The Vietnam War – Loren Wood – A farm kid from rural Russell

Loren Wood was born in January 1947 in Tyler, the second of three children born to Beulah (Yearous) Wood and Harold Wood. His older sister, Karen, was born during Harold’s WWII military service. His younger brother, Dean, was born in Tyler in 1949. Loren and his siblings grew up on the family farm northwest of Balaton.

Loren explained the origin of the south farm, his childhood home.

“Dad was born on the farm — the north farm. His dad bought the south farm for him when he got home from the military. Then he went to school in Balaton — a class for guys out of the military. I would call it a vocational school. He learned welding and stuff.”

Their farm and home was typical of the time.

“It was an old, square, two-story farmhouse on a rock foundation. There were three bedrooms upstairs, a living room, dining room, and the kitchen. I remember the old, wood stove in there. We had a little shed we put cobs in when we shelled corn. We’d put cobs in the wood-burner. We had an oil furnace. We had a nice, big barn and a huge chicken house. We had a granary, corn crib, and one garage. We had a little, wooden, machine shed.

Loren described his parents’ roles on the farm.

“Dad took care of the farming and milking. Mom was a housekeeper and did lots of canning and cooking. She would help him out, if needed. As we got older, she raised chickens. She sold a lot of eggs and raised some roosters just for butchering.”

Loren’s folks operated a typical- for-the-time, mixed-ag operation.

“Flax was a big deal because when he’d combine flax in the fall, we’d get our school supplies. (Loren chuckled) He raised a lot of corn for feed. It was mostly corn and flax with a little oats. Dad had dairy. The most we milked was about 30. Dad built a milking parlor. Surge tried to sue him because they said he took their design. That didn’t go anyplace (Loren chuckled) because he designed it himself. We could milk three cows at a time. They were up high, so it was a nice set-up.”

Loren explained his dad’s milk handling system.

“He piped it into a creamery down plastic pipes into cream cans. We had a well in the middle of the yard and a block building around it. Back then we didn’t have can coolers or bulk tanks. He dug this out and made an elevator. He’d take cans of milk from the barn to this well building and lower those cans in about two feet of cold water. When the milk man came from Southwest Dairy in Russell, he would raise them on this lift, and put them on the truck.”

Chores begin at an early age for farm kids and Loren was no exception.

“The first thing I remember doing is feeding calves. You’d leave them on the cow for a week or so, then put them in a barn or pen. But you still had to feed them milk from the cows. That was my chore. I’d get a pail and take it in to feed the calves. Then I got into milking the cows: helping Dad run them in and out; milking them; and bedding them. We also had horses. As long as I can remember I always had to feed the horses.”

But the horses were much more than a chore for Loren.

“My Dad had teams of horses when he started farming and he kept them. When we kids got older, he bought horses for us. My brother and I had two Welsh ponies. We would leave on Saturday morning on those ponies; ride all over the country; and come back for supper. They didn’t worry about us. All the neighbors looked out. (Loren laughed) Sophie Swanson lived a mile from our place. She always baked bread, so we’d stop there for fresh rolls. As we got older, we got bigger horses; Quarter horses and American bred. I just loved to be around horses.”

Loren laughed about his first memory of operating a tractor.

“We were cleaning out a cattle lot. We had a little B Farmall and a little International manure spreader. I was on that tractor because Dad wanted me to haul it out. My grandpa came in and was he mad! I wasn’t old enough to be on that tractor! (Loren laughed) He just reamed my dad out.”

But by the time he was ten or twelve, Loren was doing field work.

“We had a B Farmall with a two-row cultivator and I’d sit on that thing day after day. He had a cultivator on an H Farmall, so the two of us would cultivate. (Loren chuckled) The main thing I remember is cultivating because it was so boring.”

There was plenty to do on the farm besides chores and the horses.

“My brother and I were two years apart and we did everything together. In the winter we were always outside. We’d dig tunnels in the snowbanks. There’s a big lake just south of the building site called McKay Lake. So, we did a lot of fishing and hunting. (Loren laughed) They knew we’d come home when we got hungry.”

The Wood kids also had extended family in the area and friends they made attending the Russell Public Schools.

Please visit our new exhibit at the Lyon County Museum, The Vietnam War and Lyon County, to learn more about the experiences of our area Vietnam veterans.


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