Good Will and Gratitude

In this year’s political climate, it’s easy to be overcome with the vitriol that’s been spewing all around us. Thanksgiving is a great time to stop and take stock of how a little good will can go a long way in healing wounds and generating gratitude. On September 19, 1957, Rosa Welti received a heifer sent to her in Germany by the Trinity Evangelical & Reformed Church of Allentown, Pennsylvania, through the Heifer Project. I share some excerpts from her letter of thanks sent to the congregation, translated by John R. Lovell.

To my dear, honored benefactor:

Today I want to thank you most sincerely for the great joy you gave me. For thirteen long years I could only wish that I might own my own cow. Today this wish was fulfilled. The children can again drink as much milk as they wish. God has not forgotten the homeless, for there are people who still recognize Christian charity. . . .

I want to give you a brief report about myself. It is not pleasant. Thirteen years ago the Russians dragged my husband away and he died of starvation in the coal pits of Tchistakova. I had to leave our home with three children and was sent to a Refugee Camp. We did not know what it was to have enough to eat for a long, long time, we hungered and starved. It was work day and night, and troubles were always present. Now after long, hard years God has helped us. I have been able to create a home in our new surrounding by hard work and many privations. I myself have built the house that you see in the photograph. And now I have received once more my own cow. I again thank you sincerely for it and I pray that God shall reward you for it.

With heart-felt greetings, I remain,
Thankfully yours
Mrs. Rosa Welti and children
Altshausen, Germany

Rosa Welti and her beloved heifer. Photo courtesy of Joanna Hall.

Rosa Welti and her beloved heifer. Photo courtesy of Joanna Hall.

I give my gratitude to blog reader Joanna Hall, daughter of the Trinity E&R Church pastor, Clarence Moatz, for her good will in sharing this letter and photos with me after reading a previous post about shipments to Germany. The Trinity congregation donated several heifers to the Heifer Project. Pastor Moatz also served as a seagoing cowboy to Germany in 1955 and later served as Vice Chairman of the Heifer Project Board of Directors.

What good will can you spread today?

Seagoing cowboys Nicholas Rahn, Clarence Moatz, Harry Colver, and Lloyd Sandt with a heifer for their ship, the S. S. American Importer, September 29, 1955. Photo courtesy of Joanna Hall.

Seagoing cowboys Elder Nicholas Rahn, Rev. Clarence Moatz, Rev. Harry Colver, and Rev. Lloyd Sandt with a heifer for their ship, the S. S. American Importer, September 29, 1955. Photo courtesy of Joanna Hall.

Two More Seagoing Cowboy Thanksgiving Stories

November 28, 1946, was a memorable Thanksgiving day for two seagoing cowboy crews.

Story #1:

In November 1946, three weeks into what would turn out to be a five-month trip, the SS Carroll Victory had unloaded its cargo of horses in Kavalla, Greece. Expecting to head home, the cowboys were surprised to be sent on to South Africa to pick up another load of horses. On its way, the ship docked in Haifa, Palestine, the day before Thanksgiving. Harold Jennings tells us in his diary,

We hired a truck for $4.00 round trip to Jerusalem – 27 fellows took the trip in spite of warnings from British soldiers of terrorists and the curfew, besides the roads being mined. Fortunately we were stopped only once by police and our coffee stop besides all rest stops. We arrived in Jerusalem about 5:00 a.m. [Thanksgiving Day].


Touring Palestine

SS Carroll Victory crew climb aboard their rented truck to tour Palestine. Photo courtesy Charles Lord.

The crew spent the day touring Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Nazareth, driving past Bedouin tent settlements and a Jewish kibbutz.

Jesus birthplace

Altar in Bethlehem built in the place where the manger in which Jesus was born was believed to have been. The star on the floor marks the spot. Photo courtesy Charles Lord.

Jerusalem gate

New gate to Old Jerusalem. Photo courtesy Charles Lord.







Road into Nazareth. Photo courtesy Charles Lord.







Bedouin settlement. Photo courtesy Charles Lord.

Girls at work at Kibbutz

Girls working at Yagur Kibbutz near Haifa. Photo courtesy Charles Lord.








Charlie Lord summed up the day in a letter to his wife that evening: “Today was a page from a fairy book.”

Story #2:

While the SS Carroll Victory was sailing contentedly across the Atlantic that early November for its first stop in Greece, another ship met a different fate. The SS Occidental Victory carried a split cargo, with 193 horses on the top deck and 6,000 tons of sugar and 2500 tons of beef below. A mere eight seagoing cowboys and one veterinarian were required for this shipment. After unloading the horses in Poland, the men enjoyed the opportunity to explore the ports of Turku and Helsinki, Finland, where the sugar and beef were unloaded.

Turku, FInland

Seagoing cowboys Norm Weber and Dick Jantzen on right with Finnish guide outside a Turku art museum. Photo courtesy Norman Weber.

At Tsar's summer home.

Vaino Aksanen and his sons take Norm Weber (right) and friends to the 1884 summer home of the Tsar of Russia near Kotka. Photo courtesy Norman Weber.

After more days in Kotka, Finland, to pick up paper pulp for ballast, the ship finally headed home. Cowboy Norman Weber recorded in his journal on Nov. 7,

This morning, good and early, we pulled out of Kotka….We’re beginning to hope to get home by the beginning of December.

About 1:30 P.M. we were sailing along smoothly, when suddenly our ship struck a rock. She jumped and hit again. It was a strange feeling, our great ship jumping like that….

Immediately the deck crew were busy opening the hatches and looking for water coming in. The great ship started listing, and there was much oil on the surface of the water.

The Occidental Victory was soon dubbed the Accidental Victory by the cowboys. She had hit a hidden rock and ripped open the bottom of the ship in two holds, puncturing the oil tanks. Weber explains,

The Victory ships have a double bottom, and in between are the oil tanks. Had this been a Liberty she would likely have sunk, but the second bottom seems to hold her afloat.

The ship slowly made its way back into Helsinki where it was inspected and deemed seaworthy enough to head on to Stockholm for repairs.

On November 28, Cowboy John Wesley Clay wrote in a daily account that he printed up and gave his fellow cowboys at the end of their voyage,

This is Thanksgiving day, and to the eight cowboys it has been the most significant Thanksgiving day we have ever spent. We limped into Stockholm [Monday], eighteen days after striking the rocks in the Gulf of Finland, and it was glorious to set foot on land again.

Our food supply had been almost completely exhausted, and we were approaching a desperate situation, but in Stockholm we found another American ship who divided supplies with us, so today we had a real American Thanksgiving, with plenty of turkey and all the fixings. We were thankful to the depths of our hearts.


Next post: Christmas for the Occidental Victory crew

Thanksgiving at Sea: Two Cowboys, Two Outcomes

Seagoing Cowboys eat well on Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving dinner for the SS William S. Halsted crew. Source: Ray Zook album.


Nov. 28, 1946

Thanksgiving day at sea. Time changed again. Saw the most beautiful sunrise I ever saw….We hoist more hay for foredeck and then the dinner. Too much turkey, trimmings, 4 kinds of pie, ice cream & all. Didn’t eat any supper, had my orange, apple & nuts left from dinner & ate a candy bar….

Willard Sellers’ diary entry, SS William S. Halsted on the Atlantic Ocean en route to Poland


Nov. 28, 1946

This is Thanksgiving day. Sure feel bad. Can’t eat. Forced myself to eat and then vomited. Feel a little better. Went to bed early. Slept fairly well.”

Ernest Hoover’s diary entry, SS. Beloit Victory, one day out of Newport News en route to Poland


Happy Thanksgiving to all my readers! May your dinner sit well with you.

Tomorrow: Two more Cowboy Thanksgiving stories