Bill Umberger

Interviewee:


Interviewee Bill Umberger, Farmer; Board Member, Gosper County SWCD; Board Member, Tri-Basin NRD, 1974-1978; Manager, Tri-Basin NRD, 1978-1995

Bill Umberger

Position Held: Farmer; Board Member, Gosper County SWCD; Board Member, Tri-Basin NRD, 1974-1978; Manager, Tri-Basin NRD, 1978-1995

Full Interview:


Interviewer(s):

Dayle Williamson

Associated NRDs:

Tri-Basin

Transcript:

MR. UMBERGER: Russ Edeal from Loomis and Millard Johnson, Arnold Krohn from the Phelps County set it up. And then in 1972 there was an election and I was elected to the board for a two-year period.
MR. WILLIAMSON: Wasn't that '74 when the election was?
MR. UMBERGER: I think it was -- the first one was '72, wasn't it? It doesn't make any difference. I was --
MR. WILLIAMSON: The first election, whenever it happened.
MR. UMBERGER: That's right. It might have been '74. And, I was elected for two years and then at the end of the two years, I was re-elected again. But, at that time -- when we first started we hired a manager Gene Stoklasa and he was there about two years and then we hired another young man by the name of John Turnbull. He was there for, what, three years?
MR. TURNBULL: Just about three.
MR. UMBERGER: Yeah. And then he left for the Upper Big Blue and I was kind of the interim manager for awhile and, finally, in 1978 they hired me as the manager. And I was the manager of the Natural Resources until 1995. I was there for 17 years. We had a lot of problems. Varied from soil erosion in Gosper County to a lot of drainage problems in Kearney County and northern part of Phelps County. The Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District was the main reason, I think, that the Natural Resources District was incorporated that way. All of the irrigation areas of the Central Nebraska Public Irrigation District falled within our boundaries. We had -- I like to think that I was the one that finally convinced the people at Central District that they were part of the problem with the drainage problems in the northern part of Phelps County and Kearney County.
MR. TURNBULL: Well, they sure resisted it while I was manager.
MR. UMBERGER: Yes.
MR. TURNBULL: Resisted taking responsibility.
MR. UMBERGER: Yes. They did when I was first manager. I worked quite closely with the irrigation division manager Don Schepler at Central District, and he was aware of the fact and finally convinced the board, I guess you would say, that they had some responsibilities and they accepted some of them. So, I don't know how it is now. It doesn't make any difference because I got out when I thought it was a good time for me to leave. I was getting close to 65 and I was having hearing problems, and some of the times I was afraid that I was going to foul up, not hear correctly, and maybe make some sad mistakes. I had a very good secretary. And she was my hearing aid for the last two years or so that I was the manager. She saved my hide several times.
MR. WILLIAMSON: I might add in the interview here Bill Umberger and I were in the field artillery together and so that maybe started our bad hearing because we used to shoot those big canons and never even put -- have earplugs. The Army didn't furnish earplugs back in our day.
MR. UMBERGER: No.
MR. WILLIAMSON: And then I suppose you drove some big powerful tractors and all kinds of stuff.
MR. UMBERGER: Probably the thing that made me the most deaf was I had a radio on the -- right on the --
MR. WILLIAMSON: Fender, probably.
MR. UMBERGER: -- fender --
MR. WILLIAMSON: Yeah.
MR. UMBERGER: -- of my John Deere tractor and it was a -- I didn't get into the John Deere tractors until they went to four cylinder, single.
MR. WILLIAMSON: Okay.
MR. UMBERGER: And, I could -- have to turn that up a long time before I can hear it over the roar of the tractor. And, it undoubtedly, along with what I had in the service, it made me even more deaf.
MR. WILLIAMSON: Well, that's an interesting historical footnote for the future of people that will be listening to this a hundred years from now. It reminded me of my cousin, Bill. He had a John Deere tractor. It was a -- I think a two cylinder then but it had it on the fender and I'd -- we could hear his music a half mile away, was in the field.
MR. TURNBULL: Oh, yeah.
MR. WILLIAMSON: But he had to have it up that loud because of the noise of the tractor, but the music really carried.
MR. UMBERGER: Yeah. Yeah.
MR. WILLIAMSON: So --
MR. UMBERGER: It carried best -- more than -- further than the sounds of the tractor.
MR. WILLIAMSON: Yeah. My dad never would buy a radio so I just –-
MR. UMBERGER: Well, you were probably fortunate then. But I did -- you were right –- I didn't do a lot of artillery shooting in the -- or sound in the service, but you were right, you never had an earplug of any type.
MR. WILLIAMSON: Nope.
MR. UMBERGER: If you couldn't get your fingers in your ears when it went off, it was bad.
MR. WILLIAMSON: Well, that's a good historical note.
MR. UMBERGER: Yeah.
MR. WILLIAMSON: Boy, later on in the service we took better care of ourselves, but in those early days we sure didn't. Well that's a great background.
MR. UMBERGER: We -- there were four of us out of that deal that went into the observation battalion.
MR. WILLIAMSON: Okay.
MR. UMBERGER: And, we went to Germany. I spent my service in Germany rather than Korea. That basic observation course that we took in Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and everyone from A to F went to Korea and everybody from G to Z went some place else.
MR. WILLIAMSON: Yeah. I was in your class. There were about nine of us left and we worried a lot where we were going because a lot of them went to Korea. And we wanted to go to Germany. And nine of us went to Fort Rucker, Alabama.
MR. TURNBULL: Good old Fort Rucker.
MR. WILLIAMSON: It was Camp Rucker then. John's an aviator. He's been at Fort Rucker.
MR. TURNBULL: Oh, yes.
MR. WILLIAMSON: Lots.
MR. UMBERGER: We were in Karlsberg, Germany.
MR. WILLIAMSON: Yep.
MR. UMBERGER: In a nice casern or camp. There was a German labor battalion there at the same camp. And if we didn't -- couldn't find anything or we didn't get anything requisitioned for us -- if you had contacts with that German labor, you could get anything you wanted. They had it.
MR. WILLIAMSON: Yep. Well that was good, right at the end of the Korean War. Well, Bill, you mentioned that Gosper County and Kearney County -- we had some people that weren't very happy with the NRDs. How were you in -- I mean, when the law was being passed, how were you in Gosper County?
MR. UMBERGER: Gosper County was fine. Phelps County was fine. But it took a long time for the people in Kearney County to accept the fact that they had a natural resources district. The old board members there were just not willing to accept the fact that they had to give up their Gosper, or their Kearney County Conservation District. And one of the -- what am I trying to say -- I am trying to say that --
MR. WILLIAMSON: Your probably going to talk about Bill Bank.
MR. UMBERGER: -- soil conservation. The soil conservation -- or conservationist there was not convinced that the natural resources district was the way to go and you probably remember that too.
MR. TURNBULL: I remember being some friction with Kearney County.
MR. UMBERGER: Yeah.
MR. TURNBULL: Yeah.
MR. UMBERGER: And we finally won them over. I spent a lot of time down there and we had some of the old board members, I worked with them on conservation, reuse pits, and that kind of stuff. And, we got what -- it was limited, but we got some conservation funds that we helped them with.
MR. WILLIAMSON: Yeah, that was good. You worked with them. Well, tell us after you -- you were on the board for a while and then you became manager. Tell us some of your old good things that happened, things that you are proud about that happened in the district during the time you were manager.
MR. UMBERGER: Well, I think probably the best thing was my work with the Central District. They didn't like the NRD. Many of their directors didn't think that they needed to have funds for taxes for the NRD. They thought the Central District or Tri-County could handle it all. And I'd like to think that I had some -- I'd like to think that I had some influence getting them to accept us. We had a couple of project improvement areas that worked with the seepage, excess water in Kearney County. And we had -- eventually we had a couple of very good young board members from Kearney County and that helped a lot.
MR. WILLIAMSON: Brought in some new blood, huh?
MR. UMBERGER: Yes. And, I follow them. They have a news excerpt in The Elwood Bulletin every month about the NRD and I follow them and those guys are still on the board. And, I think they have given the new NRD manager quite a bit of help.
MR. TURNBULL: Is that Nelson, one of them?
MR. UMBERGER: Hm?
MR. TURNBULL: Nelson, is one of them?
MR. UMBERGER: Nickel.
MR. TURNBULL: Nickel. Okay.
MR. UMBERGER: There was a Nickel.
MR. TURNBULL: Yeah.
MR. UMBERGER: He's down on the valley.
MR. TURNBULL: A feed yard by that name in there, wasn't there?
MR. UMBERGER: Yeah. But this is a --
MR. WILLIAMSON: N-i-c-k-e-l or --
MR. TURNBULL: I think so.
MR. UMBERGER: Yeah. One of them is --
MR. WILLIAMSON: I may need the spelling for the transcription.
MR. UMBERGER: One of them has a feed yard. I don't know what his name is, but David Nickel is the one that I'm thinking about. And he farms quite a bit on the valley just across the river from Kearney is where it is. And, right in that Fort Kearney area. And he's pretty progressive. And he helped. And since I've left, they've increased their budget a lot. And they've had -- of course, they have more problems than they had when I was there. I don't begrudge them. And I still pay taxes in Gosper County and I don't begrudge them that they need it.
MR. WILLIAMSON: Right.
MR. UMBERGER: There's no doubt about it.
MR. TURNBULL: When I first started at Holdrege, Frank Dragoun was on the board. Frank was a -- what was he, assistant manager at Tri-County at the time?
MR. UMBERGER: He was a manager, yeah.
MR. TURNBULL: And became manager after Durameier (phonetic) passed on.
MR. WILLIAMSON: Yeah.
MR. UMBERGER: Yeah.
MR. TURNBULL: Is that right?
MR. UMBERGER: That is right.
MR. WILLIAMSON: Right.
MR. UMBERGER: He was there 10 years. I don't know, maybe that. They fired him, you know, because -- I don't know what all was behind it. But, he was fired. Don Krause (phonetic) then.
MR. TURNBULL: Uh-huh.
MR. UMBERGER: And I think he's still there.
MR. TURNBULL: Yeah. Don is still there.
MR. WILLIAMSON: He's still the manager, right.
MR. TURNBULL: Yep.
MR. UMBERGER: Yep. He was a forward-looking man too, manager. I think that was part of the reason that we got more cooperation between the two, the NRD and the Central District, because of that. That and Don Schepler.
MR. TURNBULL: Yep. The first time I met Don was the night that you guys interviewed me for the job. There were three of us sitting out in the waiting room while your exec committee did the interviews, and Don Schepler and I were two of those folks.
MR. WILLIAMSON: Was that right?
MR. TURNBULL: Yes.
MR. WILLIAMSON: Well that's an interesting --
MR. TURNBULL: But I met him before --
MR. WILLIAMSON: That's a good history thing.
MR. TURNBULL: -- that was before I was even hired in the NRD system.
MR. WILLIAMSON: Well, that's interesting, John. That's a good historical fact.
MR. TURNBULL: Yeah.
MR. UMBERGER: I didn't realize that either.
MR. TURNBULL: Yep.
MR. WILLIAMSON: Well that's why we do these history things.
MR. TURNBULL: Yep.
MR. UMBERGER: Yeah.
MR. WILLIAMSON: I mean, this is very significant.
MR. TURNBULL: Lots of connections that you uncover in these things.
MR. UMBERGER: Yeah.
MR. WILLIAMSON: Well, Bill, you already mentioned your latter years there, but some of the things that were really -- well, maybe one thing -- I am sure you didn't have hardly anything that was difficult for you, but tell us about one difficulty that you may think of. And, if you don't have any, don't tell us.
MR. UMBERGER: Well, I had difficulty getting people to realize that they had to do something about their seepage that they had. And, I guess that's really the only really problem I had, except sometimes I had to work with the other governmental agencies and that was difficult. I got along pretty good with Department of Environmental Quality. I got along quite well with the engineers and the Game and Parks. But the EPA was something different.
MR. TURNBULL: I don't think anything has changed.
MR. UMBERGER: I, well, I remember the EPA put those maps out, you know, and they had you -- you had a --
MR. TURNBULL: Was this on the wetlands?
MR. UMBERGER: Yeah.
MR. TURNBULL: Yes.
MR. UMBERGER: Yeah.
MR. WILLIAMSON: 1985, huh?
MR. UMBERGER: They had you with a wetland, and it turned out to be a pile of asphalt. Do you remember that?
MR. TURNBULL: Yes. I'd forgotten all about that.
MR. UMBERGER: Yeah.
MR. WILLIAMSON: This is a good historical -- but was that EPA or didn't USDA do a lot of that wetland identification?
MR. UMBERGER: Well.
MR. TURNBULL: Well, the EPA did the original mapping.
MR. WILLIAMSON: Original mapping, okay.
MR. UMBERGER: Yeah.
MR. TURNBULL: I think so, yeah.
MR. UMBERGER: Yeah.
MR. TURNBULL: They just did a -- like a photo reconnaissance thing.
MR. UMBERGER: Yeah.
MR. WILLIAMSON: Yeah.
MR. TURNBULL: And their interpretation was not very good at all.
MR. WILLIAMSON: No.
MR. TURNBULL: And so they saw this dark spot of this asphalt and assumed it was a wetland.
MR. WILLIAMSON: Yeah.
MR. TURNBULL: No.
MR. UMBERGER: Yeah. I remember that. And there were places in our NRD that the same way, that they weren't wetlands. But, I had trouble -- difficulty. I had one experience that -- I guess that maybe made me retire. There was a man that had a center-pivot and there was about one acre that was a wetland, and his pivot went through it and, of course, it drowned it out every year. He came to me and he wanted to fill it. He was willing to take all of the dark soil out of it, fill the inner -- the thing with soil out of the corner of the thing --
MR. WILLIAMSON: Pivot, huh?
MR. UMBERGER: Yeah. Make an equivalent one there, and fill that in so his pivot would go around and he could grow something there. And, he was willing to bring the dirt from on a different corner, clear across the quarter section to fill it in right. And, I worked with him. I thought maybe it was probably a good deal. Then we had go from the Game and Parks Commission, the Department of -- DEQ. The engineers, everybody was agreeable with it, but the EPA. And, I didn't see that it had anything to do with the EPA in the first place, but they wouldn't go along with it. And, of course, when they wouldn't go along with it, well then the Department of Engineers wouldn't go along with it. So, we couldn't do it.
MR. WILLIAMSON: Yeah, those were some tough days as we worked through the 1985 time with the wetlands --
MR. UMBERGER: Yeah.
MR. WILLIAMSON: -- and designating wetlands and so on and so, yeah.
MR. UMBERGER: I think that that's probably one of the, well, one of the reasons that I quit. It was getting so that you had to argue with those people all the time and my hearing was going. I had plenty to do at home, so I retired.
MR. WILLIAMSON: But, you never did look back and hope there was still a Gosper County Soil and Water District, did you?
MR. UMBERGER: No, no, the natural resources districts were the way to go. I was convinced of that before they ever got formed. I think Russ Edeal was the same way. There were several of the people in Phelps County. Arnold Krohn was one of the them, Millard Johnson. There was another Johnson. It doesn't make any difference.
MR. WILLIAMSON: A lot of Johnsons.
MR. TURNBULL: Yes.
MR. UMBERGER: He was on the Central District Board, that other Johnson.
MR. TURNBULL: Laverne (phonetic), maybe?
MR. UMBERGER: Yeah, Laverne.
MR. TURNBULL: Is that right?
MR. UMBERGER: Yes.
MR. WILLIAMSON: Laverne Johnson, okay.
MR. TURNBULL: Yes.
MR. UMBERGER: And, they were convinced the NRD should be there. We had a hard time convincing them they should spend more for personnel, but they finally accepted that, and I think that that was when they hired John Thorburn. I think the people realized that they had to have more people to do the job that needed to be done. But then, things changed about the middle of the 90s. Everything got a lot more complicated.
MR. TURNBULL: Oh, it's way more complicated now then it was then.
MR. UMBERGER: Yeah. I'm sure.
MR. TURNBULL: One of my younger staff asked me the other day about, you know, what did I think somebody needed to have as a background to become a manager these days. And I just simply said, “Well with my background I had at the time I was hired, I'd never be considered today.” It's just super complicated. You need to come in in one of those positions with a lot of administrative and management experience, where in those early days we really didn't have that.
MR. UMBERGER: Yeah. Well, when I was manager, I did a lot of the things that other managers wouldn't consider doing. They'd have an assistant to do that. I was, for several years, I monitored all the wells in the three-county area. And, I enjoyed being out of the office doing that. And, it was -- I had a lot of contact with farmers by doing it that way. And, I think that's -- Kearney County, we had a lot of wells down there. And, I think the fact that we had that and I was down there in the present, it worked out pretty good. Another one that I want to talk about in Kearney County was Del Kopf. He was a --
MR. WILLIAMSON: K-o-p-f?
MR. TURNBULL: Yes.
MR. UMBERGER: K-o-p-f, yeah. He was a --
MR. TURNBULL: He was Harold's brother. Harold was on the Central Platte Board, right?
MR. WILLIAMSON: Del, it was Del Kopf, huh?
MR. UMBERGER: Yeah.
MR. TURNBULL: Yeah.
MR. WILLIAMSON: I was getting it for the transcriber. D-e-l Kopf, K-o-p-f.
MR. UMBERGER: Yeah. Uh-huh.
MR. WILLIAMSON: Yeah. I remember him.
MR. UMBERGER: He was married to a -- who was that guy from down there that was on the Board of Regents?
MR. TURNBULL: Rob Rahn (phonetic), is that right?
MR. UMBERGER: Who?
MR. WILLIAMSON: Rob Rahn was on the --
MR. UMBERGER: Yes.
MR. TURNBULL: Yes.
MR. WILLIAMSON: -- Board of Regents.
MR. UMBERGER: Rob Rahn.
MR. TURNBULL: Yes. He was from -- he lived south of Minden, right? I think.
MR. UMBERGER: Yeah. Norman I think was actually their address.
MR. TURNBULL: Yeah.
MR. UMBERGER: Yeah. And, Del Kopf was a brother-in-law to him.
MR. WILLIAMSON: To Rob Rahn, sure.
MR. UMBERGER: Yeah.
MR. WILLIAMSON: Sure, Okay. You're bringing back a lot of good memories here.
MR. UMBERGER: Yes. And we -- yeah, if I can remember the names, it would be better wouldn't it?
MR. WILLIAMSON: Well, we'll have to sort those out in this interview, but we'll get back with you and the three of us will try to get them spelled right and remember them.
MR. UMBERGER: We had a project one time. They were trying to put a big reservoir on the Little Blue River. It would have been just south of our border, but almost all of the area for that was in the Tri-Basin NRD. And, I did a lot of work down there for a couple of years helping them. Well, it fell through. We studied the possibility of having a recharge system in the Sand Creek area in our NRD.
MR. TURNBULL: Was that near Upland? Is that right?
MR. UMBERGER: Yeah, that other was near Upland --
MR. TURNBULL: Okay.
MR. UMBERGER: Yeah. But this one we're talking about was, well, just north of Highway 6. Remember where the beef plant was?
MR. TURNBULL: Yes.
MR. UMBERGER: Okay. It was just across the road to the north of that on Sand Creek.
MR. TURNBULL: Okay.
MR. UMBERGER: And, we hired somebody, an engineer, to look into the feasibility of it and it didn't fly. Now, they're studying it again.
MR. WILLIAMSON: That's the way it goes. And your description here, it's, you know, that's sort of what happened because Tri-County was the only NRD that wasn't on a true hydrologic basin.
MR. UMBERGER: Yes.
MR. WILLIAMSON: Of course, the others are -- have to be chopped off. You couldn't have a NRD from one end of the state to the other on the Platte so --
MR. UMBERGER: Yeah.
MR. WILLIAMSON: -- there are some cuts in them, but the outside boundaries on nearly all NRDs are pretty much on the hydrologic lines.
MR. UMBERGER: Yeah. And, I always thought that maybe they put everything else in the state along hydrologic lines and they ended up with three counties that didn't fit into anything so they made that the Tri-Basin.
MR. WILLIAMSON: It wasn't quite that way. Actually, we had it along hydrologic lines and a heavy objection from Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District and --
MR. UMBERGER: Yes.
MR. TURNBULL: There's a surprise.
MR. WILLIAMSON: -- through the governor and everybody. I remember the day well when they backed down.
MR. UMBERGER: Yeah, they tried to control us. There's no doubt about it, but we finally persevered, John and myself. I think Gene Stoklasa left because of that, some of them. And we finally, I think we finally brought them around.
MR. WILLIAMSON: Yeah.
MR. UMBERGER: Yeah.
MR. WILLIAMSON: Well, I think it's working good.
MR. TURNBULL: Well, Gene when he quit there at the NRD, he opened up a retail plant nursery in Holdrege for a --
MR. WILLIAMSON: I remember that.
MR. UMBERGER: Yeah.
MR. TURNBULL: -- couple years. And, then Ron Bishop hired him at Central Platte.
MR. WILLIAMSON: Yeah.
MR. TURNBULL: And he worked over there until, what, about two or three years ago, Gene finally retired.
MR. WILLIAMSON: Yeah, retired from the Central Platte, so.
MR. UMBERGER: Yeah, I remember I used to go over there and see him.
MR. WILLIAMSON: Actually, Gene worked for the Commission before he went.
MR. TURNBULL: Did he?
MR. WILLIAMSON: And a lot of our people did.
MR. UMBERGER: Is that right?
MR. WILLIAMSON: Yep, before they became managers of NRDs. And, Dick Beran and Ron Fleecs and, gee, I can name a lot of them.
MR. TURNBULL: Ron Sasek (phonetic) did too, didn't he?
MR. WILLIAMSON: Yeah. Ron, yeah. Ron came back from Vietnam, and we hired him as our western representative and then became a manager.
MR. UMBERGER: Yeah.
MR. WILLIAMSON: Yep. So, we have had a lot of great people. Well, this is a very unique interview, Bill, because you were a soil and water conservation district director in Gosper County and a real good one, and you worked hard and you supported the NRDs early and then you became a manager and you were very involved in farming and a lot of things and worked hard with the NRD. Do you have anything else that you'd like to add for the interview? We don't want take too much of your time and have the paper too long for you to read.
MR. UMBERGER: Well, I had some real good people to work with. Russ Edeal is the one that comes to mind more than anybody else. He was a very good board member, conscientious. He was the one that suggested that I become the manager.
MR. WILLIAMSON: Yeah.
MR. UMBERGER: I guess that's one of the reasons that I think he was all right.
MR. WILLIAMSON: Well, yeah, but he --
MR. UMBERGER: He was very forward-looking and he realized the friction between the Central District and us to start with and we got along well.
MR. TURNBULL: Russ was the chairman when I got hired. Russ Edeal was the chairman when I was hired.
MR. WILLIAMSON: Yeah.
MR. UMBERGER: Yeah. That's right.
MR. TURNBULL: And Millard Johnson was the treasurer at the time.
MR. UMBERGER: Yeah, that's right. But, Russ was good. There's no doubt about it.
MR. TURNBULL: Yeah, he was, at least with me, he would come in to talk to me about, you know, what was going on, what was happening, but he was always very careful never just to tell me what to do. It was just -- he just kind of laid out some generalities and then he'd leave and I would sit there and wonder, “What did he want me to go, which way?”
MR. WILLIAMSON: No micro-management.
MR. TURNBULL: No, he was not a micro-manager at all.
MR. WILLIAMSON: And that's good.
MR. UMBERGER: Well, that's right.
MR. WILLIAMSON: A board member should not be.
MR. TURNBULL: He was excellent that way.
MR. UMBERGER: I'm sure that he helped me the same way. And, I was still farming. I would come home from work at five o'clock and feed my cattle. And it got awful tiring. In 1984, I finally sold my cows and calves, and my daughter married a good farmer and he took over the farm, so I didn't have anything to do but manage the last 10 years of my 17.
MR. TURNBULL: Yeah, your farm was south of Elwood, right?
MR. UMBERGER: South and west.
MR. TURNBULL: South and west.
MR. UMBERGER: Over in the hill and canyon country.
MR. WILLIAMSON: That's why you were highly interested in soil conservation.
MR. UMBERGER: Yes, I was. And, I remember one year you cut me down, that NSWCP Fund. You cut me down pretty much and I was pretty irate about it. You remember that?
MR. WILLIAMSON: Oh, yeah. You came to see us.
MR. UMBERGER: I saw you in a meeting.
MR. WILLIAMSON: I said, “Bill, we still like you. We got to look at that.”
MR. UMBERGER: Yeah. Well, you put the soil conservation in other places more than you did in our NRD.
MR. WILLIAMSON: Yeah.
MR. UMBERGER: And, I could understand that. I think we kind of got back at you later on when you started giving money for more water quality.
MR. WILLIAMSON: Yeah, but Gosper County was -- when they were a soil and water district, they were always a good county on soil conservation, and, you know, then it kind of got mixed up I guess or something.
MR. TURNBULL: So, the SCS people, Buddy Steinshour was the district conservationist when I was in Holdrege.
MR. UMBERGER: He was still there all the time that I was there. He retired just a couple of years after I left.
MR. WILLIAMSON: Can you spell that name, John or Bill, so we have it on tape?
MR. TURNBULL: S --
MR. UMBERGER: t-e-i-n-s-h-o-u-e-r.
MR. TURNBULL: Yeah.
MR. WILLIAMSON: Thank you.
MR. TURNBULL: I think that's right.
MR. UMBERGER: Is that right?
MR. TURNBULL: That's pretty close.
MR. WILLIAMSON: Yeah.
MR. TURNBULL: Who's the technician that was in Elwood, the older fellow? He'd been there a long, long time.
MR. UMBERGER: Owen Brainard.
MR. TURNBULL: Yes. The thing I remember about Owen Brainard was he had been a mule skinner in the Army in Burma in World War II.
MR. UMBERGER: No, that was --
MR. TURNBULL: Or am I thinking of a different man?
MR. UMBERGER: That was the assistant down there. But you're right. He was in the -- he had a mule, a pack mule, that they went across the hills into Burma, you know, during the war.
MR. WILLIAMSON: Yeah. Okay. The hump.
MR. TURNBULL: Yeah, he had some real tales about (indiscernible) --
MR. UMBERGER: Yost was his name.
MR. TURNBULL: That's right.
MR. UMBERGER: Robert Yost.
MR. WILLIAMSON: Oh, Robert Yost.
MR. UMBERGER: Yeah. And, Owen Brainard was in the tail end of the World War II and he was in the Marines. And he was in the Reserve, and they called him up for duty in the Korean War.
MR. WILLIAMSON: Oh, they did? Yeah. I never realized that.
MR. UMBERGER: And, he was a chopper pilot. He was one of the guys that went in and got the wounded --
MR. WILLIAMSON: MedEvac, huh?
MR. UMBERGER: -- and took them back to the --
MR. WILLIAMSON: Yes. Tiny chopper.
MR. UMBERGER: Yeah. Oh yeah, those little ones. I rode in them a couple of times. They made me a little nervous.
MR. WILLIAMSON: And --
MR. UMBERGER: You drove them all the time.
MR. TURNBULL: Yeah.
MR. WILLIAMSON: -- the thing I remember about Owen Brainard, and maybe you guys observed this, it seems like on a warm day he would wear his hat with ear flaps down. Do you remember that? Was that Owen?
MR. UMBERGER: Oh, yes. He was that way. But, there was --
MR. WILLIAMSON: Just a little humorous history here from the past. We are kind of off NRDs here, but we're going to wrap up soon. But, this -- Owen Brainard, well, that's good.
MR. TURNBULL: Well, you need to understand the characters of everybody.
MR. WILLIAMSON: Yeah.
MR. TURNBULL: That is what makes these jobs interesting.
MR. UMBERGER: But Owen Brainard is known to fly that helicopter in and pick up wounded people and shoot at the Chinese with his .45 as he was leaving.
MR. WILLIAMSON: Wow. Yeah. MedEvacs aren't really supposed to do that, but --
MR. UMBERGER: Yeah. But he never talked about that.
MR. WILLIAMSON: No. No. Well, that's really interesting.
MR. UMBERGER: Yeah.
MR. WILLIAMSON: I knew some of those people but never knew that background, so it's good to get the local thing.
MR. UMBERGER: Yeah.
MR. WILLIAMSON: Well, to John Turnbull, thanks a lot for you taking part in this --
MR. TURNBULL: Yeah.
MR. WILLIAMSON: -- interview, because it's really interesting to be sitting here by two former NRD managers in that particular NRD and some of the things that happened and reminding one or the other. John, do you have any closing thoughts?
MR. TURNBULL: Well, Tri-Basin was a really good place for me to get started, get my feet on the ground. I had been out of state for 10 years after I'd left Lincoln and college. So, yeah, it was a good place to get broke into the NRD system, good board to work for. And I got a lot of good experience out of it. Dealing with Central. Dealing with the public.
MR. WILLIAMSON: That's great. Well, Bill, we thank you very much for hosting us here today and we'll give you the final word. What would you like to say before I turn the tape off?
MR. UMBERGER: Just that it was an experience that I'm glad that I was able to serve as long as I did. I think the NRDs have done an excellent job throughout the state. I know several of the managers, some of them are still here, like John and Ron Bishop. I did --
MR. WILLIAMSON: Fortunately, we did get to tape Ron Bishop before he passed away. So, we got his story on record.
MR. UMBERGER: When -- how long ago did he pass away?
MR. WILLIAMSON: Just a few months ago.
MR. TURNBULL: Wasn't very long ago.
MR. UMBERGER: Yeah.
MR. WILLIAMSON: Six, five, six.
MR. TURNBULL: It was after the first of the year.
MR. WILLIAMSON: Yeah. Uh-huh.
MR. UMBERGER: Well, that's sad.
MR. WILLIAMSON: Maybe you didn't -- maybe you hadn't heard of that.
MR. UMBERGER: Yeah. I hadn't heard.
MR. WILLIAMSON: Because he just retired very recently.
MR. UMBERGER: Yeah.
MR. WILLIAMSON: He hung in there.
MR. TURNBULL: Yeah. He retired in -- I think it was last June, July. And the association gave him an award at the September conference, and then -- I think he passed away after the first part of the year.
MR. WILLIAMSON: Yeah. He had had some health problems, so --
MR. UMBERGER: But all of those folks I worked with, I have admiration for all of them. Even Ron Wunnibald.
MR. TURNBULL: Yep. He was the manager at Alma.
MR. WILLIAMSON: Alma, you bet.
MR. UMBERGER: (Indiscernible) fired him. Then he started working for the DEQ. And I'm relation to Jay Ringenberg, and he said that Ron Wunnibald did them a real good job.
MR. WILLIAMSON: Sure.
MR. UMBERGER: So, that's good.
MR. WILLIAMSON: Good guy.
MR. TURNBULL: He was working with livestock producers.
MR. UMBERGER: He was stationed in Holdrege then?
MR. TURNBULL: Yep.
MR. UMBERGER: And, I saw him sometimes when I was visiting down there right after he got the job. I asked him if the feed lots were giving him fits, and he said the feed lots were not nearly as hard as the dairy that was coming in. He had more problems with them then he did with the feed lots.
MR. WILLIAMSON: Well, we'll wrap up here, Bill. We thank you very much for having us up today in your beautiful setting here, and it's really good to see you after all these years and --
MR. TURNBULL: Yeah.
MR. UMBERGER: You're very welcome. I just have one more question.
MR. WILLIAMSON: Okay.
MR. UMBERGER: Why me?
MR. WILLIAMSON: Well, because you were a manager. You were there early. You were on the Gosper County Board. I can remember that. And I know you.
MR. UMBERGER: Okay. Thank you. Thank you.
MR. WILLIAMSON: You were a good artillery man.
MR. UMBERGER: Yeah. Oh, yeah. That's right.
MR. WILLIAMSON: Well, thank you very much Bill and John. It has been a great pleasure and we'll be turning this over to the historical society for long-term keeping.