Going to Camp Rucker

Louie and Alan K in January 1951, ready to travel to Alabama.

Alan K and Louie in January 1951, ready to travel to Alabama.

One of my earliest memories, certainly a planted memory, is of being in the ocean as a baby. As I read this letter, it’s clear that I couldn’t possibly remember something that happened to me at age one. Maybe it’s the pictures from the old photo album, or the stories that Mom and Dad told me as I grew up. The time in Alabama was probably a highlight for the little girl from the Dakota prairie.

Louie remembers the tragi-comedy, not the nostalgic part, of the trip to Alabama.

Louie writes:

Back in 1950, when Guy was just one week old, the National Guard outfit I belonged to was activated because of the Korean War or Police action whatever you wanted to call it.

The unit was to go to Camp Rucker, Alabama on the 16th of January by troop train. On this train we had, sleepers, a dining car, a place for cooking the meals and also KP duty (Kitchen Police). I being just a private did my share of the KP duties.

On the first night going through Minnesota you could see out the train window that it was a beautiful moon lit night and very – very cold.
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He Topa

Photo200The GI Bill yielded one of the best things that ever happened in Jim’s life. A college education. He started at the North Dakota School of Forestry in Bottineau, ND. Bottineau is a small town in far north central North Dakota. Today the population is barely over 2,300 people. It couldn’t have been much larger in 1950 when Jim was there.

In this letter Jim describes a college outing when one of his favorite professors takes a group of students to the Fort Berthold Reservation to excavate an Indian burial mound. The experience influenced Jim’s thoughts for years afterwards.

I grew up in North Dakota, in Jamestown, and had little interaction with Native Americans. Last fall I read a moving book by Kent Nerburn, Neither Wolf Nor Dog. After finishing the book I had to visit the Wounded Knee Memorial in western South Dakota. Perhaps Jim’s experience on the reservation meant as much to him as my visit to Wounded Knee in the spring of 2015. The history of the conflict between Native Americans and the White Man is a gut wrenching narrative, especially when considered from the Native view.

When we arrived at the memorial a young Native man approached us with a goal of selling some trinkets. His life and culture had obviously been crushed by the poverty, inequality, and subjugation of life on the reservation. The Federal Governments goal in the nineteenth century was to obliterate the native culture. Walking around the Wounded Knee Memorial reminded me that the government almost won. Nothing about the memorial, the cemetery, the reservation, or even that corner of the state instilled anything but despair.

I hope that the work of people like Ed Milligan and his progeny can restore the pride of the Native American culture. They need to see the strength and wonder of their culture. Without them we would all be diminished.

Enough of my rambling, let’s get back to Jim’s story.

Jim writes:

Edward A. Milligan was an instructor at the North Dakota School of Forestry, Bottineau, (which is now endowed with the imposing title of: N.D.S.U. Bottineau Branch and Institute of Forestry!) This small, obscure junior college offered a variety of courses; Forestry, Commerce, Engineering, Liberal Arts, Greenhouse, Pre-Law, Pre-Med, Agriculture and last but not least, Horticulture!

In the fall of 1950 the college had an enrollment of …

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