The Roger Roop family played an important role in the development of the Heifer Project that touched all of their lives, from Roger and Olive to their daughters Shirley and Patricia, and later baby Elaine.
In my 2003 interview with Olive, she recounted how “the shipments came in by rail at night, and the station agent would call us and Roger would go in and get the men who were with the cattle, one or two, and bring them out and we often would have just a little something for them to eat or drink and have a place for them to sleep at night. And then the next morning, they would have trucks ready and bring the cattle out to the farm. But they almost always came in the night.” One trucker from Virginia was a particular aggravation. He would come in at night blowing his air horn, waking the baby. “I didn’t like it,” she said. “But I could tell you so many good things.”
For daughter Patricia, the farm was an exciting place to be. She recalled in a 1976 Messenger article, “Along with the cattle came many colorful people to share stories with us. I especially remember Milo Weaver because he used to help me peel potatoes for all the men my mother, sister, and I had to feed.”
One of the good things Olive mentioned was a local trucker, Vernon Gladhill, who volunteered his truck and time hauling cattle from the train to the farm and back to the train for shipping to Baltimore. This was his way of contributing to the Heifer Project, he told Roger.
The work load for Roger became heavy as the Heifer Project mushroomed. The 15 acres originally offered free of charge soon expanded to rental of the entire approximately 130-acre farm and buildings for $800, with a salary of $1800 for Roger and $400 for the use of equipment including truck, tractors, hay baler, grinder, etc. Kenneth West and Wayne Keltner, two Civilian Public Service workers, and Rouford Coontz, all stationed at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, were assigned to help out at the farm. Seagoing cowboys waiting shipment would sometimes help, as well.
Roger wrote in one report, “There were days when things were a bit hectic due to cattle at the farm needing care, animals arriving, then cattle needing to be read by vet for Bangs disease and TB [tests they had been given].” Incoming cattle had to be recorded, numbered, and maybe have blood drawn. “Bloating happened on several occasions,” Roger said, “as well as freshening heifers needing help on some occasions when placenta had to be removed manually.”
A saying around the farm was that “we could expect the unexpected anytime.” Like the night the family was awakened by a terrific rumble. “Apparently something had spooked the cattle,” Roger said, “and they stampeded. The next morning we found two heifers in the field with broken legs.” They were butchered and the meat was used in the kitchen at the Brethren Service Center.
“Sometime later we experienced another stampede,” Roger wrote. “We had worked a long day…. About 10 o’clock that night someone said that a large group had broken out and gone out across the field. Ted Albaugh and I knew the lay of the land so we went out and got around them. It was a clear, moon light night. If some of you have read western stories that speak of ‘Saint Elmos’ fire you will understand what I have to share.
“While we were bringing the cattle back to the barn something must have spooked them for they turned right around and ran toward us. We could see the bluish-green light in their eyes which was caused by fright. We were too far from any fence to outrun them so we ran toward each other, cupped our hands and yelled at the top of our voices. The cattle did part and ran on either side of us. If they had not done so we would have been trampled to death. I’m wondering what was the color of our eyes!
“Fortunately, of all the volunteers and others who had any part in work at the farm, none were injured.”
Some 3600 head of cattle were processed at the Roop farm during the three years of its operation. Roger became ill with undulant fever in 1948, after which collection activities were transferred to the Barkley Bowman farm.
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