dark and he took him up back to town. Gordon took Frosty back to Montana and came back June 1 or so with a roan horse called Roany. He bucked me off one time over by Three Buttes southeast of Culbertson. We were helping Dan Walters get in horses and were going down hill pretty fast and he put me down. Dan came by and I rode behind his saddle until we got to the pens.

Roany had broke the bridle lines. Gordon put a rope on and tied each side to the bit and rode him. He didn’t get bucked off and he gave his horse to me to ride rest of the time, a brown horse called Shorty.

Getting back to 1935, Don Taylor came on train from DevilsLake to help us as far as Minnewaukan. Don, no relation to us, was the son of old Frank Taylor an old black man and horse trader north of Towner. He had two sons, the other one was Raymond Lazier or Bud Lazier as he was called at times. Frank raised Don.

Don was sharp and witty. One time Earl Talmage’s cattle got on Frank’s land and Don took a 30-30 and shot several two-year-old steers from the upstairs window of the house and killed them. The law was after him. He took a freight train to Culbertson and stayed at Gordon’s awhile and went on to Wolf Point, Mont. and said he was part Indian or one of them. He came back some time later. Never went to the penitentiary as far as I can recall.

He married a German girl, went to Devils Lake, had a family, left her and enlisted in the army. I was told he got the bronze star and died in California. I would say he was born in 1913 or maybe 1916, not sure.

We started trailing those horses after I got out of school in June, the first day we got as far as Balta Stockyards, had to pump water by hand pump, didn’t feed anything once it was night. If we came to a good grass section line with fence on both sides, one of us would stay on each end and let them fill up on grass.

When you turned out they run awhile but later on would slow up some.

We slept in a small tent and cooked our own meals, mostly eggs and spuds fried on a small iron stove with a wood fire. Gordon was the cook, had his own style of fixing food. I never forgot a pail of eggs he got at a farm one day. We stopped that day and I asked how you going to keep them eggs from all breaking. He said that’s easy, he filled a 12 quart pail with water and put all the eggs in and boiled the whole bunch. We ate them, but towards the end they got pretty black under the shells.

And the spuds he would slice up, put in a little grease to start them and then fill the skillet half full of water, then put a cover on and cook until they were done. Never ate that way before or after. Put on salt and pepper and you could get them down if you were hungry. No fresh meat, a little bacon and ham, some canned goods was the size of it. We also had bread and coffee, don’t recall any butter, maybe syrup and peanut butter to put on bread.

Went to bed at dark and got up early. Gordon never drank any I knew of, didn’t smoke either, never played cards as I knew of, didn’t have much to do but go to bed. Your toilet was behind a tree if there was one handy. Carried water, and didn’t waste any either.

The next stop was Baker, N.D. I never will forget it as we camped near the yards and they had an electric light plant that ran all night and could hear it a long way off. It was either gas or coal oil not sure. I do know Towner’s first plant was run by two 25 horsepower kerosene engines or coal oil as it was called then. Anyway it’s hard to get to sleep when you’re used to no noise at all.

The next stop was Minnewaukan. He got a pasture rented and we stayed a week waiting for the next horse sale at Jamestown Auction.

We took Don back to DevilsLake and Gordon and I took the horses from there to Jamestown alone. We had to cross the JimRiver or a creek, don’t recall for sure. We had a little trouble in the crossing as there was trees and brush but we made it okay.

Speaking of the James River we camped by it just north of the bridge in Jamestown on west side below the hill. Elders Bros. Horse Auction was by the street up the hill from the bridge. Getting back to our camp, one day the sheriff came out to see what we were doing there. Gordon told and he left, now there are houses and dealers all along the river for a mile or so north.

Anyway if it was going good I would move the horses alone and he would go ahead with the car and Roany in the trailer if I got in trouble so he had a horse to ride.

The last day me and him put them in the yards on top of the hill no trouble. The next day after dinner they had a sale most of them sold for $40 to $50 each. Sold Dillinger also, don’t remember the price, maybe $35. It was late when we left there. We loaded up, put Roany in trailer, got into Towner about 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning. Stopped at the stockyard, unloaded Roany, put the tent over the trailer and went to bed in the trailer. They had what you call a canvas tarpolin canvas about 6 ft. wide and 12 ft. long, it had snaps on one side and folded it so you had a cover under and over you. It kept the bed clean.

Well that’s the end of it. That’s the way it was in the 1930’s. Gordon was 56 years old, I was 14 years old. He was a real old time cowboy and I must have been a pretty good hand for a young boy.

Mom, a pioneer in her own right, writes of another pioneer woman, her mother-in-law Pearl (Larson) Taylor, at her death on May 16, 1982.

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch

By Liz Taylor

May 19, 1982

Mouse River Farmer’s Press, Towner, N.D.


                It is the wee hours of Sunday morning, May 16, and I cannot sleep. A little over an hour ago, we received a phone call from the hospital with the news that Bud’s mother had died in her sleep. Pearl Elizabeth (Larson) Taylor, dead at 87 years of age.

                As I sit here, I cannot remember exactly how many years she was a resident of the extended care section of the hospital. It’s been awhile and before that, she had spent a few years at the Haaland Home in Rugby. I said she was “a resident” or “had spent some time,” I did not say that she had “lived” at these places. The reluctance to use the word “lived” is not meant as a criticism of these fine facilities, but that being in either one or both is not “living” as “living” was known by their elderly residents years ago. For the most part they were pioneers, and while it seems hard to believe, they were young once too; young, and involved with the struggle of life so different from the endless sameness of their life in retirement homes.

                Pearl struggled for much of her life. She was a pioneer who saw changes in life in North Dakota that were almost unbelievable.

                Her mother died when she was a young girl, and the work of caring for her younger brothers and sisters was thrust upon her in her father’s home in Grand Forks, N.D. I never knew whether she had to work so hard then because she was the oldest girl, or the oldest one at home, but she said she was 13 years old when her mother died. In any event, it was the end of her childhood and she did things that 13 year olds don’t have to do today—sewing, baking, washing clothes, all of it the hard way; that and comforting and caring for those younger than her. We talked about her girlhood only occasionally when she was still living on the ranch. Of course, as with my own mother at her death, I think of all the unanswered questions tonight.

                She came to McHenry County to teach in a rural school when she was 17 years old. Why? I don’t know why, only that she did. She taught near Granville, and south of Towner prior to 1914, when she married Clyde Durward Taylor, a rancher.

                Pearl talked quite a bit about those early days on the Taylor Ranch. There were happy times, but the hard times and sad times stay in my memory the most. She lived here with her husband, his parents, Harvey and Mary Taylor, and her husband’s brother, Marshall Ney Taylor, in those years. It must have been difficult, crowded even, but that was the way most folks lived then, and you accepted life as it was.

                They were busy years. She told how they always started making hay the Monday after the 4th of July with several horse mowers, and the hired men. Then there were the long winters of feeding the hay to the cattle and horses, all seasons were busy times.

                Her first born, a son, Harvey Allen Taylor, was born October 15, 1919, and second, Marshall Edwin “Bud” was born August 9, 1921. According to a book on the history of the Taylor family written by Mrs. Harvey A. Taylor of Lisbon, N.D., there was another son born, probably earlier; and dead at birth, who was buried on the ranch.

                The sad times began with the death of Marshall Ney Taylor (Uncle Marshall) in the fall of 1921 on November 17. He was injured, stepped on the chest by a steer in branding, and died seventeen days later. He was only twenty years old, and Pearl spoke of him with affection. Marshall shared her love of music and played the piano and sang, as did Pearl. He was teaching in a rural school a few miles east of the ranch when he died and Pearl finished his teaching term, leaving her two sons in the care of their father and grandmother during the day.

                Tragedy struck again a few months later when Harvey Taylor, Clyde and Marshall’s father, died on April 27, 1922, leaving his wife, Mary Arlene Taylor, a widow. Clyde continued to run the ranch with his mother and wife, and it must have been a difficult time for all of them.

                Sometime that winter Clyde called on a neighbor, we have never learned who, the name lost in memory over the years. The lady of the house had recently given birth to twins, and it is believed some of the children there, or another visitor, had smallpox. Sometime later, Clyde contracted smallpox, and on February 15, 1923, he died.

                I can only speculate as to the desolation of that winter. With Clyde’s death, all of the Taylor men on the ranch had died within a time span of fifteen months. At the time of her husband’s death, Pearl was expecting a third child. This child, her only daughter, Mary Elizabeth (Betty) Taylor was born on May 20, 1923.

                Two widows, and three small children, could not operate a ranch on the inhospitable prairie in those days; indeed, it couldn’t be done today. They sold much of the personal property, kept some of the cattle which they received a share of by the renter and moved into Towner. The struggle did not end then, but as the years passed, the memory of those sad times when there were three deaths in the family in such a short time, dimmed, and only surfaced when Pearl spoke of them. It was during one of these conversations that she shared with me her sorrow at the death of her husband when she was 28 that he didn’t have a funeral in a church.

                “People were so afraid of smallpox in those days that we really didn’t have a funeral,” she related, “Rev. Wanberg came out to the cemetery for the graveside rites. It was an awfully cold and windy day.” She looked away for a moment and sighed, “Dying is easy. It’s living that’s hard.”

                Pearl Elizabeth Larson Taylor was born on May 31, 1894, and died in her sleep on May 16, 1982.


Liz Taylor, Jan. 23, 1980, how to make your own blizzard beater

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch

By Liz Taylor

January 23, 1980

Mouse River Farmer’s Press, Towner, N.D.


                The late Will Rogers, well known newspaper columnist and humorist, once said, “all I know is what I read in the papers.” His untimely death in a plane crash came about 20 years before television had invaded millions of homes. Had he lived to see this sometimes marvel, sometimes curse, he would have written volumes about it, and certainly would have had a job as a commentator, talk show host, or whatever. As it is, he never heard the word “now” stretched out by Washington bureaucrats into something so unwieldy as “at this point in time.”

                It’s quite possible he would be alive today if he had had his ‘priorities in order’ and had not gone on that fatal flight to Alaska until a later date with a more sophisticated airplane, one equipped with rada, auto pilot, and so forth. AS it was, he did not say, when he departed on that final journey, “have a nice day.” He said goodbye to his friends, and that was that.

                Thoughts about these “new expressions” brought to us through the wonders of television go through my mind quite often as I watch and listen to the “idiot box” or “boob tube.” Recently I was mesmerized, following the evening news, by a game show called the “Newlywed Game.” When TV critics speak of sex and violence I imagine this show covers both. There is quite a bit of sex talk on the show, and the violence no doubt follows when the couples get home and begin to berate each other for the things they have revealed on national television.

                They reveal these secrets in front of a “live television audience” (as for myself, I yearn to see a ‘dead’ television audience). And they go through this ordeal to have a chance to win prizes, “Brand new, just for you, super exciting,” and then the prize is revealed. Quite often it’s a washer and dryer or refrigerator freezer. Super exciting? Hardly. I have a washer and dryer and a refrigerator freezer, and while I find them immensely convenient, I do manage to contain my excitement when I use them. They do come in handy when I’m suffering from any of the maladies curable by products advertised during the evening news.

                From these ads, I gather the evening news is directed to an older or mature audience. One evening recently the products were: Milk of Magnesia, Excedrin, Preparation H, Geritol, and Pepto-Bismol, to name a few. I’m not kidding folks. Pay attention the next time you watch the evening news. And just to top…or bottom…it off, the spot saved for our local station recently was “Don’t miss the super bowl.” Well! How could we?

                Ah, but there is truth in advertising! There is a weatherman on Channel 13, his name is Mark Ess, and through the wonders of television and the Popular Mechanics magazine he is out to sell you a “Blizzard Beater.” Here we have an honest man…not everyone I have talked to likes Mark Ess as a weatherman. Well, I like him. He does his job, as weatherman go, reads what is handed to him and comes to work every day. What more can you ask of a weatherperson?

                And he is currently selling you a “Blizzard Beater,” a plastic box (available at Kmart for 88 cents), and a candle, some dried soup and instant coffee, a plastic flag for your antenna, and a piece of plastic and tinfoil called a space age survivor blanket…and all this for $14.95.

                Why do I call this truth in advertising? Because Mark Ess, himself, comes right out on television and says for you to send him $14.95 and you’ll “get yours!”

                By the way, if you don’t have $14.95, take an empty coffee can or two, some candles (or a kerosene lantern), a bag of lemon drops, some instant soup and instant coffee, and a couple of plastic garbage bags, and a book or two of matches, or bottles of ‘farmers matches’ and then take the change from $5 and have a party! Of course, this free offer doesn’t include a kerosene lantern, I only mentioned it because it’s better than a candle. In any event, for a few dollars, you can equip yourself with a homemade blizzard beater and not “get yours” from our friend, Mark Ess.

                The Mouse River Farmers Press has had news items the past two weeks devoted to Towner’s two financial institutions, the Midwest Federal Savings and Loan’s grand opening and the third anniversary of the State Bank of Towner. And so it should be, for it was such a short time ago that Towner suffered the agony of no financial businesses whatsoever. That, of course, brings to my mind, what does it take to start a bank anyway? I’m ashamed to admit I had no answer to this question until son, Ryan, brought a book home from school last week entitled the “Pioneers.”

                As I read this most interesting volume, I came upon an interview the author had had with a retired (millionaire) Midwestern banker. The banker, when asked how he happened to go into the banking business, replied honestly, “Well sir, I just rented this old, empty store building on main street and then I wrote the word “BANK” on the window. Sure enough, the first day a feller came in and deposited $250 in my bank, and then the second day a feller came in and deposited $300 in my bank. Well, by the third day, I had gained so much confidence in my bank…well, I put in$100 of my own money!”

                NEXT WEEK…“What’s the Beef about the Beeferendum.”


Liz Taylor column, the second week, “the only place colder than a country school on a Monday morning, was the outhouse.”

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch

By Liz Taylor

January 16, 1980

Mouse River Farmer’s Press, Towner, N.D.


                Now and then in years past, friends have said to me, “Why don’t you write in the paper more often?”

                It was not always possible or appropriate to do so, but I did on occasion write to criticize, or praise, or just to inform. Sometimes on my own, sometimes when asked to. And when I did, folks were either furious, amused, or complimentary…or all three. I was pleasantly surprised this past week by phone calls, letters, and sidewalk encounters, and the kind words expressed over the fact that I would indeed be writing “more often.” Thanks to those of you who took the time and trouble to voice those encouraging words.

                One of the nicest things about small towns and rural communities is that while folks don’t always agree with what you say, they do allow you to say it. However, if you get too controversial, it’s wise to sit with your back against the wall and to stay away from open windows!

                I said I was going to write about nostalgia and country schools this week, at least partly. Nostalgia is simply the longing for things, people, and situations no longer with us, and my thoughts about those days were brought on more by these feelings in others than in myself. Because of the energy crisis, many have chosen to supplement their oil, gas, or electric heat with wood and coal stoves. We would have been doing the same but lacked the energy to move my old cookstove into the house!

                Wood and coal are energy savers if you’re only supplementing your otherwise convenient methods. In our modern homes with running water, etc., you would waste more energy than you saved by trying to thaw out your pipes if you let the fire go out. Also if everyone were to rely on wood for heat, we would indeed be living on the prairies again. There wouldn’t be a tree, living or dead, to be found anywhere in the area in a few years.

                My most vivid memory of the country schools I attended was the major undertaking of keeping the building and its occupants warm. The huge coal stove kept the ceiling hot, the floors cold, and the teacher hopping! It was not unusual for the water bucket in the hallway to have ice on it, and if you forgot to empty it at the close of the day, and unprimed the pump, both would be solidly frozen the next morning. Often the first hour or two of the day was not devoted to learning, but to getting warm.

                Some of the students walked or rode horseback for miles to get to school, and often suffered frostbite and the resulting chilblains. We sat around the stove and the teacher read to us, or we sang songs, and if we were still there at 10 o’clock, she tried to conduct classes. It really didn’t make a lot of difference because we all heard each other’s lessons throughout the day and through the years, no matter where we sat. It was a learning system that was unique in that first you learned something, and then you had a chance to review it for years.

                The only place colder than a country school on a Monday morning, was the outhouse. A visit there made the schoolroom feel warm upon your return!

                There were many happy memories for students and teachers alike associated with country schools and the happiest were those of the annual Christmas program in winter and the school picnic in the spring. I will be writing about those times in the future but week I wish to devote some space to something or a more contemporary nature.

                I have been mulling over some full page ads in the Minot Daily News and other newspapers recently that were aimed at those of us who own gold and silver coins or jewelry…“rings and things.” Indeed, one Minot business which buys those items is called “Rings and Things.” Their ad does not state how long they have been in business but another Minot firm boasts of having been in the same location for eight years. I’ve known panhandlers and winos who have been at the same corner longer than that!

                The recent rise in the price of gold and silver is unprecedented in our time. Since early September 1979, gold has more than doubled in price, and that’s less than six months ago.

                I’m not in the business of buying or selling precious metals, but I often give unsolicited advice. Be careful if you’re selling and visit with more than one buyer. These people are not buying to make you rich, they have someone else in mind! Remember that somewhat cynical parody of the golden rule, “Whoever has the gold makes the rules.”

                It is a pleasant Monday morning as I finish this, following a couple more “humdinger” storm systems last Thursday and Friday. Friend and nephew Wade Dokken is coming out to take my picture for the columns and if it doesn’t look too much like me I’ll let the publisher publish it.

                And the next time I get to town I’m going to visit the local western store owned by Roy and Jackie Follman and have my name engraved on the back of my belts so folks will know who I am, whether I’m coming or going.

                Next week, “Should I get my priorities in order at this point in time or just have a good day?”




This is my Liz Taylor

This is my Liz Taylor

She was quite a woman. She was a rancher, an artist, a fiddle player, a coyote trapper, and a writer who wrote her column, Meanwhile Back at the Ranch, in the Mouse River Farmers Press from January 1980 up to her hospitalization with ovarian cancer in October of 2008. She was my mother. I found the scrapbooks of her first columns, so I’m digitizing them, typing them up is another way to put it. For me, it’s morning coffee and a visit with mom, nearly four years after her passing. If you decide to read them, I hope you enjoy them, too. You can see some of her artwork as prints at my website Back at the ranch, Ryan Taylor

Liz Taylor’s (my late mother’s) very first newspaper column, Jan. 9, 1980

Meanwhile Back at the Ranch

By Liz Taylor

January 9, 1980

Mouse River Farmers Press, Towner, N.D.


                A few days ago Roger Domres called from the press office, and asked if I would be interested in writing a weekly column for the paper. I think he was somewhat stunned by my quick, affirmative reply as he probably didn’t realize that a person who has been known to write irate letters to newspapers, and also opinion articles, is always ready to write anything, anytime, except personal letters!

                Roger left the column heading up to me and I am using one that I have used occasionally in the past, “Meanwhile, back at the ranch….” And since I had to explain it to my children and as I hope some of the readers are younger than me, I thought I would explain it to all. This phrase is common to listeners of the “Lone Ranger” radio show, and fans of Gene Autry and Roy Rogers movies of years ago. Quite simply it meant that while rustlers, horse thieves and bank robbers were at work all around, “Meanwhile, back at the ranch,” things were going on as before, plus the ranchers were readying themselves for any problems which might result from outside influences.

                Today you will find the same things prevail; it could be “back at the ranch,” or “down on the farm” but life goes on pretty much as usual, whether auto workers strike, an earthquake shatters Chile, or a hurricane strikes Cuba. We care, but we also have to harvest crops and feed animals no matter what goes on around us. Sometimes life is simple, sometimes it is really difficult, but it does go on and you do what you have to do and give it your best shot.

                As I write this, we have a truly typical North Dakota blizzard, with promise of a foot or more of new snow, winds gusting to 50 mph, and the storm is to be followed by dropping temperatures in the 20 to 30 below area. There is one thing unusual about this storm…it is really the first one we’ve had in a winter of remarkable warmth and stillness. A lot of people feel that God is responsible for everything that touches our lives, including this storm, but I like to think He has more important things to look after, such as problems in Iran and Afghanistan. That being the case, perhaps He turned North Dakota’s weather over to some subordinates (i.e. Heavenly bureaucrats), the same ones responsible for the fact that my teeth wore out before the rest of my bones. And these hirelings of the Lord were just too busy doing nothing to remember winter was supposed to be sort of tough in North Dakota…and because of their neglect we had to endure temperatures in the 40’s above many days in November and December. What little snow we had disappeared and there were moments of fear that people would start moving here from California and Florida.

                Finally one of the aforementioned ecclesiastical clerks looked down on January 6 and said, “My Goodness!” (you didn’t think he would say ‘My God!’ did you?) “Look at North Dakota, it’s all bare and warm. By now they should have had at least 4 or 5 snow storms…and here it’s January. Let’s give them a humdinger.”

                Actually the reason I know it’s a humdinger is because Bud just came in from outside followed by a blast of cold air and snow saying, “Boy! It’s a humdinger out there!”

                As I write this I think about my good friend, Fern Lee, who said years ago, “If you write a column on Sunday telling about how bad the weather is, it will surely be nice on Thursday when the paper is read…”

                Therefore, if the weather is nice on Thursday, it’s because I wrote how bad it was on Sunday. If the weather is bad…well, I guess Fern was wrong! In any event our winter so far has been a real gift for the animals and the people who care for them in the winter months. And the snow we have now will make life more pleasant for those who own and operate skiing areas…and those whose idea of a good time is buzzing around the countryside on snowmobiles.

                Folks who keep track of such things as winters past may say that we’ve had more pleasant Novembers and Decembers than 1979, but I recall only one. It must have been in the early 1940’s as I was about 8 or 9 years old.

                I walked across the pasture to our country school with my brothers and sisters to take part in our Christmas program. There was no snow on the ground and the temperature was about 30 above. I wasn’t wearing overshoes which could have been because of the weather or because I didn’t have any.

                Next Week…“Nostalgia and the country school.”