Happy Birthday Mr. Hanley

By Shannon Johnson

On March 9, 2019 a Baker resident celebrated his 90th birthday. Pat Hanley has countless stories to tell from over the years, from his family’s homestead to his experience raising five kids and ranching.

Pat’s father was born in 1891 in the Herreid, S.D. area. “The only way you could get around was with horses, so he was a horse man,” said Pat. “When he got to be about sixteen, he helped thresh crops.”

Pat’s mother was born in 1892 in Iowa. Sometime during her childhood, his mother’s family moved to the Fargo area, where she attended high school. After high school she received her teaching certificate. After two years of teaching in the area, she moved to where Pat’s dad was at, around the Dale, S.D. area.

Pat’s dad traveled on a train to Plevna, where he would get a horse and go to find a homestead outside of town in 1913. After starting his homestead, he traveled back and married Pat’s mother. They would then gather the supplies needed to build their home and their barn.

There was no time to waste, and the Montana ranch life began immediately, before they had even gotten a chance to build or become settled. He would bring his crops into the town of Plevna. “He hauled it to Plevna in a wagon box with three horses on the front, so it would take two days in and one day out,” Pat described. “You’ve got to imagine hauling that stuff, the material, twenty miles. No house, no fences, they must have slept under a tarp for quite a while.” While Pat’s father was busy farming and ranching, his mother, along with raising five kids in their 24×24 home, would ride horseback to a local school house where she would teach.

During prohibition, Pat’s father took to bootlegging moonshine. “The way this worked, he or somebody else would go someplace and there would be a couple of jugs of moonshine sitting there by a post. He would pick them up and put an gallon on one side of the horse and the other gallon on the other side and he would take them home. He would process them. He would pour that gallon of moonshine in a washtub and he would add enough water to make thirty-two pints and they would caramelize sugar and mix it with this to make it so that you could drink it,” he explained. “They’d go to a dance or a card party all through them years, political parties. He would walk through the crowd and get two dollars a pint for that moonshine.”

“I was born in ‘29, but I didn’t do much for a couple years,” Pat joked. When he turned ten, he was able to ride a horse, and began helping herd sheep. At the age of thirteen he knew how to start a tractor and do plowing. It was time for Pat to start high school, and his mother took one of the socks Pat’s father had filled with money to buy a house in Baker.

“I was seventeen or eighteen when I discovered girls,” said Pat. After she chased him for several years throughout high school and her nursing school, he would marry his wife and the mother of his children, Kay.

“We were going to have Pete, Repeat, and Done, but we had Overdone and Oops,” he laughed. “We had five kids.” Pat’s kids attended school in the country and in Plevna and are now scattered around the country.

“Kay got cancer about fifteen years ago,” Pat said. “People say she died of cancer, and we shouldn’t have to say that, but we do.” After fifty-seven years of marriage Pat lost his bride to cancer.

Pat sold his ranch and left himself with free-time. Now days, Pat spends his time being involved with his church, the place where he met his bride, Linda. “There was a lady in the Baker Community Church sitting by herself, so I asked her and she said yes, so we’ve been married ten years,” he smiled.