Frank P. Sahli
Autobiography


Some highlites of my life, most of the more interesting ones, (in my opinion) occurred before I was ten years old:

I was born Nov. 20, 1899, in The Ukraine, one of eleven children of Joseph and Magdalena Sahli. Our family of three at that time, immigrated to America in 1900, at Ellis Island, thru New York and then on to Eureka, South Dakota. Of the children, three died in infancy. Of the eight that survived, three died in their middle and old age. The five that are left, myself, sister Katie, (now 94 years old) sister Gladys Hummel. New Hope, Minnesota. Sister Julie Kelvie, of St. Paul, brother John, of Appleton, Wisconsin.

From Eureka, we traveled westward, about 100 miles west of Aberdeen, South Dakota, where we homesteaded 320 acres of wide open prairie. We lived in a tent for several months until the house and other buildings were built, all of sod. One night a bad rain and windstorm tore down our tent and we all got soaking wet.

The nearest town was 30 miles away. named Faulkton. All mode of travel was by horses, wagon and/or buggy. In the fall of year we drove to town to lay in provisions for the winter, such as sugar, flour and other staples, as it was impossible to drive that far in wintertime. In order to make it in one day, we had to start early in the morning, still dark. I usually went along. In the darkness we could hear the wolves howl and it always scared me so that I covered myself with a blanket.

One time when I was but 3 or 4 years old, (I was told) I wandered away from home with our dog, probably a quarter of a mile into an area of high weeds. Then I was discovered missing, everybody started looking for me, and the only way they found me was by the sound of the dog barking at a skunk he found and fought with. Needless to say my clothing was well saturated with skunk aroma but otherwise unhurt.

When hog slaughtering time came around, usually late fall, it was my job to stir the blood in a pan to keep it from coagulating, until it was cold. It was then used to make blood-sausage.

The wild and open prairie was suitable for cattle ranching. People from miles away brought their cattle for us to take care of during the spring and summer. We had as many as 7 to 8 hundred to herd. We got paid $1.50 per head for it. My dad, my oldest sister, Katie and I, (I was then about 6 or 7 years old) were riding ponies most of the day. (So I was a cowboy at a very tender age) One day while riding on my pony, it saw a snake, probably a rattler, it reared back suddenly, (horses seem to instinctively have a fear of snakes, (unlike Eve in the Garden of Eden), I fell off and broke my wrist. Being that the nearest doctors were about 100 miles away, in this case Aberdeen, S. Dakota, most sickness and other injuries were homecured, so to speak.

With that many cattle, we needed a lot of water. The solution was an artesian well, 1000 feet deep. It produced enough water for all the cattle and then some, (it was a flowing well) and the surplus formed a small lake. We had a large flock of geese, for meat as well as for their feathers, for pillows, blankets etc. They usually spent the nights near the water. One night a mink nearly killed all of them. a few did escape into the barn.

Our country school was about a mile and a half away. We walked most of the time, but in bad weather my dad usually drove us there with the wagon or buggy, mostly the buggy. We had an old horse, named Kate, whose working days were over but she could still pull a buggy. There was a pretty good trail from our yard to the school. Kate got so used to travel the trail that all my dad would have to do is to hitch her up, put her on the trail and say giddyap and she would go all by herself up to the school, stop and wait for school to let out.

So, life want on. We stayed there for ten years, then moved to North Dakota, near a town named Hague where we farmed some more.

I never liked farming, especially milking cows, so my dad said, being that I was the oldest boy in the family and likely to eventually take over the farm. I had a choice, farm or go to school. Naturally I chose school, St. John's at Collegeville, Minnesota. two full years and two years part-time. In 1919, I received a telegram from the First National Bank in Perham to come and work for them, this, thru a friend that was also a former student at St. John's.

It was quite a jump, from pitching hay and shoveling barnyard litter, to working in a bank. I didn't like it to well for a few days and almost gave it up again. However, another boy that had attended St. John's, that was working in the other bank in Perham, encouraged me to give myself a little more time. I did just that and held the job for 13 years. Then the Great Depression of the early 30's closed the banks and I was out of a job. I had married Clara Hemmelgarn in 1922, had two children and one on the way and we had tough going. I held various temporary, part-time jobs, anything I could find.

In 1939 when the city of Perham voted in liquor by a large margin, I put in my application, one of about 70 others and was lucky enough to get the job, perhaps due to my past experience in the bank. So I was manager for 23 years till 1962 when I was old enough to get a pension as well and as being eligible for social security, I retired. That kind of life however, was a little boring for me so looked around for something to do. Then became secretary of the Perham Chamber for ten years. Secretary of the Perham Golf Club for over 16 years, operated the Perham Tourist Information Center for a number of years and served as judge of City and School election boards for 22 years.

I had a workshop at our home where I spent many happy hours making various wood products. Many of them going as far away as New York, Texas and Seattle. I only was paid for one Item and that was because the lady asked me to make it for her, everything else was 'giveaway' and I always felt good going it.

So, now since we sold our home In 1966, moved into an apartment complex, I have nothing to do, except play solitaire in winter and golf in summertime. I expect to play that game as long as I can see the ball, and at my age with only one eye left, losing one to glaucoma, that may not be much longer. I am now in my 90th year and that brings us up to date.

Frank P. Sahli, 1989.

Frank Sahli, Nov. 20, 1899 - Oct. 7, 2004