Biography of Richard Lytle
CCCMan, Company 793, Camp F-9, Hill City, South Dakota
I was born in 1922 at Ames, Iowa. My family moved to South Dakota in 1927 where my father taught school at Sioux Falls, South Dakota. I also lived in Ohio for a year.
Then came the depression and we moved to Huron, South Dakota where, because of the dust storms, one could walk from one field to another and never step on a fence because of the tumble weeds and dirt had covered over the fences. To add to our troubles we had the drought, grasshoppers and crickets which finally "cleaned us out".
When I was 17 I left home and the CCC had its "hands out" welcoming me. My camp, which was in the middle of the Black Hills, was F-9 at Hill City, South Dakota and my company was #793. The accomplishments of this company included recreational dam construction work, concrete and earth lake and pond development, fish planting, timber stand improvement, rodent control, fire hazard reduction, and the construction of roads, trails, camp grounds, parks and telephone and power lines. My first job was mixing mortar in a hopper by hoe. We were making a rock bridge for a road to Lake Sheridan. My "partner" didn't like this work so went "AWOL". Next a volunteer was needed as a night watchman to keep the water from freezing in the bridge base until the concrete had set hard. I volunteered for this job and got it. During the winter we cleared jack pine from the hills area and burned them.
Another project on which I worked was a large earthen dam. The spillway had been finished before I got there, but the work on the dam was just getting started. Again I volunteered. This time to start the caterpillars and have them running and warm when the crews arrived. When there was nothing to do I would take the old cletrac tractor and roll and pack the dirt that was hauled in for the dam. When the dam was almost finished I went home to my folks and did farm work with our farm power which happened to be four horses.
Dad had built a dam on the other side of the road from the farm house and barn. On the 4th of July 1941 we had a rainstorm in which 5 ½ inches of rain fell in 45 minutes. The dam was washed out taking the chicken house down the river. The corn planter and cultivator were thrown up in a tree. The Fordson and Model T trucks were also washed down the river.
I found an old `35 Ford truck with "cattle racks" and the family decided to move to Oregon. We loaded everything we had left, after the sale, in the truck and tied a big crate of chickens on behind. My dad started driving. As we went down the hill into Rosebud Indian town the truck slid into a ditch, but a bunch of Indians helped us out. Leaving Rosebud we slipped and slid up the hill as there was no tread on the tires and we had no brakes. Later we got stuck on another road and had to be pulled out. Every time Dad would try to downshift, the front of the truck would come up and scare us kids riding up on top of the load. Finally, when we crossed into Nebraska Dad said, "Dick, come and drive this truck." He had never driven a truck with a gear shift!
This was our story of the Grapes of Wrath. We finally made Oregon. All of the volunteering helped my life and my life's work.
----- R.. Lytle
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