Trucking hay from the north forty.
Last month Lucy’s letter described the new house she and Ken moved into soon after they got married. Grace describes the dream of a new house unfulfilled. Somehow serendipity plays a role in everyone’s life. My grandfather Ted came to North Dakota and saw it in glorious bloom in 1918. He and his new bride, my grandmother Fanny, came to Kidder County along with hundreds and thousands of eager dry land farmers, ready to transform the prairie into rolling fields of green.
Fate intervened after not too many years. The rains failed. The stock market crashed. The promises of 1918 didn’t happen. For example, Aunt Esther told me that the telephone came to the farm in the twenties. With the depression, copper wire became more valuable than phone conversations. The phone didn’t come back for decades.
When things stated to improve, flush with cash, Grandpa Ted decided to expand to more land north of the home place, planning to build a house. The dust bowl, the depression, and eventually illness and death intervened. The site of the new house became a hay field.
There’s one quaint similarity between my wife Judy and my grandmother Fanny. Both count subconsciously and involuntarily. Every time Judy and I walk through the park, I hear exactly how many people were enjoying the park. Fanny knew exactly how many cattle were in the pasture.
I remember Mama telling me about her dream of sometime having a new house. They bought land about 6 or 8 miles to the north east of our farm with the hope of building there someday. Papa planted trees for shelter and as a border for the yard. He had cottonwoods and some fruit trees and some smaller shrub type things. The depression came along though so not much else was ever done. Continue reading
The rabbit hutch’s roof is visible behind my new bike.
Every day fewer people personally remember the privations of the world war. The sad part is how long it took those who lived through the war to tell us younger folks about what it was like to live through the chaos of true war. I heard very little about the war until we received these letters from Lucy, along with the ones from Jim, Grace and Louie. Recently some veterans in Rochester have sponsored a monthly series of recollections by veterans, participants, and civilians who experienced the war in person. Listening to these older folks recount their stories moves me deeply.
I experienced the war second-hand. In Lucy’s letter below she talks about rabbit meat sold in the butcher shop. Rabbit was a familiar food. We were a poor family. Meat was a luxury. My mother and grand mother were farm folk. Raising live stock came to them naturally. There weren’t any city ordinances against it, so they raised dozens of rabbits in a shed behind the house. They built cages three deep along one wall. The cages were made of chicken wire, so the waste would drop through to the floor. Mom and Dad used it as garden fertilizer each fall, I assume.
We didn’t play with these rabbits. We ate the meat. Maybe it tasted like chicken. No big deal for me then. Lucy disagreed.
You couldn’t drive up to the gas pump and fill up the tank. It was rationed. Everyone had a book of stamps. You had stamps or the attendant would refuse to fill your tank. We did not have self service stations at that time.
The year in graduate school was one of the best years of my young life. Judy and I celebrated two years of marriage, I had a full ride scholarship, which meant I didn’t have to work at all, just go to classes. There weren’t even any teaching assistant duties. The guys I was going to school with were a lot of fun, too. One of the professors, Dan K, had an idea for us the week after school was out in June of 1973.
Ready to head north. Fred, Jerry, Keith.
A dozen of us piled into two old vans along with several canoes, twelve pounds of coffee and several pints of whiskey. We headed north for seven hundred miles to Flin Flon, Manitoba. That’s the farthest north I’ve ever been. Then we continued north for more miles to get to the lake. It’s hard to remember now where we ended up, there aren’t a lot of roads there even today. After parking the vans we paddled for several hours and a couple of portages. This was wilderness. More wild, and more remote than the Boundary Waters. We set up camp on a point, high above the lake. The view was fantastic and there was room for all the tents and a large fire pit. Down by the lake there was a place to clean the fish and pull in the canoes. We settled in for a week of fishing, eating, telling stories and canoeing around the lake. Continue reading
Kids from Louie’s neighborhood on a “bridge” straddling the Pipestem Creek. He may be one of them.
Nothing stirs a young man’s heart like springtime in North Dakota. In this story Louie tells us about yet another escapade that could have gotten him into serious trouble, or worse. As usual, a similar thing happened to me when I was about nine, but absolutely nothing untoward happened.
I was walking home from Mark’s house. He lived just east of Klaus Park and I had to walk through it to get home. Well, not through it, but on the road around it. The little pond in the middle of the park called out to me, even though I was late for dinner and it was starting to get dark. The temperature had dropped during the day, enough to form a layer of ice on the oxbow pond in the park. Oh! Joy! Smooth ice to slide around on!
This was the strangest ice ever. In my nine years of skating, ice had been hard every time I fell down. Not today. It bounced up and down with me. As I ran and slid across the ice it bowed up in front of me. Ice does that when it’s thin. Very thin.
Nothing bad happened that day. My brother Eric tells a similar story with a different ending. But you came here for Louie’s stories, not his kids’ stories.
Thinking back to when I was in my very early teens. I found that I done some very stupid things and got away with them – about the most stupid thing took place in the spring of the year in Jamestown. Continue reading