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Flagging a Red Barn
Frank Bootz was an experienced Beadle County house mover in an era when such a man was considered a community asset, like having a courthouse or a good fishing lake.
Recycling then meant a return trip on a bicycle, but house movers like Bootz saved hundreds of tons of lumber and brick from being pushed into creeks or buried in primitive landfills. Using little more than hydraulic jacks and some cables, they loaded homes, barns and commercial structures onto their rugged flatbed trucks. Sometimes the move was a few yards and occasionally it was a hundred miles: the practicality of a long haul was decided by the number of REA and telephone lines that stood in the way.
Sadly, every year brought new trucking laws and insurance regulations that made house moving more difficult. The story is still told of the day when a young highway patrolman stopped Bootz while he was moving a big red barn down Highway 14 between Wolsey and Huron. The patrolman puled out his citation book and began to berate the old man for failing to display the necessary red signal flag at each corner of his wide load.
Bootz slowly began to lose his patience, and finally he spoke in his own defense: “If they can’t see a big red barn, then how in the hell are they going to see a little red flag?” he asked.
The lawman’s face turned as red as the barn — and then, to his credit, he closed his ticket book and sent Bootz on his way with the barn.
Editor’s Note: This story appeared in the May/June 2008 issue of South Dakota Magazine. To order a copy or to subscribe, call 800-456-5117.