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Joe The Crow

Omaha World-Herald
January 30, 1972

By Tom Allan
World-Herald Staff Writer

   Bellwood, Neb. -- The 360 folks in this Butler County community have plenty to crow about.
   It's one of the few towns in Nebraska that has a park down the middle of main street. There is an aura of activity and pride. Main street establishments are clean and painted. The wide, tree-shaded streets lead past several new homes and others are being built.
   There's a new schoolhouse on one end of town, new churches on the other and the village has one of the busiest grain elevators for miles around.
   It also has Joe the Crow.
   Let's start with the sub-zero day last week when I walked into the Bellwood Bar for a bowl of chili.
   "Hey," said the owner in warm greeting. "My name's George."
   That's real nice, I thought except that George is a vivacious woman.
   "Meet Mike," George said.
   Mike also is a woman.
   It helped - later - to learn they are Georgene Perry and Betty Hiller, respectively.

On to Joe

   Then, after my bewilderment, chili, cheeseburger and black coffee, I braved the cold to interview Joe.
   Joe is both the town character and mascot. He plays football and goes skating with the kids. He struts up and down main street, plays pranks while mooching handouts at homes all over town, goes to church, demands a drink - of water - at the door of Jerome Didier's grocery store and hobnobs with the likes of R. P. "Pump Handle" Kinnison and the town's old bachelor, Carl Holste.
   Joe also talks:
   "Oh, boy!"
   "Thank you!"
   He even laughs - more raucously than I did when I sat down to write the story about Madrid's Sport, the pheasant, who played tag with Bob Nutt's old yellow tractor for hours on end, and Art the grouse, who used to walk down Hayes Center's main street to greet folks at the postoffice every morning.
   "We used to go crow hunting but we don't anymore," said Didier. "We are scared we might shoot Joe."
   It was Pump Handle - a nickname acquired from all the wells he's dug and left as "monuments" to his artistry around the country - who helped me find Joe for the interview.
   "Hello. Oh, boy. Oh, boy," said Joe when we found him stashing away some goodies under the newly chopped woodpile at Holste's home.
   "He usually comes over here after he flies the kids to school so we can have an old bull session," Holtse said. "Say, you ain't one of those big-city reporters who writes all those cock and bull stories, are you?"


   Joe broke into laughter. But it was only because he'd just snatched a tidbit from the paws of Holtse's bewildered cat.
   "He's got all the dogs in town bamboozled, too," Pump Handle said. "You should see him skating and playing football with the kids. He tries to swoop down and take their hats and then skids down on the ice alongside them. He gets on top of the football and moves it with his wings. He's nuts about kids."
   A few moments later, Joe flew down the street to see if Mrs. C. W. Sorensen was dumping any goodies in her garbage can. "Oh, boy, Thank you," Joe said when she gave him a plate of meat scraps. Having eaten his fill he began stuffing the remainder down the air vent under the winshield [sic] wiper of Sorensen's car.

"That's his one bad habit," Sorensen said.
   "He usually puts a shiny rock on our porch after we feed him," Mrs. Sorensen added.
   The saga of Joe began last summer. The Norman Piller family found him injured and unable to fly. They took him to their farm home on the edge of town, put him in a pen and provided tender, loving care and smooth talk.
   Not long after he showed up at the nearby farm of State Sen. Loran Schmit.

Adopted Town

   "I didn't know he'd learned to talk until one day when I was just stepping into the bathtub," the senator's wife, Rene, recalled. "The window was open and all of a sudden I heard someone say, "Oh, boy. Oh, boy."
   "I was hanging up clothes in the backyard one day when he showed up," Mrs. Leonard Ronkar said, "I told him he was a pretty bird and I darn near dropped the clothes when he replied, "Oh, boy. Thank you. Wow!" I was scared to tell anyone for two weeks - even my husband. My husband, incidentally, claims Joe laughs like I do."
   Didier said Joe showed up at the St. Peter's Catholic Church, strutting around the front door and greeting folks last Sunday.
   "He likes to sit on cars and talk," Didier said. "Just the other night he was crowing away at the store door wanting a drink of water. I got him a glass but he prefers to dump it over to drink it his way.
   "Joe's a scroungy looking old fellow, but he's the town mascot. There will be no crow hunting around here."


"Joe the Crow" and Brian Wilson in 1971.


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Paper From The Old Home Town

Talk about your literature
And papers up to date,
All about the legislature
And doings through the state,
To me they aren't comparing,
Though I look the world around
To the little newsy paper
From the old home town.

There's something brewing in the air
The day the paper comes;
Ma she goes about her work
And either sings or hums.
But I jist get so restless
Till the postman brings it down,
And I'm the first to grab the paper
From the old home town.

Ma comes into the settin' room
And lets the dishes go,
And listens while I read about
The folks we usta know.
For births and deaths and land deals
And weddin's too abound;
All are mighty interestin'
From the old home town.

I know it ain't so classical
As these big dailies are
That tell about the prize fights
And latest movie star.
But jist for my enjoyment
There's nothin' I have found
Like the little newsy paper
From the old home town.

-Author unknown



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Holland Bros. Elevator Fire


Gazette - February 7, 1902

   Saturday evening last, just about supper time, a bright light was noticed in the vicinity of the B. & M. depot. In a few moments it was soon discovered that Holland Bros. elevator was on fire. A large crowd of our citizens were soon on hand and did everything possible to subdue the flames, but all efforts were of no avail, as the fire had gained too much headway and in a very short time the building was reduced to ashes, together with about 10,000 bushels of grain. Our water works engine was started up and put to work; but it took so long to get the hose and everything in working order that it rendered but little assistance in putting out the fire. The building was insured for $3000; but such a building, it will be remembered, cost $5000. On the grain there was an insurance of $5000, which will about cover that loss. Mr. M. Holland informs the Gazette scribe that he will go to work immediately and erect a new elevator, either on the old site, or close by it. This is the third elevator that has been burned in Bellwood inside of a year. Bellwood most assuredly, is gaining considerable noteriety of late and if such is going to be kept up we see no other remedy - in order to keep the people posted on the news - but to start a daily.

Bellwood Co-op Oil Fire

   Fire on June 6, 1953, destroyed 60,000 gallons of petroleum products, four storage tanks, a tank wagon truck and its shed.
   According to company officials, loss of the gasoline, tractor fuel, stove fuel, storage tanks and buildings amounted to over $20,000. Loss of the truck was not figured as it was completely covered by insurance. Partial insurance coverage is carried on the other loss.
   The spectacular blaze touched off by a shattered light bulb, brought fire departments from Columbus, Duncan, David City and Bellwood.
   Richard Didier, tank wagon operator for the company, said that the blaze started as a light bulb was broken as he

was loading his truck with gasoline.
   The building in which the loading was being done was immediately a mass of flames. Didier received bums to his face and arms before he could get out of the building. He stated that the building blew apart shortly after he made his escape.
   Flames soon spread to the large storage tanks igniting them into infernos that sent flames and smoke several hundred feet into the air. Residents reported that blasts from exploding tanks could be felt several blocks away.
   There was little danger to other buildings as the bulk plant sat on the edge of town. Firemen had to wet down the nearby coal sheds and grain elevator.
   A spokesman for the Oil Company said that their customers would be served gasoline and tractor fuel from their underground storage tanks at the station. The Board of Directors has already placed an order for new storage tanks. They are expected to be up and in use by the end of two weeks. An older company tank wagon will be put into use for now.


Our Bank Muddle

   Feb. 7, 1902 Dick Gould, assistant cashier in the Platte Valley State Bank, was placed under arrest, as was his brother, Amos H. Gould, cashier of the bank.
   Constable Rose took Dick in charge and escorted him to the depot. He bore up bravely under the strong language flung at him by bank victims, until one person in the crowd called for a rope. He became very nervous and with all possible speed, he jumped on the train to keep out of the hands of the crowd.
   After Dick arrived in David City, he confessed to the County Attorney that he was as deeply involved in the bank muddle as his brother, A. H. They were taken by the sheriff to the Courthouse and lodged in the same room. Ordinarily, the room was used for lady prisoners so they were undoubtedly well-treated. Had they been chicken thieves instead of bank thieves they would have been placed in the old jail, where passers-by could sneer and poke fun at them.
   The bank examiner resumed his work at the bank on Tuesday and as he proceeds the clouds of rascality become heavier and heavier.
   Many of this community hold certificates which are not


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