Mott, North Dakota

During my stay in Mott, North Dakota it happened that Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Mike Collins were on their way to the moon. For this event there were about a dozen of Mott’s finest (plus me) in the lobby of the Mott Hotel watching a black and white TV set that hung from the ceiling. Nobody could see the picture very well, since the TV was small, reception was bad and the transmission from the moon was nothing like today’s high tech HDTV. It seemed that most of the conversation consisted of questions like “What’s that?” “Is that him now?”

Neil Armstrong at Tranquility Base

Neil Armstrong at Tranquility Base

At the time I did not realize what a monumental occasion it was, but looking back on it from the perspective of today, it is almost overwhelming that it could have happened. All of the computers used on the moon shot, added together, were not as powerful as the computer in my pocket today, and only a fraction of the computing power used to create this blog post. Very few people in the room that night (somewhere about midnight as I recall) understood how it could happen, let alone what it would really mean to the world.

You might ask, “Why were you in Mott anyway?” Money. I had been fired from my previous job. While getting a haircut the next day, I heard that some guy in Mott was looking for an experienced metal building erector. I needed a job, was fully qualified (willing to work in Mott) and the rest was history. A quick phone call to Mott ensured that I could show up on Monday morning and stay in the Mott Hotel. Continue reading

Learning to Drive

I think this is Grace


Learning to drive is one of those coming of age events that everyone marks time by. I learned to drive in the small town of Jamestown, ND. Grace learned to drive on the farm on the North Dakota prairie, and she didn’t think she could learn to drive in the big city. She was living in Denver, CO when she wrote this. Driving in that metropolis is a challenge. I clearly remember taking the drivers test in Denver. We turned right onto South Colorado Boulevard when the proctor told me to turn left in six blocks. Across six lanes of traffic. The gravel roads around Kidder County weren’t very wide and you wouldn’t see that many cars in a month!

Grandpa Guy Havelick



Grace writes:

Learning to drive in those days didn’t seem to be such a big deal as it does now. I think I got my license at fourteen. It was easy to get used to driving by going into the field to get the cows + driving into town with Mom. The roads were gravel and narrow but rarely another car on them. I never could have driven in traffic like kids do now.

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Grandma Colwell

There’s always something special about grandmas. Lucy was one of those special ladies. In this letter she relates three short stories about her grandmother.

Lucy writes:

My Grandma was (my mother said) a person everyone loved. She was a mid-wife, also the mother of 17 children, two sets of twins and one set of triplets.

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the analyst magazine

Mike B and I were both science nuts in the eighth grade. We wanted to do something with that interest, so it seemed a natural to get into the publishing business. After all, I had a typewriter and Hectograph, and Mike had the keen business sense necessary to run a magazine.

Front Cover

the analyst – Front Cover – click for more

So, what’s a Hectograph you ask? It was the cheapest copy machine in the world. The first step to creating a publication was to type it using a special carbon paper. To make copies, we first placed the carbon copy face down on a tray full of a Jell-O like substance. After just a few minutes you would peel off the paper and there would be a mirror image of the page in the gel. Then, just place a clean sheet of paper on the gel, let it sit for another few minutes and voilà! A printed page. The carbon paper was available in colors, and easily made twenty or thirty copies. Blogging, 1960s style. (You may not have noticed that typographical errors are permanent in this process.)

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European Football

In this letter, Louie mentions an upcoming high school reunion. It turns out that we joined Louie at the reunion and met some of his high school buddies. All of us had a great time getting acquainted.

Louie in Holland c 1968

Louie in Holland c 1968

Years later, one of them also came to his funeral where we had another chance to share stories and laughs about Louie’s escapades. After the funeral, we brought out Louie’s football play book from their senior year as Jamestown High School Football Blue Jays. It had diagrams of their plays and a detailed record of every one of the games that led to the state championship, including who carried the ball on every play. Louie was quite proud of their record that year, his part on the team, and the book. Louie’s buddy had played on the same team and was very impressed that the book still existed. I gave him the book. I do wish I had taken pictures of the contents.

Louie and I had the same physical education teacher in high school. Ernie Gates taught PE and coached the football team. In the forties, Louie was a star athlete and football player. By the time I got to high school in the sixties, let’s just say that I wasn’t exactly a star. Had it been possible to flunk out of PE, maybe I should have. Climb a rope? Nope. Push-ups? One or three. Catch a ball. You’ve got to be kidding! Ernie was disappointed. Louie wasn’t.

Football was Louie’s ticket to college, and I didn’t even want to go watch a game. I was more interested in watching girls than whatever happened on the field. By the time I was a senior, I didn’t even go to the game, I’d just pick Cathy up after the band finished their half-time show.

When Louie wrote this letter in the nineties, our son Lon was active in a local soccer league, which caught Louie’s attention. Maybe he thought Lon would turn out the be the athlete I wasn’t?

Grandpa Guy Havelick



Louie writes:

The Rochester Havelick’s:

Glad you accepted the first three stories. I will keep them coming until CRS catches up.

My tulips finally bloomed and they are gorgeous. My next door neighbor and I are going to put in the slanting brick edges for a flower bed and load it up. Got to have something to tinker with.

My check up at the vets hospital in Sturgis, South Dakota ended up with me getting another check on 4 June. I may end up a “Lightning Bug” but gotta get it done. It is the Sigmoidoscopy. Hell of a long word for light up your butt. Will let you know what the results of the test are.

Lon, I tried European football while I was living in Rotterdam, Holland. We call it soccer. It was a little too rough for me and the Dutchmen almost lost the game laughing at me. So I stuck with going to the zoo and museums.

I will be in Jamestown on the 4th through 7th of July this year for the 45th reunion of our graduating class. It has been some time and water over the bridge since 1946. I have reservations at the Gladstone for those days.

Better get back to story time.

This old man loves you people.


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The Big Trip

Jim was in his prime when we went camping. His first camper was a little teardrop affair, with an outdoor kitchen that opened up from the back. There was barely enough room inside for two sleeping bags, plus a little shelf to store things.

Jim with the "Boondock Special." My 1955 Plymouth is barely visible on the left.

Jim with the “Boondock Special.” My 1955 Plymouth is barely visible on the left.

His second camper, the one we took to the West Coast, was a walk-in affair made of fiber board – Masonite. You can see it in the picture to the right.

Before this trip, we spent several weekends at his uncle’s cabin on Lake Metigoshe. Other times we went to nearby campgrounds, and even into Canada to Lake Winnipeg or Kenora, Ontario. Those were great trips, but they were only preparation for the mother of all trips. To the coast! I did have an ulterior motive, which might show up in the letter, or in a future post.

Jim writes:

Guy had just graduated from high school and I had a new ’68 Ford Galaxie 500 hardtop with air conditioning, and we also had a leaky, home made travel trailer some 12 to 13 feet in length. When it didn’t leak we affectionately called it the “Boondock Special.” Guy and I had spent months on elaborate plans for a trip to the west coast, camping all the way.

Read on …

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Franklin Grade School

Ms Fairless' class, 1956, Guy's in the second row, second from the right.

Ms Fairless’ class, 1956, Guy’s in the second row, second from the right.

Most of my grade school years were spent at Franklin Grade School in southwest Jamestown, ND. The school and playground took up three-quarters of a block. Almost all the block was gravel, except some stray crabgrass on the ball fields. A couple of ramshackle houses took up the remaining quarter of the block. Across the street to the north was Northern Pacific Railroad, a subject of a lifelong enchantment that you will read more about later. The playground was very barren. The only equipment that I recall of the entire playground was the slide. That was the place for one of my infamous escapades in the spring of first grade.

The first day of first grade was quite memorable. My friend Raymond, who lived in the cabins just to the south of us, was not one to want to leave his mother’s apron strings. That first day his mother had to sit in the cloak room (a door-less closet) at the back of the class room so that Raymond would consent to staying without crying. None of us thought anything less of him, as we were all a little intimidated by being away from home for the first time.

There were several farm kids assigned to our school. Since I was a town kid, those kids always seemed pretty strange to me. They rode the bus. They always wore overalls and even talked funny. We never saw them after school and they seemed to smell different. The boys were always the biggest and strongest of all the kids, but they never were in for fighting as some of the bullies from town seemed to be. Looking back on it they probably had to do chores every night and smelled of cattle.

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Papa was Sick

Grandpa Ted and Fanny in 1939

Grandpa Ted and Fanny in 1939

There are a couple of things about this story that have always got me to thinking. One is what was his actual medical issue? Could it have been Crohn’s disease, the issue I’ve dealt with for years? This story probably also contributes to my lack of respect for chiropractors. Maybe I’m reading too much into it?

Fairview Cemetery, where many of the clan are buried, is a beautiful place. In 2008 I created a short video of the cemetery to illustrate the secluded beauty of the place.

Grace writes:

In the fall of 1939 after getting the new car Mama and Papa made a trip to Nebraska and down to the Ozarks. Guess he had some cousins that they went to visit.

Papa was sick a lot with his stomach and went to S. Dak to doctor with some chiropractors at Canistota west of Sioux Falls a number of times.

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Grade School

Now that we are taking two of our grand children to school every morning and picking them up most afternoons, this story seems especially appropriate to relate. We drop them off at Franklin school … and isn’t it a coincidence that Louie went to Franklin, as did I? The two-room school that Lucy describes is nothing like the huge elementary complex known as Ben Franklin that the grand children go to in Rochester. It doesn’t even resemble my old Franklin school in Jamestown, ND. What does seem strangely familiar is the trepidation felt by everyone starting school.

Lucy writes:

There were three grades in the first two rooms – (123) – (456). We only had one teacher for each room. If you were thirsty you raised one finger and was allowed to go and get one. If you raised two fingers, that was “toilet time.” …

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Life Sucks, Then You Die

IMG_4572Life sucks. Then you die.

You’re right, that does sound a bit harsh. I agree. The third sentence of that saying doesn’t improve your opinion, either! “Get used to it.”

Life sucks. Then you die. Get used to it.

On the surface that sounds like the most depressing view of life anyone could have. To the contrary, for me it is a tool that reminds me of the joy and satisfaction that comes with living a good life and appreciating the goodness that comes my way.

Life sucks. There is no way to avoid the suckiness. That’s one of the tenets of Buddhism. Suffering is the human condition. There will be problems. A loved one will fall seriously ill or die. The person you thought you loved does something incredibly bad. The ignorant fair-haired boy got the promotion ahead of you. You are diagnosed with a serious, possibly fatal, disease. Most of us, specifically me, have lived through every one of those situations, and far worse.

Then you die. There’s only one way out of this life, and I’m not clear on exactly what follows. But dying is part of the plan. If you are a soldier in a war, there’s a good chance of coming home in a bag. If you drive a car, you might find yourself not driving home. If you are lucky enough to celebrate too many birthdays, some important body part will wear out. Then you die.

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