Activities of Heifer Project as seen from the Roger Roop Collection Farm, Part II

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.

Roger Roop with daughters Patricia and Shirley, fall 1945. Photo: Robert Ebey.

Roger Roop with daughters Patricia and Shirley, fall 1945. Photo: Robert Ebey.

Olive and Roger Roop in a later photo with one of their daughters. Photo courtesy of Rouford Coonts.

Olive and Roger Roop in a later photo with daughter Patricia Ann. Photo: Rouford Coonts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Next post: Fifth Friday, In Memorium

The Roger Roop Heifer Project Collection Farm

As World War II ended in Europe in May 1945, shipping possibilities across the Atlantic became a reality for the Heifer Project. Hundreds of heifers were on hand across the country ready to be shipped to the east coast, and Roger and Olive Roop of Union Bridge, Maryland, saw a need. Lifelong members of the Church of the Brethren, they had been hearing and reading about the development of the Heifer Project. When the heifers for the Project’s second shipment to Puerto Rico in May 1945 were gathered at the fairgrounds in York, Pennsylvania, just up the road from the Roops, they drove up to see them.

Heifers ready for a May 1945 shipment to Puerto Rico are dedicated at the York Fairgrounds in Pennsylvania. Photo courtesy of Bill Beck.

Heifers ready for a May 1945 shipment to Puerto Rico are dedicated at the York Fairgrounds in Pennsylvania. Photo courtesy of Bill Beck.

Olive Roop, now 102 and living in Bridgewater, Virginia, told the youth of her church in a talk some decades ago, “What we saw [in York] made Roger feel that this was not a very suitable place for the collection, handling and shipment of cattle. The cattle were tied in stalls (no exercise)….”

When they got home from York, Roger and Olive talked it over and decided to offer their farm as a collection point. “Our barn had a loading chute, 4 large pens and we had about 15 acres of pasture divided into 3 paddocks,” Olive said. “Our 20 or so head of cattle could run on a back pasture. We were only two miles from the railroad and forty from the dock in Baltimore.” Being only six miles from the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Maryland, Roops also felt there would be Civilian Public Service men stationed there who might be able to help on the farm.

The Roger Roop farm in Union Bridge, Maryland, circa 1946. Photo courtesy of Kenneth West.

The Roger Roop farm in Union Bridge, Maryland, circa 1946. Photo courtesy of Kenneth West.

Thinking this was only to be a summer project, Roger and Olive drove to New Windsor and made the offer of use of their 15 acres and barn to the Heifer Project. Little did they know what was ahead for them. John Metzler, the coordinator of the Heifer Project at the time, reported to the Heifer Project Committee in their June 3, 1945, meeting that the Roop farm “has been offered to the HPC free of charge as a collecting point for cattle before shipment. He has adequate space to care for from 300 to 500 cattle at one time.” A motion was made and passed “that we accept the offer of Roger Roop for facilities for collecting cattle, using the service of one veterinarian.”

The Heifer Project was off and running. And so were Roger and Olive.

Next post: Activities of Heifer Project as Seen from Farm, Part I