Daddy was born on a boat coming to America in 1880. His parents came from the Polish part of Germany, which had yet to become Poland. They were farmers, and they heard that "you could grow wool on stalks and get rich" in America. When they said "wool," they were referring to cotton.
Anton Ribitzki, my dad, said his name meant "Little Fish." Our family wanted to check out the papers on their immigration to New York but found the records covering the years we needed had been burned. We know they migrated to Lawrence, Tennessee, where daddy was the "big man of the town." We have to laugh, though, because the "big man" was just 5 years old! Maybe "popular little boy" would have suited him better. From Tennessee the Ribitzki's went to Bremond, Texas. Grandpa got a farm in Rosebud, Texas, and walked there. We were told he won the farm gambling, but we can't be sure. Anyway, he got the farm and raised my daddy there.
When Daddy went to school he spoke Polish but the school and the priest were German, so Daddy learned to pray in German, rather than Polish.
It was customary to go to house dances, so Daddy went to one. There he danced with Veronica Canik, a Czech girl who was just 14; Daddy was 36. They said if she danced with him it meant she'd marry him. So she did.
Daddy and Mama had 15 children; I am one of the middle children. We grew up working on the farm, and when we wanted to rest in the field we'd try to get Daddy to tell us stories, but it didn't work very well, 'cause he'd just tell us quickly and get us back to work.
All of us were born at home and grew up speaking Czech, Mama's language. Daddy spoke Polish, Czech, German and also learned English. Mama didn't speak English very well at first, but she learned to speak it better later.
Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then Capper’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from Capper’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.