South Dakota

Clyde Willis Rainford 1905-1948

This is the 3rd in a series of writings authored by Darrel Rainford of Minnesota (1928 - 2005).
Clyde in 1920
Clyde in 1920
Biography: Clyde Willis Rainford 1905-1948

Clyde Willis Rainford was born in Illinois on July 2, 1905. The records don’t say, but chances are that he was born with the long, lean body and thick dark hair that he had all his life. Although he only finished 4th grade, Clyde was self-taught, well-read and mathematically adept, as shown by his success in farming. He grew up with brother Calvin, and his mother, Lola Besse Rainford, who kept house for the Shult brothers from the late 1920s till 1940. The boys were working hauling gravel when Clyde met and married Florence Delia (Dolly) LaBrie on Dec.14, 1925 in Redfield. In spring 1927, Clyde started as a hired man on the Aksel Realson farm. By that fall they went out on their own to “begin their life of farming” as Dolly put it, on a rented acreage in Belle Plaine Township in Spink County, 4 miles west and 4 miles south 1/4 east of Doland.

1928 Farm

They farmed with horses until 1928 when Clyde purchased their first tractor, a 1928 International Harvester (regular) Farmall with steel wheels. He also bought at a new contraption that cut harvesting time by 75 percent: a 1928 International Harvester 8-foot combine. He planned to do custom combining since few farmers bought combines until the 1940’s. In 1931 they moved to a farm not far from Ben LaBrie. But that fall they had an opportunity to move to the farm they stayed at for 11 years, informally called the West Farm. The farm buildings were four miles west, four north 1/2 west of Doland. The land was owned by Connecticut General Insurance Company, as much of the land ownership defaulted after the crash. The insurance company furnished the seed and land and farm families furnished machinery and labor. In return, the insurance company’s share was 1/3 of the crop delivered to the elevator in Doland. Clyde farmed the north 320 acres in Section 17 of Prairie Center Township and also the Southwest 160 acres of Section 8 across the road.

Clyde Rainford (right) 15 years of age in 1920 pictured with his mother Lola Besse Rainford and brother Calvin

Drought and Depression

Clyde traded the 8-foot combine for a 12-foot International Harvester in 1932. But the price of grain had fallen so much because of the 1929 depression that grain was hardly worth harvesting. After the stock market crash, most banks were failing by 1933. There was no rain in 1933, 1934 or 1935. Dust storms blew tons of prairie topsoil on the winds to Chicago and beyond. South Dakotans had red dirt from Oklahoma dumped on them. It was South Dakota’s worst drought and hottest summer, with temperatures to 100 degrees F. After Franklin Roosevelt created the work recovery, many farmers who were idled by the drought found work with the Works Progress Administration (WPA) or the Civilian Conservation Corps. Clyde worked for WPA hauling gravel to surface the roads with a team of horses and wagon. He drove to a road building site and unloaded the gravel, shovel by shovel, in weather that ranged from 100 degrees F to 20 degrees below. To get milk from the cows, they had to be fed but there was no pasture grass. Clyde mowed Russian thistle to use for hay but the barbs kept the cows from eating much more than they needed to stay alive. Iowa farmers went out on the ice to mow slough grass to sell to South Dakota farms. It was a coarse grass without much food value, but farmers including Clyde took loans to buy it. The cows were so thin it was pointless to butcher them, so they were kept for milk. During those three years there was no need to plant seed since there was no moisture. Clyde told International Harvester that they may as well come get their combine in 1933 because he could not pay for it. But they said to just leave it sit and when the crops return, he could pay for it. That is what happened. In the late 1930s Clyde did custom combining and paid for it. And by 1938 they were able to purchase a new f-20 Farmall tractor with rubber tires and a road gear that would go about 10 m.p.h.

War Years

America entered WWII after Pearl Harbor was bombed in December 1941. The price of grain and everything else increased. The next fall in 1942, the Rainfords moved to the place informally known as the East Farm since it was 3.5 miles to the east. In Section 13 of Prairie Center Township, it was four miles north and one mile west of Doland. It had a square mile of land, or 640 acres which included larger buildings, pasture and hay land. They also rented 160 acres in section 7 of Spring Township across Highway 37. Clyde considered buying the East Farm for $9,000 but he was wary of a mortgage after the trying times of the depression. So he rented it from a landlord.

Farming was booming. In the thirties, a milk cow was a cow that gave milk, without much attention to breed or bloodline. About 1943 Clyde decided it was time to improve his cattle herd and milk production, so Clyde and Darrel got in the 1939 International pickup with the wooden box Clyde had built for it, about 7 ½ feet by 9 feet with a stock rack. They drove to Norwood, Young America, out by Highway 5 and 212 which is almost to Minneapolis, MN. Clyde purchased a purebred registered bull (milking shorthorn.) He paid $400.00 for it which was a monstrous sum of money in those days. That Norwood farm had whitewashed milking parlor with electricity and running water in the barn--sort of an eye opener for a scrub South Dakota boy. The milking Shorthorns were a deep-bodied animal like a Hereford beef cow, but they produced nearly twice as much milk as Herefords. By the second generation our steer calves were selling for more than Herefords at the sale barn. The next bull was quite large with a ring in his nose so a rope could be attached to lead him around. The kids gave him wide berth when he was in the corral since he would snort and paw the ground. He never attacked anyone, but then we never put him in a corner, either. In 1943 Clyde’s 90 acres of oats made 90 bushels to the acre, but all the railroad cars were being used to transport military equipment. Oats were piled on the ground in the field nearly like straw stacks until the elevator could get railcars available. Clyde couldn’t hire help since everyone was in military. Darrel was only 14 years old, but he was paid $1 an hour on a threshing crew to haul bundles. Then Clyde went to the Mayo Clinic during 1943 to find out he had cancer on the back of his left hand. There was no cure or treatment at that time. The lesion and some lymph nodes were surgically removed, but it continued to be painful and his health declined.

Allis Chalmers 1944

It was pure luck or pure need that Clyde was able to purchase a new Allis Chalmers (B) Tractor in 1944, since all metal was reserved for the war effort. Clyde had ideas that many farmers didn’t think of, and the skill to build them. For example, Clyde found a broken-down old hard- rubber tired truck and tore it down to the frame and wheels. Most hay racks are 8 x 16 feet. Clyde built a 10 x 20 hay rack on that frame that could move a 10-ton stack of hay in three trips. Nobody could plow a straighter furrow or plant a straighter corn row than Clyde. When Darrel plowed, he would be watching the seagulls to see if they got the worm, but when Clyde came back from dinner and climbed on the tractor, that furrow would be straight as arrow in two rounds. Clyde and Darrel farmed together for the next several years. Darrel learned a lot and Clyde was fairly tolerant of Darrel’s mistakes. One Friday night Darrel was quickly changing the oil in the tractor to get finished for a night in town. As he poured oil in the crankcase, Clyde stopped to watch and said “What are you going to do, fill it from the ground up?” Darrel screwed the cover back on the drain and never made that particular mistake again.

Clyde died on June 24,1948. His 9 healthy kids kept the farm humming till 1957 when an auction was held. The boys took turns farming in between service in the army, navy or air force. The girls pitched in on farmwork, doing the milking, driving trucks and carrying their share. Clyde was a good mechanic as well as a good farmer, because the combine he purchased in 1932 lasted until 1947. The F-20 Farmall Tractor purchased in 1938 was still in use in 1957. As the Rainford children married, they moved all over the United States. Only Dwight and Donovan continued as farmers, but every Rainford had strong mechanical skills and a can-do attitude that carried them through their lives. Clyde is buried with Dolly in the northwest corner of the Doland Cemetery.

About the author:
Also see:
Frances Klapperich Labrie, A Great Cook
How things worked

Darrel Rainford was born on a South Dakota farm on April 10, 1928, one of 11 children born to Clyde Rainford and Florence “Dolly” LaBrie Rainford. Darrel Rainford
He attended the school in Doland,SD and farmed with his father. In 1949 he married Bonnie LaChance of Turton, South Dakota and after serving 4 years in the Air Force finally settled in Minnesota. Late in life Darrel wrote this series of articles for his grandchildren explaining farming in the 1930's. A father of seven, his hobbies focused on their needs-fixing toys, then fixing cars, then auto-body repair. He was also a history buff and interested in how things worked.

Author: Rainford on 03/29 2008
Make A Comment

You are not logged on - your comment will be subject to review by our staff. To avoid this and post comments immediately, log on to your account before posting. No account? create one in 30 seconds! Compose your comment and submit.
(Max 300 characters).

Share legends of the midwest newsletter
Recent articles in: Retrospect All States The 1977 Eppi... Great new Pod... HIGH SCHOOL B... Lusk Nebraska... Cold Case of ... The battle of... Chimney Rock ... Missing South... Knife River I... Former teache... 1804 - Michae... 1832 - Fort K... 1864 - (Civil... Manitou Schoo... 1865 - (Civil... 1865 - (Civil... Farmall Deliv... Wisconsin Tro... Announcing ou... Gene Vidal - ... 20 Million Do... Early homes o... Nebraska and ... President Har... 1865 Civil Wa... Wisconsin Vin... Kearney stude... 1854 - Glover... Nebraska city... Roosevelt and... 1757 - Phinea... Remembering T... Turton Myster... Gangsters Liv... 1871 - Railro... Company Cowbo... Barn Dances, ... 1958 - Gene A... Why Zebras Do... Decades later... They Survived... More Great Ga... Bitterly Cold... The Greatest ... What's your m... Nebraska's ow... A Celebration... Villisca Reme... Thoen Stone i... Thoen Stone I... The Thoen Sto... Conde South D... Lets find Rev... The saga of O... The Reds Are ... Clyde Willis ... How Things Wo... Frances Klapp... Dancin' Man... Claremont Sou... Vern Miller -... Ward Piggy La... Snowbound Bas... Rose Bowl Run...
Rescue your family's stories forever and contribute to the history vault.

Read how to do it here


Keep up to date
with our newsletter Subscribe!