Skippy the Dog

Every now and then we get to hear more about a story. One year, long after Grandma Fanny and my mother Grace had passed away, my brother Linn and I traveled to Oregon with Grace’s photo album to learn more about the family history. It was an incredibly satisfying trip. Esther, Linn and I sat with the album for days looking at each picture. Esther would start talking, Linn would ask some questions, and I’d do my best to capture what they were talking about.



One photo was of Skippy the dog. Esther had fond memories of this little dog, just like Grace did. Here’s what I wrote down that day, capturing the story from Esther’s point of view.

I don’t remember where he came from or exactly when he showed up on the farm, but he was a pretty puppy. He weighed in at about sixty pounds in his prime. He was a solid, muscular dog, mostly terrier and some bulldog. He could be aggressive if he didn’t like you, and nasty when necessary. He didn’t like the guy from the farm to the west. Whenever he came to the property we had to restrain Skippy, tie him up.

One winter Grace made a fur collar coat for Skippy. He was a short-haired dog and got cold in the North Dakota winters. She started with a woman’s medium blue wool coat. She measured the front legs, fit it over the back and to the tail. It had buttons and a collar that fastened under his chin. The dog liked the coat and asked for it when it was time to go outside during the winter.

That’s one version of the “Skippy Story” and it’s completely different, but exactly the same as the one Grace tells below. I’d love to hear Grace’s version of how she made the coat for Skippy, but that one is lost to time. How many stories do we need to hear before the complete truth comes to light?

Grandpa Guy Havelick



Grace writes:

Skippy came to live with us when I was ten. He was the first dog Mama ever allowed in the house. Guess she couldn’t resist that cute little golden tan + white puppy. It may have been in the winter, too – otherwise I can’t imagine why she would have let us keep him in the house. He grew up being loved dearly by the whole family. Henry made a little harness for him so he could pull the sled. He would get so excited when we’d put our skates on the sled + harness him up to go skating down on the lake.

One time in the spring … Continue reading

Holidays at Grandma’s

Christmas dinner

Christmas dinner

When Lucy wrote these letters in 1991, she was still living in Fargo. We had various traditions then; sometimes we would drive to Fargo with a car full of kids and Christmas gifts, sometimes she would take the bus or airplane to Rochester. Either way, the celebration would be tons of fun.

In the fifties holiday trips were a little shorter. They were a big deal, not that frequent, but just as celebratory. For Lucy and her family the trip was twenty-some miles from Fargo to Gardner, ND. On a recent trip to Fargo, we thought it would be nice to see what Gardner looked like now. We made the trip between lunch and coffee, never got out of the car, and thought nothing of it.

As a nine-year-old kid, when we made the hour-long trip to Pettibone to visit my Aunt and Uncle, it was a huge deal. We’d pack the car and make all sorts of plans for the day long adventure. That same sense of adventure probably pervaded Lucy’s trips to Gardner to see the family for a holiday dinner.

Lucy writes:

It’s Nov 16, 1991, almost Thanksgiving time. Now that meant Grandma + Grandpa’s house. Mother Thurlow was almost child-like at holidays. She’d cook a big turkey, have every one’s favorite pie, home made buns and what a cook. She could take a cheap roast and make it taste so good. My Judy was always special to them, they loved her so. She never walked from the car to the garage until she was too heavy for Grandpa. When he’d come to Fargo for parts, he’d stop in and it didn’t matter if she was sleeping or not – he’d pick her up + love her. Continue reading

Tri-County Tailwind Tour


Riders on a later TTT

What is it about the open road that calls to a young man? Back in 1871 Horace Greeley told young men to go west. The west just isn’t what Mr Greeley thought. In the 1980s we decided to go with the wind. Two of my buddies were hard-core bikers, the non-motorized version. Dan was in the Sierra Club and organized their annual Century Ride, a one hundred mile race around Rochester. Don just loved to ride, rode to work on a regular basis, and took bicycle vacations all over the country. I just liked to ride casually, and would go along on some rides just to be with my buddies.

One of the big deals was the Zumbro Zig Zag, a triathlon that started just north of town in Zumbro Falls. That’s a story for another day. This story is about the Tri County Tailwind Tours. It’s a story that runs several years and hundreds of miles. Continue reading

Learning to Drive

Eric writes:

When my friends and I started turning 16 and getting our drivers licenses, a whole new world opened up for us.

When I look back on it, there were a few times that we could have been killed. One example is a night when Rick Barnes and I went out to a movie. He was already 16 and had his license. I was still 15. Rick had a friend that bought us each a bottle of booze. I remember it was blackberry brandy.

Drive In Theater (by Matt Wade)

Drive In Theater (by Matt Wade)

We went to a drive-in theater where we could drink while watching the movie. I don’t even remember the movie. Anyway, we each drank our bottle of brandy. As we sat there we realized that we were really getting drunk. I guess it got us spooked so we decided to go home before the movie was over.

We started driving up Federal Blvd. At about Hampton Avenue, Rick pulled over to puke. He just stopped, opened the door and puked out the door. He didn’t even get out of the car. I don’t remember anything after that. The next day, Rick called me and asked how we got home. I told him I didn’t remember a thing after he pulled over to puke. He said he couldn’t remember either. That scared us both pretty bad. So we made a pact to never drink and drive like that again.

My first year of High School was at Lincoln High School in Denver. I had a good circle of friends that year and enjoyed school. Tenth grade, I think I enjoyed gym class the most. I had a free period after lunch, so I joined in with the gym class that hour quite often. I was there so much the gym teacher thought I belonged in his class. In the spring we moved to Arvada a month before school was out. So Mom drove Chris and me to school every day so we wouldn’t have to switch schools. Chris was going to Kunsmiller and I was at Lincoln.

— Eric H

Photo credit:
By UpstateNYer (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

More on the Police Action in Korea

Louie in Korea, c. 1952

Louie in Korea, c. 1952

Louie continues the theme of confounding letters, mixing the fun and excitement with the fear and dread. His description of jets flying overhead brings to mind the times WW II bombers have flown over Rochester on demonstration flights. Even the noise from one of those bombers raises the specter of a hundred of them ready to rain tons of explosives on us unsuspecting civilians.

After talking about the sight of a napalm strike, Louie describes two friendly fire incidents. Sobering thing, war.

Louie writes:

During the “Police Action” in 1952 I was with a group of fellas that enjoyed watching the Navy and the Air Force conduct strikes on the North Koreans.

The Air Force had this straight winged Jet that sure made a lot of noise going away from you, letting you know that it had been there to see you.

One of the sights that were unforgettable was the Napalm strikes that were, in a gruesome word, beautiful. They would fly in low and drop the napalm bombs and let go just before the target.

Louie continues … Continue reading

House Hunting

Jim's House - spring of 1971

Jim’s House – Spring of 1971

I had gone off to college and left Jim living in a great apartment. The apartment had a working fireplace and a wonderful view of the city from atop a hill. I have many wonderful memories of that apartment.

One day when I was home from college for a weekend Jim announced that he was seriously looking at a house. He had tried to buy the apartment house he was living in, a duplex on the hillside, but that deal fell through for whatever reason. With the unbridled knowledge of a nineteen year old “man” I suggested to Jim that moving to that little house by the railroad tracks would be tantamount to disaster.

Fortunately, Jim did not listen to my wisdom. The house was plain and quite unadorned when he moved in. The accompanying photo doesn’t do it justice. By the time Jim moved out in 2007 there were far more trees, bushes, landscaping, flowers, and a large garage. He made the place his own far more than any apartment would have ever been. In his letter below, Jim relates how quickly he made the decision to buy the house.

Sometimes you decide something before knowing there’s a choice. These kind of events have happened to me enough times to doubt the existence of “free will.” When Judy and I bought the house we’re in now we did not make a conscious decision. We looked at each other and agreed, wordlessly, that this was the place. That was over thirty-five years ago and we’re still in the same house. Jim saw this little house on the cul-de-sac and apparently found the decision already settled. It was the right choice for him, too, as he was in that house for almost thirty-five years.

Jim  writes:

In 1970 (I was 46) the thought occured to me that all these years I had been paying rent. First on furnished rooms then on apartments. There wasn’t a solitary thing to account for all that money spent other than the fact that I had a roof over my head and a place to sleep. Continue reading

Renaissance Festival

The King's Parade in the 1980's.

The King’s Parade in the 1980’s.

There are two kinds of people in Minnesota: State Fair and Renaissance Festival people. We are in the Renaissance group. The State fair group is about three times bigger, which makes us “special,” in a special way. The last time I remember going to the State Fair is when our kids were in strollers. Their kids have outgrown their strollers now, to give you an idea how long it’s been.

We’ve been to the Festival every year since 1980, usually on Labor Day weekend, including this year. If you’ve never been there, it’s a conglomeration of about 250 vendors selling various art items, pottery, leather, swords, toys, clothing, and much more, many with a loose renaissance twist. There are dozens of stages with performers, musicians wandering the grounds, full armor jousting … and food. It feels like a couple hundred food and drink vendors, too. I love the soup, popovers, nut rolls; Judy favors chocolate covered strawberries and various chicken dishes; there’s much more, including my addictions, beer and coffee. Continue reading

Kunsmiller Junior High

Eric writes:

I went to Kunsmiller Junior High School. That was before they started calling them Middle Schools. I was there from seventh through ninth grades. My favorite teacher was Jeff Guilford. He was my science teacher. I really loved science. I was a lab assistant for him in eighth and ninth grades in addition to my science classes. I also really enjoyed playing in the band. I was in the orchestra and the jazz band. I played the baritone and trumpet.

My worst experience at that school was on Martin Luther King Day. Back then the Denver Public School system was trying to integrate races at the schools. Since all the schools in Northeast Denver were Black and all the Southwest schools were white, there was a lot of bussing of students to try to equalize the numbers. I always thought it was a bunch of shit. I was lucky I never had to be bussed.

But one of my better fiends in school was bussed from across town. Anyway on MLK day, right after school there was a gang of black kids wandering the halls.

I had stayed after to help out in the science lab for a bit after class. As I was walking down the hall, I heard someone yell at me. When I turned around to see who it was, I saw about a dozen black kids running at me. So I took off running. I got to the third floor stairwell and started down. I made it to the second landing when they caught up with me.

I don’t think I was really hurt, but mostly shook up. I went to the Principal’s office to report the incident. He asked if I could identify any of the kids. Since my glasses were knocked off and broken with almost the first punch, I didn’t see who it was that hit me. So the Principal said nothing could be done about it and I should just go home.

It made me angry that I was beaten up in my school like that. It took me many years to get over the prejudice I learned that day.

— Eric H

Dandy the Cat and other animals

Grace and Dandy

Grace and Dandy

I’ve always been a cat person, and for most of her life Grace was, too. This story focuses on a cat that lived on the farm for a long time. Dandy was the animal that Grandma Luehr told us about many times. There are a lot more stories about Dandy that I just don’t remember. When I was a kid we had several cats that looked a lot like Dandy, but they weren’t quite as friendly as Dandy appears to be in this story. The pet’s name that comes to mind is Mr Jinx. Sadly, I don’t remember any stories about him.

Grandpa Guy Havelick



Grace writes:

Dear ones,

I remember one time when I was a little kid there was so many toads. There must have been thousands of them as they were everywhere. Most years we would see one or two in the garden but this time was something else. Continue reading

The Year Following Susan’s Death

Ken and Judy in 1956

Ken and Judy in 1956

In this letter Lucy moves from the greatest sadness of losing a daughter to several wonderful and exciting events. I knew Lucy for over thirty years and she was always the most optimistic person around. Even when things seemed to be headed south, she could see through the disaster and predict that goodness and light were just around the bend. The happiness she describes here shows the fulfillment of that optimism.

The two friends Lucy writes about, Verna N and Judy F, were always there for Lucy. The job at WDAY served her well until she retired at age 79.

Lucy writes:

The year following Susan’s death we just spent so much time having people in, going to movies and keeping busy. My Mother was there for us. She began baby sitting for Verna Newell. Didn’t know at that time that Verna would become a life time friend, singing in quartets and working at WDAY together.

We decided that we should shake the idea that having a baby entailed the possibility of losing another. We could not stand the idea so I went to the Dr, had a physical and immediately became pregnant. Continue reading