More stories

Eric, with his mother, grandmother and his children.

Eric, with his mother, grandmother and his children.

Our grandmother Fanny was born in 1899. My grandson Heath was born in 2009. According to the actuarial tables, he has a good chance at living into the 22nd century. I clearly remember my grandmother, and Heath will probably remember me throughout his life. That’s over two hundred years that my personal experience can exist.

Fanny’s parents are just names on paper to me. Their stories really don’t exist for me, and my grand children know neither the names nor the stories. Not many people are remembered beyond their days. What stories can you tell of an individual who lived in the 1700’s? Unless you paid close attention in history class, and have worked at maintaining that memory, there aren’t a lot of stories, beyond the apocryphal story of the young George Washington chopping down the cherry tree. Personally, I know exactly nothing about my ancestors in the 1700’s. Continue reading

Maybe I’ll just walk home

Louie in 1946. High School Graduation.

Louie in 1946. High School Graduation.

Memory is a devious companion. Louie talks about how his letters are out of order. They do bounce around through time as different events pop into his mind. The same thing happens to me. While I’m writing about one topic, another jumps into mind and I have to quick run off to write another story about something years earlier or later.

The other confounding idea that keeps me thinking is exactly what do we remember? Louie remembers so many stories about getting into trouble, or, to be more precise, just avoiding getting into trouble. I remember the good times, Jim writes about his vivid memories of friends and family. Louie had good times, and a big family. He should remember the good times, but what sticks out are the escapades with his buddies.

There’s something about that personality that gets me thinking. Hmmm.

Louie writes:

These little stories are not in sequence with my age, so bear with me if I skip around a little. That’s the way the mind works after too many years of thinking back, years ago.

I use to hang around with a couple roughnecks. Sonny and Glen McCurdy. These guys were noted for being rough in the art of fisticuff. They liked me cause I was also noted to be fairly good in the rough and tumble.

One night, a Saturday, night time, fight time, the three of us were down town looking for some action. Glen got into it with some guy and the next thing you know, the cops show up.

Continue reading

The Bernie Maler Farm

Sheet071Last month Lucy’s letter discussed their first house. In this letter, Jim discusses the farm his mother and dad moved to at the same time he headed off to Junior College. Jim’s description of the house reminds me of what my grandmother and grandfather purchased in Kidder County, North Dakota. I cannot imagine moving into a place like any of them. When people tell me about camping, which Judy and I used to love doing, I tell them that now we consider Motel 6 roughing it, and we never go that cheap.

Jim writes:

One mile south of Bisbee is the Bernie Maler farm. It consists of four quarters of land (640 acres). One of those quarters was six miles east of Bisbee and was primarily pasture and hay land with a creek running thru it. Eventually about 60 acres would be tilled and put into crop. The only building on the farm that was in any presentable shape was the barn. The sheds, graineries were in a miserable state of disrepair and all were in sad need of paint!

The only water available was from a well with a hand pump located near the barn. The land had been rented out for some years and the buildings left without tenants. The house, especially, was a dismal disappointment needing paint inside and out, cracked plaster and uneven floors … Continue reading

Fairview Cemetery

Pic 040a

Fairview Cemetery, Kidder County, ND

We recently celebrated the life of my favorite aunt, Esther. We left her ashes at the Fairview Cemetery, next to my mother (Esther’s little sister) and her mother and father. Fairview remains one of my favorite places.

If you have read this blog lately, you know that I’m a product of the North Dakota prairie. Fairview Cemetery, just south and west of Lake Williams, ND, demonstrates the stark beauty of the prairie. If you stand in the middle of the cemetery and look in any direction you won’t see much human activity outside the cemetery fence. No buildings, few fences, fewer roads (all dirt), no cell phone or power line towers. It’s quiet. Almost eerie. Relaxing. The solitude encourages communion with those resting there. I love the place. Continue reading

Snow on the Prairie

If you grow up in North Dakota, blizzards figure greatly in your story. That applies to Grace and to me. Grace’s story covers two ways to look at a storm. The first is school children enjoying the aftermath of a blizzard. The second exposes the hazards of monster storms on the prairie.

Two blizzards come to mind as I read Grace’s letter. The first was in March of 1966. There was a lull in the storm on the second day. I used that calm to the greatest benefit, trekking to my girlfriend’s house. The storm returned and I couldn’t get back to my house for two nights.

Downtown St. Cloud MN, January 1975

Downtown St. Cloud MN, January 1975

In January of 1975 Judy and I planned to meet college friends in northern Minnesota for a weekend of cross-country skiing. There were reports of possible storms, but who lets a little snow get in the way of skiing? Snow is good, right? The storm stranded us in the last hotel room in St. Cloud. Not really a guest room, it was a meeting room with two roll away beds for us and our friends. We stayed in the hotel for two nights. The good news was that we had food and drink for the weekend, and The Godfather Part II was playing in the theater next door.

Grandpa Guy Havelick



Grace writes:

I remember one year we had so much snow that the snow banks in the trees around the schoolhouse were about six feet deep. It was packed in really hard from a blizzard. Continue reading

Living in Seattle


Lucy’s brother Llewelyn

Seattle during the war. Connections between people show up everywhere, but WWII and Seattle fit neatly into my family history, just like it weighs into Lucy’s. Lucy talks about brothers coming through Seattle to and from various Navy vessels. One of my treasured possessions is a newspaper clipping about Louie coming through Seattle on his way to the Korean conflict. Seattle must have been the port of call for the northern tier of states.

The second part of Lucy’s letter that really triggers memories for me is the short sentence about a wisdom tooth.

Finally, she gets to some of the biggest news and decisions of her life.

Lucy writes:

We lived across the lake from Seattle in a town called Kirkland. The men had to cross the lake to get to work. I thought I wanted to work also but of course Ken said no “I don’t want you on one of those old boats. Men & women just jamed in them. So I stayed home. I did get a job in a restaurant and stayed until I saw the cook skimming the worms of the spaghetti pot.

Continue reading

My Life – in 1960

Guy at nine years old, in the New Mexico mountains.

Guy at nine years old, in the New Mexico mountains.

The other day a friend asked me how long I’ve been interested in writing. He had just been introduced to my blog and wanted to know the history. Writing has been in my blood from the beginning. The earliest documented example is from 1960, a homework project called My Life. I should have read that story before starting this blog.

The impetus for blogging was the stories my Grandmother had told us for years, and how each of us grand children and great grand children had different recollections of those stories. This blog would restore the “truth” of each story by recounting the stories as told by Fanny’s daughter. Truth is elusive.

Belva Bowen, one of my favorite teachers at Lincoln School in Jamestown, ND, gave my sixth grade class an assignment: Write the story of Your Life. Ms Bowen was ancient, probably near sixty with white hair and cotton print dresses. When I read the stories from 1960 it seems that todays recollections are flawed. Not by much, but it hasn’t been that long, and who would remember these stories any better than I? Perhaps I should be better at remembering those things. Nope.

Some of the items show interests that still hold my attention today. At two years old I sank my first plants. This week I’m making plans for moving hostas around in the yard. There are two pictures of meteorites in My Life. Astronomy still tickles my fancy, I follow news about asteroid and comet watching expeditions regularly. I never did learn how to play basketball, although I do enjoy watching a good game. Continue reading

Home Made Roast Chicken

Louie's older brother. Perhaps they were cooking a chicken?

Louie’s older brother. Perhaps they were cooking a chicken?

I was a Boy Scout. My memories of scouting are discouraging at best. The first memory involves a little deception, and the second revolves around a camping trip to somewhere, possibly in Minnesota. Being a clueless kid, much like Louie in the attached letter, I had not been educated in the finer points of cooking. After setting up the tents, I went about cooking my hamburger for dinner. The concept of defrosting frozen food had not occurred to me before that date. Hilarity ensued.

Louie writes:

Back to when I was in my early teens.

There were about 7 or 8 families that had kids that hung out together and earned the name of “The Alley Rats”. I had the honor of being a member of this fine organization.

Continue reading

Jamestown State Hospital

Jamestown ND State Hospital

Jamestown State Hospital

There are so many possibilities in this letter. Jim talks about the North Dakota Credit Union League, various Credit Unions in Jamestown, and an experience he had at the Jamestown State Hospital. In the sixties when I lived in Jamestown, the State Hospital was a thing of wonder that none of my contemporaries knew much about. Well, maybe they knew, but I was completely ignorant. The State Hospital is just across the Interstate highway south of town. There’s also the barrier of the James River. Situated on the hill above the river, the Hospital gained the derisive moniker “South Hill.” Rather than invoke the Bogey Man, we heard about escapees from the South Hill.

Treatment of the “insane” has progressed significantly since the 1960’s and 1970’s. When I read about state hospitals today it gives me the willies. That unsettled feeling is clear in this letter from Jim. He traveled around the state and country on Credit Union business, with challenging experiences all over. This is the one he writes about. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest didn’t come out for another couple of years, but I bet if Jim ever saw the movie, he thought about his meeting with the nurse on the South Hill.

Jim writes:

In 1971 I was employed by the ND Credit Union League which was the state association of credit unions with headquarters in Jamestown. As a director of field services it was my job to work with the managers and advise them in their credit union operations. At the time there were two credit unions in Jamestown, the Community Coop C/U and the State Hospital Employees C/U. The latter was located in one of the many buildings on the hospital grounds. Velma, the manager, called me and said she had some operational questions and would I mind coming to her office.  Continue reading

Spittin’ Belchin’ Cussin’ Contest

S B C contest 1974 - 3One of the habits I picked up from Jim was reading Playboy magazine. For the articles. The last time I bought one was when they had an interview with the new governor of Minnesota: Jesse Ventura. Those were heady days for this state, and it was a good article. I read the magazine for the articles. They also featured news about off-beat events that readers might be interested in.

In 1974 one of the events they previewed took place near my Mother’s home in Colorado. Central City. We loved to visit that small and historic town in the mountains. They had museums, cafés, little shops, and an opera house preserved from the mining days in the previous century. (That being the 19th century.) We enjoyed the drive from Denver and a day in the mountains. Since then gambling has taken over the town and all that’s there now are casinos and parking lots. We haven’t been there since.

Playboy featured a brief article about an event planned for Central City … a “Spittin’ Cussin’ and Belchin’ Contest” at the opera house. God was on our side, and the contest took place while we were in Denver for an already planned late summer vacation. My mother and Norris thought it would be a fun day, and even my brothers thought it would be a good time. Little did we know. Continue reading