Three Helpless Farmers

Who was the good guy of long ago that couldn’t stand seeing some of his farm friends going down the drain? It was Fred Reinbold. During the darkest days of that great depression, Fred was the local manager of an oil company in Davenport. 

Ed Kruger, Lynn Gunning, and myself ran out of money at about the same time. We had every reason to walk off our farms and join the soup lines, but that sounded distasteful to us; so we learned to live from one crisis to the next. The final blow came when no gasoline got to our farms unless it was paid for. Without fossil fuel, we could not produce wheat that nobody wanted. 

Fred Reinbold called up on a Monday morning, stating he was bringing his boss out to try and convince him we were farmers that some day would pay for stuff like gasoline and oil. 

I was topless when I approached the oil executive’s car. Fred’s boss looked me over and asked, “Did you have to hock your shirt to keep alive?” Upon leaving, I remember Fred saying to his boss, “All Walt needs is a little more gas ’til fall.” 

After the empty report I gave Fred and his boss, they drove over to Ed Kruger’s farm, then back to Lynn Gunning’s place for more monetary evaluations. 

Little did we know at that time that Fred’s boss turned thumbs down on extending more gasoline credit to us. Before any gas was allowed to leave in our direction, Fred had to sign a note. By so doing, he put his own paycheck on the line as security for three helpless farmers. 

In those pre-diesel days, gas was delivered in a primitive way. Guy Canfield, a well known gas delivery-man, worked at Fred’s plant. He would back up the company’s pint size truck to fill my six 55 gallon barrels. 

The tank on the truck had a short unloading faucet sticking out. A long rod that held a slug of rings was bolted on the back bed. Counting the gallons was done Chinese [abacus] style. Everytime a five gallon bucket was filled, Guy would slide one of those rings over to the other side of the truck. Then he would dump the bucket that was loaded with gasoline into the barrels. 

When the barrels were filled, Guy would then count the rings that were moved across the rod and multiply that number by five. The final penciled-in figures were the number of gallons delivered. 

Later, through the process of mental evolution, Mr. Canfield figured out how to measure delivered gallons more easily. He notched gallon markings on a stick that was a little longer than the barrels.

Buckets of gasoline could then be emptied without counting. It was a simple matter of sticking the marked stick into each barrel. The wetness would show the number of gallons that got dumped. 

This marked advancement brought forth a more accurate gallon count. Because, sometimes while visiting, Guy would forget to slide a ring across. 

"Good Samaritan" Kik-Back Country, page 43, part 1 (continued)     (home)

Marge Womach, local historian from Harrington, included this story in Fred Reinbold's obituary found at

Walt Kik
Dorothea Lange, photographer, 1939
Library of Congress Online Catalog, Farm Security Administration

Walt Kik
Spokesman-Review - 18 Sep 1936