This is an article that appeared in the Austin American on August 29, 1948.

Source: Austin History Center, F.N. 701 8-29-48

HERMAN KRUGER: ARCHTYPE OF AMERICA'S AGRARIAN IDEAL

He Achieved Success Sought by Forebears

Herman Fred Kruger is notable principally because he is fully representative of those Central Texans who, along with millions of others in the nation, are revered in the Agrarian Ideal, a concept holding that sweat, disappointment, cornbread, and the smell of newly-turned land are noble and are about the only worthwhile things in American tradition.

Ostensibly, Kruger's accomplishment is that he has lived from 1885 to date. But as any Central Texas farmer knows, living for 63 years from the production of a shallow, hillside farm near Dessau, Travis County, is a heap of an accomplishment.

As a matter of fact, Kruger has accomplished much, much more than simply existing for slightly more than three score years. He has achieved that fair-to-middlin' material success sought for by his German ancestors when they embarked for the United States in the middle of the last century.

While this success may be only a typical example, Kruger, like hundreds of others of his agricultural colleagues, can probably tot up an estate somewhere near $50,000. Considering that farmers, from Thomas Jefferson up until now, have been nip and tuck trying to make ends meet most years, this, too, is something of an accomplishment.

Kruger presently is the Travis County country boy who runs the million dollar Austin Production Credit Association, which serves credit needs of 750 farmers in Travis, Hays, Caldwell, Bastrop, Williamson, Blanco, Lee, Kendall, and Comal Counties.

Although Kruger is a "johnny-come-lately" to production credit association borrowing and interest, significantly his first loan enabled him to maintain the qualities of "sameness" essential to being typical.

"I was raised a cotton farmer," Kruger relates. "That meant 90 acres of cotton and 10 acres of feed. I, and most of the others, either were going, or had gone, broke."

The loan was to buy dairy cows. Kruger had broken with cotton and had turned to diversification, as were thousands of others in this area.

But if Kruger was a late arrival at borrowing from the New Deal-originated production credit, he is strictly oldtimer at the game of soil conservation, which ranks now as the No. 1 American agricultural problem.

More than a quarter century ago, Kruger recognized the need for preventing erosion of the thin layer of top soil which feeds the nation.

In some ways, Kruger might have inherited this great respect for soil conservation, since those of his race had had to practice intensive agriculture in Germany.

Most of these people from Europe never lost this respect for the good soil, for no less an observer than Frederick Law Olmstead, the famed Yankee traveller in the South and Southwest, commented in his diary, "Journey Through Texas," that in the 1850's the only white sheets, butter, music, and acceptable farm practices were those of the German settlers in Central Texas. In fact, one of the specific places mentioned by Olmstead as he journeyed through Travis County is only a few miles from the Kruger homeplace.

A review of Kruger's experiences gives a pretty good Idea of what inland country boys on Central Texas cotton farms thought about toward the turn of the century, and especially if those boys lived on or near the new Katy railroad *** which wound around on its general route from St. Louis to San Antonio.

To begin with, there wasn't much money and less simon pure recreation. Father Kruger gave the three boys--Hugh E., W. J., and Herman***--each a plot of land. If they worked hard and the weather was good, the boys got spending money from crops raised on these plots.

On the short hitch from home to the country school at Dessau, the boys had ample occasion to envy the locomotive engineers on the Katy. But of the 12 boys in school, most turned out to be farmers, for Mr. Eisinger, who presided over the school, was a stern man with a deep respect for the soil.

Eisinger, however, as Kruger says, "took life pretty seriously," And the boys had more than the usual reasons for liking railroads.

"Country boys," Kruger says, "always look at trains, wishing they could go somewhere when they can't."

Though he failed at his first ambition of becoming an engineer, Kruger still prefers the train to any other mode of travel.

But since the turn of the century, the contemporaries on the farms, no matter how old and set they are, have turned to scientific agriculture and the debits and credits of double entry bookkeeping. If they have not forgotten their earlier attitudes, present-day farmers full recognize the business system.

One of the results of this transformation has been the development of some pretty fair country bankers. Kruger is one of these, for though a million dollar financial outfit isn't the biggest in the world, the year-to-year, crop-to-crop loans made by production credit requires

Soil Is His Faith, 'Possums His Fun



the same talents as running a much larger institution.

In addition, present-day farmers, including Kruger, have turned to civic promotion.

"You can't build a community," Kruger says, "just by tending to your own business. You have to tend to the community's business a little as you go along."

Kruger entered into the "community's business" with some zeal and considerable personal sacrifice.

"Some fellows take to the Chamber of Commerce, and others to the church or some other organization," he continues. "I guess mine is a belief in the soil."

As a result, Kruger has served as a long-time supervisor and chairman of the Taylor Soil Conservation District, a part of, a nearly state-wide program that is the largest single contributor to soil conservation in Texas.

"The results," he says in an understatement, "are most gratifying to a fellow who sees the salvation of civilization in the soil.

"An unproductive soil will reflect itself in our own civilization, including our industrial system," he continues.

A farmer, of necessity, has little time for such hobbies as the time-consuming golf and other pleasures of the city men. But the Walnut Creek Possum Hunters' Association, established 30 years ago as a full-fledged outfit to actually hunt possums, provides one outlet for his energies. This association meets annually in Kruger's pasture on the third Saturday night in October. Hundreds of persons who once lived near Dessau are present.

Kruger had been serving as chairman of the board of directors of the Austin Production Credit Association when H. H. Onstott, the association's first and only secretary-treasurer, died. Kruger was selected to serve as acting secretary, and at the last annual meeting of the organization was elected to succeed Onstott.

After-more than half a century of forcing a living from the sometimes stinting soil, Kruger stands convinced that the one-crop operation is gone. Most successful farmers, he points out, are those with good soil and a well established cattle and farming operation. The farmers raise some feed, some cattle, and some cotton in the new day. In the ranch country, diversification is achieved by producing sheep and cattle and goats.

Mr. and Mrs. Kruger still are living on the farm that is a part of the original Kruger homeplace. His mother, Mrs. Julia Kruger, who is 84 years of age, lives at 306 East 45 1-2 Street, Austin.

Thus it happens, that even being typical amounts to a considerable accomplishment in 65 years. And an example is Herman Kruger, solid farmer, interested community worker, and agricultural "banker."

DAVE SHANKS



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