By Robert Lucke
Talk to Alfred Striker for a few minutes and soon you will find out there is not much in this old world that he has not tried or succeeded in so far as occupations go. Butte miner, Alaska woodcutter, movie extra or sergeant in the armed forces, Striker has been there and done that.
Striker was born in Hays.
"I don't know just where I was born. You know there were no hospitals back then," said Striker. "But I was born right around there. Probably at home. My parents were Bernard and Lena Striker. I have one sister and several half brothers and sisters."
Bernard Striker was a cattleman in the Hays area at a time when there were hard times for all stock raisers.
"You know just the other day I went out to Rocky Boy and saw that some people had lots of hay to feed their cattle but others had none and the cattle were trying to eat grass through snow," related Striker. "That reminded me of being at home in the winters of either 1935 or 1936. We had no hay. The hay cost more than the cattle were worth those days and I actually saw cows frozen standing up because they couldn't get the grass to eat. How important it is these days for stock to have feed!"
"There were lots of guys 16 or 17 years old from all over the country working on the CCC," recalled Striker. "A little later I went to work for the WPA (Works Progress Administration) and we built a lot of dams around the reservation."
It was there that Striker learned a trade that would help him much of his life, the ability to drive and use heavy equipment.
"I went to work building Weigan's dam, south of Dodson," continued Striker. "Then I went to Rocky Boy and helped build Bonneau Dam. There I heard that the airport in Havre was paying more so I ended up helping to build that."
Those jobs completed, Striker could see that there was no work at all at Fort Belknap so he headed to Butte and learned how to be a hard rock miner. That was in the late 1930s and early 1940s and he spent his summers in Alaska being a woodcutter and mined in Butte or in Idaho during the winters.
"Then I came back to Hays in 1941 and looked around and said, Where is everyone?' People said they had all gone to the war so I thought that seemed to be a good thing to do so I enlisted, went to Butte to be inducted, headed to Africa and found myself before long in Italy where it felt like I walked from one end of the country to the other end and all on the front lines," said Striker, grinning.
While in Italy Striker made sergeant and was given two citations for meritorious devotion to duty.
"I spent over a year and a half on the front lines and after a while it just became a way of life," Striker related. "On the first day I was there, in the first 15 minutes, I saw two boys shot between the eyes right next to me."
Striker said that every three or four months his unit would back up, regroup and only then was there time for bathing or shaving and things like that.
Finally, even though Germany had not yet surrendered, Striker had enough points to head for home. His commander urged him to do just that. He wanted to go to the South Pacific where the fighting was still going strong, but back home he came at the commander's insistence.
Knowing there was still nothing for jobs at Fort Belknap, Striker found himself mining once again in Butte and Idaho.
"I really liked working for the Sunshine Mine. That was my favorite of all mines," added Striker. "But before long I found myself traveling around once again and went to Seattle where it seemed like that was the most beautiful country anywhere until later I got tired to just looking at trees so I headed for California."
Striker stayed in California, working at stores and as an extra in movies for the next 25 years.
"I was an extra in the Lost Horizon and an extra in a John Wayne movie too," said Striker. "I met John Wayne and you know it was true. It seemed to me like he had an air about him that you just couldn't miss."
Twenty-five years later, Striker was tired of people and smog so it was back to the wide open spaces he came.
"And do you know, I just couldn't believe it when I came back to Hays. Everyone had pickups with rifles in the back and nice homes. Everything was nice," Striker remembered.
These days Alfred Striker delivers papers for the Havre Daily News. Has for the last three years and with that job, he puts a zest and reliability to it that he has put in every job he had ever done.
"I haven't missed a day of work yet," added Striker. "I just kind of wanted to settle down here and you know whatever I do I enjoy doing."
Wherever Striker has worked, from LA to Seattle, Kellog to Alaska, Striker has done a good job. He knows why.
"That is my duty. To do a good job! To do good work. I think that if you do good work, you will be wanted," said Striker, smiling.