Last updated: March 28, 2013
The Lusk Herald
June 26, 1991
Bruch turns 98, reminisces about past years in county
When Carl Bruch turned 98 years young on Saturday, June 22, he also was celebrating his 56th wedding anniversary.
Asked what he thought of turning 98, he said, "I guess it's all right. I asked my mother what time of day I was born and she said around 4 o'clock, so I'm not quite 98 yet," he said with a chuckle.
Bruch has lived in Niobrara County since 1910 and has lived on the same place the entire time. He homesteaded the land where the house stands and his two sisters, Pauline and Elizabeth also came and homesteaded.
"When we first came to Lusk, there was only one brick building, the Bank of Lusk. All the rest were wooden and they had wooden sidewalks," Bruch said.
Bruch said he and his sisters homesteaded in Wyoming because they were living in Sturgis, S.D., and in that state they had to travel 60 miles to get a homestead.
"My father had been out here and said it was much closer to town and the railroad. There were no trees. I planted all the pine trees myself," Bruch said. Bruch said he planted the trees on the west in the 1920's and the east trees in 1944.
"In early times they had to haul water to them," Mary Bruch said. "We're happy we have them now."
"We had land out in the breaks at one time," Carl said. "I dug up 103 small cedar trees. They all grew but three or four. I kept watering them for two or three years. They really grew and they're big now. If you take care of them till they get rooted then they're all right," he said.
The couple is retired now, having given everything to their kids several years ago. Before that, they were in partnership with their children. They have four children; Eileen Young, Charles Bruch, John Bruch and Joe Bruch.
Carl said what he has enjoyed most about living in Niobrara County has been the hard work. Fencing all this place took a lot of work." Mary added that he built the corrals too.
Part of the kitchen in the Bruch house was the homestead house for John Evers and Carl remembers having dances in that room in younger years. "The fellow that built the house played the fiddle for us," Carl said.
"When Carl and I were first married I asked him where we were going to live and he said the ranch. So we moved here. It wasn't like it is now," she said. The house only consisted of the kitchen and hallway at that time and the family continued to build on as the family grew.
"When we were digging out the basement I was afraid the kids would fall down. Chuck got to help with it. He was old enough," Mary said.
"I built this (sun) porch for mama and she doesn't want to get rid of it," Carl said. Mary smiled and said she enjoys it because it has a wooden overhang that keeps the sun in during the winter and out during the summer. It was built 40 years ago.
Carl said he remembers when a tornado came through Node in 1912. "It took a section house, raised it up and dropped it on the northeast corner and killed a baby," Carl said, adding that since that time none have hit the area. "Some have gone by this place," he said. That same year he remembers snow on the Fourth of July.
When Carl was active in the operation of the ranch, he ran sheep and Hereford cattle and farmed. "We made a little money, not much," he said.
"I was here during the oil boom in 1918. That caused a lot of hard times and a lot of people went broke. The Ranger Hotel stood there for 20 years after the boom without a window in it. It sold for taxes at one time for $5,000," he said.
Wages then were $6 a day and he remembers downtown businesses pushing their wooden stores into the street while they built new ones behind. "They were all wooden buildings. They still used the old ones till the new ones were finished," Carl said.
"My father would not take a homestead in Niobrara County because he said the wind never stops blowing and there isn't any water," Mary said. "Carl and his family were more engineers and they found out there was water under the land so that made a difference."
The area got electricity in the early 1940's. Carl served on the first board of directors for the Niobrara electric Association. The first meeting was held in July 1941 and the organization was incorporated in October of that year. He served on that board for 13 years.
Bruch built the first wagon for the Legend of Rawhide Pageant in 1946. Mary said people told Carl when he was done that his wagon was "Much too fancy. It was much too nice. Settlers didn't have that nice of wagons."
Carl laughs when he remembers his older sister, Elizabeth, who had dressed up like an Indian squaw and participated in the parade in Chadron to promote the Legend of Rawhide. "There were a couple of bucks sitting on a rise in the sidewalk and when Elizabeth walked by they laughed at this white girl trying to be an Indian girl," he said. "We had a lot of fun."
It took Carl about a short month to build the wagon. "I told Doctor Reckling - he wanted me to rig up a deal with horses - I told him I didn't want nothing to do with it. We were gonna have to have oxen or I wasn't gonna play in it. I asked if he knew Ralph Larson. He said he did. I told him he can break the oxen. There were three oxen per team and there were two teams. "There were six oxen hitched to that thing," he said.
Clarence Sides gave him an old wagon and he use the bottom part and built the rest of the wagon. He said he participated in the pageant for about three years until it broke up the first time.
Carl and Mary remember fondly some questions their children asked. One in particular still gives them a good chuckle.
"Joe when he was younger wanted to know if all the rabbits came from Rabbit City," Carl said. "I planted the east trees in 1944. The year Joe was born."
The couple's grandson, Matt, asked Mary a few years ago if she was around when the dinosaurs were here. "I said, 'I'm old, but I'm not that old," Mary said.
When Carl first arrived in Niobrara County there was not a Catholic Church, so services were held in the Odd Fellows Hall. In 1912 the first Catholic Church was built in Lusk. Carl and Bill Bredthauer built the stone arch that is in front of the church. The building now houses the Niobrara Southern Baptist Church. "People told us it would fall down. It's been there over 40 years now," he said. Bredthauer worked for the Bruchs for about seven years, he said.
Because there was no church, and services were held in the Odd Fellows Hall, the American flag was used as the curtain between the priest and confessor for confessions, Carl said. He has always thought that was an unusual use of the flag.
The couple met when Carl went to visit his sister, Julia, who was married and living in Thermopolis. Mary grew up in Thermopolis and the two met at church.
"His sister, Julia, lived in Thermopolis and she played organ in the church choir. They were hard up for someone to sing, so I was part of the choir," Mary said. Carl came to visit and a woman in the choir asked Julia who she had for company. She was told and she asked if he was a married man. She got Carl to drive her and Mary home that day. "He drove the lady home and me home and made a date for the next day. We corresponded some and he came up and said, "Let's get married." We went to Casper and were married there," she said.
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