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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A Dog is a Dog

Louie grew up in Jamestown, North Dakota. In the 1940 census there were 8,790 residents, what I’d call a small town. Small towns have advantages over cities like Rochester, Minnesota, where I now live. Well over 100,000 people call Rochester home.

Louie's little sister Dorothy

Louie’s little sister Dorothy

Two points in Louie’s story jump out at me. First is his plan to explore the “outside the neighborhood.” Even in the fifties and sixties when I was growing up, exploring large swathes of town wasn’t out of the ordinary. My friends and I would ride bikes ten miles to go swimming. We’ roam around downtown for hours, waiting for the North-Coast-Limited high-speed passenger train to come in to the depot. Ten-year-old kids don’t do that anymore.

Nor do they tie sisters to a telephone pole and leave. I can imagine the television coverage that sort of event would get today. There’s be peace officers, fire trucks, and a dozen emergency vehicles in the ‘hood tracking down the perpetrators. Louie got off with another paddling.

The differences in life style for town boys, fifty and a hundred years ago, when compared to today … How would I compare them? We’re lucky to have some of Louie’s stories around to remind us of life in the 1930’s. What was life like for his father and grandfather? I don’t have anything from my grandfather, and just a few stories. Even Louie’s letters barely mention his father, Louis.

The curtain of obscurity comes down quickly.

Grandpa Guy Havelick



Louie writes:

When I was at the age of around 6 my folks had obtained a dog, what kind it was is unknown to me. At that age, a dog is a dog, not some fancy breed name.

It has been so long ago that I don’t remember what the dog’s name was.

Anyway, the dog was true blue, when it comes to obeying me. Continue reading

The early years or the Late Forties

Jim on the old Kuish place

Jim on the old Kuish place

For all their differences, Judy’s mother Lucy, my mother Grace, and Jim did have similar roots: the North Dakota prairie and the farm. Being a city kid, I never really understood what life must have been like on those farms. I still don’t.

There was a small taste of it when I’d go with Jim to visit his mother on the farm. I’d get to sleep in the little back room upstairs. It was about as far from the single heating stove as anywhere in the house. There was a little grate in the floor where some warm air came up from downstairs, but not enough to keep the temperature above freezing in the dead of winter.

By the time of my visits, there was indoor plumbing.

Jim writes:

It was always called “the old Kuish place,” never the farm, and Kuisch was pronounced “Cush.” At that time in 1948 there was no electricity, no high lines to conduct power, no running water, except what you carried from the wells. But we did have a party line telephone, which meant that five or six farms shared a line and each had their own ring. One ring would be the Larson’s, two rings the Sanne’s and so forth … it was very convenient, at each ring all parties could lift their receivers and listen in on the conversation and even take part! …

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