Swimming Holes: A Peasant Hunter

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A Pheasant Hunter’s Defense

The hard times of the Great Depression, exacerbated by the dust bowl drought, induced many South Dakotans to consider economic opportunities outside of their state. The advent of World War II ushered in favorable conditions for obtaining jobs and fulfilling dreams of financial security. However, the realization of those aspirations frequently required relocating to armament manufacturing centers. One such manufacturing center, the shipyards in and around Portland, Oregon, drew numerous Bradley residents away from their South Dakota prairie homes. However, the insatiable demand for labor expired with the conclusion of hostilities. Although a significant number of those laid off from the shipyards returned to their farms and hometowns, others moved on to other parts of the country, and still others, perhaps enraptured by the beauty of the Pacific Northwest or possibly just wishing to avoid the economic struggles that they associated with their earlier lives, remained in the Portland area.

Kenneth and Helen Palmer, former residents of
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Nevertheless, ultimately and inadvertently he revealed the truth. After writing an earlier version of “Swimming Holes,” I presented the narrative to my father-in-law. While he read the composition, I watched for a reaction and he didn’t disappoint me. A smirk came over his face, followed by a verbalization of his thoughts, “We stood up stark naked and waved at the trains. We didn’t know any better.” Since our storyteller, always linked the seemingly separate Halloween capers together and included his participation in recounting the incident at the outhouse, I’ve suspected his involvement in the church bell prank. His intimate awareness of the details supports this thesis. However, I never asked for and he never volunteered a confession to complicity in or even to observing the

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