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.

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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)

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.