Smith celebrates a century
Wed, 10/11/2017 - 9:25am admin
People just want too much these days. You don’t need all that stuff.”
Very few people know that he was named Charles Richard Smith, because he has always gone by Rich or Richard. The rare occasion he is called Dick you can bet it is by a salesman.
He says he was born Oct. 22, 1917, at home on his fathers homestead at Grindstone, South Dakota. His parents were John Roy and Roxie (Berry) Smith, both homesteaders at Grindstone. Back in those days birth certificates were not issued at birth like they are now. Rich never thought he had a birth certificate until a search at the state capital in 2013 produced one. Evidently in the 1940s, his parents applied for a certificate for him and the state registered his birthday as Feb. 22. The application was completed in cursive and the October and February could have been confused. Rich states that his older brother, Evert, confirmed that he was born in October.
Rich had two older brothers, Evert (Bus) Smith and Alfred (Bill) Smith. When Rich was two-and-a-half years old, his mother died from pneumonia. Rich also contracted pneumonia and his dad didn’t think he was going to make it. Even at that young age he had a strong constitution. Rich stayed with a couple of families after his mom died and he has some clear memories of Albert Kennedy and his wife taking care of him during that time. His dad married Norma Hick in 1923 and they went on to have six more children, Lee, Betty (Montgomery), Bob, Kenneth, Max and Mary (Eide).
Grindstone was his childhood home. He has a “sheep wagonload” of stories about herding sheep for his dad from north of Grindstone all the way to the Badlands. To this day, he can show you were they put up camp, where the water was, and which draws they trailed down.
He remembers his grandfather, Harry, playing cards (pitch, of course) in the sheep wagon with Albert Kennedy. Harry offered him money to keep track of who had “low.” There may have been more to this story and alcohol may have been involved.
The three RRRs (Reading, Riting, Rithmetic) weren’t all easy for Rich. He could add figures in his head faster than his kids could on a calculator, but when it came to reading, he struggled. He said once his wife, Gladys, listened to him read an article and when he finished she asked him what he thought it said. He told her what the article was about. She told him she didn’t think he would have a clue what it said after the way he stumbled through it.
He also has a great affinity for dates in history, basically any dates. He can tell you birth dates of nearly all his descendants, as well as many people in the county.
His formal education started and finished in a one-room school. He graduated eighth grade from the Dean School in Haakon County. He went on to serve on the school board for the Miller School. He had a particular interest to keep this one-room school open, since all his children attended there.
The 1930s were not easy for anyone and they were not that great for the Smiths either, but he will tell you his dad always made certain there was plenty of food. He never wanted his family to be hungry. Now mind you, it might not have been great food, but it was food.
In 1937, Rich went to Richman, Idaho, with a friend looking for work. He didn’t have to look long. He did an array of jobs – clearing ditches, cleaning turkeys, milking cows, topping beets and a camp tender for a sheep ranch.
He not only found work, but he found a wife. He met Gladys Knodel, formerly of Peno Basin, S.D. They married in 1937 and he says, “She is the only woman who could have put up with me. She was a wonderful woman.” In 2012, Gladys passed away, four months short of their 75th wedding anniversary.
Rich and Gladys came back to South Dakota in 1938 with the intention of going back to Idaho. Rich’s brother, Bus, told them they could stay with him and try to make a go of it. They moved in with Bus. This had to be some cramped living quarters because they lived in his small house and had five children before Rich got their new home built north of Cottonwood.
Rich and Gladys were once asked what they attributed their long years of marriage to and they both answered almost exactly the same, “People just want too much these days. You don’t need all that stuff.” The couple raised nine children on this place. Colleen (Simmons), Joyce (Buchholz), Larry, Melvin, Steven, Arlan, Barbara (Coy), Janet (Lurz) and Kieth.
Gladys and Rich did some traveling when he was around 65. He has seen most of the United States and has been to New Zealand and Australia (where he once considered moving) but he will tell you there is no place like home. As a young man he always wanted to see the “Promised Land” but admits that desire has gone by the wayside.
Now he finds enjoyment in driving around the countryside. Although he does a lot of reminiscing about the old days while on these drives, he still has an interest in who is planting what, how the crops are doing, and how the cattle look.
Rich and Gladys could be found at the card parties at the Grindstone Hall and most of the dances there. Richard also became very active in the local Masons and went on to become a Shriner. He has always enjoyed a game of pitch and on occasion you can still catch him at the card room. He says he appreciates it when the guys forego playing rummy to start up a pitch game for him.
Rich still lives on his farm, feeds the cats and races his dog, Buster, with his four-wheeler. He has coffee drinkers drop by most mornings and wants you to know you are welcome anytime.
Rich has seen lots of changes. He went from doing chores with a team and wagon and pitching or shoveling by hand. His first tractor was a 1944 M International and his newest is a 2006 New Holland. He has raised cows, pigs, chickens and lots of sheep. He has planted lots of wheat and mowed lots of hay. He did what he thought he could do to make money at the time. He said he never had a plan other than hoping he could make enough money to feed and educate his kids. He admits to mistakes, but has never regretted staying in South Dakota.
Healthwise, he says he can’t really complain. He has had some health issues that 100 years ago would have killed him, and because of modern medicine he is still alive. As a young boy, he survived pneumonia, and this September he survived it again. Rich says he is a lucky, lucky man to have all his children living and to have lived to be 100 years old. If you ask him what has kept him alive you might get lots of different answers, but most often he will tell you, “hard work, eating good and lots of luck.”
Come celebrate Rich’s 100th birthday, Oct. 22, at the Philip American Legion Hall, 1:00 to 3:00 p.m., with coffee and cookies.