The life in the early 1900's wasn't like the life of theyoung people today. The young people then didn't have any radios, televisionsets, or cars to take them places. Roland Hughes of Neche, North Dakotaremembers some of the hardships he had as a boy and also as a mailman.
Roland Hughes, born October 15, 1877, had to register forWorld War I in 1917. Roland did not have to go to the army because he wasfarming some land and had four horses.
When Roland was home as a boy, he was left to do a lotof the hard jobs because he was so much bigger than any of hisbrothers. When Roland was a boy at home, his father had made a grindingplant. His father used to do all the grinding for the neighbors in the area.Roland's job, when they. were doing this grinding, was to fill the chopsacks after the grain had been ground. The chop would fall into a hopperthat Roland would take the chop out of and dump it into the sack. The sackswere held by a sack holder that had a chute off on it. Whenever. there wasa hard job to be done, it was always said, "Let Roly do it." PoorRoly must have swallowed a ton of chop dust in his day.
In the beginning of l918, during the depression, he usedhis horse to drive the doctor around on account of the deathly flu thatwas going around which was called "Spanish Influenza."
On November 4, 1919, Roland got his first job carryingthe mail mainly because he had six nice horses. The Post Master just walkedup to Roland and asked him how many horses he had. When he had told him,he asked him to come around to the Post Office in the morning and take TomMacks route because he had quit that night. That fall had been real badand it had snowed on October 6, and the winter just kept getting worse andworse all of the time. That is the reason Tom Macks had quit that night.Mr. Macks came around with him on the first route that he made. When theyhad gotten to the Webb Bridge, Roland was sure that they were through whenthe old fellow said "Oh no, young fellow, you have another three milesto go yet." Roland thought he would die before he got back to Nechethose first few days because he only had a open cutter in which to ride.Shortly after he got the job, he purchased a closed in cutter. Then witha foot warmer and lots of wool clothes and a fur robe, Roland was away fora lifetime job as a mailman.
On January 10, 1920, he drove his team to Pembina to takethe mail carrier examination at the depot in Pembina, and in May he becamea regular mailman. He started out working at $165 a month.
The sleighing in the wintertime in those days was alwaysreal good in those winters because the farmers would not mow the weeds andgrass along the edges for wheels would not be used for at least five months.Sometimes the roads would build up so high with snow that they would haveto make a new track in the field to keep going each winter.
Roland's route went east from Neche on the south side ofthe Pembina River. A lot of the days that Roland was driving mail he wouldnot realize that the snow storm that he had been riding in for so long wasso bad until he came to where he crossed the Jeroux Bridge. Then he wasfacing the north and west wind back to town. Roland used to watch the telephonepoles go by and quite often he would only be able to see two poles aheadbut the well trained and good team that he had used to stick right on thetrack and stop by the mailboxes themselves and always brought Roland home.Once when a friend of Roland's borrowed his horse to go to a house party.They were on their way home and they knew that the horses knew the way homeso they just curled up in the cutter and went to sleep. They woke up inthe early hours of the morning and they were stopped so at first they thoughtthey were in Roland's yard. Oh no, the good little horses knew they weresupposed to stop at the mailboxes until he was told to go so he had stoppedat Louie Morris's mailbox and he hadn't been told to go so he was stillstanding there.
Roland had many experiences as a mailman. One of the manyexperiences was when he got about a half mile from the Canadian Border andwas heading west. The road on which he was following had no telephone polesor wire fencing. It didn't even have any weeds. His team could not facethe strong northwest wind and he realized he was in the plowed field theway his cutter kept bouncing up and down all the time. So he stopped andthe only thing he could see was the mailbox which he had just left so hequickly decided to go back there and try it again. Soon after he had triedit again. He experienced the same thing as the first time. So this timehe decided to go back to the mailbox and he got on a road going south untilhe got to the road going past Fred Rene's place where there were some telephonepoles for him to watch.
Roland's dog always followed him on his 30 1/2 mile longroute. One day, Roland upset in the deep snow and the dog was right underneaththe rig. He had to get out and lift the rig off and then go on. His dogwas not hurt at all that time because of the soft snow.
Roland's worst time was when the cars first started beingused in this area. Some of the roads he had to travel would be high withno snow, but the side roads would still be the same as usual. Lots of weeds,and lots of snow.
Roland remembers one stormy March morning after they hadbegun to plow the roads for the cars, when he was out at Louie Margerumswhen all of a sudden his team just stopped in a deep cut through a snowbankand there was a wall of snow in front of them higher then their heads. Rolandhas never figured out how he got out of this situation but he made it outsomehow.
In the time of the spring breakup, he had to use a twowheeled cart in order to get around because the roads would be bare of snowand at every bluff of trees he would have to get off and walk behind thecart so his good little horse could pull the cart over the hard crustedsnowbanks that had been punched full of holes from the soft spring days.It always took longer in the spring because of these places, but his goodlittle horse would always make double time until the next bad place in theroad. The horse was always in just as big a hurry to get home to its water,oats, and hay as Roland was to get to his side pork, frozen potatoes, andbread.
The worst time was when he was driving cars in the springthrough the mud. The frost would be coming out and the mud would just liftup on the wheels until finally Roland was stuck solid. One time Roland wasdriving a four wheel jeep on the road east of the George Moris farm andthe four wheels plugged with mud so that he could go no further, even inlow range and low gear. There was water in the ditches so he backed downin the ditch and shot the jeep back and forth until he got her going again.This is one of the things that he likes to joke about because he says thisis one of the things that he didn't learn in high school or college.
The facts are that he never graduated from grade schoolalthough he went for three years in the eighth grade. He never wrote a finalexamination because he was always taken out of school to work for his father.
Roland worked for twenty years on the mail route usingthe horses and the rest of the time he used a car. There was no gravel onthe roads for the first twenty years.
He retired in 1965 after putting in 46 years and 11 monthsas a mailman. In 46 years of working time, he had only missed about 190days, which is pretty good, considering some of the conditions he had towork through.
Roland now retires at his home in Neche. To keep him occupiedin the summers and winters, he farms a small portion of land and also hassome cattle to take care of.
Hughes, Roland Letter Correspondence December 14, 1971
Hughes, Roland Letter Correspondence December 14, 1971