MR. BARR: This is Jim Barr. It's September 10th, 2013, in York. John Turnbull is going to be interviewing Larry Moore.
MR. TURNBULL: All right, we'll get started. So, we're going to talk a little bit about the formation of NRDs and legislation. Were you involved at all with the soil conservation districts or predecessors to the NRDs or involved in any of the discussion leading up to the legislation?
MR. MOORE: Yeah, my uncle was one of the first district conservationists in Nebraska. He worked up in the Dixon County area before the war. He graduated in 1941 in June, so his term was pretty short his first hitch and then he made it his lifelong career, so I was always exposed to this from then. And I grew up tagging along behind Ray Burke. And, of course, Ray was Mr. Conservation in this area. He's the one that really got me started. 1955, I was probably 14 years old or so, we drilled an irrigation well. And I'd never thought about what's down there and Ray was running the test hole and he was bringing up the samples and putting all the piles of everything out there in a row. And time we got down 270 feet, I'd had a real awakening as to what was underneath us. And I worked with Ray some in high school and some in college, and then after I started farming, Ray did a lot of work for us and now I (indiscernible) for Ray. So, when the NRDs were getting formed, I really didn't know what they were doing, but I knew he was gone a lot to a lot of meetings and he was talking about who he was seeing, who he'd been with, and so they were names that when I got into the -- active on the board, they were people that I recognized the names and knew who they were and kind of where they came from. And then I had a little bit of contact with Bruce Anderson (phonetic), because Bruce and Ray were neighbors, and we hauled some dirt up there. So I guess I don't know when I didn't know Ray Burke or Bruce Anderson. It's one of those kind of deals.
MR. TURNBULL: Well, Larry, I got to know Bruce, of course, when I came to work here for the district, but we, at one time, gave Bruce an award for 50 years of public service on conservation and NRD boards, continuous service. And that was, what, two, three years before he died, I think.
MR. MOORE: Yeah. He went clear back. Well, whenever SWCDs were formed, he was probably a charter member up there.
MR. TURNBULL: He would have been on the Polk County SWCD.
MR. MOORE: At least a member of the organization, probably a board member.
MR. TURNBULL: I think he was on the board.
MR. MOORE: I know he was on the board for a long time, but he was probably involved even before that as a worker with them.
MR. TURNBULL: Were you involved at all with any of the work at the Legislature?
MR. MOORE: No, at that time, I already hadn't got into that part. I knew what was going on, just like I said, from listening to Ray and (indiscernible) knows Ray. And I knew what 1357 was and I knew Maurice Kremer, but I didn't really understand -- and I had some connections with the water districts through my cousin, Dale Moore, and we had talked about forming one of those in Butler County. And we didn't, because it sounded like this was going to happen. So, I guess I didn't know what was going on, but I wasn't really directly there. I was just kind of around the edges of it.
MR. TURNBULL: Yeah, those groundwater conservation districts were authorized under statute and I think they began forming up in, like, 1967.
MR. MOORE: That's about right.
MR. TURNBULL: And they were, of course, in existence up until the mid-'80s when they finally -- most of them disbanded and finally faded away and the authorization of the Legislature was pulled.
MR. MOORE: Well, at one time, Polk County farmers belonged down here with the York County District. There were a few who farmed in Butler, Polk, and sometimes York County. And so we were having an ad hoc member down here because of that connection, but we never had organization in Polk or Butler County that I'm aware of. We just came down here to meetings and worked with them. And then Mel Noffke was my college roommate that ran for years, so I had a lot of connections there.
MR. BARR: Were they formally merged into the NRD or did they just go away?
MR. TURNBULL: No, the groundwater conservation districts were a separate organization. They were -- when they formed, they were able to form one in each county, as I recall. So we had four of them here. We had York County, Hamilton County, Fillmore County --
MR. MOORE: Clay County.
MR. TURNBULL: -- Clay County --
MR. MOORE: And Seward County.
MR. TURNBULL: -- and Seward County, so we must have had five. And so each one had their own separate small Board. They formed the Blue River Association of Conservation Districts, and Mel Noffke was the manager of that when I first came to work here at York. I came in January of 1978.
MR. MOORE: That was a cold and stormy night.
MR. TURNBULL: No kidding.
MR. MOORE: He came to the meeting and didn't go home.
MR. TURNBULL: So, yeah, and then Mark Nannon (phonetic) replaced Mel Noffke as the association manager, and he was there, then, when they finally disbanded in the mid-'80s.
MR. MOORE: Well, they'd had several debates about what to do with them and they were -- finally, they -- basically, they ran into the sunset clause what took them out finally. But we worked side by side, really. We didn't ever have a conflict. We made sure that we were able to work parallel with them as long as they were in existence. We had a good relationship with them, I think.
MR. TURNBULL: Yep, they took care of a lot of the well measurements and dealt with some of the irrigation (indiscernible), and education programs on irrigation management, those kinds of things. We ended up doing more of the heavy regulation work.
MR. MOORE: Former board members were on our board over time. I know Max (indiscernible) was one. Kenny Rigere (phonetic) is still on our board. He was involved. I think there were a couple of others in the early times that were involved in, too, so we had, you know, connection back and forth there. Talk about the start of the NRDs, I was out at Grand Island today and we were talking about Maurice Kremer being the father of the NRDs, which I agree he is. But if you wonder who the nursemaids were with the NRD that got it going, I think you got to say that the five people that got it off the ground and nursed this thing into existence would be Dale Emson (phonetic) and Gale Starr (phonetic) and Jim Cook (phonetic), and Hazel Jenkins (phonetic). And I may be wrong on this last name. I want to say Jim Chamberlain (phonetic).
MR. TURNBULL: Duane.
MR. MOORE: Duane Chamberlain. Duane was the one that was out to all the meetings and really kept us flying straight. But those guys and Hazel, they were our nursemaids. They need a special place in this, because they were herding us along. Kremer got us launched, and we just kind of flew off in every direction, and then those people kind of kept us all going the same way for a long -- and Lee Ordin (phonetic), but especially those five. I mean, they were fairly -- well, Jim was a very young man when he started out and so was Gale. They just retired in the last few years. I guess they're all retired now.
MR. TURNBULL: Well, when I -- I had been out of state after I got out of college, graduated in summer of '66 at Lincoln and was gone for about 10 years. Came back in the summer of '75, went to work as the general manager at Tri-Basin NRD. And that was in June. And within the first two months, Duane Chamberlain came out from Lincoln to meet with me. He insisted on the meeting, and just coached me on the fine art of managing NRDs, particularly in the budgeting cycles. And then, when I came here in January of '78, then Duane came out again and helped me really understand how to establish parts of the budget, what we call the sinking fund now, how to set money aside for future projects. He was instrumental in that and worked with all the managers around the state. And I remember, Larry, when you folks had the vacancy here as the manager when I got hired, I went on a water tour in New Mexico, state water tour, and Bruce Anderson was on that trip. And Bruce kept twisting my arm that I needed -- I ought to apply for this job. Well, my wife and I had just moved to Holdrege, hadn't been there a couple of years, really weren't interested in moving again. Duane Chamberlain came out to see me and said I needed to apply. And I said, “But I really don't want to.” And he says, “You will apply. You are going to apply.”
So, I did.
MR. MOORE: Meantime, Duane had talked to Lavern Peterson (phonetic), who was on our exec committee at that time and Morris White (phonetic), and I think Henry Burke (phonetic), and myself, I believe were the four. He had talked to us and he said, “I'm sending your new manager down.” And he said, “You will like him.” And he said, “He is coming.”
And so I don't know how much John knew about that, but --
MR. TURNBULL: I didn't.
MR. MOORE: We didn't ever tell John -- I probably told that to John, I think about five years ago I admitted that he was a cooked goose before he ever got here.
He didn't know it yet, but he'd had a letter from his friends and neighbors.
MR. TURNBULL: Well, I think Duane, from what I understand talking to lots of folks, Duane did that with lots of the districts to get them staffed to begin with.
MR. MOORE: Yes, he did. I know he did that. But he was seeing these other managers and who was developing, what they were developing, which districts were going to need the managers with staying power. He knew where those were going to be. And this district was going to be one that was going to be under the gun because of the water situation like it is and because of the proximity to Lincoln. And he could see that, too, that we were going to always -- should be a really proactive district. And he knew we had a progressive board. I think John when he first got here, they were almost overaggressive for a while.
MR. TURNBULL: Yeah.
MR. MOORE: We only promised you one thing, John. We said, if you ever feel bored, feel free to leave. And he said he's been scared many times, but he's never been bored yet. That offer still stands. Anytime he's bored, we understand.
MR. TURNBULL: Well, Larry, I got a pamphlet here that says Upper Big Blue Natural Resource District Progress Report, 1972 to 1974. And on the last page are a list of the initial board of directors, which is some 70 names. Can you take a look at that? Do you remember any other folks you want to comment about?
MR. MOORE: I knew Bruce Anderson, (indiscernible) Anderson, Bryce (indiscernible), of course, he was a judge over at Seward County.
MR. TURNBULL: Was Henry Klosterman on one of those early --
MR. MOORE: Yes. Raymond Burke, Clyde Ellers (phonetic), I knew them, Lowell Ellers (phonetic) real well, and Robert Ellers (phonetic), yeah. Sweet ol' Bob. Orville (indiscernible), worked with those. Carl Epp (phonetic). Ray Erps (phonetic), I worked for him, Marshall Folts (phonetic). Man, I didn't know this many guys were on here. Ray Garg (phonetic) and Florian Geiger (phonetic), I knew both of those. Wayne Hansen (phonetic), Tom Harrington (phonetic), Harold Heinz (phonetic), Harold was over at David City, and Kenny Harold (phonetic) over by Seward. Russ Holtein (phonetic), Bob Jeery (phonetic), Hans Jensen (phonetic), Jim Jackson (phonetic), Don Kleinschmit (phonetic). Jim was another -- was back on later on. (Indiscernible) Klosterman, John Klosterman (phonetic), Ed Klute (phonetic), Bill Kracy (phonetic). Kuska (phonetic), Mel Kuska, Wendell Lawburn (phonetic). Man, I did -- (indiscernible), Norman Luebbe (phonetic), Roger Luebbe, Bill Luebbe, I knew all those guys.
MR. TURNBULL: These folks --
MR. MOORE: Devin Miller (phonetic), Dale Moore (phonetic), Robert Murray (phonetic). I can't believe that I knew this many guys on this board. Of course, I got around a little bit. Cleo (Indiscernible), Jerry Ostner (phonetic), Loren Peterson (phonetic), Cleo Rabe (phonetic), Jerry Ross (phonetic), Ted Rigere (phonetic), Dewey Rigere (phonetic). I knew Ted real well, and Dewey was my uncle's roommate in college, so I met him socially.
MR. TURNBULL: Ted Rigere is Hamilton County.
MR. MOORE: Yeah. And Dale Rocker (phonetic), Max Roney (phonetic), Harold Swecti (phonetic).
MR. BARR: Ted and I used to do a bit for the University on whether or not we should have water charges. And I took the unpopular position.
MR. TURNBULL: That you ought to have them.
MR. BARR: I had to get out of the room quick.
MR. TURNBULL: Well, I always enjoyed Ted's sense of humor. He was always great to be around, particularly meetings. He'd liven things right up.
MR. BARR: Yep, he had the little gadgets and everything.
MR. MOORE: I didn't ever see this. I can't believe that I knew that many guys on that list. I worked with them either before that or after that. Of course, I've been in a lot of things, but a lot of that is, I was the oldest son and whenever Dad left the house, my mom said, “Take that boy with you.”
And Dad and my uncle did a lot of (indiscernible) work over there. They thrashed and shelled and harvested and trucked and everything else, so from the time I was old enough to follow along, I was always riding and listening. So a lot of these guys, you know, I knew them from the time I was just a kid. I didn't know what they were doing here, but I knew who they were and I knew where they lived and who they were.
MR. TURNBULL: Jim, maybe what I should do today is run you a copy of that page because --
MR. BARR: That'd be nice. And I've been including material with every interview that anybody would donate. Yeah, that would be great.
MR. TURNBULL: Because otherwise, whoever is going to type this out is going to really be lost on these names.
MR. BARR: No, no, just a copy is fine.
MR. TURNBULL: And as I understand, Larry, this initial board was made up of people from the soil and water conservation districts --
MR. MOORE: Yeah.
MR. TURNBULL: -- and the watersheds, because Wayne Hansen came from (indiscernible) Watershed.
MR. MOORE: They took all those shed districts, then they made what they called a superboard or they kind of culled it down to --
MR. TURNBULL: Twenty-one were on the exec committee.
MR. MOORE: Yeah, the exec committee out of this group. And I think there was more names than just that. I think there was probably some that had dropped out along the way that weren't interested, because when I got involved in it, at that time, they were at the 21 board members and that's when Clyde Ellers said, this is going to be too fast a track for me to run on, and he came up and gave me the big talk. And about an hour later, Ray Burke drove in and about the next morning, Bruce Anderson drove in.
MR. TURNBULL: Did you feel Duane --
MR. MOORE: And about the next day, Morris White called me, and I felt like maybe I just as well go down and sign up. Of course, you had to go through the election process.
MR. TURNBULL: Do you suppose Duane Chamberlain was involved in that?
MR. MOORE: Well, I'm sure Morris White and Ray Burke and -- but Duane could have been. I don't know. But those four guys -- it's pretty hard to say no when you get Clyde and those guys all at once working on you. And I was interested in it, but I just had other things going on, too. And I really just didn't know. What I'd seen of this outfit, they were firing pretty big shots back and forth close to the bow. I didn't know if I wanted to get into it or not.
MR. TURNBULL: So you ran for the first elected board?
MR. MOORE: Yes, I was elected to the four-year term, first election, and Morris got the two-year term.
MR. TURNBULL: And that was November of '74, then?
MR. MOORE: '74, yeah.
MR. TURNBULL: When the election was held. So you took seat January of '75?
MR. MOORE: Yeah. And the one that got the most votes took the four-year term, and the one that got the least took the two-year term. And that's the way it worked out. Morris had the two, and I had the four. Morris was on the Superboard. First Henry Klosterman was on, and Henry stayed a while, but it was really more than he wanted to be on. And John was just a little bit and he said, “I just don't have the time.” He was so active with other things. I knew Morris was real interested, so then Morris stepped in, and Morris served a couple two or three terms or longer. He was on several -- probably ten years altogether, at least. And so that's how we wound up being where we were on the situation. But I didn't -- when I walked in there, I was really dumbfounded. But I'd looked around the table and I knew some of the guys sitting there from other places. I didn't realize I would. I probably had dealt with over half the guys there while I was over in Pierce. I knew Lavern from the 4-H and I knew Bob Schneider (phonetic) from the bank. And Max Roney (phonetic) of course, was -- worked for Miller's. We've gotten old friends, really, so --
MR. TURNBULL: Now, the first manager was Floyd Marsh (phonetic).
MR. MOORE: Yeah.
MR. TURNBULL: And he was -- he started right when the district started.
MR. MOORE: Yeah, they hired Floyd as the -- right as the first employee they had.
MR. TURNBULL: As the first employee.
MR. MOORE: Yeah, and then the secretary -- you'd have to look in our roster, because we went through several of them in pretty short order getting things organized. Well, they were moving their husbands' -- they realized in the '70s, there were a lot of people coming back and forth from the service and moving through and this was kind of a transitional job. And so we had -- we had some good ones, but their husbands would get transferred and they'd be gone. Then the second employee we hired was a young man out of Beatrice, Gary --
MR. TURNBULL: Gary Morgan (phonetic)?
MR. MOORE: Gary Morgan. He was our water -- kind of water associate manager. And then, Gary went to Wyoming for the environmentalists in the coal country, reclamation in the prairie out there in the coal country. And that's the last time that Gary was doing that. He was very interested in range management and that kind of thing, so that really fit his job description. He talked to me quite a little before he applied out there and he said, “I just don't have the management skills that it's going to take to” -- he said, “I've got the technical skills, but,” he said “I just don't think I've got the management skills to handle a big board and keep from getting run over in the shuffle.”
MR. TURNBULL: And you guys thought I did.
MR. MOORE: (Indiscernible).
MR. TURNBULL: Yeah, right.
MR. MOORE: We figured between us, we'd teach each other.
MR. TURNBULL: I remember going to an interview in Holdrege for that job. And I'd worked for companies, private companies, before then. And the executive committee interviewed me and two other fellows, and Russ Cideel (phonetic) was the chairman and Russ came out after that meeting and wanted to know if I could stick around to the next night for the board meeting, and I was hungry and I needed work, and I said yes. And I went to the board meeting and there were 13 board members, and I was petrified during that interview while those 13 fired questions at me. Then I came here and it was 17. I went, oh, boy.
MR. MOORE: I'd never met John, of course, and I had never met any of his family, but one of Duane's comments just kind of off-the-cuff comment, if he's as tough as his uncle is, he'll be a tough bird. (Indiscernible). He had me talk about him, because that's the only uncle you ever had -- I ever heard you talk about.
MR. TURNBULL: Yes. My uncle, Tom Calloway (phonetic). Yep, he --
MR. MOORE: Somehow, Duane had crossed his path.
MR. TURNBULL: Yes.
MR. MOORE: Knew him from background. That was his comment, was, “Tom is his uncle. He'll hang in here.”
MR. TURNBULL: Well, my uncle had been a -- graduated from Fairbury High School and wanted to fly in the Navy. And when he wanted to go in, they had to have some sort of aviation background, so he went into northeast Missouri and found a guy to teach him how to fly in an old Jenny biplane. And then he enlisted in the Navy in 1927 as an enlisted naval aviator, and retired in 1957, had worked his way clear up through jets at the time, with just a high school education. And then went to work for the big aerospace companies, Lockheed and Grumman, United Aircraft. His specialty was as an efficiency engineer. He would go into a place where they had management problems and he would sort out what was wrong with their organization and get it back on track. Did that for a number of years and then decided that -- during this whole time, he'd been investing in farmland in Jefferson County, bought a quarter section. My grandad had farmed down there for years, so it wasn't very far from that place. And he decided he wanted to get a college degree. So he went to the University of Nebraska in animal science, the same time I was there. So, he was in his 50s and I'm 18. And my family always said to me, well, how come can't you get the same grades as your uncle? And I couldn't tell them that I was 18 and chasing women and he was all passed that.
MR. MOORE: But I suspect he had done that.
MR. TURNBULL: I'm sure he had, yes. So then, when he got finished with his college education, his wife was a librarian at Love Library on the city campus. She had two master's degrees, one in English and I don't remember what the other one was in. They moved to Fairbury and he became what he called a gentleman farmer. He said, “I'm not doing this for money. I'm doing it because I want to do it.” And he got interested in flood control works and conservation and was on the Buckley Creek Watershed Board. And from that, then, got merged into the Little Blue Board. And so he was on the initial Little Blue NRD Board. He was their treasurer for a while. Then he later ran for county commissioner in Jefferson County and served a term and we moved to York to be a little closer to them, and the same year he and his wife moved to California and he took up sail planing in the Sierra Nevadas doing ridge flying.
Yeah, I was scared of him until I was about 30 years old. You're right, Larry, he was tough.
MR. MOORE: One of the guys I served on --
MR. TURNBULL: He was fair, but you always wanted to have your facts together. You didn't want to try to smoke him.
MR. MOORE: One of the guys I served on the Commission was from Fairbury, and he'd served with your uncle down --
MR. TURNBULL: Yeah, Noble (phonetic)?
MR. MOORE: No, it was before Noble. I can't really think of the name any more. I'd have to look at my records, but he knew Cal from down there, so he would tell me stories, too, about if Turnbull gets a little testy sometimes, don't worry about it. And he has gotten testy once or twice.
Of course, I would have to say that he's been pretty peaceful with us, too, but we've had some frank discussions. I think he'd have to say that I've probably been testy once or twice, too.
MR. TURNBULL: Once in a while.
MR. MOORE: I came in one time through that door. I was on the snort. I didn't realize I was quite on the snort. There were secretaries going out the back and some little gal, it was her first day here, and she almost didn't come back the next day.
I was the first live NRD director she'd ever seen and I was on the prowl. I think that was the day they were going to have that riot at the water meeting or something. I come here, I wanted the agenda, a bunch of stuff, I wanted it now, I wanted it printed, and I wanted it like this, and I wanted it five minutes ago. And she --
MR. TURNBULL: So, Larry, when you first got on the board, what were the big things the district was wrestling with in '75?
MR. MOORE: The first item I remember talking about on the board after the elections were in in January of '75 was, “We need to do something about that David City drainage problem.” And I think it's done this year, finally.
MR. TURNBULL: We finished in December 2012.
MR. MOORE: And it was on the agenda at least sometime during every year, some part of it. We got pieces of it done, but there'd always be a snag some place along the line. We never quite get the whole thing done. And the second thing was -- that was in January, and the next meeting we talked to, they said, “Oh, we got this Plum Creek problem in Seward. Need to do something about the flooding in Seward.” Well, we still haven't got that quite all done, but we're close. But we had so much problem there, we could not get support. Seward wanted something done upstream, which economically, we could never make it work. And we couldn't really ever get the right people in the office in Seward in the city administration, city managers, and in the board over there to see that it needed to be done down in the creek itself. Finally, when it finally got the right people there and they realized what we were trying to do, then it just went so quick it was unbelievable after we really got the ball rolling. But it took us a long time to get that through what with the -- basically, bought them out through FEMA and built a stream down through the Plum Creek -- or trail and everything. And now I ride it and you can't go over there anytime there isn't somebody riding or walking. It's close to college over there, it's just -- it's the way to do it.
MR. TURNBULL: Yeah, that buyout happened in 1995 with the federal grant with both the City and the district, and Dale Winson (phonetic) was instrumental in getting us lined up for that grant work.
MR. MOORE: That started in 1975, so -- in that, it was a lot of people that was sincere about doing but it was just a matter, you had to just keep putting a little pressure here, a little pressure there. And like I used to tell John sometimes, we just keep counting votes until we get (indiscernible) we want.
He's making (indiscernible). Sooner or later you'll get the right one to work.
MR. TURNBULL: I remember early on, you told me two things. One was, “Never take no for an answer. If they say no, three times, then that's the answer.” And the other advice you gave me was, “On a 17-member board, all you need is nine votes. Any more than that's just gravy.”
MR. MOORE: And that's still true. Well, that's just a fact of life. People are going to have their own opinions and they have good reasons for having their own opinions. You've got to realize that -- why the guy thinks that way. Maybe he actually believes that way. You should respect his thoughts. And then go about trying to reason with enough other people to make your point. I think tonight's going to be a good example of that. The things that I've dreamed and fought and begged and everything on this water board or this committee since I got on in '75 is just about to come into fruit now. And I'm not even on the committee this year and I think it's going to -- 99 percent of what I wanted 25 years ago, I think it's going to get adopted this time around.
MR. TURNBULL: So, when you first got on the board, you talked about the David City project. You talked about Plum Creek. And they had a pretty active conservation program then, didn't they, for terraces and so on?
MR. MOORE: Yeah. And we were just at that point starting to get interested in water quantity, because that was the early '70s and if you remember, about '81 or '82, we had a -- that's pretty dry years in there, so we were always interested in quantity more than research, and there was more into -- like the Benedict project where we worked with the groundwater district on how much water guys were pumping. And you were part of that. How much maybe they were wasting and trying to get efficient. We were involved in that from the very start, because we just bought into that with them. I remember that Benedict project, they came up with average pumpage of about 20 inches up there when they did it. And they thought by extreme management maybe -- extreme management, they could get it to 16 without yields. Well, now we're at the point what was (indiscernible) yield is six-something including 2012 (indiscernible) pumping?
MR. TURNBULL: Yes. The last five years, including last year, is 6.7. Last year's use was 12.2 and that's based on a million acres across the district.
MR. MOORE: And so we basically tripled the acres since I got on the board. And we cut the pumpage about a third. So, I'd say when farmers get accused of not doing their work, I think the farm community, as a group, has done a pretty good job of adopting the equipment and adopting techniques they need to. And they'll get better. But the big pieces are whipped off of it now. I mean, it's going to be now chiseling off a quarter inch here and a quarter inch surface. We've chopped off all the big chunks there is to chop off out there. And the good thing that's going for us now, when I first got on the board, people my dad's age grew up in the '30s and remember developing wells in the '50s. And, oh, boy, Dad (indiscernible) irrigating for fear he was going to lose some water, you know. Well, then, us young tigers came along in the lower '70s and you're in the age enough to know what the lower '70s were. You couldn't not make money in the '70s. I mean, just no matter what happened, you could make money. And so, my generation got the idea we don't ever look back. We just pull bore all the time. Well, then, along come the '80s and we found out that it wasn't quite that way and we were going to have to maybe be -- make some changes we didn't like and adopt. And we were hard to deal with. When regulations come along, my generation said, “By God, I don't need this.” Well, our kids that are doing the farming now that are 50 now, they grew up during the '80s, and they watched some of their dads survived and some of their neighbors didn't survive. So they've got a whole different outlook on how you manage a farm. They manage it more as a business. They really do. Sure, it's a way of life and it's a lifestyle and that, but they're better managers than we were across the board, because they saw how close it was to -- it was just that close. The guys that made it, made it by that much. I mean, you know how that was. And they were there growing up through that, so they're easier to work with now, they're sharper, they're more computer-oriented, and they're just better conservation all the way around than we were. They really are. I've been lucky enough to go through, starting with my uncle back, and seeing all this happen, and now watching these young guys take over. I guess our family kind of illustrates that. Dad always said when I was a kid, I walked behind him. And then when I came from college, we walked side by side. This was dad telling this. He said, “Then I started getting older and slower and Larry kind of started walking away and making a decision, and I just kind of went along behind. And then, pretty soon, I started hearing footsteps behind me. (Indiscernible) was a grandson walking behind me, gaining on me.” Well, now, that grandson is out in front of me. And I'm hearing footsteps back behind me. I can't tell if it's a granddaughter or grandson, but I can hear footsteps coming up behind me, and I think it's pretty neat. Now some guys don't look at it that way, but I think that's pretty neat to be able to have that perspective to see that happen. That's happened with the district. That's why I think this water thing is developing. It's a progression of expertise these kids have developed, because they've -- these computers aren't strange to them. They've grown up in a time of shortage. They know nothing is infinite anymore, everything's finite. So they got that attitude. And that's going to be our salvation, I think.
MR. TURNBULL: Jim, is there some other of the early years' stuff we should cover, you think?
MR. BARR: As long as you got into the sorts of things you -- any kind of problems in getting organized or any particular challenges in that regard?
MR. TURNBULL: No, there haven't been any problems here.
MR. MOORE: I remember one time we took 13 drafts of water regulations to the Seward County paper and he kept yelling he wanted to print our regulations, and I went up there and throwed out 13 drafts and said, “You pick the one we're going to do, because we sure don't know.” He just gave them all back to me and said, “Call me when you get one.” Our biggest thing, and I think it's because we were a young organization growing, until we finally got a committee structure up and running and the committees to respect each others' expertise and judgment, our meetings would go until 2:00 in the morning. I mean, just (indiscernible). Now, we do way more business and the committee meetings get long sometimes, but a two-hour board meeting, unless it's a hearing involved in it or a special presentation, a two-hour board meeting's, probably --
MR. TURNBULL: It's on the long side.
MR. MOORE: Yeah, it probably is the long side.
MR. TURNBULL: Hour and a half is probably more --
MR. MOORE: The committee meetings can sometimes get long, but the committees, we do the heavy lifting and the heavy work.
MR. TURNBULL: Well, I think, Larry, looking back on it, you know, you folks, before I came here were wrestling with those projects you talked about and you have concerns about the groundwater levels. There were some studies underway on groundwater declines, and people were reluctant to listen about possible regulations. And Senator Kremer and others got the Nebraska Groundwater Management Act passed. That happened in 1975. And so, that set up the authorities for districts to establish management areas under the direction of the State Department of Water Resources. And then to draft regulations which were then approved by the State to carry them out for water management. The first district to go through that was the Upper Republican at Imperial. And the second district was this one. This area was declared as what they called a control area in those days, what's now the management area. That was in December of 1977. And that was just before I came here. And then, of course, the next step was to write a set of regulations to carry out the intent of that management area, and that's what Floyd, my predecessor, had started working on with the committees. But there was a lot of hard feelings, I think because nobody really knew what to expect, much like what we see has gone on in the Republican Basin in the last five or six years. And people really get wrapped around the axle about it, because they don't understand what's coming. They don't know what to expect. They don't know what the penalties are going to be. They're not sure they can survive it. They're going to have to do a change in their farming operations to comply with potential regulations. And so that was going on in these communities around York. And so the board, I think, was really representing those people, because each board member came from a particular community and reflected that community's views.
MR. MOORE: We did have a lot of (indiscernible) board members. We still have one or two. That's the biggest thing. And I was fortunate enough, I live in a four-county corner. I don't really have a home county or a home district. And that helped me, because I didn't really feel like I had to protect Polk County or Butler County or York County or Seward County, because I was in all four of them all the time. So that helped me in that point of view. The other guys said, “Well, I'm from York County.” “I'm from Clay County. I got to watch out.” Well, you can't on this board. You're elected at large. You got to represent at large. And I've hammered that from, of course, Maurice Kremer and Ray Burke gave me the lecture early. I had a couple pretty good mentors there, too. I had Ray lead me by the hand and Maurice patting me on the back. Sometimes a little lower when I needed it, in a nice way.
So I was really lucky to be a young guy and have guys like that that I was comfortable talking to. Hans Jensen was a pretty long thinker, too. And Mel Kuska could teach you a lesson or two about politics, too.
MR. TURNBULL: Hans Jensen had been the mayor of Aurora. And Kuska was from east of Geneva.
MR. MOORE: Mel worked for International Harvester for years. But Mel could teach you a thing or two about how to get a motion taken care of.
MR. TURNBULL: He was a parliamentary procedure expert.
MR. MOORE: (Indiscernible) a lesson one time.
MR. TURNBULL: Yeah, tell him about that one.
MR. MOORE: Roy came in and he was against reuse pits and water things in general. So Roy got the board excited. Roy's a good talker.
MR. TURNBULL: You're talking about Roy Stuer (phonetic).
MR. MOORE: Yeah, but Roy could get people excited. But, you know, I always got along with Roy, because I just -- I could handle him. (Indiscernible) later. But anyway, Roy (indiscernible) so Kuska got the list down and he says, “Hmmm, Roy.” He said, “I think you got a pretty good motion, but, you know, this one over here,” he said, “don't you think that's worth leaving in?” “Yeah, that's a pretty good one. Okay, I move we put that one back.” And then we talked a little bit and Mel says, “I've been looking, Roy. You know, this one over here, you know, that don't look too -- don't you” -- “Yeah, I suppose. I would put that back.” We finally get down, there's three pieces left in this proposal that's still on the list to take out. And Roy goes, “Just put them all back in.” (Indiscernible).
And Mel had never raised his voice and never argued with Roy at all. He just kind of keep visiting and changing the subject. “Yeah, that looks okay.”
MR. TURNBULL: Yeah, Mel was slick that way.
MR. MOORE: But Mel was impressive. Mel knew what he was doing. He could look at a piece of paper and remember what he read. And so he was tough, kind of like Bob -- Bob Ellers was tough that way, too. Bob Ellers had a tremendous memory. And, of course, Bob and I didn't always agree. We agreed a lot of times, some we didn't. But Bob never forgot anything. I mean, anything. So sometimes you wished he would, but --
MR. TURNBULL: You live close to Bob.
MR. MOORE: Oh, yes. I've known Bob since I was a teenager, through my uncle. So I've watched Bob blow up for 50 years. And so, when he'd have one of his patented explosions, you know, it didn't bother me, because I'd seen it happening for so long that other guys were running for cover and I was just kind of waiting to see how hot he was going to go this time.
MR. TURNBULL: Well, I'll tell you a quick little story about after I came here. The staff had grown and we needed to keep in touch with folks in the field. And I wanted to set up two-way radios in the vehicles so the staff could communicate with the office and vice versa. And I brought a recommendation to the board and I thought I had it pretty well put together. I had it figured out on the cost and the numbers and what all we needed and brought it to the board and Roy Stuer talked against it and got the motion defeated. And I went back to the exec committee. We reworked all the stuff and we came back the next month with a different proposal and Roy got that thing defeated. And I was really getting discouraged that, can't this guy understand that I've got to be able to talk to the staff in the field? And Bob Ellers pulled me to one side, and he says, “John, you don't understand how to do this. You got to convince Roy it's his idea.” And he says, “Why don't you ask Roy what kind of radios he would get and let's see how that works?” And so I went to Roy and asked him and he told me, “Well, John, why didn't you ask before? This is what you need. You've been down the damn wrong fool road. This is where you need to go.” And we took it to the next board meeting, went through on a unanimous vote.
MR. MOORE: See, you're talking to a couple of old warriors here.
MR. BARR: I had a version of that. We got to ride up on the wilderness area where the buffalo go across the Buffalo Bridge at the Niobrara Wilderness Area. And I can't think of the guy's -- Bob-something was the manager and he says -- and he showed us kind of how, you know, they've got the corrals to run them across the bridge from the regular one where they've got the pens. But, once you get over there, there's no fence. It's just the outside perimeter fence. And he showed us where you've got them down by the river and then they go up the hill and go across the bridge. And he said, “Just remember, you never chase a buffalo. You let them escape in the direction you want them to.”
MR. MOORE: Yeah, that's exactly right. You let them escape. That's kind of like herding a horse into a trailer.
MR. BARR: I've got one thing that we have had some discussion of Ann doing a paper based on some of these interviews that could explore the possibility for the Water Center -- or for the Water Improvement Center to look at natural resource districts as an example of a way to organize institutional arrangements for natural resource related issues throughout the world. And I guess I just raise the question to you whether you've got any thoughts on that general -- either of you, or both of you, on that general idea.
MR. TURNBULL: Well, I think that, one, that if some other country's going to try it, I think they need to have a pretty well-established democracy setup, that it can't be a government from the top down, because this is certainly not that way. This is pretty grassroots and it's local, even though we cover several counties. And we think it works pretty well from the local level. The board tackles some really hard issues. They wrestle with a lot. They finally reach some kind of decisions. It's funded locally. If you, as a farmer or an irrigator, don't like what we're doing, you can walk in this office any day of the week and talk to me about it, or you can go find Larry at his farm and talk to him about it or any of the other directors or staff members. And if it's coming from the state or federal level, you know as being associated with the federal government, the state -- it's very difficult to find somebody who actually is in the decision-making power to be able to talk to them. But I think, unless a country is structured right and they have that working knowledge, I'm not sure that would work very well for them. It can't be dictated from above. It has to come up from the bottom.
MR. MOORE: And there's three things that need to make it work and one is that it's local. One is, like John said, this local. And it needs to be small enough to be so the people on that board know the area, and big enough to have a resource base that can generate some income to do the work. But the thing that is going to have to really make it work to start with, is you're going to have, like John said, it's got to be a democracy, and it's going to have to be people that have enough just plain honesty in them to not start siphoning the money out of the pot, because so many times, you have these self-help groups, especially if the money is coming from downstairs, well, we're seeing that over there overseas now, there's too many guys taking a piece along the way. And we've had some managers and probably some board members who have tried to get (indiscernible) in this organization. But they have been fairly summarily dealt with.
MR. TURNBULL: It didn't take long.
MR. MOORE: And it's not just slap on the fingers. I mean, it's not, you know, go --
MR. TURNBULL: They're essentially gone.
MR. MOORE: Yeah, it's don't let the door hit you on the way out. And we'll help shut the door, too, while you're going. That's the biggest thing I think it takes. Nebraska doesn't really have political graft. There's a (indiscernible). I'm sure there's some shenanigans going. But in, I'd say, small town Nebraska, all of Nebraska is small town, even Omaha, is still a fairly honest type of government. There's not anybody trying to skim the government. We did get a board member, though, that came in here not too many elections ago, that really thought this was going to be a nice retirement program. He thought he'd be able to get on the district's insurance and the per diem and make a nice little living, you know. He was disabused of that within --
MR. TURNBULL: Minutes.
MR. MOORE: -- an hour (indiscernible).
Yeah, probably minutes, but within the first hour, he definitely had that straightened out. But it took him about six months for him to leave. He was just convinced that there had to be some way that we were all making nice -- this was a nice retirement program and that we all had insurance and benefits and vacations. Well, if they do, I've sure been lied to for 40 years. I'll still -- somebody's kept me fooled. But it would work, I think, like, in Canada it would work. I think what I've seen of that type up there. Now, if you get into an area that doesn't really trust the government, I don't know if it would work there or not, because you got to have some money coming from the bottom, but you've got to have some money coming down to you, too. And you got to have the money getting to where it needs to go. That's the biggest thing.
MR. TURNBULL: Well, I think public trust is super important.
MR. MOORE: Yeah. And I'm convinced here, I wouldn't be sitting here if I had any doubts about it, that anybody can walk in here anytime and look at our books, and there's no doubt in my mind they might be off a postage stamp, but there'd be hell to pay if there was a dollar gone. Somebody'd keep digging for a while here. I mean, sure there's times when there's -- where in the heck, how come this don't balance, but it always balances before the dust settled. I mean, that just happens.
MR. TURNBULL: Let me kind of follow up on that, going back to our earlier conversation about our initial days dealing with the water regulations. We talked a bit about the discord on the board because of the local community's thoughts. Well, when I first came here, there was -- the board was really split politically on what to do about water regulation. Of course, we had the committee meetings that Larry had talked about, and what we were finding was, a committee, no matter whether it was working with the David City project, or whether it was working on water regulations, or some education program, they would do a lot of work on it, take that recommendation to the board, and the board would do the work all over again. And it was really frustrating to me coming in here to see that going on. It took me a while to figure out what was happening. And finally, it dawned on me that the prior manager, he didn't do this to try to keep things secret, but he did it to streamline things, and that would be, he would send a notice of the meeting out for a committee meeting to those committee members, only those on the projects committee or only those on the water committee. And the meeting would be held, and the other directors felt they were left out and that something was going on in secret. But it was not. Those meetings were open, but they hadn't -- they didn't feel that they were included. So, one of the first things I did, then, was to send those committee notices out to the entire board and say everybody can come. And it took about a year after that, but things started to settle down and the board started to trust what the committee was coming up with. But the same time, all this controversy about the groundwater regulation potential was going on. And about the second day I was on the job, we had that big hearing at the city auditorium. There were, like, 400 mad farmers at that thing. And the board had proposed a draft set of regulations, and we were trying to explain to the crowd what those were. The crowd was explaining to us that they didn't want anything to do with any of that stuff. And so it was a very contentious meeting. And from that, then, we developed some more drafts, and the paper thought sure that we were keeping things from the public, that we just weren't being honest with people. And as Larry said earlier, then finally we demanded to go see the editor of the local paper and said, you know, “Why are you keeping on our case?” And he says, “Well, you're not giving me the draft so I can publish the draft so the public has their right to read this and know what you folks are talking about.” And Larry said, “Well, here are 13 drafts. You pick which one you think we're going to settle on.”
MR. MOORE: Because we didn't know.
MR. TURNBULL: Yeah, there hadn't been a decision made and the editor picked those all up and just pushed them back across the desk and said, “Well, you guys let me know when you get it settled.” “Okay.” But that first year was super contentious and it took a long time to get over that. The other thing that was going on at the same time, because the district was new, the board was really involved in the day-to-day management of the staff. When we had a field office secretary that would quit, those field office secretaries work for the Soil Conservation Service, as our employee, but worked with the federal agency. When one of them would move on, we'd need to replace them. Well, the board wanted to be involved in the interviewing of that clerk, and that's several rungs down from the board members. And they also wanted to -- we got over that hurdle, then they wanted to be involved in setting the salary for each individual. And it took a long time to get the trust established with the board that that ought to be my job and not the board's job. That they set the boundaries, I got to stay within the boundaries. But once we started that, that took a lot of those little decisions off the board's back, and I think the board's been much more content since then, because they can concentrate on the big stuff and not worry about the little stuff.
MR. MOORE: I've got two things I want to say (indiscernible). Finish yours, John.
MR. TURNBULL: So, anyway, the board now is really -- deals with the budget and deals with the policy. And we, the staff, deal with the day-to-day. And I think that's something, if somebody else is looking to set something up like this, they really got to think about is, you've got to have that distinction between the two. And if there's a problem with a staff member out here, the board lets me know and I've got to deal with it, because they know how to cure the problem, and that's, like I said, it takes nine votes and I'm toast, so --
MR. MOORE: That worked out as it did, though, because John brought in the military mindset, you know, chain of command and responsibility. And there was a nucleus on the board, and I was one of the nucleus, there was about five that were trying to drive that way, that the board adopts the budget. The board makes sure the funding is there. The board sets the staffing numbers and job descriptions, and gives the manager the authorization to fill those descriptions. And then, if I don't like what that employee's doing, that's too damn bad. He's got to make John happy. But that employee still has a right, if he's getting yanked, to come to the board. So once we got that established, what our level -- our level is to fund it, establish the plans, establish the perimeters, and then each buddy fits in his notch and stays there. And it works slicker than a button now. It took a while.
MR. TURNBULL: It took a while, yes.
MR. MOORE: But the thing on the regulations that was hard, that was so contentious, we were all working with guesses and opinions on water levels and what was going to happen. We were looking -- we knew what happened so far and trying to guess what was going to happen. Now, with all the data we've collected in the last 40 years, just like I said, 6.7 inches, we know we've pumped 6.7 inches the last six years. We've got the meter readings to prove it, and so people accept that. And we've got a lot better understanding of what's down there from all the resources. So it's easier to defend a position. And with that, I'm going to let John tell the story about when Roy wanted a gavel. That's how you handle, sometimes, a board member that needs a little help.
MR. TURNBULL: We used to meet up in the 4-H building before we moved down to this facility, for our board meetings. And we traditionally set up a U-shaped table for the board members. And the chairman sits in the center of the head table and I sit next to the chairman. And the two of us are conversing in the board meeting what the next agenda item is, who needs to speak, what points need to be covered, and just the procedural stuff. And Larry was chairman at the time and he was sitting on my right. I no longer sit on the chairman's right. I sit on the other side of them. But anyway, Larry's sitting on the right and I'm sitting on the left at this head table, and the directors are out here and we're having some heated discussion. I don't even remember what it was about. And Roy Stuer starts telling Larry how things ought to be done and how the meeting ought to be run.
MR. MOORE: And he wished he had a gavel.
MR. TURNBULL: And Larry is left-handed. And Larry picks up this gavel and he goes, “Well, then, Roy, you run the god-damned meeting.” And he flung that gavel across my chest and zipped Roy right in the chest with that thing.
MR. MOORE: Roy slid back about two feet in the chair. I didn't really mean to put that much whip on it, but I got (indiscernible). I heard it hit.
And it hit the floor and Roy picked it up and he walked around very quietly said, “I think maybe you dropped this.”
And Roy and I had always gotten along pretty good, but we solved the problem and it needed to be solved, because Roy was just having fun being Roy that night. We didn't have time for that that night. But, yeah, Max Roney and John just both of them turned white. I hadn't realized I was that -- I must have backhanded John, because I didn't --
MR. TURNBULL: You did backhand me, yes.
MR. MOORE: You know, I remember my wrist -- well, you know, you can do that, and being left-handed, it was a perfect shot. I couldn't have done that if I had thrown a baseball over.
MR. TURNBULL: Well, things have settled down considerably.
MR. MOORE: Yeah, we haven't had to throw a gavel in years.
MR. TURNBULL: The other quick one that folks will enjoy is was when we worked on the David City project in early years, Al Smith, who you interviewed not long ago, was the manager at the Lower Platte North. And he and the city administrator came down to meet with our projects committee about some details in the agreements. Ray Burke was chairing the projects committee. And in the middle of this projects committee, Al Smith and Roy Stuer got into an argument about how something ought to be done. And Roy, being his usual self, lipped of and said, “Al, I'll kiss your butt before we'll do this.” So, Al stood up, unbuckled his pants and dropped them, right there in the meeting.
And Ray said, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, wait a minute, wait a minute.”
That meeting was completely out of control. But we haven't had that sort of thing happen for a long time.
MR. MOORE: John's got a meeting. I've got to catch a ride. I'm riding with him today, so I've got to go.
MR. BARR: Thank you very much for doing this.
MR. MOORE: Doug Dickenson's (phonetic) on the board, what, 20 years or so?
MR. TURNBULL: Yes, more than that. Thirty years.
MR. MOORE: Anyway, the first -- the last meeting before he was going to take office, he was succeeding Jerry Higelholz (phonetic). So Jerry brought him along and said, “Doug, you ought to come and sit here once so you kind of get your feet wet.” So, we're meeting upstairs here and Doug's in the back of the room, and it's one of those contentious nights when I was chairing the meeting and Bob was on a rip. And Bob and I were going back and forth, and not pulling any punches. We were getting pretty sharp. And Doug's back there. And there's some other guys jumping in, too. It's coffee break time. I said, “Okay, it's break time.” We all get up and go back in the back where the coffee pots, and Bob tells a story to me and, “Yeah.” I tell Bob a story, we have our coffee and donuts and we go back and sit down. “Okay, we're back in session again.” And it's “Boom,” it's Bob and me right back face-to-face. Now, Doug was just really quiet, and Jerry says, about halfway home Doug says, “How in the hell do you know when to stand up and when to sit down?”
And Jerry said, “You'll learn.” Doug said, “I understood how they fought, you know, and all that.” Then he said, “They took this coffee break and everybody's telling stories.” Kind of like that old cartoon with the coyote and the dog, you know, and then he said, “They sat down again and it's just boom, it's instant.” He said, “I just couldn't believe it.” He said, “They were just like they didn't even have that break. It was just like it was a boxing match or something.” And, of course, we'd always (indiscernible) we could do that. And I could ride home with Bob Ellers. I could ride to Kansas City with Bob Ellers, but we'd probably have a fight in Kansas City (indiscernible). And we could have the best time going back and forth together and sharing meals, because business was business, and social was social. That's the way it is now on the board. Young members coming in or new members coming in, we have to really work with them off in the corner, tell them, “Now, if you get your nose slapped, don't go pouting, because you're expected to -- if you take a position, you better defend it. And we expect you to. But we're not going to pick on you either.” But then once they understand that, that's just the way it is. Then your committees work, because they know there hasn't been anything good ol' boy system done over in the corner. Of course, we'll go now, but that's where Scott Moore when he worked the Legislature, first time he had to make a speech, he and Senator Chambers got into a jaggle, and, of course, Scott, being senator, was being paid, but Chambers, “I want to (indiscernible). I'd like to ask Senator Moore where he learned to have this -- such devastating one-liners that cut to the bone so quick for a junior senator.” And Scott says, “When I was five years old under my Uncle Kenny Moore's kitchen table, I learned, you can take any position you want, but you got to fry your own fish.”
And Ernie never let that drop. He said, “Okay.” You can have any position you want, but you got to fry your own fish. Ernie said, “I've never heard any comment like that.” And Scott was political, and Scott is a master of the one-liner. He can get to the point with one line and either win or lose on it. And you won't realize he's done it until you try to walk away, and discover all your parts aren't attached.
Well, we got to go. John's got to be in Ulysses in an hour, don't you?
MR. BARR: Well, thank you very much, Larry.
MR. TURNBULL: Thanks, Larry, see you. You coming in tonight?
MR. MOORE: I think I better.
MR. TURNBULL: Okay, be a good idea.
MR. MOORE: Since I'm not on the committee, I can sit back and do this now. He just wants me sitting back there just looking grim, don't you?
MR. TURNBULL: I need my two gorillas tonight.
MR. MOORE: No, Rigere and I, we're the gorillas. You can tell him the story how that came about. We don't know how they're spelling it, for sure. There's two versions of which gorilla we are, but anyway, we're his gorillas.
MR. BARR: Anything else you want to add?
MR. TURNBULL: I don't think so. I think we covered a lot of ground.
MR. BARR: Thank you.