We’re lingering a bit in Eastman, Wisconsin in the heart of Crawford County. We’re recalling our times in the hill country around Rising Sun, Mt. Sterling, Seneca, and Eastman in the 1940s and 1950s.
Eastman had the big Fourth of July Celebration. A parade in the morning, softball and baseball games in the afternoon, food vendors all day long, and the much anticipated fireworks in the evening.
Some local school band, Seneca, Wauzeka, or Prairie du Chien, lead the parade, with color guard and American flag. People stood when the flag went by. If some youngster didn’t, a few older folks provided some prodding. Most of those guys were veterans also. People, as many as two deep, (remember that Eastman is a small town of perhaps 150 people, if everybody is home) clapped and cheered. Names were shouted out and band members turned and looked, beaming of course, and getting out of step, of course. At the end of the half mile parade, those band members were sweating profusely inside those hot wool uniforms under a hotter July sun.
There was the usual line up of tractors; John Deere johnny poppers, Allis Chambers, Farmall, Case, and Minneapolis Moline. A Ford Model A or Model T would sound its ooga horn. My brothers, Phillip and Bob, I loved the ooga horn. We tried to convince Dad to buy one for our tractor or pickup truck. Ah, to no avail. An ooga horn wouldn’t make any money. No need to have one on the Scheckel farm, you understand.
The Parade Marshall was usually a WWI veteran, seated atop the back part of a convertible car for better visibility, fittingly attired in his WWI uniform, a VFW hat, holding a small United States flag in one hand and waving to the crowd with the other. It was a different one each year. Sometimes one of the newly minted WWII vets drove the car or sat in the passenger seat. They always seemed to be a bit uncomfortable, not grumpy, mind you, but sitting in that moving convertible getting all those accolades, as if they didn’t deserve to be there.
It wasn’t until much later that I realized that real heroes don’t think they are heroes.
Bringing up the rear of the 30 minute parade were the horses. It does make sense to put horses as the last units in a town parade. Horses have a unique exhaust system, if you get my drift. We loved the horses, and these riders were in saddles, wore cowboy hats and brightly colored checkered shirts, and had shiny metal dripping from the bridles. Oh yes, we Scheckels had horses and Phillip, Bob, and I rode Dolly, Prince, and Lightning, when they weren’t pulling the manure spreader, hay wagon, Van Brunt grain drill, John Deere 999 corn planter, or the 8 foot McCormick- Deering oats binder.
We brought up the subject of Dad buying a saddle or two. We showed Dad the saddles in the Sears and Montgomery Ward catalogs. We hinted widely that a saddle would look right nice on any of our three horses. What we heard was something like “work horses don’t need saddles”.
Phillip, Bob, and I never did get a saddle, but we survived; bareback riding with just a bridle for steering.