The Algona Upper Des Moines from Algona, Iowa on April 4, 1967 · Page 29
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The Algona Upper Des Moines from Algona, Iowa · Page 29

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Location:
Algona, Iowa
Issue Date:
Tuesday, April 4, 1967
Page:
Page 29
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by Dick Youngblood T wenty years a professional soldier, 13 of them as a paratroop officer, Bob Curtiss made his most perilous jump back in 1957. He retired from the Army and went farming in North Dakota. "I'd say I knew about as much about agriculture as the average 10-year- old farm boy," Curtiss allowed, "if that much." He figures he made just three basic mistakes as a result: "I underestimated the cost of getting started in farming. "I underestimated the cost of staying in farming. "I overestimated the profits to be made from farming. "In the service," he observed, "they call it a fundamental lack of understanding of the problem." A lean, sandy-haired veteran of combat in World War II and Korea, Curtiss no longer has any illusions about the future of the small farmer— or, at least, one small farmer in particular. PROFESSIONAL SOLDIER TURNS FARMER Think big yields and you'll think -DEKALB XL the tremendous family of Single-Cross and 3- way Hybrids that for 5 years have made top-notch records of performance under stress conditions. Plant it thick-Fertilize HEAVY-Plant all DEKALB XL -the PROVED SEED for modern farming. More Farmers Plant DeKalb Than Any Other Brand "DEKALB" i« • fligistired Brand Name XL" it a variaty assignation "There's no place anymore for these little farms with 15 sows, 80 sheep and 170 acres of tillable land," he said. The Curtiss operation: 15 sows, 80 sheep and 170 acres of tillable land. But farming success, as measured by profits, is secondary to the farming itself to the 49-year-old ex-paratrooper. An Army major's pay, better than $300 a month, has kept food on the table for his wife and three daughters. And the farm, which has broken even, or made a small profit now and then, has provided what Curtiss regards as an essential — even a therapeutic — change from 20 years of soldiering. The problem back in those days was pressure, both self-imposed and from the system. "I was the ulcer type, the perfectionist," Curtiss admitted. "And the higher I got in staff work. (to division and corps levels) the worse it got." There were things Hke commanding a 700-man division headquarters company and trying to do everything himself ("I never learned how to delegate authority"). Or directing the transfer of nearly 2,000 troops from Korea to Japan— AFTER they had been ordered to turn in all their equipment, including field kitchens ("How the hell was I supposed to feed them"). Or being assigned to a major role in writing the detailed plan for reorganization of the 101st Airborne Division, a complex task which won him the Army Commendation Medal. In 1950 he was hospitalized with ulcers and other complications. "If somebody had thought to tell me I was dying," he recalled, "I would have been glad to." "I figured if I stayed in the service," Curtiss said, "I wouldn't last another 10 years." Planning his retirement, he had three aims. "I wanted independence, to be able to call my own shots," he said. "I wanted a lot more family life than I'd had in the Army. And I wanted outdoor work where I could set my own pace." He settled on farming — a decision that might have been influenced by his wife, Delia, a Grand Forks area farm girl whom he met and married as an Army nurse during World War II. In the early 1950's he sank his savings into the farm northwest of Grand *orks. It was managed for him by Ivan Bangle, a brother-in-law who farms nearby. ^ ^ a £ C t l $*\ Curtiss " retired " to the farm. He soon began tninking maybe he'd had it better in the paratroops. "For six months I crawled upstairs to bed on my hands and knees," said Curtiss, the clipped accents of his native New Jersey still in his voice. "I was using muscles I didn't know I had." And there were the mistakes. "I created more work by accident than any 10 men could make on purpose," he admitted. Like the time Bangle found him trying to get a cultivator off the tractor, a simp e task requiring the removal of three bolts. Curtiss was dismantling the cultivator, piece by piece. in - to the sheep busing ss and misjudged his ability to mn n most of his lamb crop one year. at on - Feeding and breeding mistakes cost him swine disease > to ° k » ^tly swipe evened ***" he ' S

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