About Peggy Reiff Miller

I grew up on a small dairy farm in northwestern Illinois, went to a small country church, attended a small high school, then a small church-related college before venturing out into the big, wide world. I applied my liberal arts education to a number of jobs and careers for 35 years before hitting my stride as the writer and caretaker of the seagoing cowboy history. This calling has kept me well occupied since 2002.

Cattle for Israel: An additional seagoing cowboy program – Part I

Key figures in the supply of livestock for UNRRA’s shipments to Europe after WWII were two Jewish brothers, Ben and Sol Levinson, owners of the Levinson Livestock Company. With an office in Newport News, Virginia, and a 4,000-acre farm along the C&O railroad near Williamsburg, they re-purposed a 600-head feed lot for handling animals for export. Two years after UNRRA’s work ceased, the Levinson brothers were exporting again – this time to Israel. The first shipment left Newport News November 16, 1949, setting a new seagoing cowboy program in motion.

The S. S. Pass Christian Victory loads cattle for Israel in Newport News, VA, Nov. 1949. Photo credit: John R. Martin.

The Palestine News of December 2, 1949, reported the shipment’s arrival:

HAIFA, Thursday [Dec. 1]. — More milk will flow in Israel after today’s arrival of 744 milch cows, 42 calves and two bulls of Friesian stock, on the s.s. Pass Christian Victory, a ship of the U.S. Maritime Commission. This is the first consignment of cattle ordered by the Jewish Agency Agricultural Department, for building up livestock in new settlements.

Seagoing cowboy J. Harold Buckwalter notes in his diary on November 16:

They loaded no. 5 hatch first with the milk cows. We started milking first thing. Our beginning number was about 40. (We loaded 900 bred registered Holstien [sic] heifers, which were scheduled to give birth to their first calves after arrival in Israel!, but because the ship was delayed in New Orleans, before coming to Newport News, the calves began to arrive before sailing and we milked our way across the atlantic!)

First crew of seagoing cowboys for Israel livestock program, Nov. 1949. Photo credit: John R. Martin.

“We were supposed to have milking machines on board,” says Lewis Burkholder. “I went as a milker and the pay was $175.00. Some men went as feeders and their pay was $150.00.”

The extra pay hardly made up for the rigors of the job. “By the time we got to Israel we were milking eight hours a day,” Burkholder says. “Four in the morning and four in the evening.”

The crossing was a rough one. “Imagine milking cows by hand with the ship rolling from side to side and most of the cows were first lactation heifers and many of us were seasick. Our hands got very, very sore from milking so many hours. One man had brought a large bottle of liniment along, so in the evening we would rub it on our hands and then hold our hands over the light bulb at each bed.”

What did they do with so much milk? one wonders. “We were supposed to pull the milk up to the deck and dump it over the side,” Burkholder says. “We learned that some cows would drink the milk so we recycled some of it. Some cows would drink as much as ten gallons.”

Camels walking through Nazareth, Dec. 1949. Photo credit: J. Harold Buckwalter.

On arrival in Haifa, J. Harold Buckwalter recalls receiving a “Royal Welcome.” Their hard work was rewarded when the cowboys were given a two-day, all-expense-paid tour of the Holy Lands by the Israeli government. Buckwalter notes seeing “flocks of sheep along the hills,” seeing “Arabs along the roads, riding donkeys,” driving past “citrus groves and olive trees, palms and banana trees,” seeing “immigration settlements, living in tents.” They visited a Kibbutz and Holy sites in Nazareth, Jerusalem, and Mount Zion. On their own after the tour, they explored the Sea of Galilee and Tel Aviv and went up Mount Carmel for a view of Haifa at night.

John R. Martin notes, “The trip turned out to be an experience of a life time.”

(to be continued)

In Memorium

It’s time for our Fifth Friday post honoring seagoing cowboys who have recently passed from this world.

Emmel, Rev. Vernon Donald, May 5, 2017. S. S. Robert W. Hart to Poland, June 29, 1946.

Ensz, Albert, April 10, 2017. S. S. Morgantown Victory to Poland, December 11, 1945.

Yoder, John David, May 4, 2017. S. S. Woodstock Victory to Poland, June 7, 1946.

Many thanks to Leland Miller for his gift to my Seagoing Cowboy Storytelling Project in honor of his father Norman S. Miller, S. S. John J. Crittenden to Poland, March 6, 1946.

Was there confiscation of UNRRA and Heifer Project livestock?

Rumors abounded among seagoing cowboys who went to Poland that UNRRA horses were being stolen by the Russians and shipped off to Russia. I’ve found assurances in archival materials that this was not the case. The following letter dated October 28, 1946, was sent to the Brethren Service Committee by Brig. C. M. Drury, Chief of the UNRRA Mission to Poland in Warsaw:

Subject: Livestock imported to Poland

Although we have received rumors from various sources that some livestock brought to Poland by U.N.R.R.A. has been taken by other countries, particularly Russia, our investigations have repeatedly proven all such rumors to be without foundation.

I can say without hesitation that to date as far as I know not one U.N.R.R.A. animal has been stolen from the Polish people by the Russians.

On the other hand, the Polish Government Repatriation Office informs us that the Russian government has permitted repatriated persons returning to Poland from Russia to bring with them up to the end of the first quarter of 1946: 52,536 horses, 121,347 cows, 36,775 hogs and 55,329 sheep and goats.

Signed: C. M. DRURY, Chief of Mission

An identical letter was signed by Dr. A. G. Wilder, Chief Veterinarian.

Polish farmers receiving their new work horses at a collection station, 1946. Photo credit: James Brunk.

This assessment was confirmed by Gaither P. Warfield of the Methodist Committee for Overseas Relief and Methodist representative to the Heifer Project Committee who visited Poland in early 1947. Minutes of the March 29, 1947, HPC meeting state: “Warfield said he had not seen any confiscation by the Russians in Poland since they came into the country in the last six or eight months.” Ralph Delk, at the same meeting, reported that “Dr. Wilder has traced down rumors of confiscation but not in any single instance have they found Russian confiscation of American gifts.”

So the seagoing cowboys can rest assured that their animals most likely got to where they were meant to go.

There were two instances, however, where animals sent by the Heifer Project were diverted within Poland. Thurl Metzger, later to become Executive Director of the Heifer Project, spent mid-October 1946 to mid-April 1947 in Poland working for both UNRRA and the Brethren Service Committee. He reported these happenings to the Heifer Project Committee on his return to the United States.

In March 1946, 228 HPC heifers were shipped to Poland on the S. S. Woodstock Victory. Apparently by mistake, these heifers were sold by the Polish government as regular UNRRA supplies. Metzger discovered the mistake, backed up his claim with evidence, and approached Polish officials about the missing animals. “Armed with only my youthful indignation,” Metzger reported years later, “I was able to secure a settlement.”

Based on the average the Polish government received for the sale of UNRRA heifers to Polish farmers, a total of 4,104,000 zloties was deposited by the government in the Naradowy Bank Polskie in Warsaw. This posed a problem for Metzger: What to do with $41,040-worth of zloties that outside of Poland were worthless? He reported to the Heifer Project Committee that the answer “came like a revelation.” The money was used that July to pay the passage for ten Polish students from the College of Agriculture of the University of Warsaw to the United States to spend a year in the homes of American farm families. This planted a seed, which lay dormant for a decade due to the Cold War. Then in 1957, the Church of the Brethren began the Polish Agricultural Exchange Program, which lasted for nearly 40 years.

Students from the College of Agriculture of the University of Warsaw, Poland, gather with officials in the United States in 1947. Thurl Metzger, top left. Photo: Peggy Reiff Miller collection, courtesy of Thurl Metzger family.

The second diversion of cattle happened in December 1946 when a private company contracted by the Polish government to handle all imported livestock substituted some poor quality cows for Heifer Project’s best heifers through a slight of hand. They would have gotten away with it were it not for a brave peasant impressed by Heifer’s humanitarian efforts who came forward several days later and reported the incident to Metzger’s office. An investigation ensued, and five Heifer Project animals were identified in the firm’s herd by their ear tags. “Again the government acted in good faith,” reported Metzger, “and ordered the firm to turn over the five identified cows which were additions to the substitutions that had already been made.” Metzger concluded, “[I]t is significant that the Polish government reputed to be Communist was concerned enough about their relations to a small church group that they made an unusual effort to keep the records straight.”

Leisure time on a livestock ship as seagoing cowboys return home

The pictures will tell the tale in today’s post. Once a livestock ship arrived at its destination, the seagoing cowboy’s work was finished. Unless he had an unscrupulous captain who put the cowboys to work painting or scrubbing the ship (without extra pay), a cowboy’s time was his own on the return trip. His activity was limited only by his and his crewmates’ imaginations.

Captain wants it ship shape! Photo by Dwight Farringer.

Hanging out with the laundry. Photo by Elmer Bowers.

Rumble tumble! Photo by Elmer Bowers.

Time to relax. Photo by Elmer Bowers.

Dukes up! Photo by Elmer Bowers.

Ping Pong? Are you kidding? Photo courtesy of Elmer Beachy. 

Your bid. Photo courtesy of Roger Ingold.

Check mate? Photo by Dwight Farringer.

Catching some rays. Photo courtesy of Wayne Zook.

Keep the ball in the court! Photo courtesy of John Lohrenz.

Cooling off in a transformed gun tub. Photo courtesy of Roger Ingold.

 

Nap time.
Photo courtesy of Richard Musselman family.

Good for a Laugh

I am just finishing a three-month sequester at the Heifer Ranch in Perryville, Arkansas, to work on a book about the first decade of the Heifer Project. Today, I’ll share with you three gems I found as I was sorting through my research files that I brought with me.

1. The following is a clipping from an unidentified newspaper I found in one of Dan West’s files passed on to me by his children:

 

2. A letter included in the agenda materials for a Heifer Project Committee meeting follows:

WHAT WILL WE BE OFFERED NEXT ? ? ?

October 31, 1946

Church of the Brethren
Brethren Service Center
New Windsor, Maryland

Dear Mr. Metzler:

At the suggestion of Mr. Victor Tuda, of the N. Y. Polish Consulate’s office, I am writing to inquire if you can use a mother cat and four kittens.

I learned of an apparent need for cats in Poland and offer this fine family, hoping they may be useful.

If this offer is of interest and you can forward information as to where I may deliver them in this area, I will be obliged.

Yours very truly,

F. H. J.
604 Grove St.,
Upper Montclair, N. J.

3. And a request from the same Heifer Project Committee meeting agenda:

I just read your “Heifers for Relief” article in the July 17, 1946 Pathfinder. Who is this Dan West fellow? I wish I knew that man. I’d like to talk to him or know his address.

And about those heifers — it says $150.00. Does that mean you there will buy and get it ready to go for that money? I don’t live on a ranch or even on a farm and I don’t own a darn thing but I can get that much money if I want it. Only if I buy one of these will you let me be one of the cowboys and take it across myself? I don’t care what kind of a boat or who else goes, that’s all O.K. if you just let me go. I won’t be much trouble and can feed and take care of it. I did as a child on a farm. I’d like to take a pony too for some little boy but I realize its the cow that gives the milk.

. . . .

I can go almost at the drop of a hat, course I will pack the little red bag and make the necessary arrangements. Only strings on me. (I’m the Mother of 3 boys) but they are very nearly able to take care of themselves, and they’ll let me go. That “Ambassadors for Peace” is right down my alley. I know a lot about Peace and I’d like to see first-hand some children overthere.

Don’t say it can’t be done. I may be seasick, but honest I’ve always been able to row my own boat even when the waves are high. I’m not much — just a human being who wants to help.

I’ll send the $150.00, if I have to rob a bank if you just let me go.

Answer Please,

Marie
(Dad’s Girl)

70th Anniversary of the Ceremony of the Bulls

UNRRA made its last livestock shipment from the U.S. in April 1947, delivering another load of heifers to China on the S. S. Lindenwood Victory. On its way home later that month, the Lindenwood was the only ship to be sighted by the three Heifer Project seagoing cowboys of the S. S. Alfred DuPont on their way to Japan – a symbolic passing of the torch from UNRRA to the Heifer Project. The Alfred DuPont carried the precious cargo of 25 purebred Holstein bulls, a gift from the Heifer Project to help Japan rebuild its dairy industry after World War II. This first shipment of the Heifer Project after UNRRA’s disbanding was also a deliberate symbol of peace and goodwill to a country with which the U. S. had been fighting only months earlier.

Norman Hostetler at the Stanislaus District Fairgrounds in CA with one of the bulls he selected. Photo courtesy of Norman Hostetler.

The job of selecting the bulls fell to Norman Hostetler, a young Brethren man trained in animal husbandry who had been a cowboy supervisor for UNRRA on two trips to Poland and worked in the cowboy office in Newport News, Virginia. “Not a single farmer approached for the purchase of these bulls was averse to sending cattle to Japan,” Hostetler said. After an exhausting round of visits to breeders in California, Hostetler and two fellow seagoing cowboys boarded the Alfred DuPont along with their charges at Pier 90 in San Francisco.

“Our voyage of 21 days was extremely rough,” notes Hostetler. “Waves were washing over the decks frequently and on several occasions the cattle stalls were damaged somewhat. It was remarkable to me that the bulls came through it all in excellent condition.” The rigors of the trip were to be rewarded, however.

Bulls in the barge that took them to shore in Yokohama, Japan. Photo: Norman Hostetler.

“We three kings of Orient are, and I’m not fooling!” notes cowboy Martin Strate in a letter to the Heifer Project Committee. “Since our arrival May 9, things have been happening! The bulls were unloaded and taken by barge to the Quarantine station by noon of the first day. The press was present en-masse.”

“There were at least fifteen photographers there including the Japanese as well as the Army and the Associated Press,” says Hostetler. The trip had been approved and arranged through SCAP, the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers which controlled Japan after World War II, and transportation was provided by the U. S. War Department. “Army officials told us that our shipment was the most important one to have entered Japan since the war, insofar as the Japanese are concerned,” Hostetler says. “Then when they learn that the animals are a gift of the Christians of America, they are overwhelmed. They can scarcely imagine a gift of 25 bulls, the value of one being about 30,000 yen.”

The Ceremony of the Bulls, Yokahama, Japan, May 19, 1947. Photo courtesy of Norman Hostetler.

On May 19, 1947, seventy years ago this month, the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry staged an official reception for the bulls. “The presentation ceremony was held in the grounds of the quarantine station, with about 100-150 people there,” notes cowboy Charles Frantz. “The sun danced royally on the red-and-white striped banners. There were half a dozen photographers present, and the occasion and hospitality really outdid itself for us Occidentals. Tea, beer, soda water, peanuts, fruit, meat, and flowers followed the ceremony.”

A Japanese official formally presents his appreciation to the Heifer Project. Photo courtesy of Norman Hostetler.

Norman Hostetler addressed the gathering on behalf of the Heifer Project, as did Lt. Col. J. H. Boulware on behalf of SCAP. Several Japanese dignitaries gave speeches of thanks for the bulls, which were to be distributed to livestock experimental stations and breeding farms throughout the country. And the seagoing cowboys were presented with gifts. Hostetler recalls receiving a bolt of silk from which his future wife made her wedding dress. “We’ll never forget the occasion,” says Frantz.

Nor would many of the Japanese of the day. The cowboys were able to travel to 16 of the livestock stations to which the bulls were taken and treated royally at all but one. Strate reports that at a meeting in Tokyo, “We were most graciously thanked by a gentleman well over eighty years of age. He stood erect and said something like, ‘I stand because I am over eighty years old. In my eighty years, I have never before witnessed such genuine Christian generosity. This gift to the Japanese people will long be remembered because it is the first of its kind and that it came soon after the war.”

L. to R., Martin Strate, Charles Frantz, and Norman Hostetler receive thanks and gifts from Japanese officials. Photo courtesy of Norman Hostetler.

One of the speeches.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copies of all speeches were presented to the cowboys to deliver to the Heifer Project. Photo: Peggy Reiff Miller, courtesy of Heifer International.

 

Hostetler, Strate, and Frantz inspected the bulls at the agricultural stations to which they were taken. Photo courtesy of Norman Hostetler.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The seagoing cowboys were treated to Japanese hospitality and culture on their tour. Photo courtesy of Norman Hostetler.

Seagoing Cowgirls?

How I would love to find a copy of the letter Dan West received from seven young women when the call went out for cattle tenders for the UNRRA livestock shipments in June 1945! What I HAVE found is Dan West’s response dated July 10, 1945, less than two weeks after the first UNRRA ships left the country:

Dear Folks:
I like the aggressive tone of your delightful letter, and I have done something about it- however not enough for results. Here on our front porch last night Irene Petry told me that she had talked with all of you.

  1. I am sympathetic toward your concern– very
  2. I am ignorant on the innards of cattle shipping, but suspect that the present policy excludes you from active service on livestock boats. More in the lingo– I guess you can’t swing it.
  3. Ben Bushong [the man in charge of cattle tender recruitment and soon to be named executive director of Heifer Project] is sympathetic with the younger generation- especially graceful bovines- and he is better informed. I am sending your letter on to him for reply, with a copy of this enclosed.
  4. Suppose I am right that you just can’t get on the ship. There will be others, and if there is a shortage of qualified male cattle tenders, cooks, scrubbers-upper, or what have you, the policy may be changed.
  5. Meantime – and seriously enough, why not write Ben at Brethren Service Committee, Fulton Building, Lancaster, Penna. giving him your qualifications for such work. We want a good honest job done by everybody who goes on such a mission. Also give him your motives.
  6. If you get licked all around, and if you mean business, keep on trying. You remember the importunate widow and the unjust judge. That old boy was a harder customer (I take it) than the Brethren Service Committee or the shipping companies. If you want precedent I am told that whole ships from Siberia to Portland were “manned” by women a year or more ago. Of course these Russians likely never heard of the importunate widow- and if they are superior in importunation to American women- well, there you are. It is a man’s world I admit, but do what you can to improve it, on land and/or sea.

More power to you.
Truly,
Dan West

Dan was much more susceptible to “importunation” than the shipping companies, however. To be a cattle tender on a ship for UNRRA, the seagoing cowboys had to join the Merchant Marine. No women were allowed on merchant ships during those UNRRA years. It wasn’t until after the Heifer Project continued on its own, and the cattle tenders were volunteers, that women had the opportunity to be seagoing cowgirls. And even then, the ship’s officers were reluctant to allow women to assist with the cattle.

Pratt and Julia Byrd pose with fellow cowboy Leslie Yoder in Bremen, Germany, Nov. 1950. Photo: Joe Dell

As near as I can tell, the first woman to go with a Heifer Project shipment was Julia Byrd, a journalist who accompanied her husband for a “Heifer Honeymoon” in 1950. I doubt she did much tending of cattle, as she was more interested in the story.

In 1955, Mary Mahoney, a reporter from Corpus Christi, Texas, accompanied a shipment of heifers to Germany. A Pleasonton, Tex. Express article about her trip quoted her as saying, “I grew up on a ranch and I guess that’s the reason they let me go.”

The article says, “But the captain on the ship was unconvinced of Mary’s ability as a cowgirl. Her editor had to book regular passage for her although she still managed to help other CROP representatives with the dairy cattle which were distributed at Kassel, Germany.”

Kathy Baldwin Moore found the same reluctance of the ship’s crew to allow her to assist with the cattle when she accompanied her father on a trip to Japan in 1958. Her story is written up in Heifer International’s World Ark magazine.

Kathy Baldwin (now Moore) and ship’s crew. Courtesy of Kathy Moore.

That same year, Beverly Hill, a high school senior from Frederick, Maryland, had no such difficulties when she tended an air shipment of 41 heifers, a bull, and a calf for Turkey. She had chaired the “Calves for Turkey” campaign of her Frederick County Christian Youth Council.

As more air shipments were made, more “flying cowgirls” followed.