13 December 2003

Claude and Clyde Miller: Twins Celebrate 90 Years

Claude and Clyde Miller remember 1931 as the year their family’s 500 acres of spring wheat blew away. The last of may, the wind blew hard for several days. It “started in the northeast and turned to the west,” Clyde said. Claude remembers sitting in the house and not being able to see the person across the room. That year the family lived on the money they made selling eggs and cream in Coulee City.

Claude and Clyde were born to Reuben and Mrytle Miller on December 11, 1913, joining older sisters Mayme and Nellie. Last Saturday, December 13, 2003, they celebrated their ninetieth birthday with family and friends at the Coulee City First Presbyterian Church.

In 1918 the Millers temporarily moved to Wenatchee for Frank’s birth. During this time the armistice was signed at the end of World War I and Clyde remembers the jubilation: including some folks dragging a dummy of the Kaiser down the street.

The twins attended most of the first eight grades at the Rock Rose School, but they also went to the Gilbert School for several months in the first grade. Mildred Scheibner, who attended the Gilbert school and whose younger brother, Maurice, was in their grade, remembers the young Millers riding to school on a big work horse with their legs sticking out nearly horizontally. Both Millers remember one particular time when Clyde says Claude “heard the bell ring and goosed the horse,” sending Clyde over the stern.

Clyde graduated from Coulee City High School in 1931, a year ahead of Claude. “He stayed out one spring to help put the crop in so I got ahead of him,” Clyde said with a half smile and a twinkle of fun in his eye.

All three Miller boys joined their father on the farm, forming Miller and Sons which became Miller Brothers when Reuben retired in 1948. Claude draws an imaginary diagram on the tablecloth as he explains how wheat was cut and stacked in four piles around a central space where a threshing machine was moved in to complete the process.

The combine they got in 1932 or 1933 combined cutting and threshing, but the wheat was sacked and the sacks had to be sewn shut as horses pulled the machine through the field. “That’s where I learned to sew sacks,” said Claude, who has earned trophies in several sack-sewing competitions.

A T-20 International tractor replaced most of the horses in 1936. In 1942 they put a bulk tank on their combine, ending the need for sewing sacks and in 1944 the Millers bought their first self-propelled combine, a 20-foot Harris. “In 1972 I got my first tractor with an air-conditioned cab on it,” Clyde said, and an air-conditioned combine followed the next year.

The Miller Brothers dissolved around 1970. Claude moved to town and eventually turned his operation over to his son Duane in 1982, though he still had cows into the 1990s. Clyde retired in 1987.

Claude’s agricultural pursuits now center on his garden. Nancy, his wife, points out how Claude raised seven of his own children, helped with her three children and is now helping raise two grandchildren. “What more can you say for a man?” she said.

Clyde and Jo, his wife of 61 years, raised three sons on the farm and now live in Wenatchee year-round after selling their house last year. “I fool around on the computer a little bit,” Clyde said, describing how he is scanning all their old photographs and storing them on compact disk.

Letty Buob sat at one of the long tables in the Presbyterian Church as the Miller’s family and friends conversed in knots around the room, casting occasional glances at the photos successively projected onto the screen at one end of the room. “It took me a while before I knew they were twins,” Buob said, observing the contrast between the shorter, darker, more outgoing Claude and the taller, lighter haired, more reserved Clyde. “They’ve always been a pleasure to be around,” she said.

Upstairs, the younger set was hanging out. “He, like, cares and stuff,” Claude’s granddaughter Alicia McGuckin said, describing how Claude makes sure she gets the rest she needs when she’s sick. Claude’s great-granddaughter Jessica Sheffels added, “He can always make me smile.” “His jokes are pretty good,” McGuckin agreed.

Reprinted with permission from "News & Standard," Coulee City, Washington, all other rights reserved.

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