A story of three brothers

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This essay by Grant Coffin of Rapid City (formerly of Trail City) received honorable mention in the Topic’s recent essay contest.

The coronavirus prevention program of staying in-house found me rummaging around looking for something interesting to do. I came across an old document that reminded me of another pandemic. It was a copy of my dad’s discharge paper from the Cavalry after the end of World War I. The record shows that he was “paid in full” the amount of $49.73 which included “travel expenses to his place of enlistment.” He got to keep the bugle that was his primary weapon in garrison at Camp Dodge, IA. The date of separation was December 2, 1918.

This episode began on Grandad Coffin’s homestead thirteen miles from Wishek, ND. Grandpa was a carpenter by trade, but the lure of free land was so strong that he moved the family to a sod house on a rock-infested quarter late in the homestead period. All the good land had already been claimed, but with his skill as a builder he was able to support the family by doing custom building jobs while the family tended the “farm.” Dad’s older brother, Seth, got to drive the team while dad rode the plow to do the required farming. Seth said dad, Harry, spent more time getting back on the plow after being thrown off by rocks than he did riding the machine. Dad said you could walk across the claim and not step on dirt the whole way. They both made stories interesting when they got warmed up. Those conditions may have led the brothers to enlist in the Army during March, 1918. They left behind their little brother Joe, age 20, to do the chores. That’s what big brothers sometimes do.






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