Mail Call: July/August 2012

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Daisy is a wild pig from Florida.
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An older Daisy enjoying her day spa.
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This beautifully restored hardward store stays in business while maintaining a throwback appearance.
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Petunia and Daisy getting water and food.
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The Halstead, Kansas hardware store in 1925.
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This beautifully restored hardward store stays in business while maintaining a throwback appearance.
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This beautiful Hamburg chicken can be distinguished from the Campine by its distinct rose comb.

I just wanted to drop you a note and let you know how much I enjoy eNews (GRIT’s electronic newsletter). There are so many links (and links within links) that it’s hard not to miss something of interest.

We have wild pigs here in east-central Florida. Some of these are hairy razorbacks with tusks, and some are domesticated runaways that have joined and bred with wayward groups. My family lives in a rustic, rural, somewhat wild area near the St. Johns River, west of Cocoa. Some suburban communities get entire yards “tilled” (similar to Texas ranch problems). Our situation, here in the woods, is not as problematic. Occasionally a small group will pass through, rooting up fairly small areas as they go (and maybe rototilling someone’s garden plot). Having lived here since 1997, it’s only been within the past several months that we’ve had what some folks might say is a problem.

A hefty, hairy black female showed up and started hanging around, especially in the early morning and late afternoon. I did not have a hand in naming her (big mistake unless it’s a moniker like Bacon, Pork Chop or Hambone). Before long, Petunia was waltzing through the 4-foot chain-link fence like it wasn’t even there, and leaving little evidence of her passing. She had her own water bowl and enjoyed corn snacks.

This went on for a while, and then she went missing. A few weeks went by, and then she was back — with a younger female in tow. This one is hairy, reddish in color with a few small black spots. The previous routine returned, with them keeping company with our chickens and two goats, showing up mostly at feeding time. Then, poof, they were gone. Well, a few days later, Bacon (that’s what the younger one had been named) returned, a little wilder and quite agitated. Petunia never returned, and — you guessed it — Bacon got renamed Daisy! She calmed down and now spends some nights (as well as many hours during the heat of the day) under the porch, coming out to dog our heels while looking for a snack. She likes bananas (but not the peels), apple slices and granola bars. If she doesn’t get her treat, she pitches a hissy fit. She’ll also nip at body parts to get your attention … becoming a bit of a pest. Today, my wife said, “If she’s not careful, her name is going back to being Bacon.” 

Jerry Wall
Cocoa, Florida

Soon as she nips a little too hard, Jerry, that’s breakfast! Heck, dinner, too! All jokes aside, thanks for sharing a story that brightened our day, and thanks for being so engaged with GRIT eNews. — Editors

Classic hardware

In 1885, Henry von Riesen and David Dyck decided to get out of the grocery business and enter a more reliable occupation, one where they did not have to deal with perishable food items. So they moved across Main Street in their small south-central Kansas town and opened the next-best thing to a grocery, a hardware store in a two-story stone building built six years earlier . The two men had migrated from West Prussia a few years earlier to settle on the Plains with some of their fellow countrymen in a colony that became known as Halstead, Kansas.

The business was passed down to their sons in 1909 to continue as one of the mainstays of their community. In 1916, business must have been good because they ordered new oak cabinets from the Warren Cabinet Co. of Chicago (see Image Gallery). Ten of the multi-unit 7-foot-tall cabinets were shipped out by train and unloaded at the hardware store, where for the next 96 years they would hold rural necessities, such as screws, washers, pots and pans.

When the 1950s came with the idea that everything had to be painted to be up-to-date, the wall units were covered with paint. Later the drawers and doors of many of the old wood units were taken out of their position, and the remaining open shelves were used to stack hundreds of boxes of screws, washers and nuts for the viewing public. Old electric drop lighting was replaced with the new fluorescent lighting; the rolling ladders were taken down; and pegboard and wire turntable-type displays replaced many of the old-style glass-topped showcases that ran the full length of the store, but it remained a hardware store.

In 1998, my husband, Gary, and I purchased the store and decided to revive the place. We removed paint from the cabinets, the drawers and doors (which had been stored upstairs for more than 40 years) were repaired and reinstalled, lighting was changed back to the old-style hanging globes, pegboard was thrown in the dumpster, and center showcases were brought back into use.

Today, folks can walk into the Old Hardware Store on Main Street in Halstead and feel as though they have gone back to 1920. If only the fixtures could talk. The tin ceiling, the oak cabinetry, the 1915 nail scale, the rolling ladder and the squeaking wood floor would have many stories to tell. The grand old lady has withstood a tornado, numerous floods from the nearby Little Arkansas River, and hard economic times, but she still stands today: A hardware store, one of the very few of her age still in the business of selling hardware in the state of Kansas.

Margaret Kraisinger
Halstead, Kansas

Thanks for sharing the story of your store, Margaret. We can almost see the nuts-and-bolts bins now and smell the 2-stroke oil. Readers, do you have a special memory of a hardware store from your rural community? Tell us about it; email

Dumb clucks

After receiving my May/June issue in the mail today, I was happy to see a photograph of a chicken that I breed and promote. However, I realized there was a mistake when I read the article (Heritage Breeds Can Be the Best Egg Laying Chickens).

The golden-penciled Hamburg in the picture was mistaken for a golden Campine. While they are in the same class for showing (Continental) and have similar color patterns, there are many things that separate the two breeds.

Most notably, the Campine has a single comb, whereas the Hamburg has a rose comb. Another fun fact about the Campine is that the males are hen-feathered. Very few breeds are hen-feathered (meaning the male’s feather pattern and shape resemble that of its female counterpart). Campines, as mentioned in the article, come in silver and golden varieties, while the Hamburg comes in six stunning colors: white, black, silver-spangled, golden-spangled, silver-penciled and golden-penciled.

The rest of the article was well-written, and I am happy to see that the Langshans made the cut in the author’s choices. I still breed these birds (mainly in bantams anymore), and at 4 and 5 years old, they are still producing just as well as a 2-year-old.

Amanda Clark
Atascadero, California

Amanda, you are exactly right; the comb is a telltale giveaway! Only a handful of readers pointed this out, but a true Campine would have a single comb, as you say. Sorry this one slipped by us! — Editors

Dad’s paper

I grew up watching my dad, Samuel Salls, read “The GRIT Paper.” He read it over his coffee cup, sitting on the porch on an old cloth-covered can seat, or sitting in the sun of a late fall day before milking time — I only wish we had owned a camera at that time, but we didn’t. By the age of 5, all of us children worked in the barn, if only to hold the cow’s tail while Dad and the older siblings milked. We had 220 head in all: milking cows, young stock, heifers, bulls. We also raised workhorses, mares and colts, so we had enough work to go around for all of us, and I am the 10th out of 12 children. If we were not working, Dad let us sit out in the milk house where our in-floor milk cooler was.

To make it, Dad made a floor of cement, then dug and cemented a 6-foot-by-6-foot well hole, and cemented the bottom and walls of that. Then he and the boys lowered the cooler down into the well. The top was 6 to 8 inches above the floor, with the motor still accessible in case it needed repairing.

Dad would let us smaller children sit on a milking stool and read or just look at the pictures in ‘his’ GRIT paper. He never had to scold us or remind us who owned the GRIT paper; we all knew it belonged to Dad. We all grew up to be farmers, even if a small garden was all we owned. We all hunted, fished and trapped. It was a way of life that kept America on the healthy side. No one we knew at that time was ever afraid to work for what he or she needed or wanted. There were extra crops for any elderly neighbor in need who was too old to plant and tend. Such folks would babysit while my mom made an extra pie for their supper.

Fleda E. Shipley
Castleton, Vermont

Ah, Fleda, that way of life is what we strive for, even today, and dads everywhere can still have their GRIT “paper.” Maybe one day, today’s youngsters will look back and say the same thing! — Editors

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