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At dawn, Dean and I’d do the milking, and then whatever milk Dean’s D E P R E S S I O N , D U S T, A N D D A W S O N ’ S • 53 family didn’t need we’d sell to the grocery store for a nickel a quart. A two-and-a-half-cent split sounds silly today, but in the 1930s that was real money for a kid in Russell. My brother, Kenny, often joined Dean and me, and the three of us worked all sorts of odd jobs to make a few cents. Usually, I was the one who got the job, and then I persuaded Kenny and Dean to help.

Toiling from dawn to dusk every day, Dad made about fifteen dollars a week to support his family. Lugging those one-hundred-pound milk cans two at a time, no man worked harder or complained less. Dad prided himself on keeping the creamery spotless, scrubbing and cleaning the place late into the night. A few years after I was born, my father took a job managing the Norris Grain elevator, a receiving and distribution center for wheat, grain, and corn. All in all, he missed only one day of work in forty years, and felt bad about that.

A few of us reached one of the hedgerows. I took a deep breath and tried to collect my thoughts. We’d found an oasis in a dry, gritty desert, a bit of safety at last. But it was an illusion. Moments later, a heavy machine gun opened fire on us from the farmhouse. Sims called for mortars. I raised my hand and nodded, and the men and I scrambled out from behind the hedgerow and started up the steep, rocky grade, heading toward the farmhouse. The Germans might get some of us, but they weren’t going to get us all before one of us got them.

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Abraham Lincoln. The 16th President by Josh Gregory


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