The story of the Okanogan County, Washington, seagoing cowboys concludes in this post with their departure from Poland*:
When it came time to leave on January 7, 1946,Yoder noted in his journal, “There didn’t seem to be any regrets with us on ship. It was a bit touching however to watch the natives all stop working, regardless of what, and passionately watch our big ships slowly turn around and then head out toward the Baltic. They all stood watching along the shore or several blocks inland as if paralyzed.”
A few of those natives made it onto the ship. “We had three or four stowaways on board,” Henneman recalls. “So I’d feed ’em. Took bottles of water down to ’em.” He gave his phone number to one who spoke good English. “I says, if you make it off ship, call me up and say, ‘I made it! I made it! I made it!’ I said, I’ll know what you’re talking about. A few months after that, he phoned me up and he says, ‘I made it!’ I often wondered what kind of a citizen he made. I bet he was a good one.”
The ship returned to Houston, Texas, where the cowboys waited for their $150 checks from UNRRA before seeing some sights and heading back to school.
With the world opened up to them, these young cowboys came back to Tonasket with a mission. In a program for the local Lions Club, the boys described the conditions they had seen, the distress of people trying to resume their lives amidst the wreckage of war, and how the children were particularly vulnerable. The Tonasket Times summed up the tenor of their message about the people of Europe: “Their cry for help, which in this country is voiced through such organizations as the Lions Club should meet with a generous response by well fed, well clothed Americans, who have never had to endure in comparable degree the suffering that is the lot of Europe today.” A fitting statement that should make even J. O. Yoder proud of those boys.
* Excerpted from my article published in the Okanogan County Heritage magazine, Winter 2014.