October 27, 2009

Kaye Nelson, North Dakota Rancher’s Wife: A Little History

by Molly Noble Bull

In 1958 Alvin Nelson, 1957 World Champion Saddle Bronc Rider, and my husband, Charlie Bull, were serving in the United State Army. Charlie and I and Alvin and Kaye Nelson lived in the town of Wertheim in what was then West Germany, and the four of us met there. 

The Main and Tauber Rivers unite at Wertheim, Germany, and none of us will ever forget the town, especially the medieval castle in the distance. However, the hill that the Bull and Nelson families lived on cannot be seen in this picture.

Wertheim, Germany where Kaye and Alvin Nelson and Molly and Charlie Bull became friends.

And I will never forget the day I met Kaye for the first time. Charlie and I lived in an apartment down the hill from the apartment house where Alvin and Kaye lived, and I went up the hill to visit another young army wife. As a Texan and a ranch manager’s daughter, it isn’t surprising that I was wearing jeans. I remember that I was also wearing a pink plaid cowboy shirt, and Kaye must have noticed. Besides Kaye, I was probably the only girl on the base who wore western clothes.

Anyway, the four of us soon became friends.

Back then, each army couple under US Forces Germany were required to have a seven-day supply of food stashed in what was called our “alert gear.” The alert gear was expected to get us through in case the East Germans or the Russians crossed the border, and the army base was attacked.  

Though the American dollar was strong back then compare to the German mark, draftees and their wives had very little money to live on. Toward the end of each month, Charlie and I would run out of money, and we would eat the food in our alert gear. Then on payday, we would restock the stash. 

I would put in potatoes and can-goods, and I will always remember one night when Alvin and Kaye paid us a visit. The next day was probably payday, and I wanted to invite them to supper. But all we had left in our alert gear were three potatoes and a can of Spam. I really wanted them to stay and eat.

At last I told them that was all we had to serve but would they please stay for supper. “Yes,” they said—almost before I finished asking. “We would love to stay for supper.”

Later, I learned that all they had left if their alert gear were a couple of tomatoes. 

Yes, times were hard, but we made it through and probably learned something from the experience.        

Kaye Nelson is an excellent cook and an excellent seamstress. In fact, she made many of my maternity clothes in preparation for the birth of our first child. The four of us are still good friends, and we share many happy memories. 

Kaye Nelson is a cowgirl in the true sense, and next month, we will learn what it was like to be a cowgirl and a North Dakota rancher’s wife from 1959-2009.  

Kaye Nelson with her grandson when he was one year old. 
The child is wearing a shirt that reads “Bestemor loves me.” 
The Nelsons are descended from Norwegian immigrants, 
and Bestemor is grandma in the Norwegian language. 

And as for Charlie and I, we are going strong—with three grown sons, five grandchildren and one grandchild on the way. As they say, we aren’t getting older, we’re getting better.


Edna said...

I have read about ranchers and it seem to be a really hard life, so much work to do everyday 24/7 365 days a years. But I do like to read about it.
Maybe I can win a book, hope so


Tina Dee Books said...

So wonderful your friendships have lasted over the years. And what fun you all must have when you get together.

Every have spam & potatoes just to reminisce? LOL?

Thanks for the fun article, Molly!

Molly Noble Bull said...

Dear Edna and Tina,
Thanks for writing. I hadn't thought to offer a book, but I did write a fiction novel loosely based on my experiences in Germany. The novel is called For Always. It was first published in 1986.
For Always is out of print now, but you can buy it at Amazon as a used book.
Let me think about it. Maybe I will offer a free book too. I'll get back to you on this.

dmc said...

What a thrill to read of such a true and lasting friendship! I, too, know Kaye and Alvin and consider them 'top of the line'. What I hope most readers find in your article is no mention of NOT
wanting to serve our country, and
making do with what we have! That's the American way, and I tip my Okie hat to each of you for who and what you are!
Donna McSpadden

Molly Noble Bull said...

Dear Donna and everybody,
Not only has our friendship lasted through the years, but both marriages lasted as well. God, family and country are important to all of us, and it sounds like it's important to you, too.
Please visit my website.

Fran Armstrong said...

HI Molly,
I enjoyed your story about Kaye Nelson and also the one you wrote earlier about Alvin. They are friends of mine here in ND. My late husband, Dean Armstrong, was a comrade of Alvin's and he was part of the famous "six pack" as those cowboys became known. You might enjoy my book My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys, which is cowboy poetry/prose and speaks to that time and place.
Keep writing!
Fran Armstrong

Anonymous said...

Kaye is a dedicated North Dakota Cattle Woman and she spends many volunteer hours educating youth about cattle and ranch life. She is a great friend to many. Fun to read about her early married life. Thanks- Mary Froelich

Mona Kramer said...

Thank you for reminiscing about your early friendship with Alvin and Kaye. Anyone who knows them will always refer to them as 'friends'! Ranch life is wonderful and even if you only have a couple items left in your 'stock pile' you are always creative enough to come up with a meal that would be fit for a king! Or at least that's what we'd like to think! We'd like to think that all Americans could recall fondly their pride in serving their country and making a marriage last through the many trials and tribulations! Please continue the great work on your blog! Mona Kramer

Molly Noble Bull said...

Dear Fran, Mona and Everybody,
It was great to hear from all of you, and thanks for making a comment. Anybody that knows Kaye can get my email address from her, and I would love to hear from y'all.
If you would like to read all my articles about Alvin and Kaye, please scroll down, down until you see Molly Noble Bull 8. The eight stands for the 8 articles I have published here, so far.

Rhonda Sedgwick Stearns said...

Thank you, Molly, for the wonderful reminisces you shared of early military years shared with Kaye and Alvin so far away from your respective home ranges. We are proud and thankful to know the Nelson's as friends, and they are the kind you can ride the river with! Keep up your great work putting out these wonderful stories! I have truly enjoyed the comments,too; Donna and Fran are also friends of ours.

Another ranchwoman/writer,
Rhonda Sedgwick Stearns

Brenda said...

Ranching is really hard work. I sure to have to hand to anyone who chooses to go into ranching. I like reading about it but don't think I could do it!

I would like to win the book and be able to read it. Happy Halloween!

dancealert at aol dot com

Molly Noble Bull said...

Dear Brenda, Rhonda, Mary and Everybody else,
I am so glad you liked my articles on Kaye and Alvin. I will be interviewing Kaye next month. And I will try to have a book give away going by then.

Anonymous said...

Hi Molly,
Kaye has shared your books with me. I enjoyed your article about her and Alvin.

Molly Noble Bull said...

Thanks for writing, Maureen. I hope you an everybody come back next month to read my interveiw with Kaye.