July 08, 2006
Future Farmers of America
A large number of the boys at Lemmon High School belonged to a staid, reserved type of organization called the Future Farmers of America (FFA). Since I had no interest in pursuing farming or the ranch life, this organization did not interest me in the least. I had nothing in common with the members, except for the fact that, to a man, they were gentlemen. I don’t think talking about Thunder Butte Country would be complete or even honest without naming some of these boys and reciting some of their trails through life.
The outstanding characteristic of this organization and of the boys who belonged to it was one of studious, quiet reservation. Most of the FFA members were friends of mine, non-demonstrative, but friends nontheless. Many of them were members of the boxing team. To my knowledge that was the only extra-curricular activity that any of them took part in. There was a pretty good reason these boys were quiet and non-participating. Many of them had chores to do at home and some of them walked miles to school. Then, of course, the biggie—many of these kids were poor as dirt. I am going to list some of these boys, just because they deserve it:
Paul Hennesy—Paul invited me to their poker games more than once. That was the only time I saw him as he didn’t draw attention to himself around school. A few years ago Paul was appointed Poet Laureate of South Dakota, He has authored a few books about South Dakota, ranch life, etc.
Clayton Buckley—Clayton was a tall, string bean of a kid. I was in a few classes with him and he was a member of the boxing team. He was a nice quiet kid. During the war (WWII), Clayton became a close friend of Charley Foss, the Congressional Medal of Honor winner who became involved in the oil business after the war. He taught Clayton the business ropes and Clayton told me that he, Clayton, spent his adult life in the oil tanker business. I last saw Clayton a few years ago in Arizona, a multi-millionaire. He has passed on since then.
Earnest Buckley—Clayton’s brother. They might have been twins, but Earnest was about half as tall as Clayton. I never heard Earnest say much more than, "hello". He earned a Ph.D. and spent his adult life as a professor at the University of South Dakota.
Jim Delaney—The Delaneys lived on a miserable, hardscrabble farm, a few miles South of Lemmon. At the last high school reunion his brother told me that Jim owned two casinos in Eastern Nevada and he was going to sell out and maybe retire to Ireland.
Jack Bastian—From the Chance area, he stayed on the ranch where he was born. He died a few years ago.
Merle Bastian—Also, to my knowledge, stayed on the ranch where he was born.
There were many, many other boys of the FFA who asked no favors, caused no problems, were rarely heard, or seen, but comported themselves with dignity during their school years and for the rest of their lives.