2010 Reunion


Prairie Fire

Excerpted From “Next Year Country” by Louise Hullinger
Folks around Draper, South Dakota, still refer to the summer of l930 as a Scorcher. (Folklore has it that you could fry eggs on the rooftops during August of that year!)

The searing sun turned the treeless plains into a tinderbox; the grasses, curled and brown, lay wilting alongside the road; the drouth-stunted weeds crunched underfoot.  An idle flick from a cigarette, a careless spark from a running motor, even the hot sun beating down on a chip of broken glass could ignite the vast prairie turning it into a blazing holocaust.

Morning dawned bright and clear. There was an air of tranquility on the day the prairie fire struck. It was barely past noon when the farmer noted the first faint smell of smoke and, could see, in the distance, along the horizon, the shadowy tracings of a fire.

In the moments it took to reach his tractor he exulted in how much easier it was to plow safety furrows with his new tractor than it had been in the past with a team of horses.  With a tractor he could maneuver the dried coulees, could easily cross the rough, untamed prairie.

Round and round the scattered farm buildings the farmer plowed, leaving protective furrows of freshly turned earth.  Satisfied that his buildings were safe from fire he thought next to protect his winter's supply of cattle food. The furrows were purple-black and deep, so wide an errant fire could not cross.

As he finished fireproofing his own place, he noticed the wind had switched slightly. Shouting to his wife that he was going to plow around the neighbor's buildings, too, he hurried off, in high gear, cutting through the pasture, heading towards the little cottage where an old couple lived.

They were a little old couple, in their late 70's, stone deaf.  They wouldn't have heard about the fire, but by this time they would have smelled it, and seen it, and would have had no way to get out of its path.

The wind, which had increased sharply, began whipping the fire along.  Scientists can explain how hot air rises and causes movement which is wind; in the course of a prairie fire, fire begets wind, and when the fire gets a good strong toehold, there's very little that can hold it back.

The farmer could see it coming closer, could see the red tongues of fire consuming the brittle, toast-colored grass.

It was about that time that a neighbor lady from the west came to help. She and her young children, ages four through eight, brought two large cream cans full of water. They were prepared to help beat back the fire.

At almost the same time two rigs of men arrived with barrels of water, and heaps of gunnysacks. Leaping out of the trucks they grabbed the sacks, soaked them in water, and frantically began beating at the fire as it raged in front of them.

The neighbor lady, who hadn't  waited to search for gunny sacks, grabbed what she could that wouldn't burn readily.  She snatched the heavy denim jeans her eight year old was wearing, doused them in water, and began lashing furiously at the fire which by now was frighteningly near.

Moments later several more rigs of men arrived, all with barrels of water.  One of the men, an old timer, looked at the highway, a natural barrier to the fire, and reckoned, gravely, that they would have to start a backfire if they were to break this one's force.  He'd experienced many fires, and this one was one of the fiercest.  

The wind was flogging the fire into a frenzy.  The crackling heat provided a backdrop of sound effects for the treacherous wind.  Without a backfire, there could be no stopping this fire.  

A backfire was built to consume the combustible materials in the path of a fire, so that it would have no place to go, and would be forced to die.  There is a trick to it, a technique, and the old man knew it.  He and several others huddled together to protect the flame from the onslaught of the wind, nursing their flame along until it was ready.
With the highway as a safety zone behind them, the men worked, coaxing, channeling, directing their fire towards the big one, until there was nothing left between the two fires to devour.

Taming the rampant fire required all the strength the men had, and even after the wind had died down, and dusk had come, they did not dare to leave.

Wiping sweaty arms across their foreheads, sipping what water was left, they sprawled on the charred earth, wishing it might rain.  They were exhausted, but so was the fire.

It wasn't until then that they heard the news about the farmer who had gone to plow the furrows around the neighbor's home.  When the capricious fire had turned, it had trapped the farmer.  He had jumped from his tractor, and ran back through the fire, protected by leather leggings, remnants of his World War I uniform, and his arms, which he used to shield his face.

When he was found he was dazed and incoherent. The neighbors who found him took him immediately to the nearest doctor, thirty miles away.  The tractor, in the perverse way of things, was turning circles, as though performing a slow ballet movement.  Treatment for burns in those days was vaseline to be slathered on, and gauze bandages.  The neighbors transported him, covered him with an apron, and gave him sips of water from a thermos made from a mason jar wrapped in burlap.  When they brought him home he was beginning to be lucid.

All that fall neighbors came to help him with the chores, and to haul him to the doctor.  The gauze stuck to his burned flesh and tore at the wounds when it was peeled; the odor of rotting flesh left a stench that had to be borne; the days were filled with unceasing pain.  

Without the neighbors the work could not have been done.  One of them came nightly to do the chores, and to tell tall tales and jokes to make him laugh.  He couldn't smile because that caused the blisters on his face to crack and ache, but his big shoulders shook with laughter, and his eyes gleamed.

Winter came, and with the spring, the earth had healed and so had the farmer.  The winter snows had blanketed the earth and the melting rains had carried away all traces of the fire that had ravaged it.  When the grasses poked through they formed a soft carpet of green. The plowed furrows looked oddly out of place, a vestige, a reminder of things past.

When the gauze and bandages were removed, the fingers were no longer thick from swelling; no longer was there a fear of infection.

When the first green shoots of grain peeked through the ground, the farmer headed into the fields again.  His arms were scarred and brown, in stark contrast to the pink-white of his arms above the elbow, where he had always rolled his blue denim shirt sleeves, but his steps were youthful, and plans for the new season began to take form.

It must have been a year later when a magazine salesman found his way to the farmer's home.  "Wasn't it somewhere around here," the salesman asked, "where a man got burned trying to plow around an old couple's place?"  But the salesman was anxious to sell magazines and didn't wait for a reply.  "They say the old couple never realized he was plowing to try to save their place, and I've heard he never told them."

The farmer traded two old batteries for a subscription to a magazine, and shook the salesman's hand when he left.

"Good luck," the farmer said, and added, "Don't bother to stop at the little farm to the east; the old couple who lived there passed on last winter."


     The farmer in the story was my father, Helmer Liffengren, of Draper, South Dakota.  We had only recently moved to that farm when the prairie fire broke out, and we did not know any of our neighbors well. But, in Dakota, neighbors were a precious commodity, something that one cherished and greatly appreciated.

I have written this story not only to pay homage to my father, but to cite the Rankins, the Dowlings, and the others who helped in our time of great need. I would like to go even farther than that: I should like this story to honor good neighbors wherever they may be. @

This true story was first published in the May/June, 1993 issue of South Dakota magazine under "Remembering."

This true story was written by my mother Louise Hullinger about her father Helmer Liffengren and the neighbors who helped them through this tough time.


Our Hullinger / Harlan Genealogy on Line

Our Hullinger / Harlan Genealogy on Line

I reposted our genealogy on the address below.  This was prepared by Clif Hullinger some years ago. If you want to add names or make corrections drop me an email


And if we have a genealogist among our cousins who would like to take this over I would be glad to provide you the information.

Paternal Descent

Hullinger / Hollinger / Holliger / Holiger 

Born Died First Last Name Spouse Birth Place / Comments

1425 1504 Henri Holiger Boniswyl, Aargu, SWZ

1446 Heini Holiger Boniswil (Holvil) Switzerland

1472 Hans Holiger 1504 Junghans Holiger m Margaretha Rebmeyer

1548 1600 Heini Holiger m Barbara Mayer Boniswyl,Aargu, SWZ Burial: Seengen

1591 1643 Heini Holiger m Anna Huber Aargu, Boniswyl, SWZ

1627 1689 Rudolph Holliger m Anna Hummel

1661 Jacob Holliger m Elisabeth Burger

1701 1779 Hans Jacob Hollinger m Anna Elisabetha Esterli
Immigrated to US 1736

1734 1802 Christian Hollinger m Eva Dorothea Feltz
Born Germany, Captain American Revolution

1757 1839 Daniel Hullinger m Ann Schockey Lancaster Co, PA, 1st Lt American Revolution

1788 1856 Daniel Jnr Hullinger m Comfort Conway Staunton Trenton, OH

1833 1909 Daniel J Hullinger m Mary Kirk Ohio emigrated from Ohio to south central Iowa by wagon train in 1864

1870 1956 Eli Hullinger m Mary Elizabeth Siddons Leon IA

1893 1970 John Franklin Hullinger m Pearl Josephine Harlan
Leon, Iowa US Army, WW I

1920 Clifford Harlan Hullinger m Louise Liffengren
Vivian, SD 1st Lieutenant, US Army, WW II


Harlan Genealogy

Genealogists are continually researching and publishing their findings on the internet. We can now trace our ancestral lines much further back in history. I don’t know about the accuracy of these sites but they are well prepared and presented.

Our Harlan Genealogy was first developed by Alpheus Harlan in the early 1900’s. Information about it can be found at harlanfamily.org. The Harlan genealogy had
begun with James HARLAND #1 who was born about 1625 in Bishoprick, Durham, England.

Pearl Harlan Hullinger 1895-1993
Our Harlan paternal line now goes four more generations back before we run out of information on our Harlan name line. Each blue highlighted text are links back to the on line genealogy.  

Most of the new information comes from ourfamilyhistories.org. We thank them for their work.


Our new deeper Harlan genealogy. You can click on the blue highlighted link to go to the source site.

Henry Harland abt 1522, d. abt 1580 Sutton Hall - Sutton Hall and Huby, in the North Riding of Yorkshire: a portion of the property was in the family before the Restoration, and another granted to Captain Richard Harland for his services in the royalist army at the battle of Marston Moor. Also the Middleton estate near Darlington, in the county of Durham, which has been possessed for some time by the family. COAT OF ARMS: Argent on a bend between two cottizes three stag's heads caboshed azure  CREST: A sea horse ppr. holding between his hoofs a stag's head caboshed az. charged with an escallop, for HARLAND

Robert Harland, b. 1546, of Bishophrick, Bainbridge, Durham, England

James Harland, b. 1570, Bishophrick, Bainbridge, Durham, England, d. Abt 1615, Bishophrick, Bainbridge, Durham

William Harland , b. 1594, of Bishophrick, Bainbridge, Durham, England, d. 29 Jul 1651, Sunderland, Durham, England

James Harlan  (Listed #1 in the Harlan Genealogy, this text from the Harlan Genealogy) was born about 1625 in Bishoprick, Durham, England. He died in England. He was buried in England. From "History and Genealogy of the Harlan Family" by Alpheus Harlan- "James Harland, Yeoman and member of the Episcopal Church, was b. about the year 1625 in the "Bishoprick, Nigh Durham, England," and is the earliest paternal ancestor known to the family in America bearing the name Harlan. He lived and d. an Englishman, and was bur. upon English soil, no one to-day knows where. Tradition says that the name of his father was William.  (The new info says he died on 17 Feb 1680 and is buried at Bishophrick, Bainbridge, Durham, England.

Wealthy people and nobles had more children than other people. Their children had more healthy children who survived, and so on. Only a few children could be rich nobles.  Eventually most of their descendants became average people. Most people alive today have these wealthy people in their genealogy.

And the Harlans had some famous ancestors as shown on the listing below.  We descend from famous Charlemagne and a number of other famous and infamous Kings, Queens, Viscounts, Earls, Counts and Barons. This line of descent jumps back and forth between men and women.

And that will buy you a cup of coffee if you have the coin. Still, it is fun to check it out.

Charlemagne Carolingians, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire b. 2 Apr 0742 Ingelmunster, West Flanders, Belgium, Netherlands d. 28 Jan 0814

Louis I "the Pious" Carolingians, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, b. 778  Casseneuil, Lot-et-Garonne, France d. 20 Jun 0840

Charles II "the Bald" Carolingians, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire b. 15 May 823, d. 6 Oct 877 Frankfurt Am Main, Hessen-Nassau, Preussen

Louis II Carolingians, King of France “the Stammerer “ b. 1 Nov 846, d. 879  of Orléans, Loiret, France

Adelaide Carolingians, Princess of the Franks Abt 0866 d. 935

Seigneur Amaury de Poitou abt 890, d. after 943 of Aubnay, Nord, France

Sénégonde de Marcillac abt 910 Aubnay, Nord, France

Viscount Cadelon II d'Aubnay, b. 0935, of St. Martin d'Aubigny, Nord, France

Niel Albini, Jr.  b. Abt 0970, , St. Martin d'Aubigny, Nord, France

William d'Aubigny, b. Abt 1000, St. Martin d'Aubigny, Nord, France, d. Abt 1049  (Age ~ 49 years)

Roger d'Aubigny, b. Abt 1040, Aubigny, Calvados, Normandie, France, d. Aft 1084  (Age ~ 45 years)

William I d'Aubigny, b. Abt 1075, Aubigny, Calvados, France, d. 1139  (Age ~ 64 years)

William II d'Aubigny, Earl of Arundel, b. Abt 1102, of, Buckenham, Norfolk, England, d. 11 Oct 1157, Waverly Abbey, Waverley, Surrey, England

Ralph de Albini, Viscount of Petherton, b. Abt 1134, South Petherton, Somerset, England, d. Abt 1192, Acre, Hazafon, Israel, Palestine

Ralph de Aubigny, b. Abt 1173, of South Ingelby, Saxelby, Lincoln, England, d. Abt 1220

Ralph de Albini, b. Abt 1214, South Ingelby, Saxelby, Lincoln, England, d. Bef 25 Jan 1291-1292.

Viscount Elias d'Aubeney, b.1264, Jersey Island, Channel Islands, England

Alianora d'Aubeney abt 1300, Jersey Island, Channel Islands, England

Edmund Hussey Abt 1320, Holbrook, Somerset, England

Joan Hussey 1338 Holbrook, Somerset, England

Sir. Walter Hungerford, Baron, b. 22 Jun 1378, Farleigh Hungerford, Somerset, England, d. 9 Aug 1449, Cathedral, Salisbury, Wiltshire, England (Age 71 years)

John Hungerford, b. Abt 1421, Farleigh Hungerford, Somerset, England

Anne Hungerford, b. Abt 1478, of, Newbury, Berkshire, England

Edward Langley, b. 1522, of, Sandy, Bedford, England

Thomas Langley 1548 Sandy, Bedfordshire, England

Anne Langley b. 27 Mar 1576 Sandy, Bedfordshire, England, died 30 Jul 1677 Salem Essex, MA,

Elizabeth Seaman 1603 West Ely, Cambridge, England marries William Harland William Harland #1  b. 1594, of Bishophrick, Bainbridge, Durham, England,  d. 29 Jul 1651, Sunderland, Durham, England

George Harlan #3  b 11 Mar 1649, christened 11 Jan 1650 Monkwearmouth, Bishophrick, Bainbridge, Durham, England, died July 1714 Centre Memorial Cemetery, Chester, Chester, Pennsylvania - Our First American Harlan ancestor

Aaron Harlan # 8; born 24 December 1685 County Down, Ireland died November 1732 Chester County, Pennsylvania

George Harlan # 37;

George Harlan #180

Moses Harlan  #676 b Fayette County, Pennsylvania, in 1786; died in Peoria, Ill., 1842)  mosesharlan.blogspot.com

Lewis Harlan #2291, b. 8, 17, 1823; lewisharlan.blogspot.com

Marion Harlan b. 1861 d September 8, 1927, Vivian, South Dakota  hullingerheritage.blogspot.com

Pearl Harlan Hullinger June 28,1895 Prole Warren County Iowa, d Jan 20, 1993  hullingerheritage.blogspot.com

Clif Harlan b July 3, 1920 Vivian, Lyman County, South Dakota clifhullinger.blogspot.com  clifhullinger.blogspot.com

! Charlemagne to County Ranulph II Poiters, King of Aquitane.png