Curtis Dahlgren
Common sense is a Paine sometimes: William Dempster Hoard (part 2)
By Curtis Dahlgren
July 4, 2016

"I can inform ten men easier than I can reform one." – Governor W.D. Hoard (Wisconsin, 1888)

"ANCESTRY SHOULD STAND AS AN INSPIRATION, NOT AS AN ALIBI," he also said. You can almost tell from this that he was a fan of Abraham Lincoln and heard him speak three times. He once borrowed a horse and rode more than 100 miles to hear Honest Abe. Another of his sayings was:

"The cow is the foster mother of the human race."

So why should you waste your time reading about a cow man? If you are one of those who read my first Hoard article, you already know the answer. He rose from farm hand to door-to-door salesman to selling animal husbandry almost before the ag colleges had discovered the subject. In his own time he was 25 years ahead of his time, and much of his wisdom is way ahead of some people today.

"With but a small percent of our young people attending so-called higher institutions of learning, he laid great stress on the importance of the elementary school, which, in its influence upon public welfare, he believed to be much greater than the college or university." – George Rankin, biographer

That sentence would still apply to many urban youths today, half of whom get a so-called diploma without being able to read or write. And of course the elementary schools are being run by those who consider themselves "the best and the brightest." Like the two-story outhouse, the incompetence trickles down from the so-called HIGHER education. And when concerned citizens try to "reform" education and get back to the basics, they are ridiculed and called racists! Just ask Wisconsin today.

"While Hoard may have been over severe in his criticism of 'higher education,' it must be admitted that there is some foundation in fact for his conclusions. . . Stong men are very apt to smile at the good folks who chase the genealogical trail. They believe that it is preferable to be standard by performance rather than by pedigree . . A great many people know a great many things that aren't so." – Rankin

Ain't that the truth? His number one issue as governor was to make mandatory the teaching of English in all Wisconsin schools, public or private, and he was voted out when he ran for reelection. He lived to see his dreams come true – in animal husbandry and English-as-first-language. HOWEVER, a century later you are considered a kook if you want an "official" American language – English! In fact, the ATM at my credit union gives you several choices, and English isn't the first choice; French is!

Anyway, the 8th-grade-graduate-only Hoard turned down a cabinet appointment as Secretary of Agriculture. He could have run for the U.S. Senate and easily won, but chose to stay close to his dairy farm and his baby, the Hoard's Dairyman magazine, which is still being published.

"Now and then there is a man of the Ex-Governor Hoard stamp. His speech was not framed for the ear alone. His words sank deep into the hearts and consciences of men. We have yet too good an opinion of mankind to think that it will be unmoved by such leadership. The process may be slow, but we think it will be sure. If so, the time will come, however long delayed, when men like William Dempster Hoard will be recalled from private life to public station. Then surely will the statesman supersede the politician, the patriot supplant the demagogue." -Appleton Post

Mr. Rankin noted that though he never went back to public office, the sun never set on the farmers subscribing to the Hoard's Dairyman, and feeding the world is kind of a bigger deal! Just one more example of America blessing the world. Prophecies fulfilled. And if you're a "highly" educated millenial, you've probably never heard how we have been a blessing to the world. You've only heard America and its Founders condemned by "higher ed" in the name of non-judgmentalism and moral equivalence. There were no heroes before the 1960s – in the modern version of social science that passes for history. Rankin tells of a story Hoard told whenever he was hard pressed in his defense of practical education over the abstract stuff.

"A group of soldier boys were discussing Grant. One said, 'Grant is not a man of talent. With him it is all bull dog luck – why, he can't even make a speech. . . At the edge of the group was a negro who had been a slave and a waiter in a hotel in New Orleans since childhood. He had secretly learned to read, and was in many particulars a most original thinker. He seemed pained at this shallow, flippant judgment of General Grant, and asked if he might speak a few words. . .

"He said, 'According to my observation there are two kinds of talent among men. Both must be thinkers and both must think toward expression. The first think toward expression in words. To this class belong the writers, poets, and orators. The second class think toward expression in deeds. To this class belong the artists, architects, captains of industry, military commanders, and workers everywhere.'"

Governor Hoard lobbied for respect for the common farmer. "There is nothing wrong with agriculture," he said. "The fault lies with a vicious system of education which teaches that certain occupations are smart and genteel, such as law, medicine, and theology, and that farming is the occupation of the boor and the sluggard." There must be a lesson in there people who think every kid should go to college (for free).

Some prominent educators were at "variance" with him, but they all recognized the scholar in him, and it was as a member of the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents that he did the most for agricultural education in Wisconsin, and thus the nation. And his father wasn't even a dairy farmer. Back in rural New York, he providentially had an excellent dairyman for a neighbor who mentored him along the course that his life would take. The book is "The Life of William Dempster Hoard" (1925), and what a life it was!

"Omnivorous reader though he was, there were three texts that had a more profound influence upon his life, according to his own assertion than all of the other books that ever came to his hand. They were the Holy Bible, Pilgrim's Progress, and Lacon (or "many things in few words") by an English clergyman named Colton."


P.S. Speaking of "workers everywhere," when I started climbing trees for a living, John Kennedy was President, and there wasn't much competition for the job. According to a page one story in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel the other day, people are now paying to join clubs and to learn how to climb trees just for fun. It may in time surpass rock climbing in popularity. Guess I was ahead of my time. They had to pay me to do it, although that never ceased to amaze me. I never worked "a day in my life" after quitting cow milking. Because I did what was fun! Take that, ye who disparage "workers" who, according to the elites, shouldn't have any say in writing opinions on the world situation!

© Curtis Dahlgren


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Curtis Dahlgren

Curtis Dahlgren is semi-retired in southern Wisconsin, and is the author of "Massey-Harris 101." His career has had some rough similarities to one of his favorite writers, Ferrar Fenton... (more)


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