YOU CAN’T JUDGE WHERE A BOOK HAS BEEN BY ITS COVER
By Steve Moreland, November 26, 2017
Back in the early 1960’s, my grandfather, John Jennings (Jack) Moreland wrote his lifetime memoirs. The book is paperback and has 99 pages, including quite a few photographs of that era. It is entitled RECOLLECTIONS, and has a nice cover design done by my father, Bob Moreland. The pen-and-ink drawing depicts a saddled horse standing “ground-tied” on a knoll, with a windmill, Hereford cattle, and a distant cowboy in the background. The book doesn’t show a copyright date or the name of the printer. It does mention: “Stephen was the first baby to arrive in the new generation. He is now twelve and in the sixth grade.” This would put the year of his writing at 1963 or 1964. I am fairly sure that the book was published by Wendell Long of Martin, South Dakota, as he was a good friend of the family and was also the editor/publisher of the local newspaper, BENNETT COUNTY BOOSTER II.
My Grandpa Jack was born February 18, 1895 in a house on a rented farm near the little village of Prosser, in Adams County, Nebraska. He was the third and last child of George F. Moreland and Barbara Ellen Cramer Moreland. The older children were Milton and Evea. Soon the family moved to and filed on a homestead about ten miles north of Dalton, Nebraska. Another move was to a farm by Juniata, Nebraska, and that is where Jack started school. Soon they moved again to Chase County, where permanent roots were established with the purchase of land 14 miles northwest of Imperial.
Jack Moreland grew up around horses and cattle and loved the ranching way of life, but after attending Hastings College, he became a school teacher for a few years. His first job in the field of education was at Gretna, a consolidated school near Omaha. He was only 20 years old when he took on the responsibility of being superintendent of that school for the school term of 1915-1916, with nine other teachers and twelve grades. The salary was $100 per month for nine months, which he said was very good for those days. He called that year a “fine experience,” and further mentioned: “One nice thing promoted by the teachers and approved by the board of education was the wiring of the building for electricity. The good-sized assembly room could now be used for programs and entertainments which pleased all concerned.”
Jack says in his book, “At an educational meeting in Lincoln I had gotten acquainted with the County Superintendent of Cherry County. I asked many questions about that area and liked what I heard, so I mentioned that I would like to teach there sometime. Imagine my surprise to receive a letter in July saying there was a vacancy at Merriman and that I had been recommended to the school board for the job. The salary was $1,000 per year. I telegraphed my acceptance.”
Jack goes on to say, “Merriman suited me fine, and I soon became acquainted with some fellows about my age (22), two of whom were to become my brothers-in-law.” This didn’t happen right away though, as after Jack taught one year in Merriman, he enlisted in the military on November 17th, 1917. He took his basic training at Fort Logan, near Denver. Later he was transferred to the Aviation Corps for further training at Kelly Field not far from San Antonio, and another transfer was to the Aviation Mechanics Training School at Minneapolis. Jack was accepted for Officer’s Training School which was in Kentucky, but was then transferred from aviation to field artillery. Immediately after graduation and his becoming a second lieutenant, the Armistice of November 11, 1918 was signed. Very soon thereafter, Jack Moreland was placed on reserve status and sent home. He arrived back in Nebraska on the day after Thanksgiving in 1918, after having served just a few days over one year in the military.
Jack Moreland married Grace Fairhead on March 3, 1919 in Merriman. My grandmother always said that she traded her fair head for more land. They first ranched at Imperial, Nebraska with his father, and then they bought a little place in the relatively new frontier area of Bennett County, South Dakota about eleven miles east of present day Martin. Grace made the move by automobile, but Jack and another man drove a six-horse team on a hay rack to move their belongs from the old place to the new. This trip of more than 200 miles through the Sandhills, was embarked upon the last day of February of 1921 and took ten days. The adventure was elaborated upon in the book.
Jack and Grace’s first son, Bob, was born in February of 1923, and Stan was born in May of 1926. A later move was to a ranch at the head of LaCreek, about ten miles southwest of Martin, and in 1934 the family put down permanent roots on a ranch a mile south of Merriman. Jack and Grace lived and ranched there until moving into Merriman in 1954, when Stan took over the home ranch. Bob’s family had another ranch eight miles northeast of Merriman.
Jack Moreland’s book RECOLLECTIONS is mainly of family interest, but it highlights life as it was in those days.
In January of 1974, my parents Bob and Elaine Moreland attended the National Western Stock Show in Denver. They had driven out in a 1971 Ford LTD, but it experienced mechanical problems while there. My folks drove to a Ford dealership in Golden, Colorado to have the problem analyzed. As the motor troubles were of a major nature, Dad bought a brand new 1974 Ford LTD to drive home. He did decide to have the dealership fix the old car and he would keep it, too. At least a week had gone by before Dad received word that his 1971 car was road worthy again, and I was delegated to go out and drive the car home. My dad drove me to Ogallala, where I boarded a bus bound for Boulder. There Joe Kent (my dad’s second cousin) would pick me up and let me stay overnight with him and his wife, Mary Beth, and their son “Young Joe.” Joe would take me to Golden the next day so I could pick up the car and drive it back to our ranch in northern Nebraska.
While at the Ogallala bus station I struck up a conversation with a nice elderly gentleman. He was Morgan Stevens from Grant, Nebraska and he was also riding the bus to Colorado. We sat together all the way to Boulder and had a good visit. He had written a book about his lifetime experiences and had along a few extra copies. He gave me one, and the title was MEMORIES OF PERKINS COUNTY, by J. Morgan Stevens. Mr. Stevens had known my grandfather, Jack Moreland, when both were young men in the adjoining Grant and Perkins counties. He perked up his ears when I told him my granddad had also written a book.
After Joe Kent dropped me off at the Golden Ford dealership, I managed to wallow my way through a lot of traffic to get out to the interstate to head home. I did make one brief stop near Brush, Colorado at the Ralph Shimon Saddlery. There I found a new saddle to my liking. The price was $400, but after having sterling silver conchos added instead of the nickel conchos, the price was $435 (plus tax, I am sure).
After arriving back in Merriman, I stopped at Grandma Grace’s house in town (Grandpa Jack had passed away late in December of 1966). She still had a few copies of the book RECOLLECTIONS, so gave me one. I soon put it in the mail to Morgan Stevens, and he wrote me a nice letter of thanks.
Fast forward to about 2010. My daughter Tiffany was the only one home one day when a vehicle drove into the yard. A nice man came to the door and introduced himself as Bob Hightree from Blair, Nebraska. He is a barber there, and a collector of cowboy and western memorabilia. He had been a longtime friend of my uncle, Stan Moreland, who was also an avid collector of bits and spurs. I had met Mr. Hightree at my uncle’s antique auction back in about 1997. Bob Hightree presented my daughter with a book he had acquired at a used book store. It turned out to be the RECOLLECTIONS book I had sent to Morg Stevens in 1974, and it had traveled quite a ways before coming back to Merriman. We deeply appreciated Bob Hightree giving the book to us, as there were only a hundred copies made at the printing, and they are quite scarce today. I have only been through Blair, Nebraska a couple times in my life, but the next time I go through, whether I need one or not, I plan to stop at The Scalpin’ Post Barber Shop and have Bob Hightree give me a haircut.