Sharing the seagoing cowboy and Heifer Project history at Heifer Ranch in Arkansas

This post will be more personal than my normal posts. My husband Rex and I are currently nearing the end of a two-month stay at the Heifer Ranch in Perryville, Arkansas, where I’ve been sequestering myself to work on my book-in-progress about the first decade of the Heifer Project (today’s Heifer International) while Rex has been volunteering in the maintenance department. Quite by coincidence, and fortunately for me, the Heifer International Board of Directors and the Heifer Foundation Board held their meetings at the Ranch this week. The Heifer Board invited me to sit in on Monday, and I am filled with admiration for the incredible talent of Board members and staff alike, appreciation for the work that Heifer is doing both here and abroad, and anticipation of the wonderful things to come.

A highlight of the meeting for me was hearing Senior Vice President of Marketing Christy Moore tell of the marketing team’s visit to Honduras to see for themselves the impact of Heifer’s work there. Today, Heifer is so much more than just giving an animal to recipients, as it was in the beginning. It’s about building sustainable communities, achieving living incomes for community members through their small farms. At the dairy plant the team visited, Heifer has assisted a small business on the verge of closing by providing the owners with help in how to market the cheese they were making, teaching them good manufacturing practices, and providing capital for needed equipment. Heifer’s signature “Passing on the Gift®” value is achieved when the owners are able to pass on the knowledge of hygienic dairy practices to their small farm suppliers. The business has become so successful that families who had migrated to the United States for work are able to move back home because there are jobs for them there now, from the supply end to the marketing end of the cheese business.

Heifer International mission statement guides the Board’s deliberations.

In front of every Board member during the meetings, on the back of their name card, was Heifer’s mission statement. Another highlight for me was hearing of Heifer’s plans to expand their efforts in working at the last part of that statement: taking care of the earth. They already teach the sustainable methods of agriculture to small holder farmers in areas being affected by climate change, methods that help to reclaim, replenish, and protect the soil and water sources. The next step will be to partner with green investors to be able to expand this work to a scale that will help cool the planet.

Heifer President and CEO Pierre Ferrari (on right) addresses environmental impact issues of Heifer’s work. Photo credit: Peggy Reiff MIller.

The third highlight for me was to hear the Board begin their planning for a major global celebration of the organization’s 75th anniversary next year. It seems like only yesterday that we were celebrating the 70th! I’m looking forward to seeing what the planning committee comes up with this time around and to participating in whatever ways I’m asked and able.

Heifer’s Senior Vice President of Marketing Christy Moore (second from right) introduces the 75th Anniversary agenda item. Photo credit: Peggy Reiff Miller.

Together again with “Sister” Jan. Photo credit: Jessica Ford.

The culminating highlight of the day for me was to share the evening stage with Heifer founder Dan West’s daughter in what was billed on the Board’s agenda as “An Evening with Jan Schrock and Peggy Miller,” or as Jan likes to call it, “The Jan and Peggy Show.” This is the fourth time we have presented together, with Jan sharing stories about her father and how he became Heifer’s founder and me sharing the history of Heifer’s beginnings, including stories of the seagoing cowboys and Heifer’s legacy. A bonus was having longtime Heifer Executive Director Thurl Metzger’s daughter Kathleen McNamee present to share about her father’s role in purchasing the Heifer Ranch. The Ranch staff created a very festive atmosphere in an outdoor pavilion and served a delicious meal using Ranch-raised meat and produce that set just the right tone for a delightful evening with the Board members, Heifer International’s Leadership Cabinet, and Heifer Ranch/Heifer USA staff and volunteers. A night to be long remembered.

Jan West Schrock tells how her father’s service in World War I set him on a life-long path of working for peace. Photo credit: Peggy Reiff Miller.

It was an honor to share the history of Heifer’s beginnings with the people who carry on its legacy today. Photo credit: Rex Miller.

Next post: A tour of Heifer Ranch with the Heifer Foundation Board.

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In Memorium

It’s time for my regular Fifth Friday post to honor the seagoing cowboys who have passed away. These are the ones I’ve learned of, some from previous years of whom I’m just becoming aware:

Anders, Paul Henry, July 16, 2017, Alemeda, CA. S. S. Morgantown Victory to Poland, December 10, 1945.

Armstrong, Byron Harold, July 17, 2017, Bridgewater, VA. Heifer Project trips to Austria, Turkey, Egypt, Sardinia, Mexico, beginning in 1954.

Brenneman, John Henry, October 16, 2017, Newport News, VA. S. S. Bucknell Victory to Poland, February 15, 1946.

Brown, H. Merle, October 12, 2017, Elgin, IL. S. S. Queens Victory to Czechoslovakia, June 9, 1946; S. S. Cedar Rapids Victory to Yugoslavia, July 10, 1946.

Burkholder, Lewis A., December 13, 2013, Powhatan, VA. S. S. Pass Christian Victory to Israel, November 1949 (Levinson Brothers shipment).

Damon, Richard Alva, January 24, 2008, Walnut Creek, CA. S. S. Alcee Fortier to Yugoslavia, April 18, 1946.

Day, Kelly M., April 6, 2013, Lafayette, IN. Heifer Project shipment to Greece, December 10  1956.

Detrra, Jr., Norman E., April 27, 2011, West Reading, PA. S. S. Stephen R. Mallory to Poland, June 20, 1946.

Dickey, John, October 25, 2017, New Castle, IN. S. S. Virginia City Victory to Poland, May 26, 1946; S. S. Yugoslavia Victory to Poland, July 19, 1946.

Eller, Harlan H., January 20, 2017, Crimora, VA. S. S. Earlham Victory to Yugoslavia, January 6, 1947.

Groff, Eugene A., January 5, 2017, Lititz, PA. S. S. Beloit Victory to Poland, November 27, 1946.

Harner, David, July 25, 2015, Chino Valley, AZ.  S. S. Humanitas (Heifer Project) to Italy, March 23, 1948.

Harsh, Norman Luther, November 29, 2017, Salem, VA. S. S. Mexican to Yugoslavia, June 28, 1945.

Hess, Paul C., November 19, 2016, Mount Joy, PA. S. S. Mount Whitney to Poland, November 30, 1946.

Hilty, Calvin Albert, March 29, 2014, Strathmore, CA. S. S. Morgantown Victory to Poland, December 4, 1945.

Hochstetler, Carl, September 13, 2013, Killbuck, OH. S. S. Mexican to Yugoslavia, June 28, 1945.

Kanagy, Paul C., December 20, 2011, Chesterville, OH. S. S. Blue Island Victory to Poland, August 10, 1946.

Kaufman, Paul J., September 18, 2017, Plain City, OH. S. S. Santiago Iglesias to Poland, November 10, 1945; S. S. Gainesville Victory to Poland, April 17, 1946.

Keeney, Paul, November 3, 2017, York, PA. S. S. Pierre Victory to Poland, March 29, 1946.

Kuhns, Levi M., March 6, 2011, N. Lawrence, OH. S. S. Park Victory to Poland, December 23, 1945.

Lehman, Adin Leroy, April 20, 2017, Chambersburg, PA. S. S. Queens Victory to Greece, December 15, 1946.

Long, James DeChant, October 26, 2017, Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA. S. S. Villanova Victory to Greece, July 22, 1946.

Martin, Aldine D., November 17, 2017, Greencastle, PA. S. S. Bucknell Victory to Poland, February 16, 1946.

McFadden, William Robert (Bob), December 8, 2017, Bridgewater, VA. Heifer Project shipment to Germany, May 19, 1953.

Mullet, Henry A., June 3, 2017, Kalona, IA. S. S. Samuel H. Walker to Greece, December 15, 1945.

Nafziger, Robert W., February 8, 2011, Archbold, OH. S. S. Park Victory to Poland, December 23, 1945; S. S. Plymouth Victory  to Greece, February 13, 1947.

Newsom, Robert “Bo”, March 28, 2017, Columbus, IN. S. S. Rockland Victory to Poland, June 15, 1946.

Nolt, Richard B. “Dick”, February 28, 2014, Lititz, PA. S. S. Cyrus W. Fields to Italy, June 14, 1946.

Prouty, Estel, May 21, 2017, Ogden, IA. S. S. Lindenwood Victory to China, December 19, 1946.

Renalds, Robert Stanley, March 1, 2013, Nashville, TN. S. S. John J. Crittenden to Czechoslovakia, August 15, 1946.

Shenk, Joseph Donald “Don”, September 14, 2015, Newport News, VA. S. S. Pass Christian Victory to Israel, December 1949 (Levinson Brothers shipment).

Siemens, Melvin Roy, October 13, 2017, Leoti, KS. S. S. Charles W. Wooster to Greece, April 21, 1946.

Summy, Robert G., May 1, 2017, Manheim, PA. S. S. Virginian to Yugoslavia, June 26, 1945.

Torkelson, Norman, December 9, 2012, Tilley, Alberta, Canada. S. S. Mount Whitney to Poland, July 29, 1946.

Unruh, Earl R., June 6, 2017, Kansas City, MO. S. S. Morgantown Victory to Yugoslavia, December 2, 1946.

Voran, Willis R., January 16, 2017, New Holland, PA. S. S. John J. Crittenden to Yugoslavia, November 23, 1946.

Weber, Norman, October 2, 2016, Elmira, Ontario, Canada. S. S. Occidental Victory to Poland, September 29, 1946.

White, David H., September 27, 2017, Lititz, PA. S. S. John L. McCarley to Poland, July 2, 1946.

Willms, Alfred J., October 22, 2016, Leamington, Ontario, Canada. S. S. Frederic C. Howe to Yugoslavia, November 15, 1946; S. S. Woodstock Victory to Greece, January 18, 1947.

Rest in peace, dear seagoing friends.

 

Heifer Project and Seagoing Cowboy Exhibit returns in Germany

The Heifer Project and the Seagoing Cowboys once again take the stage at the Oberschlesiches Landesmuseum in Ratingen, Germany.

New exhibit. Photo courtesy of Melanie Mehring, Oberschlesiches Landesmuseum.

A piece of the 2016 exhibit is now on display through February 18, 2018, in conjunction with a larger exhibition at the Haus des Deutschen Ostens museum in Munich. Titled “Kann Spuren von Heimat enthalten,” the exhibition focuses on historically traditional German food and drink and its role in the identity and integration of Eastern European Germans as they settled back into Germany after their expulsion from their Eastern European homes at the end of World War II, as well as during the Cold War. The title is a wonderful play on words described to me by museum curator Melanie Mehring, meaning literally, “May contain traces of home.” It references “the typical phrase used on lots of food for people with allergies.” For example, “May contain traces of nuts.”

Photo courtesy of Melanie Mehring, Oberschlesiches Landesmuseum.

If you’re in Germany in the next couple of months, drop in and take a look!

Gratitude from Silesian Heifer Project recipients

During this Thanksgiving weekend, it is fitting to share expressions of gratitude from early recipients of heifers delivered by the seagoing cowboys. This post takes us to war-devastated Czechoslovakian Silesia in 1946 and comes from a bundle of thank you letters sent to the Brethren Service Committee and the Heifer Project.

A December 23, 1946, letter from the Czech Child Welfare Foundation Vojtechov in Brno gives us an overview:
“The cows donated by the Church of the Brethren are rendering excellent service and are helping by their precious product to restore great numbers of our citizens who contracted tuberculosis and other diseases during the war, either in concentration camps, prisons or through deprivations and malnutrition. Your assistance shall never be forgotten. Thousands and thousands of people are helped by your gifts and are sincerely grateful to you.”

Frank Vojkuvka: “I didn’t have any milk for the children and the entire family suffered from under nourishment. Heartiest thanks for the donated cow.” Photo courtesy of Heifer International.

From the Evangelical Parish orphanage in Trinec near Tesinsko, June 19, 1946:
“Toward the end of the war our orphanage invaded by the German armada was completely damaged. They left us merely empty iron beds and even those were damaged. Many orphans whose parents were killed in Concentration camps of Germany came to us. . . . We had a big holiday when we brought the cow home. No one could believe that it was given to us free.”

Kosarova Frantiska: Your fine cow means for us and especially for our 2 girls 5-1/2 and 1-1/2 y. so much easing our food supply. Since we have enough milk again we are all healthier.” Photo courtesy of Heifer International.

From Elizabeth Moravcova, Bolatice, June 20, 1046:
“My house was so damaged by bombing that it couldn’t be lived in. It was shot at by artillery from three sides. And you can imagine the crumbling and shattering caused by explosions in town. The furniture which I bought just before the war with money I painstakingly gathered was all gone. Our clothes and shoes were confiscated by the occupying army. And that was the way with kitchen equipment and other things in the home. So, after the war we are starting anew. I am beginning alone because until now my husband has not been reported. I am alone with two children – a 5 year old and a three year old boy, also an elderly mother. So I must work hard all week and have the children help me.
“If you can imagine the situation you will know how grateful I am for this gift. It means for me the greatest means of livelihood. It has become a member of our family. I thank you once again dear friends most heartily for this precious gift and believe me that we will think of you the rest of our lives and be grateful. May you live there over the sea happily and may God bless you.”

Kosarova Frantiska: “The wounds of warfare are healing gradually for us, especially as we are so fortunate to have such generous friends.” Photo courtesy of Heifer International.

From Anna Dostalova in Stepankovice, April 14, 1946:
“The war was bad and brought much evil to us. It razed our buildings, killed livestock and nothing was left except our ravaged home and six hungry children. The youngest became ill and died. He was longing for milk at that time to which the children have been accustomed. So when the cow arrived there was much happiness. Five eager children jumped about me and the cow. When I brought the first milk they stood around with their little pots each one eager to taste the milk from America. It has a wonderful flavor. The cow is now well settled and feeds well. For your goodness, I thank you again!

A note from Family Kysuconova: “Grandmother, parents and 3 children are thanking most heartily for the generous gift of a fine cow given to them. This cow is their saviour from starvation.” Photo courtesy of Heifer International.

And lastly, from Frantisek Martinik of Poruba, undated:
“The help given me by this gift [of a cow] is immense. . . . The friendly and sacrificial attitude of the selfless Americans in help to the Silesian people is proving that there are still good people in the World despite of the hatred in Warfare and that Love didn’t die and never will in human hearts.
“This truth and by deeds proved Love is warming and strengthening our spirit and gives us courage to rebuild our homes and reconstruct our beloved but war torn country of Silesia.
“The Lords providence may reward your magnificent deeds, we shall never forget what you have done for us.”

Heifer International continues this great work. Giving Tuesday is coming up! Consider a gift to Heifer in gratitude for all we have been given.

Delivering Hope to the Next Generation

I’m late with this post, as I was absorbed last week in the Church of the Brethren National Older Adult Conference where I was a keynote speaker. I invite you to listen to the live streaming of my illustrated presentation that gives the back story of how I became the documenter of the seagoing cowboy history, the legacy of the seagoing cowboys and the Heifer Project, and the importance of continuing to deliver hope to the next generation. The speech, which you can find here: https://livestream.com/livingstreamcob/NOAC2017/videos/162425620 begins at 13 minutes into the session and lasts for 70 minutes. I know — that’s a long speech! But that’s what I was contracted for and that’s what I gave. If you wish to jump to the seagoing cowboy part, you can start at 25:30 minutes (including the reading of my picture book The Seagoing Cowboy) or start at 35 minutes to skip the picture book reading and stop wherever you wish. Enjoy!

Next post will pick up Part II of the pre-WWII seagoing cowboys.

Speech to be live streamed

For those who might be interested, I will be a keynote speaker at the Church of the Brethren National Older Adult Conference at Lake Junaluska Conference Center in North Carolina Thursday, September 7. My illustrated talk will be live streamed at 10:30 a.m. at http://www.brethren.org/Inspiration2017 and can be accessed later, as well. My topic will be “Delivering Hope to the Next Generation.” The speech will give the back story of how I became the documenter of the seagoing cowboy history, the legacy of the seagoing cowboys and the Heifer Project, and the importance of continuing to deliver hope to the next generation. I’d be honored to have you join me.

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.”