Prairie Memories by Gary Heintz: He is a nice young man | TSLN.com
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Prairie Memories by Gary Heintz: He is a nice young man

Kenneth and Connie were in love. They were both nineteen years old, and wanted to be married, despite the objections of their parents. Plans were made to elope, but as so often happens, plans change.

To make their getaway, Kenneth boarded the train going east in Highmore, while Connie, under the guise of going to the coast to live with her older sister got on the train in Harrold. No one knew of their plan until a few days later when Connie’s brother was visiting with a neighbor and mentioned his concern about his little sister traveling all the way to California by herself. “Oh, she will be fine,” the neighbor said. “ I saw her on the train in Highmore with that nice young Kenneth Heintz. He will make sure she is safe.” That was not the kind of comfort Connie’s family wanted to hear.

Ed and Grace Heintz lived in Sioux City, Iowa. Ed was Kenneth’s oldest brother, and they welcomed Kenneth and Connie when they showed up on their doorstep, listened to their story and plans, then realized that the wedding hadn’t happened. Ed and Grace told them in no uncertain terms they were not staying with them without being married. Grace hired a taxi and took the youngsters across the Nebraska border to be married in front of a justice of the peace. Grace stood up for Connie and the taxi driver was Kenneth’s best man. They all signed the wedding license, and paperwork stating Kenneth and Connie were twenty one. Years later, when their daughter Carol found out they had fudged on their ages, she wondered if they were really ever married!

They traveled by train to the West coast, Connie finding work there and spending time with Connie’s sister Leona, while Kenneth attended what was called V5 training, flight training. They didn’t have a car, so Kenneth would hitch a ride to school with some of the other trainees. One night they stopped at a bar on the way home, and Kenneth being nineteen, ended up in jail for being underage and drinking. They also found out he was married, which at that time was prohibited in flight school. Not too long after that, they returned to Harrold. The country had recently entered the war, and even though they were expecting a baby, and Kenneth entered the navy. Connie lived with her family on the farm north of Harrold, sending Kenneth a telegram announcing the birth of their daughter, Carol Ann. His reply was “It wasn’t a boy, but at least she has red hair”!

I think about the lives and adventures my parents’ families had, and wonder how they found the courage to do what they did. Leaving home as teenagers to join the CCCs, to elope and move to California, to join the military and end up half way around the world fighting a terrible war, this all seemed to be in many ways a part of a normal life to them. To get them to talk about their lives was something they didn’t always want to do, touching only on the good times, thinking the bad times would be of no interest. Kenneth and Connie born three days apart, lived an exciting adventuresome life,

The war years saw five of the Heintz brothers and one sister in the military, with wives and families relying on each other back home. I grew up hearing snippets of stories about how the Heintz wives would occasionally buy a bucket of beer on a Saturday night and have their own private party at someone’s house. Hard work was always part of life, and raising children when their fathers were fighting a war was shared by relatives. I have often wondered about how close the Heintz family has always been, how special our relationship is even today. Just like many families growing up on the prairie, there always feels like being from South Dakota, from a small town like Harrold, is pretty special, and to me it is family that makes it so.


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