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Minnesota Cattle Drive

B.L. LietzauA cattle drive in Minnesota? Make no mistake about it. In 1932, the Baer family lost their farm in Wyoming, Minnesota, due to the Depression and several years of bad crops. This land adjacent to the western shore of Comfort Lake no longer provided the promise of a good living as it once had.

Eleven Baer children, plus their parents, Henry and Margaret, were forced to pull up stakes and move to a rented farm in Hamel, Minnesota. There, they hoped to put down their roots and start again.

Fifty head of cattle remained in their stock. Two of the older Baer boys, Gene, seventeen years old and Lee, then sixteen along with their father, Henry, began a 45-mile cattle drive southwest to Hamel, MN. The young men saddled horses at dusk and drove the cattle flanking Highway 61, which started the two-day trek to the anticipated rich and fertile ground.

At the end of the first day, the men and cattle rested in a gravel pit halfway toward their destination. As the western sun shrunk into the red sky, I can imagine the camaraderie in that gravel pit between father and sons. The campfire aglow, the beef jerky and lard sandwiches savagely eaten before a short rest and then heading out again.

The hope for better farmland kept their spirits high and determination intact as they persisted in the rest of the journey. Not to mention the pure adventure of an old western cattle drive was exciting for Gene and Lee. By the end of the following evening, they rounded the last turn to the 85-acre farm in Hamel.

Will and persistence were prevalent in those days, just like the Old West—Come hell or high water, things got done. Pursuing the American dream continued on with the Baer’s new location. Again, they would prosper on this new land.