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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Tales from the old-timer

Summer of 42

World War II was well underway by the summer of 1942. France had fallen to Hitler’s armies in 1942, the Japanese had launched their surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on Dec. 7 of 1941, and our forces in the Philippines were reeling by March of 1942, and when Battaan fell, the Japanese were victorious there. I had just finished my junior year at Peshtigo High School, and though the shadow of the war loomed large in our lives in many ways, life went on, and I was looking forward to a lazy summer of swimming at Jerly Boom on the Peshtigo River, but the war was about to affect my life indirectly. A man from the Pound area had been working in Milwaukee, but the draft board was breathing down his neck, so he quit his job and went back to the family farm in order to get a farm deferment, as his widowed mother was alone there.

He felt he needed to hire a boy to help with the farm chores, and drove to Peshtigo to find one. He went first to a family that had a boy of about 16, but his mom was fearful that if he left, her welfare grant would be reduced. She told the farmer to go to the Thibodeaus, as she knew about me as one of the kids who played noisy games of tree tag along the creek by their house. Next thing I knew my parents had signed me up, so I was soon on my way to the farm about 10 miles west of Coleman.

He had about 12 milk cows, and needed the help to get the hay in. He had no tractor as this was strictly a horse-drawn operation. He mowed the hay and he and I pitchforked it onto a hay wagon to be brought to the barn hay loft. It was lifted up by a large hay fork onto a track that allowed him to dump the hay up there, and I was unloading the hay and distributing it around the 2nd floor of the barn.

My pay was $1 a day plus room and board. I will say we ate well. We had a big breakfast with eggs and bacon, a lunch at about 10 a.m., a husky noon meal, then another lunch about 2:30 p.m. and a royal feast for supper, which was 5 meals a day!

The old grandma, who spoke no English, only German, looked upon me as an unnecessary expense, but anyhow, we got the hay in okay.

One day the farmer, his wife, and their 10-year-old daughter went to town, and he left me with instructions to hoe weeds in the large field of string beans. In a few minutes grandma came out in high excitement and yelled something to me in German about “the Clook” but I didn’t know what she was talking about. Looking back those 70 years, I think “Clook” may have been a Platdeutch (Low German) word for “Hen,” but I’m not sure. I have German-English, Dutch English, Norwegian-English, and even Icelandic-English dictionaries, all Germanic Group languages, but no “Clook” can be found. Hen occurs in German as Henne, in Norwegian and Dutch as “Hen” which is found in all of the German-related languages. I suspect I that Clook is a sort of slang work in German, but the elderly lady and I hit a stone wall on the word.

Fortunately the farmer let me go after we got the hay in, and I got an industrial job at the lumber yard on West Front Street. I made about 30 cents per hour and spent a lot of free time swimming and chumming with my friends. I think “Clook” was just a colloquial or slang work for “Cluck” meaning a hen, but I can’t find out unless one of our readers can help.

The summer sped by quickly and by September I was back in school for my senior year, graduation, then my own experience “first hand” with World War II as Pvt. David A. Thibodeau, Cannoneer, to be on a 105 mm. Howitzer for Battery B, 42nd Field Artillery Battalion, 4th Infantry Division. Learned some German later on in some of Adolph Hitler’s Junior Colleges, so I am able to ask “Vas Ist ein Kluck? which means “What is a Kluck?”


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Peshtigo, WI 54157
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