For about thirty years, we accumulated things in the attic. When we moved to this house, back in 1978, the attic was huge! One Christmas my brother and his wife used it for a bedroom, as we had more people than beds that week. It was great.
You can see a stack of empty tubs behind all the other stuff!
Life changes. We quit cross country skiing. The skis, poles, shoes and equipment went upstairs. Then there were boxes of receipts, cancelled checks, and tax returns to keep, and where better to keep them than in the attic? You cannot believe how many baby toys and clothes can fit into a couple dozen plastic tubs. When Lon moved out, we disassembled his big bunk bed and pushed the pieces into a corner of the attic. When Mara left for college her miscellaneous detritus moved upstairs, too. When the grand children outgrew their clothes, we got even more boxes.
By the time I left IBM in 2012 it was almost impossible to get into the attic, let alone find the cross country ski equipment. We were awash in old photo albums, souvenirs from the trip to Europe, and way too much other stuff accumulated from relatives who had left this world. We could feel the presence of all that stuff in the attic above our bedroom.
Guy & Linn ready for sledding
Louie and I grew up in neighborhoods that were quite similar to each other, and our houses were less than a mile apart. We had a lot of the same experiences. One of them was a hill, cardboard, sleds and snow. My memories of sledding along the Pipestem are warm, or cold, since it was winter. I could have written this letter, but let’s let Louie do this one.
On the southwest side of town ran the Pipestem river where we would swim in the summer and skate in the winter.
One of the hills we used for sledding was right along the river. We would ice this hill also for more speed down the doggone thing …
This is an exceptionally difficult letter to read. Growing up during the Great Depression must have been tough. We’ve all read Grapes of Wrath, but this was someone I knew and loved. It was no longer an abstraction. These days we look at the tension between Sunnis and Shia and wonder how they could be so intolerant. Not that long ago that tension was right here. Catholics vs. the Baptists. Those fights existed when Judy and I were growing up, but not to the extent that we ended up on the bottom of the pile.
Jim in about 1930
The instability of life can have a great influence. In Jim’s case, it looks like being adopted out, forced off the farm, then a succession of step mothers and being literally farmed out led him to the Navy and the best practical education his generation could have had. Somehow he came out of all those difficulties as a loving and generous person.
The travel bug certainly bit Jim hard. He was always dreaming of going to places that were just out of reach. When he was working at the North Dakota Credit Union League in the late sixties they partnered with Credit Unions in Tanzania. Jim was in his prime talking to the folks from Africa. He wanted to learn everything about the place. He even named his basement rec room “Dar Es Salaam,” “Here is Peace.”
In the spring of 1931 we made the trip from Flaxton, ND to Mass. The big Olds sedan survived the trip, despite being heavily loaded, and I think I was the only one sorry to see the trip come to an end! For me it was the greatest adventure I’d ever had. From that time on I would be bitten with the urge to travel to new places. …
Project plan for this blog – 40 items on the list!
Lists have been a part of my life as long as I can remember. Most recently as we got ready for retirement, I made several lists. One was about finances, another was the invite list for the retirement celebration party. Actually there were several parties, so several lists. Another big list covered possible things to do with all that extra time after work was no longer part of the picture.
One of the items on the activities list was “write a blog.” For me, a thought becomes real once written down. Mere thoughts or spoken words aren’t enough. Saying it out loud for God to hear doesn’t nail it to my memory. That was good enough for the Biblical Israelites, but not for me. Adding that little item to my list two years ago planted a seed for me. It had been ignored for over a year. Then one day last spring the thought germinated. Guess what I did with that? I made another list. That became the list in the photo, and then this blog. Continue reading
Henry with a Hereford bull
There are limits to any method of writing a story. The format Grace and the others used to record their stories for me focused on making it easy for her to get the stories on paper. It worked marvelously. Thanks to this project we all have well over a hundred stories from that generation. I wouldn’t give that up for anything.
Can you forgive me if I ask for more? The story about Henry moving the bull from one pasture to another was one of Fanny’s favorites. When she told the story it took more than Grace’s five sentences. Far more. All I remember of the story now is that it was long, involved, and full of detail that Grace didn’t have room to share. Wouldn’t it be fun to have more of those details?
The photo of Henry and a bull gives some detail about the North Dakota prairie. There are no buildings in the picture, not a road in sight, not even a dirt cow path! The vegetation looks lush, but maybe a little dry? The bushes in the background are suspect, what are they? Berries? My mother was big on chokecherry jam, maybe those are chokecherry bushes? There are wooden fence posts. Herny’s carrying a holster belt, too. Is that a Bowie knife? He looks pretty well dressed for moving cattle. How many stories are hidden behind this picture?
This is what we have, in Grace’s handwriting and her words. Our imagination can fill in the rest.
Photo from Wikipedia
Being sick at any time is inconvenient. Every year there is another spectacular advance in some medical procedure. On the farm in the nineteen twenties treatment was particularly painful. When Judy and I grew up in the fifties things had progressed somewhat. Mustard was out, but Vicks was still in. Today the baby goes directly to the nurse instead of a home remedy. The treatments are still uncomfortable, and they might even help.
A scan of her letter is below.
Home remedies were all our folks had for colds flu etc. The worst of all for colds was a mustard plaster. I had such tender skin it was painful. They would put together some spices, dry mustard and rub your chest with it and place a cloth on the top and leave it there until the skin turned bright red. Then mother would rub your chest with Vick’s Vaporub. This was supposed to help a cold. If misery helped, we had it. She said when she was small their mother would use turpentine and goose grease. We were supposed to like this concoction.
New Year’s Resolutions
Twenty two years ago Judy and I and three other couples started a tradition that would do us well for a long time. The eight of us originally met at various church functions and started to coalesce as a group, we all had children about the same age, similar interests, and there were enough differences among us to keep it interesting. We got together for dinners at each other’s homes, went out together – all the typical couples activities.
One January evening at our house we were relaxing after dinner and someone asked about New Years resolutions. Some had taken the plunge, some hadn’t, but we started sharing our goals for the coming year. Everyone enjoyed the evening, went home and that was that.