August 17, 2007
Running Cattle and Fistfights
The years 1934 through 1936 were dry years around Faith, South Dakota. Neal was running some cattle with a rancher in the area. They got an offer to winter the cattle down in Martin on some good winter pasturage. Gene Ulrich signed on to help out with the cattle. Neal took Dorothy with him. After they got down there with the cattle, some of the locals felt bad that Neal and the other outsiders had gotten their hands on good land for grazing cattle for the winter. One night at a bar, three of the locals decided that they were going to take Neal down. Neal got the jump on them, though, and dropped each of them with a quick fist. They quickly retreated to their side of the bar and that was the end of that.
Gene Ulrich also told me that Neal was an extremely friendly man, especially so with children. He was viewed as quite economically successful, holding down the police job for 20-25 years, handling a mail route (which Gene occasionally helped out with), and variously tending or managing the Faith municipal bar. Some people were jealous of Neal's success and would look for opportunities to pick fights with him. Taking down Neal would have been a big deal since Neal was such a good fighter, according to Gene. Gene said that Neal didn't shy from a fistfight, despite being a really nice guy. If someone said a cross or ornery word, Neal would sometimes respond in kind, almost goading the person into the inevitable fistfight that Neal would always win.
I ran into another old friend of Neal's in Faith, Gene Schaff, who said that he used to pal around with Neal in Faith. When I asked Gene what Neal used to do for fun, he told me that Neal loved to get into fistfights.