© 2023
Prairie Public NewsRoom
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Grain Rustling


When people think of rustling in North Dakota, they usually think of cattle. That crime has a long history in the state, although it is not entirely in the past. As recently as May 2017, a man was charged with stealing four head of cattle. And cattle aren’t the only target. A crime much less familiar is grain rustling!

this date in 1912, the Ward County Independent reported on an attempted theft of grain. Farmer John Bird lived about fifteen miles outside Kenmare. He suspected thieves had been raiding his granary, which was about a mile from the house. Between nine and ten o’clock at night, Bird went to the granary to lay in wait for the thief. Much to his surprise, he didn’t have to wait at all. He rounded the corner of the granary and came face to face with the culprit. The thief immediately opened fire with a revolver, hitting Bird twice in the shoulder. He then fled into the night.

Bird was able to reach his house, and his family sent for the doctor in Minot. Bird was in pain and suffered from loss of blood, but Dr. McClean said that unless blood poisoning set in, the victim was expected to fully recover.

Bird’s neighbors did not take the attack lightly. They formed a posse and galloped off to find the thief. But after searching all night, they came home empty handed. Bird and his brothers had their suspicions about who had taken the grain, which they estimated was about two hundred bushels.

And grain rustling, too, is not just a crime of the past. A couple examples … in 2012, a custom combiner admitted taking a semi-trailer load of corn, worth more than $9,500, from a Hazelton farmer. He faced a felony charge. And in June 2017, a South Dakota man pleaded guilty for stealing $9,000 worth of grain from the elevator where he worked.

Dakota Datebook written by Carole Butcher


Ward County Independent. “Farmer Shot by Robber.” Minot, ND. 21 November 1912. Page 1.

Farm Forum “Bath Man Accused of Cattle Theft in North Dakota.” 23 May 2017.

US News “2 Accused of Grain Theft in Witten.” 23 June, 2017.

Bismarck Tribune “Custom combiner accused of skimming corn of Hazelton farmer.” Bismarck, ND. 16 October 2012.