Wife, 66, splits wood to stay healthy

By H.G. (MONK) TYSON T-H Staff Writer (Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, early 1949)

Ed. note:  [Ada Mahala (Durfey) Thurn:  8 Aug 1882–11 Feb 1953]   [James Joseph “Joe” Thurn: 26 Nov 1873–22 Apr 1953]

Littleport, Ia.— Breaking a colt to pull a corn plow is a man-sized job for most people, but to Ada Thurn it’s just part of the day’s work.

Ada (pronounced Aidy in Littleport) took off from her daily job of splitting and hauling wood on Dec. 27 and with her husband, Joe, celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. 

Sawing, splitting and delivering a load of wood a day; breaking an unruly colt to harness; husking corn—these are routine chores for Mr. and Mrs. Joe Thurn. Joe is 75, Ada is 66.

During winter months when farm work slows down, Joe and Ada keep in shape by cutting wood and selling it to residents of Littleport. Joe saws it on a timber tract on one of their two farms, hauls it to the house in blocks, and Ada splits and delivers it in a wagon.

When their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren paid a surprise visit on their golden wedding anniversary, Ada dropped her axe, sent someone into the timber for Joe, and the gang had a big party.

“Just like it was when me and Joe played the fiddle and piano at dances,” Ada exclaimed. “Boy, did we ever tear into that wedding cake and ice cream!”

Ada and Joe attribute their long-lasting vigor to outdoor life. “When I catch a cold, best thing in the world for me is a day in the fresh air,” said Ada. “Instead of taking medicine, I go without food for a day”

Ada rode a corn plow three times last spring while breaking the colt to harness. To show the frisky animal    that he couldn’t shove her around, Ada hitched him to a wagon to complete his harness education.

“Thirty years ago,” Ada declared “I thought nothing of walking 12 miles to Edgewood and back in a day.”

“If George Baker of Decorah has a walking contest next year for women I’m going to get in it.” (Baker, mayor of Decorah, sponsored a walking contest for men a few weeks ago. To win $50 a contestant was to walk 9.2 miles in an hour and 55 minutes, carrying a 60-pound sack of grain on his back. Only two men finished in less than the required time.)

Joe and Ada have raised four children. They are Mrs. William (Clara) Wistrick, of Elkader; Mrs. Ben (Mable) Diehl, of Waterloo; Mrs. Fritz (Beulah) Krinkey, of Beloit, Wis.; and Harlan Thurn of Littleport.

From the time they were married until a few years ago, Ada and Joe played for most of the dances in this neck of the woods.  Joe wielded a mean fiddle bow while Ada plunked out accompaniment on a piano. Before pianos were supplied adequately in this neighborhood, Ada played a melodian.  “When Clara and  Mable were little  ones, me and Joe would take them up to Communia when we played for a dance there,” Ada recalled. “They’d climb over the piano until they got sleepy. Then we’d bundle them up and let them sleep on the stage. Many’s the time we played all night.” r Life in Littleport is as bright for Joe and Ada as it could be in an exciting vacation land. Their longest trip was to South Dakota several years ago. “But we got so darned homesick we almost went, crazy.” Ada recalled