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Nick Kurt's Painted Ponies

On this date in 1909, the State Line Herald reported on a huge event for the small town of North Lemmon. The Gollmar Brothers Circus had arrived from Baraboo, Wisconsin. Every hotel and restaurant in town was full to capacity. Five thousand spectators filled the stands for the show.

One local man saw the circus as a business opportunity. Nick Kurt had a team of flashy painted ponies. He was sure the circus would buy his team for an impressive price. On the morning of Circus Day, he hitched a team to a wagon and three of his neighbors came along for the ride. They set off in high spirits, the painted ponies tied to the back of the wagon. Nick expected to come home with a pocket full of money.

Nick, however, failed to consider what turned out to be a major obstacle. He had to cross the Cedar River. It was normally a rather sleepy little stream. But it wasn’t sleepy on Circus Day, described as “booming full, and inclined to be disagreeable.”

Nick knew the circus tents were within an easy drive once he crossed the river. He was not about to let a couple of feet of water stand between him and the sale of his ponies. With determination, he urged his team into the water.

It wasn’t his best move. The water got deeper and the current got stronger. The pulling team was swimming heroically, but the ponies were not helping as they began thrashing in the water and pulling back on the wagon that was now afloat. The wagon tipped over, with the driver and passengers thrown into the water. After a struggle, horses, ponies, and passengers all made it safely to dry land.

Unfortunately for Nick, his efforts went for naught. He did get to put his fancy ponies through their paces under the watchful eye of the Gollmars. But they explained that, as much as they would like to have them, there was no more room in the train. The circus turned down the purchase. Nick Kurt returned home … his ponies still in tow.


Dakota Datebook written by Carole Butcher



State Line Herald. “Saw the Circus Under Difficulties.” North Lemmon ND. 6/11/1909. 2.

State Line Herald. “Circus Day – It Was Great. North Lemmon ND. 6/11/1909.1.

Circus Historical Society. “Circus Wagons.” http://www.circuswagons.org/tableaus/gollmar-bros-four-mirror-tableau/  Accessed 5/18/2021.

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