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Harry Green

AIR #111
October 28 - November 29, 1973

From a mansion in Iowa to a one-room shack on the bank of a creek in Montana - forty miles from the nearest town. What would motivate anyone to make such a move? Perhaps Mrs. Harry Green in the days - weeks - months - years that followed their immigration to Montana may have wondered. Yet hundreds and thousands left the comfort and comparative security of their homes in established communities of the Midwest and the east to 'rough it' on the Montana prairies during the homestead era.

Although far removed from the nearest town, the newly settled Greens did have a close neighbor. Herschel Purdam lived in a tent just across the creek from them. Compared to living in a tent (with a two-week-old baby) perhaps the shack wasn't so bad after all.

Harry Green was a native of Iowa but Mabel Needham Green had lived her early years in Chicago. When she was about sixteen she had her first introduction to Montana. She, with her family, toured Yellowstone National Park. Little did she dream then that she would one day make her home on the prairies of eastern Montana! They traveled by train to the park then hired a guide with a team and covered wagon to take them through the park.

Every year the Needham family took a trip, usually to the Great Lakes, during hay fever season to escape the pollen to which they were allergic.

Within a few years of that trip her father bought a bank in Early, Iowa and move his family to the Cornhusker State. There he built a luxurious home, the largest in town, for his family. This house was recently purchased by a Chicago couple and restored to its old-time elegance. It is sometimes opened to the public for tours.

In Iowa Mabel met a young farmer by the name of Harry Green. His father was an auctioneer, 'Colonel Green', known all over the state. The first time she saw him was through a window of the family home as he drove by - a young man with black curly hair, driving a fancy team, hitched to a fancy rig.

She immediately decided she had to meet him and she did. The interest proved mutual and in 1905 they were married. Her parents were less than enthusiastic about her marrying a farmer and probably would have been even less so had they been able to see ahead to the years on a Montana homestead.

The first few years following their marriage they lived on a farm in Iowa. Their home was not so luxurious as her parent's home, of course, but they were comfortable. Their first three children, Delbert, Mary, and Charlotte, were born in Iowa.

One day, in preparation for going into town, Mrs. Green dressed little Delbert in a white sailor suit with a little white hat on his head then turned her attention to other matters. When all was ready, she looked for Delbert but no little lad was to be found.

A railroad track ran through their farm and their search brought the information from a neighbor that Delbert had been seen strolling down the track - solo. They lost no time pursuing him and when they caught up with him he was nonchalantly meandering along, his white hat on his foot!

That was not the first unauthorized stroll he took. After they moved to Montana he found himself in trouble more than once for that very thing. Much of the country was still open range when the Greens settled on Clear Creek and Delbert had been strictly forbidden to venture away from 'home base'.

Delbert, however, ever of a venturesome spirit, had to go exploring. The neighbor boy who lived on the 120 acres just north of the Greens was of a kindred spirit and he was with Delbert in forbidden territory when they suddenly found themselves surrounded by a bunch of longhorn cattle.

There was no time to run for shelter, no place to hide. Long horns clanked against long horns as the cattle encircled the boys. What could two small boys do? Not much of anything so they just stood back to back, looked at the longhorns and the longhorns looked at them.

The encounter couldn't have continued for the eternity it seemed to the boys. Finally, with no motion from them, the cattle wearied of the confrontation, broke ranks and went on about their business. Two frightened boys scurried on home.

Later the owner of the cattle told them they had done the only thing they could have done to survive. If they had tried to run, the cattle would have chased them and, no doubt, trampled them.

Company was always welcome, invited or uninvited and the older girls particularly remember one Sunday when unexpected company came - one Sunday when only two chickens had been prepared.

Just so many people could sit around the table and the others had to wait. Mary and Charlotte, old enough to help with the cooking, naturally waited. Doris's main contribution was helping wash dishes. Since she was younger and didn't get to go places with the older girls she was told, with special magnanimity, she could sit at the table if she would PROMISE TO TAKE ONLY ONE PIECE OF CHICKEN.

Doris sat at the table. Demurely she ate her piece of chicken. Then, with a roguish look at her sisters, she deliberately speared another piece of chicken. Desperately, Mary and Charlotte tried to signal to her reminding her of her promise but she just sat serenely eating her second piece of chicken. And then, with another wicked glance at her horrified sisters, she speared yet a third piece.

The older girls didn't feel they could say anything then but they've said plenty since. To this day, when the sisters get together, Doris is reminded of her treachery.

But her treachery doesn't make them cringe, as does the memory of Donnie's brutal frankness on another occasion. This time they were the guests. Pie was served for the dessert. As Donnie, just old enough to talk clearly, struggled with his pie, he announced to his mother, in a voice that carried around the table, "This is the toughest crust I've ever eaten."


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