Laura Belle McMullin
June 5, 1929
April 14, 2017
Place of Birth: Dore, North Dakota
Residence: Sidney, Montana
Laura Belle Fletcher McMullin was born on June 5, 1929, one mile north of Dore, ND, in Sam Stubbs house, to Joe and Sarah (Cummins) Fletcher. They moved to the hill farm (4 miles NW of Dore in the spring of 1932). Her first years with the whirlwinds, heat and all the familiar words “we can’t afford it” and “don’t waste that!” The farm didn’t yield much profit.
Laura loved the outdoors always, and delighted to help her mother with the farm chores. As soon as she could open the gates, she was sent to the pasture to bring the milk cows in for milking and back out the next morning. She started milking when she was 4 years old. The milk was separated and put in the cellar, under the bedroom, as all food that needed to be cool. There was a trap door with rung ladder to get down there. The extra cream was put in a five gallon cans, taken to the Dore Depot and shipped on the “Goose” to the creamery in Minot, ND. How welcome the check was three days later in the mail. Her mom always checked to see how much butter fat there was. Her little Jersey/Guernsey cow’s milk was so rich. Gardening was also a life sustaining factor and not an easy one without water except what we carried up the hill from the windless pump well. (It was a bucket on a rope that was lowered on a horizontal pole, using a handle on one end to turn it). The only other water on the place was a stock dam built by her dad and brother, Sam in about 1930 that was in their pasture. In 1938, the WPA built a bigger dam on Ferry Coulee, behind the house. During the next spring run-off, it washed out, was very devastating to the family and was one very few times she saw her mother cry. They did come back and rebuild the dam, but it still didn’t hold water very well, water was used to irrigate some land of one of the neighbors and also was used to water the stock. It was later discovered and used as a community swimming hole and Laura loved all the kids and others that came to swim!
Laura rode her little bay horse, “Dandy” to a one room school about 4 miles through the hills. It was known as the Church School near the Four Mile Church, The school was on the Ray Wallace place. The school had an entry way, where the teacher kept her roll-a-way bed during the day, as she lived there during the week. On the grounds were two “outhouses” and a two stall barn with a small feed bin for their horses. She did not go to school the first three winters, just studied at home. In the fourth grade she stayed with the teacher during the winter months. Fifth grade found her staying in the valley with family and friends and going to school in Dore. Sixth was more an open winter and she had a faster horse, so she went the full year there missing only a few days do to storms or cold.
Due to lack of students, the school was consolidated with Nohly, however, she did not relish the idea of riding over the Missouri Breaks so her dad went to bat for her and she went to Dore. Laura rode two miles the other way, left her horse in the Herman Johnson barn and walked out to the road and caught the bus for the next two miles. She did this for the next five years. She went to Fairview High School and graduated with the class of 1948. While attending high school she worked in a private home for her board and room, in the winter months, usually went home on the week-ends. After high school graduation she worked for her sister, Geneva helping her with her family. Her first contribution to her folks was buying them a propane refrigerator. Her mom was really appreciative of that convenience, but it was not large enough, her mom said.
Laura’s fun times were quite simple. Her saddle horses were her constant companions, for pleasure or necessity. She did get to drive the family car her senior year, otherwise her horses were transportation. In the winter they went ice skating and sleigh rides, and in the summer was swimming. Cards were a great part of their family entertainment. Laura remembered sitting on Sear catalogs at the table to play “Pitch” and if she didn’t have the Ace of Spades, she would pout. Her first grade teacher was so impressed with how she could add to 31 so fast, there was nothing like playing cribbage at an early age. Her dad always said there was a purpose to their fun. Their place was a popular place for family to come by when the chickens were ready to fry, go out and have the very best of fried chicken meal with all the trimmings and fun was had by all ages.
In 1950, she went to Miles City to work and be near to the man in her life, Buster McMullin. On April 2, 1951 they were married in Sidney and her uncle Frank and sister Geneva stood up with them with a few guests. Their wedding supper was at her Uncle Frank’s and Aunt Edith’s home. A few days later they traveled to Idaho to look for work, with Curtis, Mary Lou and Craig Cummins, and Tom Fletcher. They worked on a little ranch 65 miles SE of Idaho Falls for 4 years where their son James D, known as J.D. was born on December 18, 1952. The fall of 1955 they moved back to Sidney, another son was born, Don F. on May 1, 1956. Buster was a carpenter/contractor until he retired, then he and J.D. setup a gun shop in Sidney. Buster died on April 23, 1989.
Laura started nursing in 1949 with a time-out for love and adventure, and then started nursing again in 1956 and on to become an LPN! So had been in the nursing field for over 40 years and retired in 2002. Laura was a member of the VFW Auxiliary, Women of the Moose, LPN Association, local Charter Member (1974), held all offices, State LPN Assn 1974-1999 and the Sidney and Culbertson Saddle Clubs.
After her retirement, she went on some country tours to New Zealand, Australia, to Europe a cruise to Alaska, and also to Branson, MO. She traveled to many of the local PBR productions nearby and the National Finals in Las Vegas. She also enjoyed the Culbertson trail rides, the 1989 Centennial Ride.
Laura died on April 14th, at her home with her sons and friends at her side, after a short illness.
Laura is survived by her two sons, J.D., of Thornton, CO and Don of Sidney, MT; nieces, nephews and many friends.
Laura was preceded in death by her husband, Buster; parents, Joe and Sarah Fletcher, brothers, Sam and Tom Fletcher; sister, Geneva Dahl, niece, Penny Shannon.
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