My brother Linn and I have been interested in family stories for a long time. Some of Esther’s stories in this blog are from the time he and I spent a couple of days with her, listening to the stories and looking at photo albums. After he and I heard stories from Esther about life on the farm, Linn visited our aunt Iris, wife of Esther’s brother Melvin. Linn wrote down the story as Iris remembered it in 2008.
The story about Ted’s last days reminds me of our mother’s last days. Those two stories are among the many reasons I don’t often hesitate to visit a doctor. Not a chiropractor, a medical doctor.
The time was before WWII, during the depths of the Great Depression. The family had planted its saved seed supply several years before – but the rain never came. So there was no crop that year. No seed the next. They borrowed to buy seed to plant that next year, planted it, and the rain never came. No crop that year either. After three or four years of this cycle, the family was deep in debt – the house, the farm, and the equipment were all mortgaged. About that time the bank repossessed a neighbor family’s sole milk cow after they could not repay their debt. It may have been the Bowerman family who eventually purchased and still own the Luehr House in Lake Williams.
Ted had been sick with stomach ulcers for some time. He went to a doctor in Bismarck who told him he needed an operation. Operations cost money, so he put it off. Later, while on a trip to southeastern South Dakota, he went to a famous chiropractor for treatment. During the chiropractic treatment Ted started vomiting blood. They took him to a local hospital and his sister (Sophie or Pauline) came to help him. They operated and fixed the ulcer, but he had deteriorated so far that he died shortly after surgery.
They had to transport his body via train to get it back to North Dakota. Hugo Luehr accompanied the body on the train trip – they had to go through Minneapolis to get to North Dakota.
They had the funeral in the big Luehr farm-house at Lake Williams. The Lutheran minister that presided over the funeral spent much of his time chewing out the Luehr family about their lack of attendance at his church.
Fanny and the kids had a pretty hard time dealing with the debt and keeping the farm. Fanny found somebody who would take a sack of wool, card it, and weave it into a blanket. In order to fill out the bag of wool, Fanny had the kids go out and police the barbed wire fence and collect the wool that the sheep had left on the barbs where they had crawled under the fences. Somebody in the family still has that single bed-sized light blue blanket.