a Beet Puller Before the Prisoners of War"
Interviewer: Arlene Ahlbrandt
During the WWII years Robert Stieben's father farmed
about 80 acres, two and a half miles south of Wellington
on what is now I-25. He remembers some rationing on the
farm and being most impacted by gasoline and tire
rationing. "We had plenty of shoe stamps being
frugal people." Besides, his grandfather had a last
and knew how to half-sole shoes. Meat was also rationed,
but on the farm they could butcher their own meat.
Robert was in high school in the war years and recalls
scrap drives when groups like the 4-H clubs would gather
up unwanted iron around the farms. He remembers also that
his father used German prisoners from the camp west of
Greeley in the spring for thinning crops and in the fall
for harvest. Because the groups were large, "you had
to be ready for them". Before dawn he and a neighbor
would use a "beet puller" and start the beet
harvest so that when his father brought the prisoners,
work was ready for them. The beets had to be gathered
into windrows. Then the area between the windrows was
smoothed out, the beets were topped by hand, thrown into
a clearing, and finally loaded by hand onto wagons. The
prisoners brought their own food and the farmers were
instructed not to feed them; but the Stieben family did.
Robert's grandfather was retired and lived in town, but
spoke German. He served as the interpreter and supervised
the prisoners. Such arrangements were common "where
the farmer was of German-Russian ancestry where there was
someone in the family that could communicate with them,
and it really helped." Stieben recalls the guards as
being "nonchalant" and "complacent"
about doing anything except seeing the prisoners didn't
escape, so his grandpa was a great help in solving any
problems or disputes.
Steiben had three uncles that served during the war.
Two were injured seriously. One lost a leg and one was
burned badly, but "I'm glad they returned home alive