DRUMMER FEATURE SEPTEMBER 25, 2016
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Ralph Ordorff saws, paints and decorates all day, and he loves it
By Ed DuBois
For 94-year-old Ralph Ordorff of Buffalo, there is no such thing as retirement. He says he doesn't even know the meaning of the word. He has seen too many people pass away too soon after they had stopped working. So, even though he suffers from conditions for which powerful painkillers have been prescribed, he keeps himself busy throughout each day doing something he loves.
He has worked on sawing and painting about 60 bigger-than-life animal figures over the past few years, and many of them now decorate his place overlooking Lake Pulaski.
"I love it," Ordorff said. "It isn't work. It's fun."
He had seen similar displays in the past. He decided it was something he could tackle.
"I had to do something. I could have sat in a rocking chair and wondered, 'Am I going to die today or tomorrow.' You gotta stay busy," he declared.
Keeps his mind off it
With neuropathy in his feet, plus arthritis in his hands, arms and shoulders, it's not easy getting started in the morning. After several knee operations, he doesn't get around very well, either.
He has an expensive pain pump implanted near his left hip, but he is not pleased with its performance.
"It hasn't done 20 cents worth of good," he growled.
Three different pain medications have been tried in the pump, which has a tube to deliver the medicine up the spine toward the head. He said one of the medications was fentanyl.
"Fentanyl killed Prince, but I'm still going," Ordorff said with a smile.
Sometimes the pain tires him out. He said he often works an hour and then goes into the house to rest for an hour.
"I don't think so much about the pain when I am working," he commented.
Ordorff has been very active throughout his life. Up until about three years ago, he was polka dancing at the Medina Entertainment Center regularly. In fact, he appeared now and then on the Molly B Polka Show (Charter TV, Channel 138), he said.
After one of the all-day filming sessions for the show, the next day, Ordorff was at a Maple Lake senior dance for three hours, he recalled.
He misses the dancing, but he still gets over to the Monticello Senior Center once a week for euchre (card game) tournaments.
Grew up on a local farm
Back in Buffalo, most days continue to be filled with more sawing, painting and displaying animal figures.
He grew up just a mile or two east of his present home. He was born Sept. 5, 1922 on a farm between what is now Buffalo High School and what is now the Buffalo Township Hall. His parents were Frank and Augusta Ordorff. His grandparents, Jess and Dorthea Ordorff, had come to the USA from Germany.
As Ralph was growing up, several Ordorff families owned farms throughout the area east of Lake Pulaski. The farms included about 1,100 acres altogether, Ralph estimated. He mentioned that the farm operated by Ted "Tater" Ordorff included what is now Pulaski Shores, as well as the site of today's Buffalo Township Hall.
Ralph went to school through the eighth grade. There was a one-room schoolhouse located about half a mile south of today's Buffalo High School.
"I didn't learn a thing," he said. "All I did was play ball and wrestled."
After his school years, he helped his dad on the farm. He farmed most of his life and milked his last cow in 1985.
But farming wasn't all he did. After being elected to the Buffalo Township Board, he served as a township official 41 years. He also worked 12 years maintaining the township roads. For a while, he was the chairman of the Wright County Township Officers Association.
Ralph bought his present farm in 1948.
"The farm was for sale. It had 101 acres, and I bought it for $19,000," he recalled.
One of his favorite memories on the farm involved a brown Swiss steer that had a broken leg. The odds of treating the leg successfully were not very good, but Ralph worked on bending a pipe to match the shape of the leg. He then strapped the pipe to the steer's leg and kept the steer in a pen while the leg mended.
"When I took the pipe off the leg and turned the steer loose, it ran and bucked like a rodeo bull," Ralph happily said.
Another favorite memory involved a custom pulling tractor he and his son, Danny, built in 1973. With a beer keg for a fuel tank and a 400-cubic-inch Chevy engine, it performed surprisingly well and won a big trophy at a local tractor pull.
These days, his attention has shifted from livestock and tractors to moose, bears, elk, deer, etc. He has been improving his painting techniques, and a small, old hand-broom works great for adding some texture in the paint to create a surface that looks like fur.
"I love wild animals and shorthorn cattle," he commented.
"If I had been a drifter, I would have bought a big cattle ranch in Colorado. But I'm too much of a homebody," he added.
Throughout his many years in farming, his family provided plenty of help. Likewise, he had some help with his art project.
He expressed thanks to family, friends and neighbors who provided some assistance.
He now invites you to come and see his animal figures. He lives on Pulaski Rd., along the south end of Lake Pulaski.
"Drive by and see it," he said. "Bring the whole family."
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