The other night I began reading the autobiography of my Great Grandfather, Dietrick (Dick) Busskohl. In the days of my youth when I'd visit my grandparents, I'd often hear them talk about the book and Great Grandpa's life experiences and though I'd grazed a few pages from his autobiography now and then, I never read the full thing. So I resolved to do so now.
Admittedly, sentimentality lead me to it. You see, I lost my grandpa to cancer two years ago. So I suppose that deep down, there was a part of me that felt I could connect to him, despite the loss, by reading about his dad. My hunch was spot on!
Dick Busskohl was born into a farming family who immigrated from Germany to the United States in 1884. The family struggled to make a living renting and working farm land from older, previously established farmers in the vicinity of Nebraska. After many hard years struggling to make ends meet and feed their large family (11 or 12 children if memory serves), my great-great grandfather was finally able to earn enough money to purchase property of his own. Unfortunately, his health was failing and he died shortly after a home was established on their own farm.
By this time, most of their children were grown and had families of their own. So my great grandfather, Dick, being the youngest, was left to tend the family home with one of his older married brothers, and care for their aging mother. A great many things occurred in the years that followed, but that would be a rabbit trail to go into.
Eventually Dick left home and took on several jobs as a farm hand on other people's places. In the spring of 1906, he found himself making a descent living for the time. In his free hours, he liked to help out playing the fiddle and square dance calling at their local country dances. One night, a new girl showed at the dance. She was tall and slim with beautiful "yellow" hair, as great grandpa recalled. All the boys at the dance were instantly drawn to her and wondering who she was. Dick liked to joke around, so he said aloud to the younger guys, "Leave her alone, she belongs to me."
The beautiful blond danced so well and it seemed to Dick that she was so carefree and happy go lucky that he just had to meet her. So he sought out someone who could introduce them. He discovered her name was Anna Hamann and that she and her family had recently moved to their little town in Nebraska. Dick wasted no time in getting acquainted with the family and ended up asking Anna out to the one of the next dances.
The day of their first date came upon him, and Dick did his best to make good appearances for Anna. He put on his high stiff-collared shirt (which he exclaimed was likely to cut a man's throat) and polished up his brand new buggy to fetch Anna in. He'd hitched the buggy with a team of colts, one of which, hadn't been broke long. Everything went quite well at first. Dick and Anna enjoyed one another's company at the dance and were looking forward to a nice ride together on their trip back to her home. A nice rain occurred while they were in the dance hall and it left the roads quite muddy though.
Neither thought much of it. So they headed off. The two became so engaged with one another that Dick didn't realize until much later that the horses began poking along. It wouldn't do for him to return Anna home at a late hour, so he decided to wake them up. Without giving it much thought, he popped the green broke colt with the buggy whip. The startled colt leaped from his spot, causing his hind foot to slip and this sent a hoof-full of mud right into Anna's face.
Dick was horrified. Here he had this pretty, high-classed girl from a well-to-do family sitting beside him, the poor farmer's son, with little means, and he managed to ruin everything on their first date. Or so it seemed. The spooked colt managed to unsettle his partner, and Dick struggled to control both horses. All his efforts only served to frustrate him more and he had difficulty trying to quiet the team. Anna found the whole display amusing and to Dick's surprise, she suddenly broke out in a fit of giggles. She couldn't stop and soon he found himself joining in the laughter. Then and there, my great grandfather decided that any girl who could laugh with a mouthful of mud was a girl he wanted to spend the rest of his life with.
They were married in October of that year. And though they faced many struggles and heartaches in the first years of their marriage, Dick discovered he'd won a real prize in his Anna. Despite her high upbringing, she was willing to leave it all and follow him to South Dakota, traveling the harsh Midwestern roads in an uncovered wagon, with a one-year old daughter on her hip. They built a life together and had nine more children, of whom, my grandfather, Art, was the youngest. And I am truly grateful for the legacy they left to us.