Ardelle McPherson

“The Best Person You Can Be”
Words and music by Mike Linderman
with Mrs. Trandem’s 4th Grade Class
©2014 Mike Linderman




      Ardelle McPherson

I was born in the Great Depression and lived through the dust bowl when young
No money, no TV or radio so we had to make our own fun
There were terrific amounts of dust every time that the wind would blow
Rare were the times that rain would fall and so nothing would grow

Whenever we had to go outside the dust made it hard to breathe
We had two cows and the only thing that they had to eat was weeds
Still I liked growing up on the farm but I liked to read even more
I especially liked being in school it was better than doing the chores

Most of my life was spent in school and teaching kids
My greatest contribution was to encourage them of this
You don’t need to be the best at anything
All you need to be is the best person YOU can be

I got polio in high school and three of my classmates died
I ended up with a slight limp but otherwise I was alright
I sold tickets at the theatre and worked at an ice cream shop
I tried being a waitress but dropped things and spilled drinks and tripped a lot

Then I became a teacher and taught elementary school
For over thirty years it was my favorite work to do
Now it’s been 20 years ago since I quit teaching school
It felt almost like I’d never left when I came back to be here with you


Birds of a feather flock together
If you want to see yourself look at your friends
The people I admired were caring and kind
That’s how I desired to live my own life


Ardelle McPherson was born in 1931. Known by her friends as Dell, she grew up on a farm just outside a little town called Willow Lake, SD. She was the youngest of three children. She had two favorite pets, her Shetland pony named Bud and her Fox Terrier named Trixie.

Growing up in the Great Depression, she didn’t know life any differently. Ardelle recalls her mom making most of her clothes which typically consisted of one pair of shoes, one dress, and one coat. She didn’t feel bad though because her friends had the same. She told stories of terrific amounts of dust which often made it difficult to breathe outside. She would set the table with plates turned upside down until it was time to eat to keep the dirt off. Money was hard to come by and vegetables wouldn’t grow very big so often for supper her family would have tiny potatoes cooked with milk from the family cow. Without rain, only weeds grew rampant so the cow ate those. Her family lived by the railroad and would get the occasional hobo stop by. Her mother would make them a sandwich of homemade bread with fresh butter, often in exchange for work.

The family owned a Model-A, which you could get a gallon of gas for 13 cents a gallon. However, no money means no gas, no matter how cheap. She never understood it but her dad would put kerosene in the car and it would run! She would walk to school most of the time but in the winter she would enjoy a horse drawn sled. A loaf of bread was about 18 cents. One penny would fill a whole bag of candy, Ardelle shared as her eyes lit up.

Polio became an epidemic when Ardelle was in high school. 13 of her classmates contracted it, two passed away. Her battle with polio was less severe than many others. At the time, she had a little problem with her lungs but got better. At the age of 80, doctors found her leg muscles were getting smaller due to the polio she had at age 17.

Education was a constant theme throughout Ardelle’s life, right up until she retired. With a special interest in reading and English, she became an English teacher then went on to earn her master’s degree in literature with a minor in English, and continued on to get her specialist degree in administration. She loved school anyway but didn’t mind that it got her away from the farm and chores. Ardelle feels her greatest contribution in life was being a teacher. She always tried to encourage kids to be the best person they could be.

Ardelle and her husband had two children together, a son and daughter. Dell spent much of her adult life traveling for enjoyment and to study genealogy. With a German heritage, she visited her living relatives in Germany and studied her ancestors. Her husband was from Scotland so together they visited there several times and throughout Europe. She also enjoys cooking, and has an impressive stereoscope collection that she shared with the class.

“Birds of a feather flock together. If you are friendly, nice and caring you will attract the same. Look at your friends as a mirror of yourself.”

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