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Bob Lind, Published March 11 2012

Lind: A different kind of cattle drive

Frank Sonnek is 84 years old. So it was 70 years ago, when he was 14, that he took his first train ride.

He was living in Marmarth, N.D., back in 1941, when Soren Hovland, a Badlands rancher, had him help look after some cattle being shipped to the stockyards in Sioux City, Iowa.

The train stopped at 15 towns between Marmarth and Mobridge, S.D., to pick up cattle; Frank thinks the train eventually had 40 cars loaded with cattle.

Those who accompanied the cattle, called drovers, had their own coach, which Frank says probably was a passenger car from the 1920s.

“We had a coal stove and lots of room for us drovers to eat and drink and play cards,” he says.

After the cattle were unloaded at Sioux City, Frank rode passenger trains home.

It all made for “an exciting trip for a 14-year-old kid,” Frank says.

Maybe it was that trip that inspired him to go into railroading. He wound up working for the Milwaukee Railroad as a brakeman, conductor and radio man for 45 years.

He lives in Aberdeen, S.D., where he still has his conductor’s uniform and ticket punch, which he often used on the old Galloping Goose branch line trains.

Old radio show

Switching to past radio programs, here’s a question from Clinton Solberg, Cooperstown, N.D. He asks, “Do you recall a radio program that came out of Fargo in the early 1940s, sponsored by the local co-op stores, with the name ‘Dinner Bell Time with Lulubelle and Scottie’? I remember my mother listening to it when I was little.”

Over to you, old-time radio fans.

If you have an item of interest for this column, mail it to Neighbors, The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, N.D. 58107; fax it to 241-5487; or email blind@forumcomm.com