Book review: How to Spell Hoar With an ‘H’ |

Book review: How to Spell Hoar With an ‘H’

How to Spell Hoar With an ‘H’ (Spizzirri Press Inc., 2011, 1200 photos) is a prime example of not judging a book by its cover. The artwork on the 534-page softcover book by Darrell Hoar is unremarkable, and frankly, the title does little to convey what’s contained inside.

A descendant of John and Sadie Hoar and John “Frank” and Annie Stearns, Hoar grew up in Fall River County, SD, five miles from Nebraska and 13 miles from Wyoming. In his 50 years spent as a stockman and cattle buyer, he estimates he drove four million miles over dirt and gravel roads, tar highways, and concrete interstates. In retirement, he undertook a project befitting a community centennial committee. He collected stories and photos covering 100 years – from 1910 to 2010 – preserving them for future generations. A lot of people talk about writing down their family’s stories. Hoar did it.

He had help and credits his co-authors, editors, and design crew. Hoar’s sister, Anice Reiman, covers food preparation, tending to animals, entertainment, and housekeeping during their childhood years. Other siblings penned chapters about their grandparents and parents during homesteading and settler days and neighbors in an around Edgemont, Ardmore, Rumford, Minnekta, and Provo, SD. Those with ties to the area will find the stories even more interesting than I, and I enjoyed them immensely.

The narratives detail a myriad of agrarian and domestic chores in the days before running water, indoor plumbing, electricity, and tractors: the struggles of cleaning during the Dust Bowl; planting shelter belts; dangers of kerosene lanterns; butchering and curing meat; gardening and canning; milking a range cow for household use; sewing and mending; and baking bread.

Hoar devotes a great deal of time to life on a South Dakota ranch during the ‘30s and ‘40s, including working with horses, gathering wild horses after WWII, and hunting and trapping coyotes. He also talks about growing up in rattlesnake country and being “snake trained” at an early age. I knew instantly what he meant, as I received the same training.

Hoar touches on how he became an auctioneer while attending South Dakota State University; his time in the military; the 21,000-acre, WWII-era Black Hills Ordnance Depot, Fort Robinson, west of Crawford, NE. The first 50 years conclude with his parents’ move from Edgemont to Hot Springs in 1974.

The second half of the book is devoted largely to Hoar’s experiences as a cattle buyer. It starts with a history of frontier meat packing plants in the Dakota Territory prior to statehood, principally, Medora and Oelrichs. Hoar segues into Black Hill Pack (BHP) and Rapid City Packing Company and explains how he came to work for BHP, under Jim Howard. Ultimately, he worked as a cattle buyer traveling 13 states and three Canadian provinces. Extensive text and photos document the damage to BHP from the 1972 Rapid City flood and the January 2002 fire at Federal Beef Processors, Inc. He also takes readers on a tour of several large ranches and feedlots, revealing some of the unusual rations cattle were fed.

Hoar made lifelong friends of the ranchers with whom he dealt, using a variety of conveyances to get a look at their cattle: cars, trucks, horses, motorcycles, 3- and 4-wheelers, snowmobiles, and airplanes. I appreciated his discussion of lodgings, many that would be judged unacceptable today. Adding to the overall enjoyment are photos winnowed from those Hoar took while on the road: odd critters; jails; wrecks and disasters; interesting roadside figures; schools; and churches.

Hoar says this is not a book to read lying in bed. Printed in an 8.5” x 11” format and weighing just over four pounds, it will, however, pass many an hour in an easy chair. How to Spell Hoar With an ‘H’ sells for $60 plus $6.50 shipping for addresses in the lower 48 states. Ten dollars of the purchase price goes toward a 4-H scholarship to be presented in association with the Western Junior Livestock Show (WJLS). Make checks payable to 4-H WJLS Scholarship Fund, include your mailing address and phone number, and mail to Darrell Hoar, 7031 Anderson Rd., Black Hawk, SD 57718; (605) 787-5872.