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A First-Ditch Effort



Trivia Question

Which television Western starring Clint Walker debuted in 1955?


A First-Ditch Effort

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It's summertime in the Midwest, and it's hot, hot, hot! If I want to get in my daily walk, I am obliged to do it first thing in the morning, before the heat, humidity and hungry mosquitoes become overly oppressive and my walk slows to a sweaty, swatting slog.

Today, as the sun was rising, I trekked west of my home, on a country road with a sideline ditch that was likely first dug by my German ancestors in the late 1800s to drain the rainwater from the swampy land they had purchased for cheap. I learned in a history presentation at the local library that the mosquitoes were so prevalent and tyrannical at the time the hardy pioneers were ditching that they had to wrap their horses' legs in gauze to prevent them from succumbing to the swelling and infection wrought by so many mosquito bites. But what was exposed after the grand effort of systematic trenching of the region was amazingly fertile soil for farming -- an earthly treasure that made their backbreaking work pay off. They braved the heat, humidity and hungry mosquitoes to forge a prosperous new life in an unwelcoming environment.

As I walked along the ditch, which was filled with caramel-colored rainwater runoff from last night's downpour and rushing to its ultimate destination in the nearby river, I silently thanked my ancestors. Their vision and sacrifice truly made this part of our state a wonderful place to live today.

And then I swatted a mosquito and hightailed it for home.

'Til next time,

Mary Beth Weisenburger,
Good Old Days® magazine

PS. Do you have a story to share about your pioneering ancestors? We want to hear about it! Send a brief response to me at Editor@GoodOldDaysMagazine.com, and it could appear in a future update or in Good Old Days magazine! Here is one email response from the June 26, 2019 update question: Did you help with outdoor chores in your Good Old Days?

Judi Carroll shared: "You asked in the Good Old Days update about helping with outdoor chores when we were children. That brought back happy memories of the years we spent at Collier Park in La Mesa, Calif. My parents were the caretakers, and we lived in a small cottage up above the park. My brother and I had certain chores that we had to do, although my mother took on the bulk of the responsibilities.

"Early in the morning we had to get up and put up the flag and unlock the tennis court. Every evening we had to take down the flag and properly fold it, and relock the tennis court. In the morning my father would grind coffee beans in the old wooden coffee grinder and get fresh water from the spring that ran through the front yard to make fresh coffee. That was the best coffee I ever had, and it turned me into a coffee lover. I wasn't allowed much, but I savored every sip.

"The park was half grass and half dirt, and had huge eucalyptus trees. My job was to keep the dirt raked and pick up all the nuts that fell from the trees. They hurt when you stepped on them, and it was easy to turn an ankle. Needless to say, it was a never-ending job and great job security! When we weren't doing our few chores, we had the world at our feet: a playground with swings, slides, a merry-go-round, monkey bars, a tether-ball and a tennis court. The spring ran the length of the park and had lots of crawdads, minnows, tadpoles and polliwogs. It was a continual source of amusement. In the afternoon the Good Humor Man would drive his truck into the park, and we would run down to get a yummy ice cream treat.

"I will always cherish those memories of my youth and those carefree, innocent days. They definitely were MY Good Old Days!"


Mary Beth Weisenburger has been with Annie's since April 2011. She has 25 years of experience in the marketing, advertising and publishing fields. In addition to her job as editor of Good Old Days, she has been writing a family humor column for over a decade. She and her husband, two college-age kids, two dogs and various other critters live on five acres in the country, where she enjoys reading on the back porch, refinishing furniture, feeding the birds and digging in the dirt of her perennial gardens.


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Trivia Answer

Cheyenne. Walker played cowboy Cheyenne Bodie in the hour-long show. The popular Western originally aired from 1955 until 1963.

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