Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Tanny and Nanny Olsen

Larry and Dorothy Olsen

Now I don't know how much of this story is true but there are legends and then there is truth, today we will err on the side of legend.

Larry, Bob, Bill, Jim and Vea Harris were the children of N.T. Olsen, who and by the way were my dad's first cousin even though our last name is Olson.  It would take too much time and we would still not be able to explain the connection since Larry's sister, Vea Harris, passed away and she was the only person besides my dad who could explain all of the connections.  Don't get yourself confused but yes there are two Larry's, one being an Olsen and one being Olson which is my brother.  Just as another side note, Mrs. Head, "don't be  too critical of my long sentences.  OK, OK, back to the story.  Tanny who was married to Nanny (that is not funny but the truth about their names)were big time ranchers with 10's of thousands of acres and smart and tough as they come.  They were Larry's parents and when you see the picture above of Larry and Dorothy at their 50th wedding anniversary you have seen Tanny.  Larry is the spitting image of Tanny, amazing how much they look alike.  Tanny was a legend to me due the stories told by my dad.

Dad, Cliff Olson, went to work for Tanny out of high school Womega Kansas, at the ripe old age of 18.  Womega and Levenworth Kansas area is where the Harris, Olsen and Olson families collided before all winding up in Grainola and the Osage.  In fact Tanny and Nanny lived in Hardy which is between Newkirk and Grainola near the old train trussel (another story).  Dad told me many times how Tanny and Nanny were great at handling money and that is why they were successful plus Tanny had a knack for buying and selling cattle and purchasing land plus he worked hard.  Dad always said that Tanny taught his children to work hard and take responsibility.  One of the quotes I remember most was dad telling me Tanny's philosophy was, "if you take care of the pennies the dollars will take care of themselves".  Now I will have to tell you I read, study and help folks everyday to manage their money and invest it wisely but that simple statement sums up all the books you can read on how to handle money.  Dad told me many a story about rounding up the cattle and loading them on the train then sometimes riding the train with the cattle or driving with Tanny to Kansas City to sell the cattle.  Tanny really liked my dad and trusted him.  In fact Tanny use to comment how dad was the hardest worker he knew and could count cattle better than anyone when loading on a train.

As I think back about those stories dad always told me how Tanny could drink a pint of whiskey a day.  He told me that Tanny always had a bottle hidden in the corn barn and near gates in the pastures  so that Nanny would not know he had it.  What strikes me as funny about that is I never considered that dad and Tanny were doing a lot of drinking but that just Tanny was.  Somehow I think that perception was wrong although dad did not drink once he had kids.  Also I remember dad  telling me about him and mom going dancing at Big Beaver to see Bob Wills and The Texas Playboys and he never mentioned any drinking.  I wonder if mom and dad ever drank a bear?   Anyway, dad use to joke that drinking is what killed Tanny as Tanny lived until about 90 years old.  Not to get too focused  on whiskey but dad told me about the whiskey manufacturing facility on highway 18 at the state line where everyone could go since Oklahoma was dry, meaning no liquor.  Dad also told me about the house across from the Casselman's where there was a trap door in the living room and the man that lived there was a bootlegger, meaning he brought in illegal whiskey and sold it out of his living room.

OK, back to Tanny.  Tanny somehow made a connection to a lady rancher down in Louisiana where every year they would take a bunch of cowboys from the Osage and go down there to round up cattle to bring back to the tall grasses of the Osage for fattening.  They would literally purchase a train load of cattle each year.  They were Brahmas (pronounced brammers)  which were really skinny and in fact a few died every year on the train and during the winter in Oklahoma but dad said they bought them cheap enough that you could afford to lose a few.  Tanny would get all of his cowboys to saddle up their horses and ride through the swamps and bayous for several days to round up the cattle.  In particular one time dad told me about when they were driving some steers across a bayou and Tanny told all the cowboys to get on the raft to cross the bayou and dad said he would just ride his horse across.  However while crossing the swampy water dad said there were two water moccasins that crawled up on his horse and dad was deathly scared of snakes.  Dad said, "there was not enough room on that horse for him and two snakes".  Dad could not swim (another story) but he said he about walked on water getting to the raft after leaving that horse.

What I always liked about the stories of Tanny is that he represented a visionary and a risk taker, yet a good business man who understood the risk and reward of free enterprise.  Tanny was rewarded for those risks and his hard work.  Isn't that what America was about?  I think if you include religious freedom and freedom from TAXES you find the Pilgrims and Columbus and Tanny in the same category, Great Americans.

So what do you learn in the Osage?

  • Luck comes to those who work hard and take a calculated risk
  • Some times you win and some times you lose
  • True grit is not in the movies but in the folks who built the Osage and other rural communities
  • If you want financial freedom, "take care of the pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves"
  • A little drinking does not kill anyone but knowing Christ as a personal savior can cure a lot of what ales you
thanks for your time,

1 comment:

Yves Iradukunda said...

Very inspiring story of Tanny. Hard work and taking "calculated risks" are my favorite parts of the story.

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