Gene Stockdale

Fort Dodge

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Gene Stockdale, a service driver for The Messenger, poses outside of the The Messenger offices, recently.

Gene Stockdale is used to a little chaos in his life.

Stockdale, of Fort Dodge, is the oldest of 16 siblings, which includes nine boys and seven girls.

“I was the leader of the pack, I guess,” he said. “If something went wrong, it was my fault. Should have kept an eye on them, mom would say.”

Stockdale, a service driver for The Messenger, was born on a farm just north of Vincent in 1939.

“It was nothing uncommon to be delivered at your home back then,” he said. “They even had a doctor in Vincent.”

The property belonged to his grandfather.

“He farmed with horses,” Stockdale said. “I remember that.”

He added, “When my dad started farming, he had a team of horses, but he had a tractor too. It was a steel wheel tractor.”

Stockdale is convinced his mother was hoping he’d been a girl.

“She didn’t cut my hair until I was three or four,” he said.

In the early 1940s, the family held an auction out at the farm.

“The auctioneer picked me up and stood me on the hood of the tractor,” Stockdale recalled. “He asked how much would you give or this little girl.”

Stockdale, who was a toddler at the time, said he ran back to the house crying.

“It was a traumatizing situation,” he said.

His mom would get the girl she wanted on the next try, he said.

“The second one was a girl,” Stockdale said.

Stockdale and his 15 siblings were born in a period of 22 years with no twins.

The family spent most of their years on a farm between Thor and Goldfield.

“My dad worked as a farmhand for 25 to 30 years,” he said.

When Stockdale entered the workforce as a young adult, he began as a photographer for Mayer Portraits in Fort Dodge.

After about a year, he decided to try something else. He took a job for a couple of years at a Ford Motor plant in Chicago, Illinois.

Eventually, he came back home.

“It wasn’t for me,” he said.

He bought a mobile home and parked it on his grandfather’s farm where he was born.

At that time he started working for a natural gas company nearby.

But then his former employer learned that he was in the area.

“He badgered me into coming back to work for him,” Stockdale said.

“We did family pictures in the home,” he said. “We went to rural farms to sell coupons and convince them to have their family portrait taken.”

Stockdale would go on to work more than 20 years for Mayer Portraits before opening his own studio in downtown Humboldt.

When photography started shifting to digital, Stockdale retired from photography in 2000.

“I paid my dues,” he said. “I wasn’t going into a third facet of photography.”

But Stockdale wasn’t ready to stay at home full-time. He decided to hit the road.

He found a job as a driver delivering swine semen used for artificial insemination.

During the course of the next 16 years or so, Stockdale logged an estimated 2.5 million miles on the road.

Today, Stockdale delivers Messenger newspapers to multiple stores throughout Fort Dodge.

When the 78-year-old isn’t delivering papers, he works part-time at Hy-Vee in Fort Dodge.

He continues to work simply because he wants something to do.

“I can’t sit still,” he said. “I’ve been doing something all my life and I get bored silly sitting around. I just had to have something to do.”