Historical Details

Penfields, Luther "Buster" and Reba

Courtesy of The Lusk Herald, 05/17/1989

The last of the old-timers
by Gloria Johnson
contributing writer

It has been my pleasure to know these two senior citizens of the Lance Creek area for many years. They are about the last of the old-timers in these parts.

Luther (better known as Buster) and Reba Penfield moved here in the 1920s.

Reba Penfield was born April 5, 1910, in Nebraska to Louis and Lillian Monroe Sparks. She was one of eight children, having two brothers and five sisters. The family lived at Omaha where she started school and later attended country schools near Sidney and Broadwater, Neb.

Buster was born at Culverson, Neb., Oct. 1, 1907 to Thomas and Maybelle Wiggins Penfield. He had two sisters, Goldie and Mary, and two brothers, Ozro and Melvin. He attended schools near Broadwater.

When asked how they met, Mrs. Penfield laughed and said she used to go into Broadwater to get groceries in a team and buggy and that Buster watched her go to the store and later, after getting acquainted and doing the usual courting, asked for her hand in marriage.

The couple was married June 23, 1926, by the Justice of the Peace in Hot Springs, S.D. They lived in Wheatland for a year where he worked as a section hand on the railroad, baled hay and doing whatever jobs were available. The couple moved back to Broadwater for a year where they engaged in farming. In 1928, they moved back to Wyoming and lived on the Anderson (Old Rice) place. Buster had come ahead of the family bringing a covered wagon, a hayrake filled with hay and other feed, a cow and calf and several horses. The trip took nine or 10 days. Reba and their daughter, Geneva came up later with Lou Vierk and children in a car. Mr. Vierk and children stayed at the Ozro Penfield place for a time. Mrs. Viola Penfield, being his daughter.

Later the Buster Penfields lived on the Boatright place (down on the creek from the Bill Greer ranch) and on the Fred Bertram place and from there to their homestead where they built a sod house. (Two walls of this sod are still standing).

Times were tough then. Drinking water had to be hauled, usually from the Walt Swope place. Buster herded sheep for John O'Shea and Chris Joss getting $30 a month. In the summertime, he went to Nebraska to work in the hay fields. They finally got a water well drilled and had run casing so Mrs. Penfield and children accompanied her husband down to Nebraska for the summer and when they came back, found someone had filled the casing with rocks and iron, rendering the well useless. Up on the homestead, Mrs. Penfield got hold of an old sewing machine for $5 and taught her daughters, Geneva and Bernice, how to sew.

For entertainment, you made things out of what you had, there were no radios or TV's at that time. Mrs. Penfield would take pictures and paste them on cardboard, cutting them up in pieces to make puzzles. Apple boxes, made out of wood, were used to make a wagon and the end panels were used to make pictures and frames.

In the summertime, she taught the youngsters songs from a song book that had been given to her. They didn't have paper or a blackboard until John Boatright gave them some black paint and she used this to paint a piece of tin, which worked as a blackboard.

Since they had a milk cow, she churned butter and molded it but didn't put any salt in it and wrapped it up and stuck it in a salt brine to keep it since there was no refrigeration or cellar. She could make cottage cheese and then make it into yellow cheese. A lot of the groceries came out on the mail. H.J. Templeton and Tom Stokes, who worked for Templeton, would send out a list of what the store carried and they would mark what they needed and they would send it out with the mailman. Flour at that time was 79 centers for 50 lbs.; canned apples were 29 centers a gallon and blue plums were 39 center a gallon. The juice from these were made into jelly and the fruit canned into jars. All the children's clothing in the early years were homemade and stitched by hand until she got the sewing machine. Flour sacks were used for dresses, blouses and slips and shirts.

The couple has seven children: Geneva (Mrs. John) Burke of Lusk; Bernice (Mrs. Bernard) Bolinger of Fort Mojave, Arizona; Luther of Las Vegas, Norman of St. Louis, Mo., John of Torrington and Twila (Mrs. Newman) Berry of Utah and Orval of Arizona, numerous grandchildren and great grandchildren.

The Penfield children attended the Gentry, O'shea, Gormley, Penfield, Pump Station and lance Creek schools and all graduated from Lusk High School.

Buster was a familiar sight along the north country mail route for 50 years, hauling mail for two years under his brother Ozro's contract and then on May 9, 1939, was awarded his own contract, carried the mail twice a week on Tuesdays and Fridays, leaving the Lance Creek Post office at 7 a.m. and returning at 3:55 p.m., traveling 82 miles round trip. For a short time, he ate lunch with the Walt Swope's, Mrs. Swope operated the Dogie Post Office.

He also stopped at the Leverette Post Office operated by Harriet Slagle. He served many patrons on his route, sheepherders out on the range and homesteaders. In June 1939, the route went to 91.4 miles round trip. The pay in those days was $850 a year. Mail was delivered on holidays, even Christmas, if the holiday fell on the scheduled mail day. In 1946, Penfield left Lance Creek at 8 a.m., going to Leverette, Dogie and the Henry Garland Ranch (Joe O'Brien's), returning to Dogie, Sides's Corner, Glasby Corner and back to Lance Creek. In 1961, due to increased mail, deliveries went to three days a week on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

When Buster first started carrying the mail, he drove a used Model A coupe, then a used 1937 Ford car and later a used Ford pickup. Better days came and he got a new Chevy pickup and since then, had four Ford 2 wheel-drives and seven Ford 4-wheel drive pickups, driven over 632,106 miles accident free, up until the time of his retirement on June 30, 1987. He served under Postmistresses Ina Gentry, Beryl Dickinson, Gladys Mangis, Bonna Blaney and Officer-in-charge Vickie Miller. Many changes occurred during his carrying the mail. The post office has been moved several times and the patrons along the route have changed dramatically. The ones that were on the route when he started were still on the route when he finished were Helen Dixon, Louie and Viola Krejci and Jimmy Krejci, the latter having since passed away. Penfield had the children, grandchildren and even the great grandchildren of those originally on the route. When he couldn't haul the mail with a vehicle due to deep snow or mud, he would make the trip horseback, sometimes using a pack horse. He carried groceries, baby chicks, medicine and anything else people needed to get along in the early days.

The couple left the homestead and came back to live at the Gormely place and later lived at the Ozro Penfield place until they traded their homestead in 1941 for the place they now reside at about five miles north of Lance Creek. They still raise cattle but have more time to do things they want to.

Mrs. Penfield was very active in the Lance Creek Community Church serving as Sunday School superintendent until about 1980 and also taught taught kindergarten class for many, many years. Even in the Homestead days, when Sunday School was held at the O'Shea school, the family would go with team and wagon to attend service.

They recall selling their steer calves for $15 a head in Omaha, having sent them down with Frank Johnston's cattle, and that they loaned Joe O'Brien the money to buy his first heifer calf. Joe later became one of the largest ranchers in this area.

Mrs. Penfield still enjoys gardening, quilting and doing handiwork and has done quite a bit of masonary work, building steps out of rock, a fireplace, etc. Retired, don't think so and maybe that is what keeps them both so young.

They are always helping friends and neighbors.

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