Was it love at first sight? “Oh yes,” says Jeannine Ossman. “Floyd was a service boy, you know.” Floyd and Jeannine built their first house in 1954 on the dike at the end of Road 68 along the Columbia River. It was a very sensible house with cement floors and no carpets, but it was a home. Floyd worked for Tri-City Lumber delivering loads of wood for new houses. As he drove to places out in the blocks, Floyd would see the farming potential. Jeannine wanted nothing to do with that area, but Floyd kept trying. Every time Jeannine’s grandmother would come over from Pilot Rock, Floyd would say, “Let me take you ladies out to see the nice countryside.” He would take them out and show them the sights – sand dunes, sagebrush and an occasional jack rabbit or two. But no amount of persuasive talk could get Jeannine to fall in love with the desert. “I’ll agree it was primitive; in fact, some of it was very primitive. Jeannine had been used to living along the nice scenic Columbia River and now I was trying to move her out to nothingness!”
Jeannine recalls, “Yes, we were getting close to being able to afford adding curtains to our home. We had just got a table and chairs to replace the old table that was used apple boxes and a couple of high chairs.” Moving out into the sticks was not in her plans. However, after much discussion, they did end up building a home that was a hole in the side of a hill (daylight basement) on the south end of Dayton Road. They shared the hillside with a den of coyotes. “When I left town, my dear neighbor lady gave me a milk cow. She said that I could have every other calf and she’d take every other calf and I could have the milk. So that is what we did until she died and her husband gave us the cow,” commented Jeannine. “She was a hard headed cow. If she wanted to come, she would and if she didn’t want to, she wouldn’t. I milked that cow faithfully and we enjoyed ice cream with the cream from that cow. At some point, I realized I had three boys and a husband. “Why was I milking this cow?” That was the end of the cream for the ice cream. I hated to buy milk but I also really didn’t have time to milk that cow.”
Floyd kept working for 10 years at the lumber yard to keep the farm going. Jeannine was the primary farmer during those years. Floyd said, “Quitting my job and going straight to farming was the hardest thing I ever did. Losing that steady pay check was very hard.”
Their first crop was barley and it turned out less than expected. Soon, they got into pigs because they were the cheapest type of livestock to get started. They had several hundred pigs and about two dozen sows. Floyd would head off to work and Jeannine would be left to take care of the sows having babies. “One day I was out at the barn and I delivered the first set of babies,” Jeannine recalls. “I think that kind of softened my heart toward this farm life. What kept me going was the fact that possibly my children (6 in all) would grow up and choose to live nearby.”
Farming was hard. “It was the neighbors that were the glue that kept everyone here in the basin,” Floyd reminisces. In fact, several of those “neighbors” still get together every Saturday and have breakfast at Ihop. They are still there encouraging one another.